Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just Because: Finding Identity in Christ

Sunday Message (September 22nd): CHRIST

Text: Philippians 3:1-10

Sermon Audio: Listen HERE

On Sunday, we explored how lasting and thriving relationships make Jesus the center of individual identity. You are a better friend and a better spouse when your value, esteem and sense of worth derive from an identity in Christ rather than in the acceptance or rejection from others. While it might be easy to understand this concept, it is very difficult to live it out in a world that assigns value according to ability, beauty, and productivity.

My wife recently informed me that thighs, skinny enough not to touch, are the new standard of beauty. Huh? I thought God designed the human body to be a fire hazard when wearing corduroy pants...inner thigh friction. Apparently not according to the latest, and ever changing, beauty trends. Seriously, women once thought hair on a man's chest attractive (reference: Magnum PI). Now men shave themselves into a porpoise. Society's definition of beauty carries so much weight when it comes to our sense of value and worth that plastic surgeons now offer surgery to keep your thighs from meeting in the middle. No wonder so many of us feel ugly.

And productivity...I spent three months as a Business Development Specialist (fancy for salesperson) in a retirement home. It was a depressing job. I saw many elderly discarded at the doors of the long term care facility because they no longer were "productive" members of society and therefore no longer valuable. No wonder so many of us lose our identity in our jobs and careers.

I realized how much of my identity and sense of worth came from my ministerial ability during an
eight-month hiatus from ministry. I was preaching at a 1000-member church. I was speaking almost monthly at events around the country. I earned the largest salary I had known to date. Needless to say, I was confident in my ability and then, because of choices I made, I lost my job. I spent the next 8 months building fences, and while I had great confidence in the Church World, I was an idiot in the construction business. I handled a saw and a nail gun like a toddler behind the wheel of a semi. My boss wouldn't let me touch the cutting saw for 6 months. I was of better use to his business with all of my limbs intact.  He entrusted that job to a 19-year old and a 26 year old...yep, and I was 35! Although I loved the physical nature of building fences and although I learned a lot, my self-esteem took a brutal beating in those 8 months because of my minimal ability. I felt stupid, dumb, and sometimes useless. During this 8-month break I realized that my identity had been in my preachin
g/ministering ability rather than Jesus, so I started taking steps to ground my value in Christ.

I began by praying a prayer from Romans 8:33b:

It is God who justifies.
I prayed this prayer a hundred times a day. It aligned my mind with the truth: I am valuable and worthy not because of how I look, perform, or produce. I am valuable because God has made me valuable.  

Justified means "being made right," and in a Christian context, "being made right before God." This simple prayer reminded me that the only thing that makes me right before God is God! It instilled a truth I had known but never really believed:
  1. I cannot fix my past mistakes. I cannot undo the past...but I'm not justified by fixing my past. It is God who justifies.
  2. I do not meet society's definition of beauty, and there are many areas of life where I possess no ability...but I'm not justified by my beauty or ability. It is God who justifies.
  3. There are people who do not like me, who have rejected me...but I am not justified by what others think of me. It is God who justifies.
If you are like me and you struggle to accept that your value comes from God and not ability, beauty or productivity, then I encourage you to pray this prayer today, this week, maybe even longer. Let these words move God's truth from your head to your heart. You are valuable "just because."

No comments:

Post a Comment