November 16, 2017

Fighting for Our Identity

Danny Brymer

I have been thinking  about the idea of our identity.  One of the main driving forces behind everything we do in our lives is that we want to be known to ourselves and to others. However, because of sin, things have gone horribly wrong. We try to find our identity in all of the wrong places and we are scared to let ourselves be open and known to others. As a pastor, I am learning that knowing my identity in Christ is the single most important truth for me to grasp if I want to shepherd people well.

Internal vs. External

In all of our lives, we live a constant battle for our hearts between the internal and the external. What I mean by internals and externals is this: internally, we know that we have been born again and have a new identity in Christ if we believe, but we constantly let external things take over and try to tell us who we are.

It is like a chess match where the externals get checkmate because we are looking for the wrong strategies to win. We look to the external things we do to tell us who we are and every time they sweep in and get a checkmate over our hearts.

Every time we look to the externals to give us our identity and every time we attach ourselves to external things and actions we lose our way and will never be satisfied and content. The reason for this is because there is no possible way external things and actions can tell us who we are. Sometimes we attach ourselves to certain hobbies, interests and passions and we think that those things are “who we are;” sometimes we attach ourselves to our jobs and think that our jobs tell us who we are, but the more we look to those things to control the internal things, the more lost and confused we will be. We will be lost and confused because we have given ourselves over to idolatry. Instead of worshiping God and letting Him define us, we give ourselves over to the worship of created things, letting them tell us who we are and we suffer the discontentment brought on because of our failure to look to Jesus and trust Him. God has certainly created us uniquely and has given us different gifts and interests, but we have reversed things – instead of letting our true selves who are rooted in Christ drive the external things we do, we often let the external things take control of the internal. That will always breed discontent and insecurity. I believe that every insecurity we have can be traced back to either a wrong idea we have of God, or something we do not believe about Him. For instance, when we trust in our jobs to define who we are, or when we look to people to tell us who we are, it can expose that we don’t trust God’s love for us.

We all struggle with this in one way or another, but overcoming it can be incredibly difficult and take years. Some of us may struggle with it up until the day the Lord decides to take us into paradise with Him. We have to be patient with ourselves and others because it is scary to let go of control and give control to God.

Step by Step

In Galatians 2:20-21 it says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”¹ Paul teaches us here that the Christian life is a life that is lived by faith in Jesus. This passage goes along with what Jesus said in John 6:26-29 after He fed the 5,000: “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'”² Faith in Jesus is the ultimate obedience. Faith in Jesus is the foundation of our lives. Once we have faith in Him, our lives become hidden in Him.³

When we find ourselves looking to external things to give us life and tell us who we are, we must confess and turn to the Lord and keep trusting. And then if it  happens again, we must do the same, again and again no matter how long it takes. Turning to Jesus in faith is the work of our lives that  God requires and is what will drive the external things instead of letting them drive us. It is the best strategy and only strategy needed.

In bringing this post to a close, I would like to post one of my favorite songs from the late Rich Mullins entitled “Sometimes by Step.”

Sometimes By Step

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You’d already done

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that, no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days…

¹ NIV, Italics mine.

² NIV, Italics mine.

³ See Colossians 3:3.