If I were to introduce myself to you and asked you who YOU were, how would you respond? You’d start off by giving me your name, but from that point, how would you or I further identify ourselves? Would we use a title, would we use our professional status, would we use a relational status, or would we use something else entirely different to further define who we are? How we see ourselves is truly how we define ourselves, and also sheds a light on how we wish the world to see us… Well, as a Christian, or more specifically, as a Christ-follower, how do we identify ourselves in relationship to God? What if I were to tell you that your way of thinking of yourself in relationship with God may be all wrong, and that’s NOT how God Himself sees you, in fact, it’s even better than you think?
Out of all the definitions in the dictionary for the word “identity”, the ones I like most are: 1) the condition of being oneself and NOT another, and 2) the condition or character as to who or what a person or thing is, or the qualities, beliefs, and other things that distinguish or identify a person or a thing. Since our very appearance on this earth, we have asked ourselves (or others) several questions that strongly suggest our eternal quest for identity, such as, “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Why was I born in such-and-such a place, such-and-such a time?” Why was I born this color or race, this sex, this nationality or ethnicity?” “Why was I born into this family?” and, “What is my purpose for being here?” You see? IDENTITY: something that is so valuable to an individual, there’s even a certain class of crime that has arisen within the last several years called identity theft, where unscrupulous individuals can take your identity and use it for whatever purposes they see fit, mostly to your own detriment; in other words, they get the pleasure of pretending to be you, while you have to pay the price of the negative ramifications, oftentimes having to fight two to three times harder to clear and get back your good name… Well, reading what I’ve just written, would it surprise you if I said that the majority of us who say we are Christians, or Christ-followers, are victims of spiritual identity theft? And the two main identity thieves have been so masterful, they’ve succeeded in deliberately hiding our true identity from us for the last 2000+ years! One is so scared of us finding out the truth of who we are, because once we do, he can’t scare us anymore and loses all power we have allowed him to have in our lives… that, of course, would be our eternal enemy of our souls, Satan, the devil himself. The other, however, has really been the main catalyst behind misrepresenting, misinterpreting, and finally miseducating us as to who we really are in God, and that would be religion. Now before you get ready to throw stones at me, hear me out: religion, as defined by the dictionary, is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Let me simplify: in other words, religion is nothing more that man’s attempts, by his own self-efforts, to please and get back to God and how God originally created us to be. And, in this case, religion in the church, even though it correctly teaches us that, according to Ephesians 2:8-9, we are “saved by grace through faith, and then, not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, lest any man should boast,” it has not been as forthcoming in teaching us how that forms our identity and relationship in God through Jesus. In this next section, I’ll show you how most who have been brought up in and through the church have been taught how to identify ourselves, and how the religious traditions in our churches don’t always exactly line up with God’s Word, and we’ll look into God’s Word to see how God, and more specifically, Jesus, teaches us how to identify who we truly are in Him… But first, how many of us are like what James wrote in the first chapter of his letter, verses 23 & 24, about hearing and doing the Word of God, in that “if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was?”
