“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
From the time I was a kid, I was obsessed with playing baseball. Some of my earliest memories of my childhood come from the baseball field. I remember having my mom and dad watching, and how awesome it was when grandparents, aunts, uncles, and anybody else would come to one of my games.
I remember my younger brother playing in the same Little League as me, and our family spending countless nights together at the park. I remember my parents having to drag me off the field to go home because I could stay out there all night long.
I remember how much I loved the smell of the freshly cut grass and the burgers and hot dogs on the grill. I remember the playlists of classic ballpark songs that played between innings. I remember how much I loved hearing the ball hit the bat and hearing people cheering in the stands.
Baseball was my first love. Through the years, my love for the game grew. It became all I wanted to do. If I wasn’t playing baseball, I was watching it. If I wasn’t watching it, I was thinking about it. I ate, breathed, and slept baseball.
At a certain point, it became how I began to identify myself. I was a baseball player. Every year at Halloween, I dressed up as a baseball player. Every school project that I did about my future centered around me being a baseball player. Every birthday party I had was baseball themed and featured a pickup baseball game with all my friends – because at my very core I was a baseball player.
My obsession with the sport developed even further. I went from a young boy who just wanted to play the game that I loved to a young man committed to fulfilling a lifelong aspiration to play college baseball at the University of Kentucky. Eventually, that dream became a reality.
By that point, I had become entirely consumed with the sport. Baseball wasn’t just what I did – it became who I was. I identified myself by what I did. I was TJ Daugherty, baseball player for the University of Kentucky. I defined myself by the sport I played. It became my identity.
And for four seasons, that was true.
But in May of 2011, we played a game against the Gators from the University of Florida. It was just one of the hundreds and hundreds of games I played in my life. But at the end of that game, I gathered up all my gear and catcher’s equipment in the corner of the dugout. I waited, until one by one, each of my teammates walked out ahead of me, trying to salvage every last moment inside that precious comfort zone.
And then I began one of the most painful journeys of my life, walking across the baseball field for the last time as a player. As I stepped out of the dugout, I reminisced on how great that game had been to me. How many opportunities it had given me. How many teammates and friends I had the fortune of playing with. How it made me feel. How much it had taught me.
And then I thought about how it was over. I stepped across the field ever so slowly, cherishing every last step. Eventually, I stumbled through tear-filled eyes back to our locker room.
Silence filled the room. That group of 25 guys had just played our last game together. Our season was over. Uncertainty hovered over many of their futures. But mine was ever so clear. I had played my last game of baseball. As the realization sank in more and more that I had no way of changing that reality, I finally mustered up the strength to take off my jersey and placed it in the laundry bin.
And I never put it on again.
At that moment, I no longer knew who I was. I could no longer say that I played baseball at the University of Kentucky. I was no longer a baseball player. I was lost.
Many athletes struggle with the same thing, wrapping their entire lives around the sport they play. But the moment that sport is taken away from them, they lose their sense of identity.
Even more identify themselves by the work they do. Their identity is their occupation. But as soon as that job title is removed, they lose their sense of identity.
Many women frequently identify themselves by the responsibility they carry in the family. Their identity is entirely defined by their role as a mother. But eventually those relationship dynamics change, and they begin to struggle understanding who they are apart from providing for their children.
Still others identify themselves by the things they have. Their possessions determine their identity. But, again, those possessions can be taken away, and their identity is washed away with them.
The Bible never identifies people by our occupation or our role in the family. Instead, Scripture identifies people in terms of our sin. Apart from Christ, that’s who we are. We are sinners. We are those who walk according to the flesh. We are spiritually blind. We are slaves of sin. We are dead in our trespasses.
But praise be to God for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Because when our eyes are opened and we repent of our sin and place our faith in Jesus and are saved from the wrath of God, our identity is completely changed. We are no longer defined by our sin; instead, we are defined by Christ’s righteousness.
It took me a long time to come to grips with this. For me to understand who I really was apart from what I did. I was never defined by the sport I played. But as a believer in the gospel, I am defined by who Christ is.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Because I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, and because he has saved me from the sinfulness that once defined me, the old me has passed away and the new me has come. And that new me is defined totally in Christ.
The Bible is clear concerning this new identity in Christ. Because of the transformative power of the gospel:
- I am redeemed.
- I have been born again.
- I have been crucified with Christ so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
- I am a saint, one of the elect, one of God’s chosen people.
- I am a citizen of heaven, awaiting his glorious return.
- I am a member of the body of Christ.
- I am an ambassador for Christ.
- I am his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
- I have been declared righteous.
- I am a slave of righteousness and a servant of the one true God.
- I am not only a servant, but also a friend of God.
- I am now a son of God through faith.
- I was once dead. Now I am alive.
That’s who I am.
I can’t define myself by what I do or what I look like or what I accomplish or how others may see me. Those things are only temporary. Those things won’t last.
I can only identify myself by how the Sovereign God of the universe sees me. Based not on anything I’ve done, but what he has done for me.
As a child who was once lost, but now is found.