In What Do You Find Your Identity?

Identity

In what do you find your identity?  Your answer is important because your answer will inform your actions.

The Pharisees and Jesus

In Matthew 22, the Pharisees send their disciples along with the Herodians to trick Jesus. Approaching Jesus the group says,

Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” (Matt. 22:16b)

If you can’t tell, their flattering is false. Yet, there is some truth to it. Truth they are hoping to use against Jesus. Jesus is, as they say, unconcerned with the opinions of others. Jesus isn’t a politician who makes calculated political maneuvers or who holds back because of what other might think.

Jesus doesn’t do those things because Jesus doesn’t find His identity in the acceptance of others but in His relationship with the Father. As a result, He says and stands for the truth.

What We Should Do

Just like Jesus, we shouldn’t find our identity in the acceptance of others either. We shouldn’t be wrapped up in what others think about us. All that’s going to result in is us being let down.

Think about it. Our peers opinions changes as quickly as the weather. If we want their acceptance, we have to constantly win it by doing things of which they approve. That, however, is no way to live, especially if we are Christians.

You see, if we are constantly worried about the approval of others, we are more likely to equivocate on God’s Word – to act contrary to God’s will, and to cave when we should stand for the truth. So instead of trying to win the approval of our peers, the public, or even our own families, we should seek God’s acceptance.

The Sureness of God’s Acceptance

God’s acceptance is something we don’t ever have to be anxious about because it never changes. God’s acceptance never changes because it’s not based on our work, but on Jesus’ work.

You see, when we believe in Jesus as our Savior and repent of our sins to follow Him, Jesus’ work is attributed to us, so that when God looks down on us, He sees Jesus. He doesn’t see all the mistakes we have and will make. He doesn’t see our sin. Instead, He sees Jesus and the life He lived.

Conclusion

So instead of finding our identity in others, we should be like Jesus and find our identity in God. If we do, we will be more likely to stand for the truth.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see a correlation between identity, acceptance, and standing for the truth?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: How should we think of authority?

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Do You Know Your Identity Idols?

Idol

What are your identity idols? In other words, what do you find your identity in besides Christ?

That question is a broad one, but it is one we can answer with a little information. In order to help you answer it, and provide a follow up to my last post on Identity, let me offer five categories of Identity Idols from Mark Driscoll’s latest book: Who Do You Think You Are? 

Identity Idols

(1) ITEMS – Car, clothes, technologies, home, jewelry, furniture, etc.

If our idol is our items:

  1. Our possessions define our identity.
  2. We are driven to obtain certain items to gain status and prestige with our peers.
  3. Our possessions are not valued by their usefulness, but in how they increase or decrease our status and prestige among our peers.

Our identity and our drive to gain status and prestige are why we fought our parents in school to buy us Polo and Air Jordan’s instead of Wal-Mart brand clothing and shoes. We wanted to fit in. Have our friends think of us in a certain way and Wal-Mart shirts were not going to cut it.

If we are honest with ourselves this drive to fit in has not subsided. It has just gotten a bit more expensive since we have traded our Air Jordan’s for Mercedes’ or BMW’s. Seeking status is why most Americans are in perpetual debt and are constantly overpaying.

So you may ask yourself:

  • Why am I in debt?
    • Is it because I am a bad steward of my money?
    • Is it because I am seeking status and prestige?

Answering those questions honestly may be your ticket to financial and spiritual freedom.

(2) DUTIES – The things we do – Job, hobby, sport, parental and grandparent duties, marriage duties.

If our idol is our duties:

  1. We will always be searching for something to excel in.
  2. When we find the thing we can excel in, we will become overcommitted and extremely competitive.
  3. Winning puts us on top of the world, but losing crashes our world, which can result in depression and others not wanting to be around us.
  4. Winning consumes us so we don’t care about others.
  5. Pride will creep up and we will only boast in ourselves.

Those who find their identity in their duties often lose their compassion for others because being better than the next person is all that matters. It is all about winning.

Not only does compassion decrease, if our idol is our duties, but selfishness increases. Activities then tend to be focused on us as well as conversations as we fish for the praise of others.

(3) OTHERSBroadly in our identification with a collective tribe. Narrowly in our individual relationships.

Our tribe is the greater community we closely identify with, which can be our family, city, school, class, sports team, nationality, race, gender, ethnicity, culture, income level, hobby, political party, theological affinity, or even sexual orientation to name a few.

Don’t get me wrong community is good, but community can easily be turned into an idol.

When we make our tribe into an idol we:

  1. Demonize other tribes.
  2. Are devastated when our tribe loses or fails.
  3. Push for our tribe to win/succeed at any cost.

Tribal idolatry often results in hostility between tribes. Think high school football rivalries or the demonization of another political party.

Not only does tribal idolatry result in hostility, but it also results in a desire to win at any cost. Breaking God’s Law, hurting or using others doesn’t matter. It is all about winning. No price is too high to pay.

Alternatively, when we find our identity in individual relationships, we make personal relationships unhealthy because we turn them into an idol and a place where we find our identity.

When we find our identity in others we typically:

  1. Give into peer pressure
  2. People please
  3. Have a codependency problem
  4. Fear man
  5. Change appearance and/or behavior depending on the group we are around.

Idolatry of individual relationships is why peer pressure is so powerful. Acceptance and subsequent identification is why a person may perform acts that are out of character. As well as it is why they may act a certain way around their church friends but another around their neighborhood or school friends. The desire to fit in by pleasing others is powerful and can only truly be combated with the cross.

Identity with relationships can manifest itself in one of two ways: Independence or Dependence. 

Some signs you find your identity in being independent are:

  • You want nothing to do with others.
  • You avoid close relationships so you won’t be hurt.

