6.9 Finding your identity in Christ
- Intro: Who or what do you identify with?
-Shockers, Jayhawks, Wildcats, Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Texan, Kansas, West side, East Side, AF, Army, artist, blue collar, missional, country, classical…we could be here for a week
…and we haven’t even gotten to sexuality or racial categories, nationalities
Actually we could be here for an eternity because new categories and combinations are being created all the time.
The argument over identity…a word that means “to regard as my essence” is raging.
As is the confusion over it.
A viral video from 2016 shows a 30 something Caucasian man interviewing college students at an American university.
He first asks a variety of students how they would respond if he told them he is a woman:
Their response? “good for you” “I don’t have a problem with it”
Then he asks, “What if I tell you I am Chinese?”
“I might be a little surprised, but ‘good for you, be who you are!”
Then, he claimed to be 7 years old and wanted to enroll in a class of first-graders, there was more hesitation but the answers included:
“If you feel seven at heart then so be it–good for you.”
Then he asked them what they would say if he told them he was 6 feet 5 inches tall (he is actually around 5’7″)
One student said “That I would question”
Student: “I don’t think you are 6’5′”
Student 2: ” If you truly believed you are 6’5″ I don’t think it’s harmful. I think it’s fine if you believe that. It doesn’t matter to me if you think you are taller than you are.”
Interviewer: So you’d be willing to tell me I’m wrong?
Student 2: “No, I wouldn’t tell you are wrong.”
Student 1: ” No, but I’d say…umm, I don’t think that you are.”
Student 3: “I feel like that’s not my place as another human being to say someone is wrong or to draw lines or boundaries.”
Interviewer: “So I can be a Chinese woman?”
Student 2: Umm, sure
Interviewer: “But I can’t be a 6’5″ Chinese woman?”
Student seven: “If you thoroughly debated me or explained why you felt like you were 6’5″, uhh, I feel like I would be very open to saying you were 6’5″ or a Chinese or a woman.”
This month we are looking at relationships…some sub-topics this would include are…Marriage, sexuality, gender, singleness, children, relationship to self, relationships inside the church and out, and the cultural trends that speak to these things.
But more precisely what the Bible says about relationships
We are going to look at what the Bible says about relationships under three main headings this month:
- Who am I in Christ? Understanding our Identity
- Holiness is happiness: The impact of pursuing purpose versus avoiding suffering on relationships.
- Gifts make terrible gods: The impact of pursuing purpose versus pursuing pleasure on relationships.
Today,”Who am I in Christ?” The impact that growing in that understanding has on our relationships.
Remember the framework for this year:
- God is real & His word is reliable
- His word is a single narrative with subplots
From my opening illustration it is easy to see why we need a fixed, eternal point of reference for our identity.
It is why we began this year with God is there & God has spoken.
Remember the overall Biblical narrative: State it in four words.
-Creation, rebellion, redemption, perfection
Any approach to: sexuality, relationships, family, singleness, that doesn’t take into account the overall narrative (rather than simply pulling out single verses) will be incomplete
If you have an interest in doing some personal study specifically on sexuality, gender, and the church…I recommend
-Same sex attraction and the church: Ed Shaw
-Same sex attracted, celibate, biblical, evangelical pastor (how is that for descriptors)
-Can you be gay and Christian: Richard Brown
-gives more of the current arguments and a thoroughly biblical response
-God and the Transgender debate: Andrew Walker
-Love into the Light: Peter Hubbard
Today, let’s look at our identity as Christians and how this should impact relationships…God, self, others
Let’s begin with an important OT story that illustrates that “who we are” and “how we are currently living” can be out of sync because of a lack of understanding of “who we are.”
David had been King for some time, God had granted him success and he was operating as a good king should…looking out for the welfare of his people…this is the God-designed role of leadership.
After a period of near constant combat, he finally had a chance to take a breath and was reflecting on his old friend Jonathan, who had himself been killed in combat.
He asked his advisors if there was anyone left of that family who he could show kindness to out of respect for his friendship with Jonathan.
He was told that a son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, was crippled and living in a town called Lo Debar.
He had him brought to Jerusalem and the terrified man bowed down to David.
David told him “Don’t be afraid…I will restore all your grandfather’s land to and you will eat at my table.”
Meph was understandable afraid because his grandfather had tried to kill David…and had been a tyrant.
He didn’t know David was a different kind of leader…or of the commitment David had made to his father, Jonathan.
So Mephibosheth was treated as one of David’s sons from then on…he began to live in line with his true identity.
Not a cripple in Lo Debar…but a friend of the King.
