Don’t Let Anyone Put You in a Box
You are a big faker. You walk around pretending to be someone you are not. You wear a false identity every day. Sound strange and maybe a little insulting? Well, it’s true. It is also exactly how God designed things. The big issue is how deep the fake goes. The essential “you” changed permanently the moment you were born again…and that is great news. You went from regular old “Joe” or “Jane” to a royal heir of the King of Kings. You were totally transformed by Jesus. You are now defined by Christ in you alone as a result. This real “You” has little to do with your outward appearance, people group, background or characteristics. That was your old identity before Jesus.
You are not alone if this causes confusion. Do you doubt the authentic you? I think we all do, if we are honest. Remember this mind blowing verse?
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
This is you. This is how God sees you! Do you see yourself this way? Or how about Ephesians:
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2
You are defined by God as chosen, royal, holy, loved, saved, and seated in the heavenlies. Philippians says you are a citizen of heaven. These thoughts are so wonderful to contemplate!
They also bring up a question:
Why do you still look like the old you?
The answer is simple. You have still have work to do. You are a servant with a dangerous job. Your mission calls you to go deep into enemy territory serve your Master, Jesus. A “fake identity” is necessary to get in there and carry it out. It would be hard for your neighbor to relate to you if you if you disappeared at the moment of salvation or looked like a shining glorified angel.
This false identity is that imperfect and often painful thing you call a body. Paul called it his tent – a temporary dwelling place to use while he was away from his permanent home. Where was Paul’s home? It wasn’t Tarsus. It was heaven. Think about the tent description: Would you ever move all your furniture into a pup tent if you had a mansion to go home to? Would you choose to ride out a violent storm in a tent if you had well built house? Of course not! Yet, it is the temptation to do so that causes so many of your problems in your Christian walk. Many Christians are building and serving their tent as if they will live their for eternity.
It is so easy to make this mistake. It can also be challenging to see in yourself.
Where are You, Servant?
We are on Day 4 of the 5 Day Expedition to Take Charge of Your Christian Life. This series leads to more Jesus in your life.
Did you go through Days 1-3 yet?
I recommend you do before moving forward. It is only through the certainty of Jesus’ love that anything is possible. His love makes anything else seem tawdry.
Today, I call you to question the source of your own identity. This is such a popular issue in the public square these days. The world desperately wants to define you according to its terms. It wants you divided into neat categories, filled with fear, and compliant. It wants to place you in a box they make for you and prevent you from embracing the abundant life in Christ. Jesus has a very different definition of you.
Who are you? More accurately, who do you think you are?
Before we go any further, I am not calling you to view your body, past, race, sex, career, or any of the many characteristics that may you unique as bad. Your uniqueness is valued by God and wonderful. God is using you individually to build His Temple. It is simply a question of priority and authority.
What comes first and defines you? Everything else or Jesus? You submitted to Jesus with all of your individual strengths and weakness is wonderful to behold!
A Case of Mistaken Identity
Think about your favorite spy movie. What would happen if your hero forgot she was undercover for her covert organization? If she did not remember she was wearing a disguise and just thought her surroundings were normal? It would be a disaster. The agent would likely identify with her enemies since she looked like them. She would then act like them – seek after what her enemies did, think like them, and protect what they valued. Eventually, she may even fight against the side that sent her. An agent is useless if they forget who they work for or choose to change sides.
Easy to understand, right?
Now, for the hard part. Who do you work for? Why do you do the many things you do? Why do you make the decisions you do?
That doesn’t seem hard, but you are not yet done. Next, look at your unsaved neighbors. Examine your non-believing co-workers. Call to mind your culture in general. Really dig down, pass the external human similarities like skin, dress, and language and go deeper. Think about what makes them tick. Think about how do they spend their time and what causes them intense emotions. What are they afraid of or angry about? How do they make decisions? What are their plans and goals in life?
Got that? Have answers in your mind?
Now answer the simple question: As a Christian, is your life different than theirs?
Are you thinking, feeling, planning, trusting, or acting like everyone else?
Are you thinking, feeling, planning, trusting, or acting like a chosen, royal, holy, loved, saved servant of the Perfect God who God doesn’t ask to be here long term?
You are a stranger just passing through here for a moment. Can anyone tell? Can you tell if you examine your thoughts, emotions, actions, and goals?
Tent or Eternity, what are you defined by? Whose Kingdom are you building?
What is Behind Your Mask?
