Book Review: The Christian's True Identity

A helpful, thoroughly biblical introduction to the subject of personal identity, appropriate for any believer seeking to understand their own identity in Christ.

Book Review: The Christian's True Identity
Photo courtesy of Gerd Altmann. Used by permission.

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In this article, I review Jonathan Landry Cruse's book The Christian's True Identity: What It Means to Be in Christ and share whether I believe it would be a valuable resource for growth in your Christian life.

About the Author
Jonathan Landry Cruse is the pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he has served since June 2017. Growing up in central Pennsylvania, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and English from Temple University. Subsequently, he earned a Masters of Divinity from Westminster Seminary California in San Diego.

He and his Kerri Ann are the parents of their son Jacob and their daughter Evangeline.

Pastor Cruse is a prolific writer, having written for The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Core Christianity, Modern Reformation, The Gospel Coalition, and TableTalk magazine. He is the author of a collection of 25 new hymns called Hymns of Devotion. He is also the author of What Happens When We Worship.

In the book The Christian's True Identity: What It Means to Be in Christ, Jonathan Landry Cruse provides biblical answers to the question, "Who am I?"

Main Points
Pastor Cruse challenges us to consider how we define our identity as Christians. He points out that we are always defining our identity — through decisions, actions, relationships, and where we look for meaning and fulfillment in life.

Do we follow the philosophy of today's postmodern world and define our own identity according to our own wisdom? Do we find our identity in our relationships with others, our personality, our career, our hobbies, our personal background, groups with which we affiliate, and/or our life achievements (or lack thereof)?

Or do we find our identity in our union with Christ?

After describing this difference between how the postmodern world encourages us to define our own identity and the biblical call to find our identity in our union with Christ, Pastor Cruse uses the remaining nine chapters of his book to describe various aspects of our standing "in Christ" — and in so doing, describes the Christian's true identity in Christ. Because of our union with Christ, we are chosen in Him, pardoned in Him, righteous in Him, adopted in Him, one in Him, new in Him, secure in Him, alive in Him, and have access to communion with Him.

Strengths and Weaknesses
Appropriately, Pastor Cruse relies heavily on Scripture in describing the ultimate source of our true identity in Christ. At the same time, he insightfully diagnoses the ways in which our postmodern world urges us to find our identity elsewhere and also shares effective practical applications of the truth he finds in Scripture. The "Questions for Further Study" at the end of each chapter not only help the individual believer explore the subject in more detail but would also be appropriate questions for group discussion.

I found the chapter on adoption to be particularly compelling. Our identity as adopted children gives us access to intimacy with the Father, encourages respect for our Father, and promises us that we will rule and reign with Him as heirs.

Concluding his chapter on this subject of our adoption in Christ, Cruse writes, "We may think of ourselves as unloved and alone. Adoption teaches us our true identity is as a beloved child. We may at times consider ourselves to be abandoned outcasts. Adoption teaches us that we belong — we are members of a perfect, loving, eternal family. We may define ourselves as worthless, but adoption teaches us that we are a treasured possession. We may feel hopeless and that there is nothing good in store for us. Adoption teaches us that we are heirs of heaven. That is the Christian's true identity." A great word for times like these!

Those who do not hold to a Reformed perspective may hesitate to embrace Cruse's thoughts on our security in Christ (chapter 8). As one who is assured of my own security in Christ but not entirely convinced that it is impossible for one to lose their salvation, I nevertheless found his discussion of the unchangeableness of God, the perseverance of the Son, and the abiding presence of the Spirit as the means through which God keeps us secure to be interesting and helpful.

Conclusion: My Overall Impression of the Book
I originally bought the book thinking that it would have a more extensive treatment of the postmodern world's search for identity in themselves — most likely due to my current interest in studying that topic. When I found that Pastor Cruse's book spent a lot more time focusing on the believer's identity in Christ rather than the unbeliever's search for identity in other things, I thought it might not hold my interest. I was wrong. Instead, it has provided me with a strong, biblical foundation through which I can evaluate other resources which do focus more on the postmodern world's definition of identity.

The Christian's True Identity: What It Means to Be in Christ is a helpful, thoroughly biblical introduction to the subject of personal identity, and I would recommend it without hesitation to any believer seeking to understand their own identity in Christ and/or beginning a study of how those who do not yet know Christ tend to define their identity.

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Jamie Larson