He had been a destitute disabled man…living in dishonor in a nowhere town…but it was unknown to him that he had the opportunity, because of the relationship his father had with the King…that he could be living as the King’s own son.
So let’s look at what Scripture says about your identity in Christ and then what some implications of that are for your relationships with God, self, others.
John 1:12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
In a sense all humans are “Children of God” in that we are created by God we are not products of chance.
But apart from the gospel…We are not his children in the sense of being heirs of eternal life.
However those who believe the gospel…are born again…this not another physical birth…but a spiritual one.
This means that anything merely tied to being born physical beings…our heritage, sin nature, genetics…don’t ultimately define who we are.
But our relationship with Christ is now what defines us in our essence.
It is our true identity…our permanent, eternal identity.
So…Norah has a genetic flaw…the phox2b gene is missing…she needs medical help to live and thrive.
She has a trach and is learning as she gets older that she doesn’t sound like other kids and is frustrated that we can’t understand her some times.
Our job as those who love her is to pray and share Christ with her by words and actions…so that when she commits her life to Christ…that relationship, not her genetics or the consequences of her genetics will define who she is and how she acts.
The same is true for anyone who struggles with physical traits, or tendencies or consequences of heritage…neither nature nor nurture define us.
Relationship with Christ does…here is how Paul says it.
2Cor. 5:16-17 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
This new identity is permanent and not based on changing factors…like our bodies, our culture, our present desires…or even on fixed factors…like our past, our genetics…but it is based on the reality of God.
Eph. 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
*You choose to follow Christ, but Christ choose you to follow him…it is mystery but a wonderful reality.
12 in order that we, (here’s why he choose us) who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. (Your purpose is his glory…this is the why of your existence)
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.
*your inheritance is guaranteed…he has put his Spirit in you as the down payment on what is to come)
Since your Identity in Christ is sure…the best the enemy(Satan) can do is attack your understanding of what that means…and cause you to live in perpetual Lo Debar…not at the King’s Table.
He will always lie, or shade the truth…to cause you to doubt the reality of your inheritance in Christ.
The truth is though we remain sinful…but we are now the children of God.
We are already forgiven and free, fully accepted in the Beloved…but we are Not yet completely sanctified or perfected.
Satan loves to emphasize the “not yet” aspect of our identities…he is called the “Accuser” for good reason.
“Look at you…there you go again!” “You are not a Christian, your identity is sinner, lust, anger, shame, failure.”
We have all, over time, adopted for ourselves or been given by others, various labels and kinds of identities:
Ugly, stupid, lazy
Worthless, unwanted, left out, unloved, unlovable, falling short
Sometimes we adopt more positive identities that set us up for a fall:
You are great, better than others, smart, beautiful, talented
Then when those things are no longer true for us…or we stop believing they are…or we afraid they might be taken…
Then what happens to “who we are?”…when our identities are assaulted and fail…who are we now?
People either learn to find their identify in Christ…or their lives fall apart along with the false sense of identity…they have adopted.
Ed Shaw (the celibate, same sex attracted pastor) Writes that “Words have the power to shape us and make (or unmake us). So what I want to hear and think most of all is “I’m God’s son”…a Christian should be wary of doing anything that might root his or her identity in their sexuality….our identity is to be firmly rooted in Christ.”
Once again Biblical Balance is essential here:
People who don’t take the Bible seriously tend to under estimate the role of sin in our lives.
Years ago a Friend was being told “She is okay as she is“ by a church that did not believe the Bible is reliable or the gospel is true.
I asked her “Well, Are you okay?” She stopped attending that church.
She was and is an honest and perceptive person…she knew her own heart gave lie to their well-intentioned but wrong words…she knew she was sinful.
We are all sinners.
On the other hand mostly defining ourselves as sinners rather than saints is to fall off the wall in the other direction.
Of course we are sinful, sin is the greatest human problem…or leads to the greatest problem…seperation from God.
But as a son or daughter of God your identity is more tied up in what Christ has done for you on the cross than the ongoing reality of sin in your life.
If you are a follower of Christ your status has permanently changed.
The necessary tension is that we must continually repent of our sins…and yet not be continually defined by our sin.
Eph. 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Paul wrote “you were (past tense) dead in sins.
But now, because of God’s great love…we are alive in Christ.
He then says something interesting and on the surface…strange: “God raised us up (past tense) and we are (present tense) seated with him in the heavenly realms”
Is this merely religious poetic speech…with no practical, real world applications?
No…it means though we live in Lo Debar still…our seats at his table have been pre- arranged, they are all set…the King has sent for us already.
And in a sense…we live in Lo Debar…AND…eat from the King’s table now.
