How do you identify yourself? “Hello, I’m Jerry …” and then what? Gender? Race? Family? Job? Religion? Political persuasion? America is currently torn apart by our loss of a sense of uniting identity. Talk with people who identify in most any way – white, black, Latino, Asian, male, female, Christian, Jew, Muslim, old, young, progressive, conservatives – and they are all anxious about their place in the nation right now. All will point to evidence that their group is threatened, is suffering from discrimination, and is under attack.
So, we have taken up the call to ‘defend our rights,’ protecting our group from threats both real and imagined. We are no longer celebrating those things that brought us together. Instead, we are shouting about our singularity, becoming ever more divided.
Even Christians have increasingly become ‘tribal.’ This is wrong. All those labels we love to hang on our faith practices are secondary to the fact that makes us Christian in the first place- that we are ‘in Christ.’ We are not Christian because we align with a certain political party, or because we are pro-life, or because we have the right convictions about human sexuality, or because we have a membership in a group that meets in a church building.
The Christian’s identity is primarily formed by faith in Jesus – God come in flesh, Savior of the world, Resurrected to give us hope of eternal life. Do you believe this declaration? “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NLT) “And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28, NLT)
We will have many differing convictions about HOW we live that Christian life. But, those must not become our identity, celebrated above our shared hope assured by Christ, our Lord. Jesus tells us what living in Him looks like – loving God passionately and other people deeply. All of the rest of our ‘religion’ will fall into place IF we pursue those two things in His Name. If you want a place to start to discover what living in Jesus looks like – get serious about Matthew 5-7!
It is much easier to become part of a church and adopt the shared faith practices of that group as our Christian identity than it is to live each day as a personal faith discovery, led by the Holy Spirit, living selflessly for Jesus. If our pastor gives us a checklist for the ‘Christian life,’ we do not have to deal with our own ‘stuff,’ just as long as we vote the right way, sing the right songs, believe the right things about spiritual gifts, etc. It is so much easier to learn to look like the other Christians that hang out in our shared worship space than it is to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Those who know Jesus as Lord, who trust Him as Savior, get serious about love, practice a radical kind of forgiveness, are deeply compassionate, are actively dealing with their own sin – ALL for Christ’s sake. Instead trying to ‘act like’ some Christian celebrity or even imitate a respected church leader, they walk with Jesus, ‘keeping step with the Holy Spirit.’ The discovery of this faith life leads to the death of selfishness while, paradoxically, leading the individual to the joy of becoming that unique work of God that He creates us to be! No, for the Christian, it’s not about Self, it is about God’s call. And, when are following Him, it is the ultimate pathway of ‘life to the full,’ to use a phrase of Jesus own teaching.
Instead of playing at control and tribal protection, Christians who are truly ‘in Christ Jesus’ enter into the amazing freedom afforded the children of God. Paul wrote a letter to the church in Galatia warning those Christians about a ‘tribe’ that was asking them to submit to Jewish law as a condition of faith. He teaches them, and us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NIV) The same impulse befalls Christians in 2020. “You must become like me (politically, liturgically, philosophically) in order to follow Jesus.” NOT SO! It is a lie and if we accept it, we begin to serve someone other than our true LORD.
Our call is to be LIKE JESUS, to follow Him. God declares our identity when we receive Christ, by faith. He writes a ‘new name’ on us, calling us His own people. And, as we live that identity He changes us, inside out. I am enthralled by Paul’s inspired letter to the Ephesians because in those lines I discover that I am a beloved child of God, chosen by Him, included ‘in Christ,’ a person of power to overcome, hopeful, with a holy purpose to display His love to the often darkened world in which I live. Yes, like everyone else, I have echoes of voices in my memory that try to define me as a failure, as flawed, as weak. The demons of destruction whisper lies in my mind about who I am, too. Who will I believe? The critics, the devil, or the Word?
Are you living as a true child of God? Are you walking in faith discovery, day by day, becoming more and more like the One who gave you a new identity?
Here is a word from the Word. The power of the promise wrecks my pretensions and reveals grace.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. …
But because of his great love for us, God,
who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. …
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do. …
now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”
(Ephesians 2:1-2, 4, 10, 13, NIV)
I believe the totality of that passage –
I WAS a sinner, dead to God. He ACTED out of love to save me.
Now I am alive ‘in Christ’ and He invites me to LIVE OUT His plan and
become a masterpiece of the work of God, for the display of His glory!
Do you believe and receive that glorious truth?
Who You Say I Am
Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
Free at last
He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am
(Oh) (Yes) I am who You say I am
Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055