Monday, July 11, 2016

The Identity of a Christian

In this world, we hear a lot about identity. People identify as this or that, and in so doing, have found a group of people, a culture, or an acceptance by which they fit in. Some call their group their "tribe", a similar bunch of people who hold to their ideals.

This sense of belonging is a powerful force. No one wants to be alone or maligned for how they identify. The world may shun them, but if they have their tribe, they're not alone, and there is someone who knows and cares what they're going through.

In looking for their "tribe", Christians are no different than other groups of the world. They come together in their own groups on Sundays looking for like-minded people. And while you may be thinking this post will be about identifying as a Christian to those around us, you'd only be half right.

Christians are new creations. The old has gone, the new has come. We are ambassadors of Christ, and as such, our mission on earth is to advance His Gospel to every tribe, nation, and tongue.

Because of this, our identity must be found in more than simply "being a Christian". We are not in a club, rather, we're citizens of Heaven. And what does the heavenly host do before the Throne of God?

They adore the One who sits upon it.
They adore the Lord Jesus Christ.

In like fashion, Christians everywhere should do the same. However, many people choose to identify as one worldly thing or another worldly thing, which sets their Christianity on the back burner. This is not the mentality of the Apostle Paul. He did not identify as a rich and powerful Pharisee. No, he "counted it all as dung" that he may obtain Christ (Philippians 3:8). In other words, he threw it all away to gain Jesus!

Have you ever loved Christ in this way? Have you ever been, or are you now willing to give up all you have, all you own, all you love, even your own life, if it meant gaining Christ?

This is the true identity of a Christian: JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF.

He must become to us the sum and substance of all that we are. We must pursue only Him, focus only on Him. Our entire lives should revolve around our Lord and Savior. This means it is not Christ who is cast to the wayside; we cast away whatever it is in which we identify, before we identify in Him.

Ultimately, our identity is where we find our worth. In my case, am I a good wife? Mother? Daughter? Sister? Friend? I used to believe my writing is what identified me, and that my worth came from positive comments or glowing reviews. We can even trip ourselves up by trying to earn our way to favor by being "good Christians".

But this is not the way.

Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is also everything in between -- the very means to that end. One who places their identity in Christ can say with the Apostle: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me... For me, to live is Christ." (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21). Therefore, Jesus becomes their all-in-all.

More than merely saving us from Hell, more than saving us from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ has given us the greatest of gifts -- Himself. "I am my Beloved's, my Beloved is mine." We are co-heirs to glory (Romans 8:17), seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6, Revelation 3:21). We don't use Jesus as a way to bypass Hell -- no, He becomes to us our Heaven. In that way, Heaven is so much more than a "better place", Heaven is the Person and presence of Christ! In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

The natural overflow of Christ preeminent in one's life is that they begin to think on heavenly things; whatever is good and pure. They live to please God, not their own fleshly lusts. They worship in Spirit and in truth, not in some works-based validation that doing more in the church wins favor with God. This person no longer cares how the world views them because they have Christ, and in Him they have all they need.

Here is the test of a genuine Christian: serving Christ is not a slog, it is the glory of their life.

If I may, I would like to share a few snippets from my prayer journal to give a glimpse into what it means for me to find my identity in Jesus.
Give me nothing but You. Throw me in a dank, cold prison cell, but give me of Yourself and it will be to me a Holy of Holies. I meditate upon You all the day, every day, and I never tire of seeking Your face. Your Holy Spirit fuels me to find You and shines beams of glory into a new facet of You. I can't take my eyes off the very One who dazzles me.
You have made my heart a fountain that overflows with love to You. A feeble and leaky fountain it may be, but my love is Your Living Water, bubbling down from Your Throne to pour out of me. My purity is Your Purity. My beauty Your Beauty. My holiness Your Holiness. Please teach me and show me how Your Love can become my love. Slay me with it, Lord, until this flesh is dead in the grave and this spirit flies home to You -- even better, cause me to LIVE! and redeem this flesh to Your heavenly estate so that with THESE eyes, I will see God!
Here's another example:
I am cherished by my God. How can this be? And yet, it is so. My life has always been meant to display Your glory. You have fashioned me into a vessel of honor, and I don't take this lightly. My entire existence revolves around Your will -- You determined to have me when I was nothing more than a spark in Your foreknowledge. You created me and came to me, thus creating me again. You allowed me to wander, which must have broken Your heart, yet in Your kindness, called Your prodigal daughter to come home even more zealous than before!
And now, the more I know, the more I know nothing, that I'm only scratching the surface of theology and the reality of You. I am blind to all other loves. I see no one but Yeshua. Make me bold for You, but not prideful; zealous, but not angry. Loving, but not compromising; meek, but not weak. O, Yeshua, conform me into Your image, that I may more perfectly resemble You.

True Christianity treasures Jesus above and beyond all else, even all other things by which we identify. Where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. If we come to treasure Jesus and point our lives in His direction, our hearts shall be with Him. But whatever we treasure more than Him is an idol. It is "another god" before Him. When this happens, we are not walking according to the First Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Some people are so focused on finding their tribe and fitting in that they totally miss the point of all -- the END of it all -- which is the praise and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We do not "add" God to our lives, He is our life. We don't simply "love" Him, He is our Love. We don't believe in Jesus merely to "go to Heaven", His presence is our Heaven, and we have been given the amazing privilege, through His suffering and resurrection, of being where He is. Praise God!

Too many Christians do not have the Lord Jesus as the center of their lives. Why not, I ask? If He is the center of the entire universe, if the song sung around His Throne is the highest song that can be sung, how can we who claim to love Him be satisfied with any lesser song?

Think on this, and take it to God. Is Christ alone your identity? Or does your worth come from this world? Is there anything in your life you wouldn't lay down for Him?

Christ is our King, and to our King we bow. This world is not our home. Many of us have become too comfortable here. Let us pray to the Lord Jesus to realign our hearts with Heaven, and to help us love Him as He is worthy to be loved. Let us cater our prayers to fashion us into abiding Christians whose hearts overflow with His Living Water.

Let us not find our identity in anything other than our great God and Savior. This is my prayer for the glorious Bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His beautiful, holy name.