As discussed in the previous post of this series, I believe that a student needs to grasp four key components of faith before transitioning into life after high school. Those four qualities are: identity, community, wisdom and ownership, and, of these four, identity is the core component on which all the others hinge. If teenagers do not learn, prior to graduating from high school, who they are, then they will continue to search for that answer until someone else tells them who they want them to be. I cannot overstress the importance of teaching identity to your students before they transition out of your youth ministry.
Every day a teenager looks in a mirror. She checks the flow of her new hairstyle, and he makes sure that small patch of stubble on his chin looks as good as possible. A mirror is a judge, a confirmation and a picture of how an individual sees themselves and how they hope others will see them as well. Teenagers are addicted to image because they are searching for identity.
To help them navigate through the fog, in search for identity, one must guide students in determining the true source of who they are. There are, of course, a lot of options when it comes to seeking an identity source; teenagers can get easily confused as to who they are and who they want to be. While some may look at heritage for identity, others will look to culture or their own fears, hopes or perspective of the world around them. Many cultural trends lead students astray when it comes to knowing who they are, which is why it is important to look deeper into the mirror.
We use a mirror to see what we look like, yet at no time do we see our reflection in the mirrored glass, walk away, and then forget what we look like. As I often share with teenagers, this would be absurd, impossible, and ridiculous. Or is it? In James 1:22-24 we read: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Again, according to us, it is absurd, impossible, and ridiculous to see one’s reflection in a mirror and then walk away and forget that self-image, but according to James, it is just as absurd, impossible and ridiculous to hear the word of God and then go about one’s life not doing what it says. The reason for this is because Scripture is like a mirror, reflecting back to us who we are and who we were created to be. God gives us hundreds of verses to help us know who we are, and we must help students understand this truth before they leave home in search of themselves.
When it comes to helping youth know who they are in Christ, we must first help them understand what it means to truly follow Jesus. If we never teach our students anything else, let’s teach them about Jesus. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the centerpiece of our salvation story and the reason we have any hope of purpose or a future. We want our students to know the stories of Jesus, to understand the parables of Jesus and to feed on His Word, instructions and grace. Kids need to know Jesus and know what it truly means to follow Him. It is impossible to know who we are in Christ if we are unclear of who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him.
Secondly, students must understand what scripture says about an identity in Christ. We develop perspective in life from our identity, and, as we know, perspective is very important when one is forming new friends, establishing direction and making important decisions. Scripture tells us who we are in Christ and gives us all a perspective based on that identity. Looking at 2 Corinthians 5 alone, we see that in Christ we are a new creation, called to be His Ambassadors and, because of Christ’s death, the righteousness of God. Scripture is filled with identifying statements, helping believers to know who God created them to be.
The third step in teaching identity is to help students learn how to be confident in their identity in Christ. Nothing can squash an identity faster than a lack of confidence. Individuals, especially teenagers, can give up their pursuit of developing a Christ-centered identity once they get into an unfamiliar setting with pressure to conform. We can help students develop confidence by having them express their identity in Christ, sharing it verbally and explaining what it means to them. They need to know the Scripture that supports these truths, connecting their identity back to their relationship with Jesus.
We must teach teenagers about their identity in Christ because that understanding will help them develop into the person God created them to be.
Identity should always be on the forefront of everything that you teach students and every activity they do with you. Until they grasp this concept, understanding faith ownership will be impossible, because before they can claim their faith as their own, they must first know who and whose they are.
Below is just a sampling of Scriptures on identity.
- I am God’s child (John 1:12)
- I am justified (Romans 5:1)
- I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
- I am God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20)
- I am a part of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)
- I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
- I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
- I am not afraid (2 Timothy 1:7)
- I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
- I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
- I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
- I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
- I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)
- I am included (Ephesians 1:13)
- I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
- I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
- I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
- I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
- I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)
- I am seated with Christ in heavenly (Ephesians 2:6)
- I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
- I am a member of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)
- I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)
- I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
- I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
- I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)
- I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)
- I am called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)
- I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)
- I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)
- I am His disciple (John 13:15)
- I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)
- I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)
- I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)
- I am promised a full life (John 10:10)
- I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
- I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)
- I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)
- I am a light in the world and salt of the earth (Matthew 5:14)
- I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
- I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- I am safe (I John 5:18)
- I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)
- I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)
- I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)
- I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)
- I am overcoming (I John 4:4)
- I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)
- I am protected (John 10:28)
- I am born again (I Peter 1:23)
- I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)
- I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
- I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57, I John 5:4)