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Immovable Identity

 

i-den-ti-ty: The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known

 

“One of the great Christian clichés is that [our identity crisis] is neatly solved when we find our identities in Christ. I agree. I also have never heard what exactly this means, how you do it, or what it looks like. But sometimes I think we don’t know because we don’t grapple with it on a core level.” (Kelly Minter) This is the lesson I’ve been taught my whole life; once you are saved, Christ is the only identity that matters. We, as women, seem to be caught in an incessant pursuit to discover our identity. From a young age, our Christian culture has given us tenants on which to build our goals & dreams: marriage, motherhood, & even career, to name a few. None of those are inherently bad, on their own, but because of our fears, most of us have turned them into idols. I used to believe this lie that when I got married & started having kids, my life would begin…I would finally have an identity worth talking about. (Notable ‘career’ has never been a personal ambition.) The story of Sarai & Hagar in Genesis 16 calls out this idol & destroys my false sense of trust, in that lie. Sarai, Abram’s wife, is basically barren & has become impatient enough to “fix” things on her own. Her remedy is to send her servant, Hagar, to her husband so that “it may be that [Sarai] shall obtain children by her.” (Gen 16:2) The story progresses to show Sarai’s resentment of Hagar once she is with child & eventually to have the Lord resolve the situation in only a way that He can. Genesis 21 shows us the fulfillment of God’s plan. It could have ended with out all of the baggage Sarai’s manipulation brought about, but she was impatient & scared. God had fully intended to give her a “life”, an identity, but it did not happen within the parameters of time she & society saw as ‘right’.

Thankfully for me, a series of living arrangements fell through & a seizure took place to stop me from “fixing” things. I was no where close to being married but I had been throwing out my standards & dating people I thought would get me to the altar, so that my “life” could begin. God trapped me into a season where I was forced to denounce the hold my idol of marriage & motherhood had on my life. I’m not saying this happened easily…in fact, I’d venture to say I appeared to be a stubborn child, playing in the street after my dad’s numerous warnings. I didn’t get hit by anything or hurt too severely, while I continued in my rebellion; I just scrapped my knees a couple of times. Those things I admired & that I deeply desired were essentially poisoning my relationship with the Lord & it was hard to acknowledge those things as idols. There were times when the enemy used small things (even from the mouths of people I loved & respected) to feed into my fears, the fears that encouraged my need of those idols. Someone told me that my opinion did not matter because I had “no life experience.” Another used the phrase, “waiting for your life to start” when negatively referring to my stage of life & the way I was choosing to live. Those words were so wounding & even now, feel so harsh when I see them in writing. They stirred up insecurities in me & in my abilities that I had never struggled with before. I questioned every word to come out of my mouth, every opinion, & every decision. It’s good & healthy to have sought out counsel, desire confirmation before acting & to seek assurance that you are not functioning outside of Biblical parameters.  But, I was far beyond those pure actions & motives… I was sinning.  I had an absolute distrust in the abilities He had given to me & I was acting on my fear.

I cannot tell you exactly how, but one morning I woke up & it just clicked. I woke up in full revelation that the only mold I needed to fit was Christ. The truth had finally penetrated my heart…

My identity is Christ.”

            My fears & the idols I had created to ‘self medicate’ my disposition to chase momentary securities were snuffed out. In No Other Gods, Minter says that “fear is the bond that attaches us to our idols.” Throughout that season, the Holy Spirit was so persistent in His pursuit of my surrender with those fears.

 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

 

Here is what this looked like for me as my heart & brain figured things out…

Ok, so there is no fear in love because perfect love has thrown it out & fear is connected to punishment…plus whoever fears hasn’t been fixed by love… Well, perfect love is Jesus (1 John 4:16)…and punishment is a result of disobedience, which is my sin…through the law- I can never make restitution for my sins on my own (Romans 3:19-20)…and I know that Jesus destroyed the law by taking on my punishment (Ephesians 2:13-16)…so of course those who don’t know what the Lord has done are still going to fear…wait…

Why am I still fearful??