Some signs you find your identity in dependent relationships are:

  • You can’t be alone.
  • You have unrealistic expectations of relationships.
  • You are demanding, smothering, and needy.
  • You are easily inflated by praise or deflated by criticism.
  • One word either makes or breaks your day, giving others god-like control over you.

(4) LONGINGS – It is a hope that tomorrow will bring something better.

We all have longings. Our longings are what get us up in the morning, cause us to pray to God, and keep us hoping for Christ’s return. These are good longings to have.

Even so, our longings can become an idol when they become the source of our identity. When our longings become our identity, our life becomes excessively governed by our feelings and future, rather than our present, and God’s past, present, and future work on our behalf.

Living for the future can cause our identity to be based in getting physical healing, getting married, having children, fulfilling our vocational ministry goals, achieving financial security, or reaching the next season of life, just to name a few.

An unhealthy idolized view of the future can cause our life to shift in a moments notice leaving us:

  1. Feeling powerful and hopeful when we are healthy, receive good news, or receive an achievement.
  2. Feeling powerless and hopeless when we are sick, receive bad news, or fail to achieve a goal.

In addition, when we live for the future, our identity is always out there and governed by what will happen next. When we set our identity in who we will be in the future, we sin because we are not trusting in who we are in Christ right now. As well as we are setting ourselves up to be swayed by our feelings and future.

Often longing idolatry is most evident when people are diagnosed with a terminal disease. If their world comes crashing down and they become depressed, that may be a sign their future was their idol. However, those who stand strong in the face of death prove they do not find their identity in who they could become in the future, but in something else. Hopefully, that something is Christ and who He has made them right now.

(5) SUFFERING – Emotionally, financially, mentally, physically, relationally, spiritually.

We will suffer in this world in many ways. When we suffer, our hurt and pain can become our identity if we are not careful. My mom constantly dealt with her suffering becoming her identity, as do a number of guys at my church.

While my mom fought Scleroderma, several men in my church are fighting back pain. Their constant pain is a real struggle for them physically and mentally. As they quietly suffer, the one thing they tell me over and over is that they refuse to allow their pain to take over their life. In other words, they refuse to allow their pain to become their identity, which in a real sense it could.

Since suffering often presents itself front and center, we must fight especially hard against this identity idol when presented with the temptation.

In Christ

Instead of finding our identity in our idols we should find it in Christ. He is the One who has made us a new creation, gives us hope, joy, satisfaction, and eternal life. We should not, then, find our identity in our sins, occupation, addictions, hobbies, items, duties, others, longings, or sufferings.

Christ defines who we are by what He has done for us, not what we do, or fail to do for Christ. In Him we are a new creation and a child of God. Being God’s child is one identity that will not let us down. Instead it will change us so that we are able to accomplish our purpose in this life – to glorify God.

So then, as Christians we can say we live from our identity in Christ, not for our identity.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Which category or categories do you fall into?
  2. Does understanding what could be your identity idol help you fight for your identity in Christ?
  3. Are there any other categories you might add?

Resources

Post adapted from: Who do you think you are? Ch. 1

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Where Do You Find Your Identity?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Recently, I have been reading Driscoll’s new book: Who Do You Think You Are? His book deals with identity. Specifically, where we should find our identity.

Reading his book over the past few days has me asking the question: Who do I think I am? I want to put that question to you as well: Who do you think you are? In other words, where do you find your identity? Do you find it in your possessions? Do you find it in your job? Do you find it in others? Or do you find it someone else?

When someone asks you who are you, what do you say? Do you respond by saying, I am a farmer, a business man, a missionary, a pastor, an addict, an alcoholic, an abused person, or an angry person?

It is common, we respond in these ways, but should we, or should we find our identity in something else? In order to answer this question, we must start at the beginning, the beginning of the Bible and time.

The Beginning

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It starts with the creation account. After God created everything else, He creates man. In Genesis 1:26-27 God says,

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Notice God makes man in His image, which means we are God’s image bearer. No one else bears God’s image. Humans are the only ones’ created in the Image of God.

As God’s image bearers, we are created to reflect His goodness and character to the world for His glory. When we love others, we reflect God’s love to the world for His glory. When we forgive others, we reflect God’s forgiveness to the world for His glory. When we are merciful, we reflect god’s mercy to the world for His glory. And so on and so forth.

Genesis 3

As we move on through Genesis, we come across the temptation of man in Genesis 3. The entire chapter focuses on the fall. For the sake of time, let’s just look at verses 1-7.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Satan told Adam and Eve they would “be like God.” Adam and Eve believed him and ate the fruit. When they did, they forgot they were already like God; they forgot they had been made in His image. Instead of recognizing they were already like God, they sought to create their own identity apart from God by eating the fruit God had forbidden.

Just like Adam and Eve faced an identity crisis – they forgot who they were – we wrestle with our identity as well. In fact, man has been wrestling with their identity ever since our first parents sought their identity outside of God in the garden.

Problem with Seeking Our Identity Outside of God

What is the problem with seeking our identity outside of God? When we seek our identity outside of God, we go from a God given identity to a Man sought identity. Instead of becoming like God, we become like our idol – the thing that represents God to us, but is not.

When we seek identity in something other than God – Job, Hobbies, Nationality, Cultural Tastes, Status – we deify that something. It becomes our god. It is what we live for and seek to glorify. Our identity then becomes rooted in our idolatry, a false god instead of the one true God.

This is a problem because we are not created to image our idols. We are created to image God for His glory. When we seek our identity in an idol, we take away from God’s glory. As well as we don’t accomplish our purpose in life – to glorify God.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you find your identity in God?
  2. Do you seek your identity in something other than God?
  3. When others ask you who you are, how do you respond? Do you say I am a Christian or something else?

Resources

Post adapted from: Who do you think you are? Ch. 1

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