It is a settled reality that we are his kids…we are not merely cripples living in lowly places.
In the coming age what is already true of you now will be fully evident to you then…we must train our minds to see that now…so it will impact how we live now.
This settled reality…is by grace, not because of what you have done…therefore there is nothing you can do to undo it…it is a fixed reality.
Now…because of this fixed reality…this is who you are in Christ…you can go live in ways that reveal who you are in Christ.
You are his workmanship…newly created in Christ…to do what he has for you to do.
Your life identity is fixed in Christ…now you get to live for him day by day.
You do not have to be defined by small and passing things such as sex drives, addictions, even physical traits or what others say and think of you…or petty passions for money or power or pleasure.
You must learn to live out of your actual, permanent identity as a son or daughter of God.
You have probably heard of Identity politics.
It is commonly defined as groups of people banding together to form political alliances based on factors such as age, religion, social class, dialect, disability, education, sex, gender identity, generation, occupation…and on and on it goes.
The term is relatively new (1960’s) but the practice is quite old…people have long formed alliances of “us” and “them”
Some of it is okay, normal…people enjoying common interests and backgrounds…or fighting for justice for groups of people.
But often it goes in unhealthy directions.
When individuals form their sense of identify on their affiliations, affections, trends, current things they can do or achieve…their identify is inherently unstable.
For instance Conventional wisdom says that gay young people are killing themselves because of the lack of acceptance they experience from others.
While this may be sometimes be a factor, the evidence now points in a totally different direction.
And the narrative that says otherwise is not helping young people who are struggling with their essential identities.
What about those who remain in deep despair even in situations where their homo-sexuality is accepted and applauded?
-external acceptance of lack of acceptance was never the real issue.
What about those who fix their hopes on a physical procedure designed to alter their physical body to look like another gender…and then have that hope dashed when they continue to struggle because what they thought was their core problem was not?
There is a lot of data on this…but this is merely an illustration…the point is finding our identity in Christ is the hope of humanity at large.
You can make a good argument both in terms of the Biblical teaching as well as solid evidence-based research that defining yourself in terms of current sexual preferences or sexual desire is not going to end well.
But this is true for heterosexual as well as homosexual people.
Earnest Hemingway…lived for adventure and sexual-indulgence.
-When his age and ill health no longer allowed him to find his identity in those things…he killed himself.
-He was heterosexual…and lived an immoral life…but whatever one’s sexual appetites…we are designed by God to live for his pleasure not our own.
Anything less doesn’t work for long.
The flow of the Biblical narrative shows we are made by God for God…humans thrive when they find their identity in him and live for his pleasure not their own.
We are different…God has made two genders…he delights in these differences and so should we.
We are different…God has put people in families and in nations that shape us in different ways…our backgrounds matter…the differences in how we view the world is good. (even though because of sin it has led to war)
We are different…God gives different gifts, perspectives, personalities.
These differences are a delight to God and a strength for us collectively…but in the midst of these differences Christ has made the church one people…whose core identity is sons and daughters of God.
Gal. 3:26-29 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul is not saying racial, social, and gender distinctions are gone…the biblical narrative says otherwise…these differences are the strength of the body of Christ…he is clear about that other places.
But Christ is foundational…our identity is in him…he is the head, we are the body…there is a single unity in all our diversity.
My closest friends are people I would never even have known apart from having God in common as our Father and Christ in common as our brother and savior.
In the culture at large…people form alliances together based primarily on all the ways they are the same.
In the church, not always, but frequently, we are very different but have Christ in common.
Rom. 12:4-5 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Let’s consider some applications:
- Singleness and identity in Christ
In the general culture if you are not having sex you are missing life because having sex is life itself.
*If an alien listened to our music, watched our movies, and read many minds…they would conclude to this to be true.
But what you are not told is that the way that is not working at all well for people.
Again there many evidence-based studies out there on this…but all they do is confirm what the Bible already says.
God invented sex and he knows what is for and how it is to work in the overall plan.
It is good in its context…but it is not life itself.
In fact in the life to come…when this life is over…sex doesn’t play a role.
Two things can be said about that:
- Most cannot imagine life without sex, because sex, they believe is life.
-Again, those who live like sex is life…are not experiencing the thriving life…in any way.
-They are confused, addicted, conflicted, unhappy…never satisfied…they are living outside God’s design parameters.
-They are broken by the results of worshipping the gift of God as an idol.
- The life to come is more, not less than this life now.
-So sex points to something greater than itself now…like marriage does.
A key biblical analogy of Christ and his church is marriage and all the intimacy that goes with marriage.