Now, remember what I said a moment ago about our being religiously miseducated about who we truly are according to God through Jesus? Let me see if I can explain it to you by bouncing off of a question David asks in Psalm 8:4: “What is Man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you consider him?” The problem starts with the King James translation of verse 5, where we read, “…Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels…” STOP!!! This is exactly what I mean when I say that religion, (even if it is Christian religion,) has miseducated us…
Before you start throwing the rocks, hear me out again: the translators of the King James Version were very humble, very God-fearing men, a little bit too God-fearing, if you ask me… the reason I say that is, if you were to look up a Hebrew transliteration of that particular verse, the word they translated as “the angels” is actually the Hebrew word “Elohim”, the same word used in Genesis 1:1, where “In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” Now, the question I ask, and the question you should also be asking, is, “Why is the same word translated “God” in so many different occurrences, but yet in this one verse, it is translated “the angels” in Psalm 8:5, yet no other places in the KJV? The reason is that those dear men were so humble, devout, and God-fearing that the very thought of our being “a little lower than God Himself” literally blew their minds, and how could they possibly measure up to that standard? Moreover, how would the King (James,) react if they translated that verse in that manner? The one thing you have to remember, dear Brother, dear Sister, dear Friend, (because if you’re reading this, you are one of the three,) is that Christian religion, for all intensive purposes, has the desire to bring others under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of the entire world, and you do have to understand that they were under the reign of an earthly king who commissioned them to the task of making the Bible understandable to the common people. So, the king as lord over all his domain they easily understood, and the master-servant relationship they easily understood, but how has that translated into how most modern-day church-going people see themselves in relationship to God through Jesus? Well, I hear it in many prayers, liturgies, and songs in the church and outside of “the four walls”: “Lord, here we are, just a few of your handmade servants…” “All I want to hear God say when I enter into Heaven is, ‘Servant of God, well done…’” “We are not worthy of all Your goodness and lovingkindness toward us…” “We are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under Thy table…” Sometimes, I truly wonder if the way we pray, talk, and sing about ourselves and relationship to God doesn’t make God gag and say to Jesus, “Have I missed something here, Son?” and Jesus answers, “You’re right, Abba… I certainly didn’t die for this…” Now while the Word of God does say for us “not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought,” (Romans 12:3) and to “humble ourselves in the presence of the LORD,” (James 4:10) I believe that the opposite of Romans 12:3 is also true, that we do not think more lowly of ourselves than we ought, and that true humility in the presence of the Lord is to simply agree with what HE says about us, whether it be our Heavenly Father, Jesus, or Holy Spirit, because they ALL are One, and say the same thing! So, what DOES God say about us in relationship to Him?
You’ve stuck with me this far, and I thank you for that, I truly do! So far, we’ve talked about what identity is, how the identity thieves of Satan and religion have pulled the wool over all of our eyes about our identity in God through Jesus and caused us to think more lowly of ourselves, rather than accept the TRUTH about who we really are… So, are you finally ready for the Good News? What DOES Jesus (and God the Father) say about us, so we can call ourselves what They do? For those who would say that we are nothing but servants to the Lord, consider what Jesus said to His disciples on the night He was betrayed to be killed in John 15, verses 13-16: “This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.” So, at the very least, Jesus Himself calls us Friends! He has elevated us from the Master/Servant relationship to at least the Friend level… But, wait, there’s more, and we get a clue at the end of that last thought: toward the beginning of Jesus’ first public speech, known as the Sermon on the Mount, listen to what He tells us in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your…” God? (No!) Lord? (No!) Master? (No!) Savior? (Are you starting to get the point?) “…and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”
Another point: when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray as John taught his disciples, (Luke 11:1-2) He said, “When you pray, say ‘Our Father, who is in Heaven…” So, can you see it? Really see it? The last time I checked, a father isn’t a father without children, and this is the relationship Jesus came to earth to reveal to all of us, and to restore us to… We read these words in John 1: “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God [Himself].” This isn’t anything to just glance by, my Brother, my Sister, embrace the ramifications of this: if we have truly trusted in Jesus’ finished work of living the model life (free of sin), His sacrificial death on our behalf on the cross (to free us from our penalty of sin), and His resurrection from the dead, then we are truly children of the Most High God, and Jesus is not just our Savior and Lord, He is our Elder Brother, which means as He is, so are we! Now, I want you to truly embrace what we’ve said here: your true identity is “Child of the Living God”, with His spiritual DNA flowing on the inside of you…
Reading this, aren’t you beginning to feel more empowered already? That’s good, because I’ll share one last secret with you: this is what God, our Father intended for us all the time! Don’t believe me? Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:26-29: “Let US make Man in OUR image, after OUR likeness, and let them rule… so God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule…” So, Child of God, let’s grow into who we are, in relationship to our Heavenly Father, our Elder Brother Jesus, and our precious Helper, Holy Spirit, and be prepared to rule and reign with Him!
If you’ve been reading this blog, and you have not made a decision to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but desire to do so now, let me lead you in a prayer; if you don’t understand all the words now, please feel free to rewrite it and pray it in your own words: Lord Jesus, I thank You for revealing to me that I am a sinner, born into sin, and that sin is what separates me from a relationship with God. I agree with what You say, and I thank You for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I invite You into my heart, I accept You as Savior and Lord, and according to Your Word, I enter into a relationship with God as my Father. I ask this in Your Name, AMEN! If you’ve prayed this prayer, I want to welcome you as my new Brother, my new Sister, and welcome to the first day of your eternal life in God!