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
My earliest memories are of fear and pain. I grew up among anger, abuse, and alcoholism. I knew from a young age things were terribly wrong but I was not allowed to admit it. I am not sure I was ever told it but the message was clear – no one could know our awful secrets. Shame hung heavily on me even as a small child. Chaos and instability were my constant companions. I worked hard as I grew up to “be normal and stable” as a result. I tried to fit in and avoid embarrassment. I ran from the feelings that I would always be defined as the dirty kid in stained hand me downs from the troubled family. I desperately aspired to be stable and “make it” – these are not bad goals on their own. But my version of a good life was reactive. It was laid out by a terrified and neglected 8 year old…and I did not realize it.
I was largely successful in carrying out my plan. I became a lawyer, a husband, and a dad. I bought a house and had new cars. I was stable as I showed up at work and my kids activities. I “made it” according to my standards! But I was also miserable and struggling with a drinking problem. I was serving my tent rather than God and it was having terrible results.
Then God saved me in a moment from alcohol. He is amazing!
There was a huge problem, though. I had left my drinking behind and was learning the Bible. I went to church and sang worship songs. I served at church. Do you know what I did not do? I really never left 8 year old Tom’s version of me behind. I continued to let something else other than Jesus define me. I was greatly limited in Christ as a result.
What did serving my tent look like?
I had Jesus in my life. He was my co-pilot – meaning He sat there and did very little while I flew the plane. It was only after I took care of all the other more important stuff to serve my identity that I consulted with Jesus. I worked constantly, kept up appearances, and feared embarrassment…but called myself a servant of God. I made most of my decisions on my own thought processes and goals and then asked Jesus to bless them. I wanted good things for people, sure, but I also wanted a productive career, a lake house and a boat. Truthfully, I was also still so afraid of being that terrified powerless little boy, it left me paralyzed in my walk with Jesus.
I could not serve two masters. Did you ever notice Jesus says you will love the one you serve and hate the other?
Something had to go.
Ironically, it was shame that forced my hand. I had an opportunity to share my faith with someone I respected but who was also very critical. The only risk involved for me was being embarrassed or feeling rejected. The door opened with a clear question about Jesus directed to me. Do you know what I did? I feared and I folded. I protected that scared 8 year old definition of me. I chose to serve another master and identity…and it was awful. I still remember the flood of conviction I felt as soon as I hurried away. As waves of despair hit me, I asked myself the same basic questions I pose to you:
Who am I really if that just happened? Who do I think I am if I chose me over their salvation? What really defines me? Who do I really serve?
God showed me I still thought I was that little kid with a desperate plan to escape all the pain. My life revolved around that plan and not Jesus. I defined myself by others opinions. I served my own fear of others. I confused my worldly identity with my heavenly. This broke me. Hopefully, for the last time. I can’t honestly say that I turned it around perfectly that day or that I won’t fail again. It was my moment of discovering my identity.
Who defines me? I have wanted to be totally identified by Jesus ever since –even if no one likes it and I do it imperfectly. Chosen, royal, holy, loved, saved, and seated in the heavenlies. A citizen of heaven!
Where are the Nine?
How are you doing with these questions? Seriously, when you think about yourself, what do you think of? It is so important. You don’t want to miss out!
There are many things you can define yourself as in this world: athletic, studios, tall, short, poor, rich, conservative, liberal, white, black. These are not you.
These are expressions of you, but not the real you as a Christian.
They are valuable, but not your identity.
God is painting a wondrous work of art with all of the uniqueness He put in us. God loves you and your unique attributes. They accentuate the beauty of God’s wonderful creation. But it is only the miracle that is Christ in you and you in Christ that is transformative. This is the authentic you.
You are a child of God. You are redeemed. You are part of a family. You are on a mission. God uses the tent to paint a beautiful picture or many colors. It is only He who gets to apply the brush strokes. What is behind your mask? Are You Doing God’s Will or Yours?
So three hugely important questions:
1 – Who defines you? Jesus or anything else?
2 – Which identity are you actually thinking, feeling, planning, and living out on a daily basis?
3 – Do the things you love and spend your time on reflect your answers to 1 and 2?
Your call is simple. It starts with saying “No” to your fake identity. If you want real joy and peace from Christ the way is simple – deny self, take up Cross, and follow Jesus. This is uncomfortable. It can be painful and disconcerting. Jesus and worldly ease rarely go hand in hand. It is always good and eternally important, though.
Do you want more of God even if it blows up your plans?
Who are you?