I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “It was a life-changing experience!” And it’s probably true that the phrase is often used as somewhat of an exaggeration.
But for me, attending a “Living Free in Christ” seminar taught by Dr. Neil Anderson in 1997 truly was a life-changing experience.
I first became exposed to Dr. Anderson’s teaching with his groundbreaking book, Victory Over the Darkness. First published in 1990, it is still in print 32 years later! If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it (you’ll understand why when you read this post). I’ll put in a link at the end if you’re interested in getting a copy.
The book’s subtitle is “Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ.” I recently read it again and took 12 pages of notes (yes, it’s that good).
It’s not a theological treatise, but it’s not a quick read either. You’ll find yourself pausing frequently to ponder and pray.
Who’s the Man in the Mirror?
Dr. Anderson states the basis of the book in the very first chapter: “Your understanding of who you are is the critical foundation for your belief structure and your behavior patterns as a Christian.”
I can personally attest to the truth of that statement. I was a Christian for decades before I discovered who I really was in Christ. I was saved, but I didn’t feel safe. I feared God’s anger and rejection, because that’s what I had received from my own father. I was viewing God through a flawed “father filter.”
The ministry I got saved in taught that a Christian could lose their salvation, and that a backslidden Christian’s heart could become so seared that they would be marked “No Deposit, No Return.” My pastor scoffed at the notion of “once saved always saved.” His denial of eternal security left me in a state of eternal insecurity. My life was a mess when I came to Christ, and I still had a lot of “junk in the trunk.” Christ had begun a healing in me, but I still believed the lies of the enemy. I had heard them so often that I thought they were true.
Because there were still strongholds in my life, Satan even used scripture to trip me up. I’d read in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”– and I would tremble in fear, because I did feel condemnation. There was something in my life that I knew God hated, and try as I might, I couldn’t get rid of it. Condemnation would flood my heart, and I’d be terrified that I was no longer in Christ Jesus, that I was in danger of losing my salvation because of this thorn in the flesh. I didn’t realize that the feelings of condemnation were coming from my enemy Satan, not God.
It took me a long time to learn that I was God’s adopted child, that His love for me was unconditional, and that His acceptance was not based on my performance but on my relationship with His Son.
Sadly, I know I’m not the only Christian who has struggled with this. Dr. Anderson notes, “It is evident to me that a staggering number of believers are still confused about their spiritual identity in Christ and its implications for their daily lives. We are struggling with the behavior aspect of our growth because we are still struggling with the belief aspect of our growth: who we are in Christ.” I agree with Dr. Anderson’s assessment; the Church needs more instruction on the believer’s identity and inheritance.
Confusion and condemnation are two of Satan’s greatest tactics for attacking Christians: “Satan knows that if he can keep you from understanding who you are in Christ, he can keep you from experiencing the maturity and freedom which is your inheritance as a child of God.”
The enemy will often use pain and trauma from our past to keep us trapped and defeated. Dr. Anderson explains that our past has shaped our present belief system, and will determine our future unless it is dealt with. Satan tricks us into believing that what we do makes us who we are, and that false belief sends us into a tailspin of hopelessness and defeat.
Embracing our identity in Christ begins with confronting the lies of the enemy with the truth of God’s Word. Dr. Anderson writes, “Since Satan’s primary weapon is the lie, your defense against him is the truth. Dealing with Satan is not a power encounter; it’s a truth encounter. When you expose Satan’s lie with God’s truth, his power is broken.”
By entering into a relationship with Jesus, accepting Him as our Savior and Lord, we are able to know God personally, not as an angry judge but as our loving Father. Nothing we can do, and nothing Satan can do, will ever take that love away from us. Because Jesus shed His blood for us, we have a blood relationship with God– and that can never be broken. You will always be your Father’s child.
Ready To Change?
When you are secure in who you are as God’s child, everything changes. When I realized that it wasn’t God condemning me, I could begin to tear down the other lies I had been deceived into believing. I did not have to fear being separated from God, because His acceptance wasn’t based on my performance. Who I am guarantees that, not what I do. I could begin to serve God out of love rather than a vain attempt to collect points with Him.
As I grew in the knowledge of who I am in Christ, my self-image and self-esteem began to change as well. I had been beaten down by years of verbal and emotional abuse, but now that I knew I was secure in Christ, I could begin to tear off the old labels and accept myself. As Dr. Anderson puts it, “Self-worth is an identity issue. Your sense of personal worth comes from knowing who you are: a child of God.”
Unfortunately, Satan is stubborn and will not stop his attacks. He will continue to bombard your mind. “Satan’s strategy is to introduce his thoughts and ideas into your mind and deceive you into believing that they are yours,” Dr. Anderson explains. “If Satan can get you to believe a lie, he can control your life.”
This is why it is so important to read, hear, and study the Bible. We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. That means to evaluate every thought by the truth, and don’t give place to the lie. When you fill up your mind with the Word of God, you’ll be better equipped to recognize and reject the lies of the enemy.
The more you let your mind marinate in God’s truth, the more your mind will be renewed. Science has proven that the brain is able to form new neural pathways; in other words, you can change your thinking. And the best way to do that is by stockpiling those scriptures!
It’s Not Your Do, It’s Your Who That Counts!
To help the reader do that, Dr. Anderson compiled a list entitled “Who I Am In Christ.” The list contains affirmations of your identity in Christ, followed by supporting verses: “I am a child of God, I am a new creation, I am the salt of the earth” and so on. You can find the complete list here: https://www.ficm.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/who-i-am-in-christ05.pdf
Here’s a piece of advice from Dr. Anderson that I took to heart: “One of the greatest ways to help yourself grow into maturity in Christ is to continually remind yourself who you are in Him.” Long ago I took this list and made a copy to keep in my Bible. Then I read those affirmations as part of my daily time with God for years. You’d be amazed how your thinking and self-image will change as you do this!
You might also find it helpful to write these affirmations and verses out. Get a nice journal and use one page for each statement. Go colorful if you want, embellish each page with borders– have fun and be creative!
It won’t happen overnight, but change is possible and there is power in the Word of God. One day while I was praying, the Lord popped a phrase into my mind: “I am who I AM says I am.” That sums it up in a nutshell. You are who GOD says you are– and He’s never wrong! So embrace your identity in Christ– it’s the real deal!
If you’d like to get your own copy of the book Victory Over the Darkness by Dr. Neil Anderson, you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Victory-Over-Darkness-Realize-Identity/dp/0764235990/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3P1CPCL0YNWCH&keywords=victory+over+the+darkness&qid=1657393604&s=books&sprefix=victory+over+the+darkness%2Cstripbooks%2C122&sr=1-1
“I Sat In Darkness” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/i-sat-in-darkness
“The One Question Everyone Asks” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/the-one-question-everyone-asks
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