 

            Why was I fearful? What did I have to fear? Why was I allowing social stigmas to have value when I knew they were not God-ordained? I had allowed my fear to build, & even secure, idols in my heart & life that were based solely on deception!

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

            Are there areas you’re allowing your fears to bond you to your idols? Have you allowed room for them to be broken? Do you even care? Stop believing lies, whatever they may be, because you are His treasured possession; you’re chosen & made holy. (Deuteronomy 14:2)


If God is For Us…

I’ve been a believer for about 2 years now. As I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into biblical community and seen more and more of my own sinfulness, I’ve noticed one sin that seems to creep in on every believer, anxiety. Whether anxiety as to physical needs (or wants), or being anxious in doubting our full forgiveness. The Bible answers this. Quite a few times actually, but nowhere as profoundly than Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Anxiety is a fruit of distrust. My hope is to lay out why the Christian has every right to confidently let go of anxiety and trust God.

Now, this is a very well know verse, which is why I worry most of us breeze over it without catching the weight of what it proclaims. To catch it, we’ll need to point out two key statements.

If God..

Okay stop. God. Who is God? Paul is speaking of the God of the Bible and the Gospel, “the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Ex. 34:6). This is the God who has announced his sovereignty: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Is. 46:9-10).

He is the Creator and Sustainer of all creation. It was by his word he spoke all things into being, and still by the word of his power he sustains all. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Is. 40:28).

This is the God who showed his sovereignty in bringing Israel out of slavery in Egypt and later in Babylon, and who brought Jesus up out of the grave. He is sovereign in salvation. He’s the God who calls, justifies, and glorifies all who “he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Rm. 8:29). He is the God who says to you, “you have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. (Is. 46:3-4).

If God is for us…

For us? What does that mean? “The words for us declares God’s covenant commitment to us. The goal of grace is to create a loving relationship, and the bonds of fellowship by which God binds himself to us is his covenant.” It is a unilaterally imposed covenant. Like when God says to Abraham in Gen. 17, “I am God Almighty… I will establish my covenant between you and me… to be God to you and to your offspring after you…I will be their God…you shall keep my covenant.” (vv. 1,7-9).

Covenant is an odd word to use in our culture today. The idea of covenant has been defamed and belittled, similar to the ways ‘love’ has. But, regardless of how light our culture views covenant, this covenant is an enduring one. The way it was meant to be. You see, covenant isn’t just an idea for the believer, it’s a reality. And it’s a reality because it was blood bought. We are partakers in the new covenant. The binding agreements have been made and held up by the blood of Christ. Sweet, precious blood of Christ, which holds me fast and covers me in the many moments I am unfaithful to this covenant. But God is not like me, he is ‘whole otherness.’ I can’t let my unfaithfulness be a gauge on how faithful the Lord will be. He has, is and will forever be faithful in carrying out his end of this blood bought covenant, to be ‘my God.’

Think

So think. That’s what Paul is trying to get you to do here. Compare the two sides. Your enemy/enemies, and God. The ‘who can be’ translation actually misses the point. What Paul is asking for a is a realistic review of the opposition, human or demonic, not a romantic pretense that it does not exist. Are you afraid of ‘them?’ You need not be. Whoever or whatever circumstance it is, God is greater. Fear not Christian, the Lord your God is for you. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chron. 32:7-8).

A sovereign protector I have,

Unseen, yet for ever at hand;

Unchangeably faithful to save,

Almighty to rule and command.

He smiles, and my comforts abound;

His grace as dew shall descend,

And walls of salvation surround

   The soul He delights to defend.

                -Toplady

 

 

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, this framework has been adapted from J.I. Packer’s chapter ‘The Adequacy of God’ in Knowing God. Any unclaimed quotations are from him.