Tag Archives: Identity

Relational Idols

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 2:28–3:3 ESV)

“No human being was ever meant to be the source of personal joy and contentment for someone else. Your spouse, your friends, and your children cannot be the sources of your identity. When you seek to define who you are through those relationships, you are asking another sinner to be your personal messiah, to give you the inward rest of soul that only God can give. Only when I have sought my identity in the proper place (in my relationship with God) am I able to put you in the proper place as well. When I relate to you knowing that I am God’s child and the recipient of his grace, I am able to serve and love you.

However, if I am seeking to get identity from you, I will watch you too closely. I will become acutely aware of your weaknesses and failures. I will become overly critical, frustrated, and angry. I will be angry not because you are a sinner, but because you have failed to deliver the one thing I seek from you: identity.

When I remember that Christ has given me everything I need to be the person he has designed me to be, I am free to serve and love you. When I know who I am, I am free to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and loving as we navigate the inevitable messiness of relationships.”

Why doesn’t God just make your relationships better overnight? We often think that if God really cared for us, he would make our relationships easier. In reality, a difficult relationship is a mark of his love and care.

We would prefer that God would just change the relationship, but he won’t be content until the relationship changes us too. This is how God created relationships to function.
What happens in the messiness of relationships is that our hearts are revealed, our weaknesses are exposed, and we start coming to the end of ourselves. Only when this happens do we reach out for the help God alone can provide. Weak and needy people finding their hope in Christ’s grace are what mark a mature relationship.

The most dangerous aspect of your relationships is not your weakness, but your delusions of strength. Self-reliance is almost always a component of a bad relationship.
While we would like to avoid the mess and enjoy deep and intimate community, God says that it is in the very process of working through the mess that intimacy is found.

Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, February 14, p 45 & January 16, p 16.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

Approved & Accepted

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” (Galatians 1:10–17 ESV)

There are two ways in which we can live our lives: to please people or to please God. Living for the approval of man is tiring. When we drive what we drive, live where we live, work out, eat, parent, interact, respond all for the approval of others we are easily tired, easily angered and plagued by a sense of hopelessness. Proverbs tells us that “Fear of man will prove to be a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). We know this to be true, but we find it so very difficult to get away from. It is as if, we are hardwired for approval and acceptance. But the approval and acceptance that every soul longs for is not found in good marriages or close friendships; as good as those are, they still cannot deliver ultimate approval because that is not what they were designed for and are lived out in a fallen and broken world.

If you have been in the church very long, then you know the answer is that we should live to please God and not man. Paul says as much in the opening verses of Galatians: “am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Being a Christian and seeking approval from others are not compatible courses. The problem is that we bring our same hard charging, approval seeking effort in to our relationship with God. We quickly turn our efforts to a list of activities, hoping that they will pacify God and earn His approval. Our view of God, of times, is one of a harsh task master who demands absolute perfection in our obedience to Him. If we found it difficult to live up to the demands of imperfect people, how much more impossible is it to live up to the demands of a completely perfect Creator?

What must we do to gain God’s acceptance and approval? What are the the things that we should be doing that God finds pleasing? The disciples asked Jesus this very question in John 6:28, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus’ answer might shock you! He said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”” (John 6:29). What? The work that we must do is one of faith? How can that be? The bulk of us have been told (normally indirectly) our entire Christian lives that to be acceptable to God that we must be clean – not lying, cheating, gossiping, lusting, coveting, etc. This is the very heresy that Paul is addressing in the book of Galatians. A works based righteousness is what Paul abandoned (Galatians 1:11-17) because no one is approved of based upon their performance (Galatians 3:11). When we quickly move to a flurry of activity attempting to earn God’s approval and acceptance the same hopelessness ensues that we experienced when we try to earn the acceptance of others. We can’t do anything of significance to earn God’s acceptance and approval. If we have trusted in Christ’s perfectly lived life and substitutionary death on our behalf then we are accepted – WE DON’T NEED TO DO ANYTHING ELSE TO BE ACCEPTED. Hebrews tells us that our faith (alone) is what is pleasing to God: “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus is the one that God finds pleasing: ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” (Luke 3:22 ESV). God is pleased with Jesus, and this same approval and affection is now ours because Jesus gives it to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He gives us His perfect righteousness and takes the just punishment due us because of our rebellious hearts. He did it because we couldn’t get it done. When we are drowning, the answer is not paddle harder, kick faster – the answer is to latch on to the life preserver of Jesus. Martin Luther said it like this: “the devil is forever attracting people to good works to ensure that they don’t reach the point of thinking that the need the grace of Christ.” Fix your eyes on Christ the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). When we come and present our good works as an acceptable sacrifice before God; He views them like a pile of nasty rags (Isaiah 64:6). The sacrifice that is acceptable to God is a broken and contrite spirit (Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2). The only way in which we can find God’s approval is to humbly rest solely upon the sacrifice of Christ and abandon all confidence in our own abilities. Rest in the truth that you don’t have to work to attain God’s approval and acceptance – it has been secured. Allow this truth to irrigate your soul.

