Sunday, December 21, 2014

Who Am I? Solely Trusting in Christ with our Identitiy

But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Acts 19:15

Who Are You?

Stop reading for a moment and complete this sentence: I am a(an) _____________.  Some of us fill the blank with characteristics about ourselves making up our personal identity, but most people identify themselves using a word or phrase that refers to their nationality, gender, or religion. This is associated with our social identity which is a part of our self-concept. Some of us spend our whole lives trying to find this perfect identity, and we are left never having an answer to the perplexing question: Who am I?

The Pursuit of an Identity

Everyone is looking for an identity. We want to be fully known and fully loved. We want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and at the same time just be ourselves. We want affirmation and acceptance. Why do you think we put the highlight reel of our lives on Facebook and Instagram? We want people to see us smiling in nice clothes and eating good food. You would never post a picture of yourself having just rolled out of bed eating instant mac and cheese crying. Why? Because we want everyone to think we got life figured out. But in reality when we are alone in introspective thought, we develop deep soul stirring questions that if we could answer, we’d feel our problems would be solved. Am I man enough? Am I attractive enough? Am I lovable?  Am I considered a success? It’s normal to have these feelings. Our culture defines our worth in these question and superficial qualities, so we put high demand to constantly improve ourselves. 
Abraham Maslow

American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, created the Maslow hierarchy of needs, which is a theory that was established to fulfill distinctive human needs in order. In layman’s terms, Maslow created a list of needs that humans sought to obtain through life. The list of needs include physiological needs, safety needs, love/belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization. Maslow concluded that all needs funneled to self-actualization, but studies have shown that very few actually ever obtain this last need. Isn't this somber? People spend their whole lives trying to discover who they actually are, and very few ever make it there.

 Honestly, I could not tell you where I fit in this hierarchy of needs, but I can tell you that I am a child of God, a son to the King, and an heir to the throne. My identity is no longer mine and, I have been bought with a price through Christ Jesus. He is my identity (1 Corinthians 6:17). He is my life. I no longer have to be a slave to what the world expects of me, because I am fully known and cherished through Him. I am blessed to say I am a Christian. There is so much simplicity and truth within John 1:12. It states, yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. It really is that simple, but somehow we complicate things.

The “Super Christian” Stereotype

There is a high standard for Christians in this world, you could call it a Holy calling. We are supposed to be the front runners to aid in charities. We must be above reproach from any worldly desire. We shouldn't be laughing at crude jokes at parties. We aren't supposed to be watching R rated movies, and the only television show we should like is Duck Dynasty. We are supposed to be optimistic in a pessimistic world. We are supposed to be the voice of reason/wisdom with our friends, and have a servants mentality to put others needs first. It is a necessity that the Christian’s life look radically different then the world around it, but how often do we fall short of this “Super Christian” stereotype. Maybe you have experienced this in your own life. For a short while, you were following this Christian agenda only to crash after a week and start going back to your old sinful habits that contradict your new desires. Is this life even possible to sustain? Now there is truth within this “Super Christian” stereotype, it is called the pursuit of holiness, but this does not happen overnight. It is a long journey or a race of endurance (Hebrews 12:1-2). We are called to be different but we must be careful not to put the cart before the horse. Our pursuit of holiness can’t and will not happen without firmly being rooted in our new identity. This is why we can’t lean on our own understanding anymore (Proverbs 3:5). This is why we must fight our instincts to trust our own self. Why? Because we know nothing good comes from our self (Psalm 51:5). A life of trying to do Christian things without the Author of the faith is setting yourself up for a life of failure and misery. This is why we are so quick to drop the daunting task of the Christian lifestyle, because we start trusting in our own identity and then almost immediately we lose hope. But Christians were never meant to live this life trusting in self. Immediately after our conversion to Christianity, we have been given new identities, new personas, new desires, new life and hope. We have been given Christ, and we must be rooted in his identity and know the impact of what that means before we go any further.

Justification and Sanctification

I want to brief in this section but really clarify the necessity of trusting in Christ and the dangers of trying to rely on yourself  after the fact your identity is in Christ. I’m throwing two “churchy” words around here (justification and sanctification). Both are essential to the Christian life but justification must come before sanctification.

