Who are you? Who am I? We answer this question all the time. We answer when we introduce ourselves for the first time: “I am a mechanic, pastor, nurse, teacher…” We answer this question when we look in the mirror: “I am ugly, beautiful, fat, tall…” We answer this question when we look at our accomplishments: “I am amazing, a failure, improving, struggling…”
Society has tried to tell us we are what we do; this has long been the case in our culture where we introduce and evaluate our life based on the tasks we address during the work week. But, times are changing. Children and young adults are being taught by our society to identify themselves with their inner feelings, to discover their identity by what they like and feel instead of a task they accomplish.
This is intrinsically a healthy shift. Unfortunately, at the same time, our country is shifting away from God. In an effort to get away from unhealthy external identifications, people are turning toward unhealthy internal identifications.
The problem with identifying ourselves with our feelings and perceptions of the world is two-fold. First, our feelings are swayed dramatically by our environment, influences and mental health conditions of the moment. Second, God tells us our identity comes from Him and Him alone.
It is not always easy to find our identity in Christ. The influences are all around us and bombard our senses every moment of every day. It is “natural” for us to identify with things we can taste, smell, see, and otherwise experience. Our interaction with God, on the other hand, is often limited to a few hours a week or less. This isn’t a fair fight.
God is able to overcome these odds, but He asks for our participation. He calls us to turn away from the temptations of the material, physical world and see there is something bigger unfolding. He invites us to be in a more frequent relationship with Him through reading the Word, prayer and in Christian community. God gives us His Holy Law so we are able to recognize temptation and turn from it. If we are not utilizing these amazing gifts, is it really any wonder why we begin to identify and turn toward the world’s misconceptions?
It is heartbreaking when people we love, and especially our children/grandchildren, get enticed by the ways of the world. It shouldn’t, however, be surprising or hopeless. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls, gathers and enlightens His people. He won’t turn His back on us. He continues to invite us into a full identity in Him.
When our loved ones turn away from God and turn toward the world, it is often because they don’t “feel” God’s presence in their lives. We can’t control how people feel, but we can fulfill our identity in Christ. Our identity as believers is to be IN Christ, and in so doing, BE Christ to one another. If we can spend less time telling others how to do what God wants and spend more time being who God made us to be, the impact will be undeniable and people will be drawn to our Father in Heaven.
Jesus was typically more compassionate with an unbeliever than He was with the believers (the Church at the time). This doesn’t always seem fair, but it isn’t intended to be. As believers we have the greatest gift anyone could ever receive: a relationship with the Almighty Creator and eternal life in Christ! With these amazing gifts comes both blessing and responsibility. We are called to love others as we have first been loved in Christ: sacrificial, overcoming, truth-living love. This is our identity. It is who we are.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
Pastor Erik Gauss