God’s everlasting approval and acceptance, His affectionate, loving peace will always be upon us because of His compassion towards us which is expressed in the person of Jesus. v10

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10 ESV)

God’s everlasting approval and acceptance, His affectionate, loving peace will always be upon us because of His compassion towards us which is expressed in the person of Jesus. v10

Jesus received God’s silence so we God’s eternal word of approval

When Jesus cried out on the the cross seven times, He experienced absolute silence – the silence of God is what we deserved.  Jesus got the silence the we deserved so that “we could get the word of approval that He received at His baptism, ‘this is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.’  There is this glorious exchange that took place when Jesus received the silence from God that we deserved so that we could hear the eternal word of approval that Jesus Himself earned.”

-Tullian Tchividjian, The Gospel of Works, Part 6.

Our identity, faith & obedience; God’s credentials, goals & sovereignty (Isaiah 48)

Their identity came from being called by God.  They professed faith in God.  However, their practice was nominal, lukewarm, marginalized.“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the LORD and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.” (Isaiah 48:1 ESV)

God’s ultimate goal is the zealous pursuit of His own glory – above a beyond ours.  He did not punish His children as they should have been in order to protect His glory – not because of them, but because of Him!  Let us not be glory thieves, for it is frightening to be at cross purposes with the Creator.  “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11 ESV)

God’s credentials:  I made you and everything else; I am unequaled and unchallenged.  “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.” (Isaiah 48:12–13 ESV)

God has determined to use Cyrus to deliver His people.  God has spoken and called him as a tool of His deliverance.  God will bring him forth and prosper him in order to accomplish His purposes – This is an idol worshiping pagan.  God is in absolute control – even of godless kings!  “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way. Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:14–16 ESV)

Things would have gone differently had the people listened to and obeyed God.  He would have protected them and prospered them, but they couldn’t obey.  We don’t do much better, do we?  “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.”” (Isaiah 48:17–19 ESV)

This God is BIG

God made them, God chose them, God will be their deliverer.  This God is BIG.  The size and scope of the Almighty is beyond our comprehension.  God provides satiation for our souls – like the dry parched ground of the desert soaks up water.  His people will be enthusiastic about Him, His grace and His people.  God reminds His people that He alone is God, unchallenged, unequaled.  There is none like Him – He is unequaled, He is faithful through the ages.  It seems that in the midst of oppression and difficulty God knows that we don’t need a “pull yourself up by your boot straps” talk or “dig deep, take the hill” speech.  God proclaims His majesty and might instead of focusing on our abilities and responsibilities.  Our courage and encouragement is not found in our abilities, strength or savvy, but in the might of the Almighty whom has set His affections upon us and called us His children.  Once you grasp this, you will be FREE.

““But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”” (Isaiah 44:1–5 ESV)

The anchoring effect of rightly placed identity

“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”” (Isaiah 43:1–7 ESV)

Who is this God?  The Creator; the One who formed us and has now set His affection upon us.  He redeems us – He has calls us by name, we are His.  Our identity does not come from our own abilities or performance – or lack there of – our identity comes from being a child of the Creator who gives us His grace!  It is not because we are awesome or do great things, quite the opposite!  Because of the great love of God for His people and zeal to glorify His name, God goes to great lengths to save His people – even raising up Pharaoh to deliver them from his oppressive reign.  Even in the most difficult of seasons, God is with His people – we are never alone.  The real anchoring effect of having our identity found in being a child of God is that we don’t have to perform flawlessly – Jesus already performed flawlessly on our behalf!