 Justification is the legal act of where God declares sinners to be innocent of his or her sins. Do not make the mistake of thinking this means you are sinless, but it does mean you are declared sinless. How can this be? Simple answer: Jesus. Through the Son’s perfect life, he was the propitiation of our sins and reconciled us back to our loving Father (Romans 3:24). Jesus brought us from the court room to the family room. Because of Christ and only Christ we are free from the wrath of God and are now sons and daughters to the King.

The simplest definition of sanctification is obedience to Christ. Sanctification is the sovereign process of the maturation of a Christian in which he gives us the human responsibility to pursue Him. Galatians 2:20 says I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me. The life I live now in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. Since we have been justified through Jesus, it should be our desire to love and obey him. The more we obey and pursue Him, the closer the relationship we have with our Father. This goes for any relationship. I hope to one day have a wife and be able to do nice things for her. Let’s say I give her flowers one day for no special occasion. She asks me why I did this and I responded, “Well you’re my wife, I have to…” WRONG ANSWER. I’d probably get slapped with good reason. My real response would be more along the lines of, “because I love you! I don’t have an ulterior motive, I did it from the bottom of my heart.” The same goes with our relationship Christ. We do things for Him not out of begrudging duty or ulterior motives, but to love him more and get closer to Him.

This is why it is so important to know the difference and order of justification and sanctification. Because of justification, I have the freedom to be sanctified and obey Christ. But it would be impossible for me to obey Christ or do enough good to earn my justification. We call this legalism. Legalism takes all the joy out of following God, and you live in the constant pressure of wondering have I done enough (which the answer is always no). To live a life of legalism, is to live a life of monotony and misery. Our identities are reduced down to self-righteous Pharisees, and that is far from the love of God. (Mark 2:17)

Embracing Our New Identity

I am a huge fan of anything Christopher Nolan directs. Needless to say, My favorite movies are the Batman trilogy. In the final movie, The Dark Knight Rises, we are introduced to Selina Kyle aka Cat Woman. Kyle is a master thief, and she is always on the run for her criminals past. During the movie, Kyle adamantly pursues to get possession of a computer software program called the "clean slate" which can erase any identity in any database in the world. She aligns herself with anybody that can promise to give her this clean slate, this new identity, in which they constantly fail her on broken promises. Kyle actually betrays the one guy that can actually give her the clean slate, Bruce Wayne. Near the end of the movie, Wayne gives Kyle another chance and offers her the USB with the clean slate  program, and she responds,"You trust me with that? After what I did to you?" Wayne smiles and responds, "I'll admit, I was a little let down, but I think there is so much more to're tired of running and you want to start fresh...I can give that to you."

Does this resonate with you? This is the Christian conversion in which we receive our new identities, and we are Selina Kyle. Our whole lives, we spent pursuing folly things that promised to complete us that always miss the mark, making us feel incomplete. And while we were chasing these carnal desires, Christ was always there telling us, "I'm enough, I can give you what you're heart is looking for." And we turned our backs against Him and continue to look for our identity elsewhere. Luckily for us, Jesus is patient and forgiving. He is not the one to hold grudges, and eventually we realize he is right, but fear we have done too much because of our damning past. That's when Jesus smiles and says, "I think there is so much more to you than your're tired of running and you want to start fresh...I can give that to you. I make all things new (Revelation 21:5)."

At the end of the movie, Kyle and Wayne go on to save Gotham City and run away to Italy and live happily ever after. Kyle erases her old identity, and she no longer lives in the fear of being haunted by her past. At the end of the movie, do you think Kyle goes back to living her life of crime? Absolutely not, She spent her whole life trying to steer clear of her past, why would she ever go back? The same goes for us, with our new identities. Just like Kyle with our new Christ-like identities, we no longer have to live in the condemnation of our hideous past (Romans 8:1), and we get to be in constant fellowship with the one who gave us our new identity (1 Corinthians 1:9). We can say no to sin for the first time, because it is no longer our master (Romans 6:14). Because of that promise we are truly free for the first time. This freedom allows us to live life with peace, and every obstacle big or small thrown at us will not be able to shake the firm foundation of our identity in Christ (Romans 5:1).

Closing with Lewis

Maybe this is your first time ever hearing anything like this. You might feel this is true, but have no idea where to start or how to obtain this identity. Ironically to find you're identity in Christ, we must totally abandon the pursuit of finding yourself, and start fully pursuing the life of Jesus. He is the genesis to a new identity. No one describes this better than C.S. Lewis when he states: 

“Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

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