For a very advanced technological culture, we have a major identity crisis. This comes in many waves for us culturally and as individuals. Part of our issue is that we don’t know where we came from. It seems like the history of our country is up for grabs, and the story lines keep changing depending on the outlet.
Part of the issue is that we are not able to define what is “human.” There is a huge divide between the Christian who believes that we are made in the image of God and the true secular atheist who, if they are to be consistent with their Lucretion theory, would believe that man is just a clump of atoms.
If we don’t know our origin, and who we are as human, how can we have any idea of where we are going? If society is unable to answer the big questions such as what is man, what is our worth, where did we come from, and where are we going, how can we assume that we can tackle the smaller ideas of life?
I believe that our lack of definition of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going has created an identity crisis. If our ontological purpose (philosophy of where did we come from, who we are, and where we are going) is taken away, life becomes hard to bear . One major issue is that some have stopped looking for the answer to these things. The idea of ontological discovery used to be part of our culture , but has now been tossed away by many as a question not worth asking.
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I want to speak out of the book of Ephesians about how to deal with an identity crisis as a Christian. Mark Driscoll talks about this in his book Who Do You Think You Are? This is where I first heard the idea, and have been expounding upon it.
I want you to stop and think about this for a minute. What is your identity? Or better yet, if someone else had to sum you up in one word or phrase, what would they say? If you think that someone would say “Christian,” what would be the second answer?
When I asked this at a “Cornerstone Summit” of the leaders in my church, I got a variety of answers. The answers centered around two things, gifts and insufficiencies. The gifted answered with things like being an artist, a caretaker, a mother, careers, or other talents, gifts, abilities and things which are positive.
These things are God-given, and are not only gifts from God, but gifts to use for others. They are good things which should be celebrated and there should be feelings of accomplishment from them. I am not suggesting that we demean these gifts or neglect them.
When some were asked about their identity they listed negative things like skills, abilities, or characteristics they lacked. Answers like illness, a burden, poverty, disabled, drained, or other inabilities were listed. Many things which were listed in a negative light were the opposite of the gifts and abilities that these same people once had and would have at one time listed in a positive light. In many ways these two groups should be spoken to separately, but I think Ephesians 1 has the answer for both groups coming from different directions.
In Ephesians the phrase or idea “in Jesus” or “in Christ” or “in Him” is used about two dozen times. The apostle Paul is attempting to get the message across that our identity is in Christ, not our gifts or lack thereof. I am not saying that we should neglect enjoying our gifts or forget about our pain. What I am calling us to is a Jesus-centered life where our primary identity is in Jesus.
If we look through Ephesians 1, we see that our identity is in Jesus. We will see what we have in Him. We see that we are blessed (verse 3), chosen (verse 4-5), redeemed from our sin (verse 7), we are given an inheritance (verse 11), and have eternal salvation which cannot be taken away from us (verse 13). I want to note that our inheritance is not that just of Heaven, but also of having Christ Himself, which helps us this side of eternity.
Our identity crisis often comes when something is stripped away from us. You may have gone from being married to divorced, employed to jobless, had a nice home to living in government housing, having great health to being chronically ill, or having wealth to being poor. These are tangible things.
There are many intangible things which we can lose as well. We can lose peace of mind, the will to continue something, strength, peace in our souls, and more. These are the areas often harder to fix, because they don’t always have concrete solutions. These also become bigger struggles because we can fake having peace, having strength, and having love, but it is hard to hide being homeless, jobless, or in poor health.
If our primary focus is that we are in Christ, we can handle the struggles of life better. Even when your family doesn’t love you, if you are in Christ, God does. Even when your friends have abandoned you, you have not been abandoned by God. But the best part about being in Christ is that it is the one thing that you cannot lose.
For those of us who have many blessings, and if our identity is in our blessings, we need to be careful. Age, time, and death will strip away everything that we physically have on this earth. Instead of discouraging you, my intention is to encourage you to put your primary identity in the one thing which can never be taken away, that is salvation and love in Jesus.
If we have Jesus, we can never lose Him and He will never lose us (Romans 8:35-39). Not even death can steal us from our relationship with Jesus. In fact, death only commences the perfecting of that relationship. So how do you view yourself? What is your identity, or where is it found? If you are struggling with an identity crisis, how does the fact that you are found in Jesus address these inward struggles you are having right now? Be found in Christ.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.