When we experience Christ in person…when our sanctification is complete…the experience of that life will far surpass what we can imagine now.
If you are single, celibate, obedient…the world says you are missing life.
This is utter folly.
The two leading figures in the NT were single: Jesus and Paul.
-No one has or will ever exceed their joy and satisfaction in life.
Paul said directly, “It would be better for you if you were not married.”
I understand he was speaking to a specific historical situation…but the principle remains sound.
Singleness is a gift that empowers enhanced ministry and should be embraced as a gift unless God gives the gift of marriage.
When our identity in Christ is lost or misunderstood…then singleness becomes a curse to be cured of rather than a gift to be lived out.
Sex becomes an idol that is worshipped to our own destruction.
What about the same sex attracted?
If this is true of you…and you are not acting on it…the ongoing struggle is not in itself sin.
Any more than the opposite sex attracted person who doesn’t act on his or her temptations.
Your calling is to remain faithful to your core identity in Christ.
Your married brothers and sisters…are to remain faithful in their calling…they must not leave difficult marriages for unbiblical reasons, they must not wander sexually outside their marriage.
Unmarried brothers and sisters who do not experience same sex attraction are to remain faithful to their calling…their main identity is sons and daughters of God…not merely sexual beings.
Struggling in a difficult marriage
My spouse is not a believer, or not a spiritual leader?
My spouse is passive or controlling or I have a hard time respecting them?
What does your identity in Christ tell you about who you are…how does it direct your life choices?
Your life will be difficult…but you are not “missing life”…because you do not have a storybook marriage.
Your life is hidden in Christ…now…he is using all the circumstances of your life to shape you into his likeness.
Struggling with children
What about parents whose children have proven to be a disappointment, or heartache?
What if your children die before you do?
What if they are fine…but you live in fear of them walking away from God or dying…and this fear is driving your life and thinking in bad direction.
Who are you, what is your essential identify and how should this shape how you move through life as a parent?
You are to be faithful…not to try and control all outcomes.
We are heading for the Kings table…but for now…for a little while we remain in Lo Debar…how do we learn to thrive and live in line with our identity now?
Resources for living out of our identity while remaning in Lo Debar
There are three primary resources we have been given to allow us to live thriving (not perfect) lives now.
Word of God
Spirit of God
People of God
KC Wolf: Dan Meers
I heard Dan Meers speak recently at an FCA banquet we attended with Keith Townsend.
I’m so far out of it I didn’t realize the Chiefs had a wolf mascot…last I knew it was a man riding a white horse.
Turns out that stopped in 1989.
Meers has been the guy in the wolf costume since 89.
A few years ago he was practicing for a bungee stunt and fell 75 feet…nearly killed him
As you can imagine it caused him a lot of ongoing problems.
He says everyday he wakes up in terrible pain…but has learned he must keep moving…when he does…he is able to do well.
Well, not as in pain free…but as in a productive and impactful life.
In fact it is his terrible accident that has opened up the deepest opportunities of his life both to know Christ and to make Christ known.
2 Cor. 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
There are three things that God has provided help you understand and live from your actual identity as son or daughter of Christ
- Word of God
# 1 complaint here: I don’t understand it, it is too complex
#1 response: do what you know (the simple stuff) and you will learn more to do.
*You will change as you do what you know to do…rather than worrying about the stuff you don’t understand.
*I can probably give you a couple verses that you could spend your life applying.
“Love God with heart, mind, soul, strength, love others as you love yourself.”
The parts we can rather easily understand must shape our view of God, self, others.
- Spirit of God
#1 complaint here: This is all mystery, I don’t understand how it works.
#1 response: The realm of the Spirit’s power in your life is the realm of God’s will for your life.
-Obey God as best you know, look for his activity in the relationships right in front of you and you will experience his power released more and more in your life.
*”Yes Lord” “Sorry Lord” “Yes Lord”…it is that simple to experience God in your life.
- People of God
Top Complaints here: People don’t pursue me, or understand me, don’t have time, hard.
Response: Pursue people, and seek to understand not be understood, you have time (this is key to your life), all good things are hard.
You must show up…stay away from where people are…of course you will not experience the benefits of this resource.
When you live in Lo Debar and you have been trained to see yourself as a sort of cripple…a person unworthy, unlovable.
Or a person defined by their past, genetics, passions, sexuality, temptations…what others have said about you.
You must believe what God has said about you.
No, you are not worthy on your own merit, but yes, you are welcome as his sons and daughters.
This is not some subjective, mind-trick you try to play on yourself.
This is an objective reality…in Christ…this is who you are.
Your identity in Christ must shape your relationships…with God, self, and others.