October 29, 2011

The Devil in the Mirror

Identity...one of the most powerful concepts in relation to an individual's ability to function as a whole, complete person and to interact with others in a healthy, mutually uplifting way.

Identity is the hinge on which a person's mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health swings. A lost and/or confused identity is the catalyst for every sin, disorder, or complex. Take that to the bank.

Think about it: Nothing causes more anxiety and altercations than getting lost. Am I right? You want to see two loving, godly married people go at it? Put them in the middle of nowhere with a map and one gas station and watch the eruption. The man clings to the map and his pride believing he can in fact save the day. The woman, in desperation, realizes that one quick stop and question can easily clear the confusion and put them back on the straight and narrow.

You see, even getting lost reveals where a person may or may not be finding his/her identity...hence the fight. The man is the protector, right? So, finding his way proves he is capable of living up to his identity as the leader and provider of the home. The woman is the helper. She knows that the best and most efficient help will come from the gas station. However, she is also relational and yearns to be heard. If her husband, in an effort to prove he can live up to his identity of protector, refuses to listen, she feels scorned, panics even more, and now decides to up the anty by demanding (instead of gently suggesting) a stop.

So identity. It's huge.

Paul spends all of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians dealing with the idea of identity. Paul knows. He knows that these believers who are living in a culturally explosive and seductive time period will be easily swayed to abandon their convictions for love, acceptance, worth and security if not found first and foremost in Christ. He knows that Satan is clever and aware that a simple crack in a believer's identity will ultimately cause the entire fortress of his/her carefully constructed belief system to crumble. Satan knows. So, Paul belabors the subject of a believers identity in Christ. What does it mean to be in Christ? What does is look like? How does it happen?

In Colossians, Paul calls "Christ in you" a mystery. How true is that? I mean, we talk about our identity needing to be in Christ and the fact that it should be easy since He lives in us. But, honestly here, what the heck does that even mean? Paul defines it for us in Colossians 3:1-4...

- Raised with Christ
- Seated with Christ
- Hidden in Christ

Okay...so let me break this down for you. If you were raised with Christ, you had to have died with Christ. Very simply put, when Christ died on the cross for your sins over 2000 years ago, He died for all of your sins: Past, present, and future. Everything thing you do, say, and think has been covered by God's forgiveness. You are set for life. Let that sink in. Seriously. Stop, and think about that for a second. I don't care what you have done in your past or may commit in the future or are contemplating right now, you are FORGIVEN!!! Isaiah says it this way, "You [God] have cast all my sins behind Your [God's] back." David explains it this way, "As far as the east is from the west, so far does He [God] remove our transgressions from us." You can disagree with me, but I would be really careful with disagreeing with Scripture...and God's Word makes it clear...ALL of your sin is covered and forgiven. Period.

But how can that be, you ask? Ah, that's the mystery of Christ in YOU. You see, when Christ died on the cross, your sin and your labels (I could list some, but chances are you don't need me to...your label just came to mind) were nailed to the cross: "God has forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him." Those labels, those names you call yourself and the way you see yourself, are demonic. Yeah, that's right, they are from Satan. Otherwise, why would Paul say in that verse "He [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities...putting them to open shame"? He said that because those are the sources of your faulty identity. If Satan can determine how you see yourself, he can control how you see God and how you interact with others.

Come on...are you shocked to figure out that the reason you are so impatient with other people is because you are simply trying to protect yourself and hold your weak facade of an identity together? Are you struggling to forgive someone? That's because you are afraid that he/she/they could possibly get away with what he/she/they did and then ruin you again. Yeah, and you would be ruined because whatever he/she/they could take away from you is what you are basing your identity on. Let me explain it this way: You are finding your love, acceptance, worth and security somewhere. That "somewhere" is your identity. Do the math. You are scared you are going to lose whatever that "somewhere" is. Whoever threatens "that" is who you are out to destroy. Love, patience, forgiveness, kindness...those are obtrusive thoughts to you because those make you weak against the "whoever". So, you develop bitterness and anger as a way to protect yourself from the threat. Yeah, you're tracking with me now.

Okay, so you are forgiven. That's nice. However, we can't stop there. You are seated with Christ. After Christ died on the cross, He sat down at the right hand of God in Heaven. His sitting down is symbolic of saying "I'm done". In other words, Christ did everything that needed to be done for you to be forgiven and to stay forgiven...for all of eternity. In essence, Paul says it is as though you are sitting with Jesus, next to God. You are hanging out in God's throne room. "Wait a minute..." You gasp..."I am not worthy to be up there with Jesus." Uh, yes you are. That's my point. You were forgiven. When God looks at you, He sees Jesus. He sees His perfection. He doesn't see your label. That was nailed to the cross, remember? Jesus sat down. It's over. God disarmed Satan and the demons from using your label as a weapon against you.

But you still feel attacked? Paul explains all through Colossians how important it is to grow in knowledge. Why? Because knowledge opens your eyes to the truth of who you really are in God's eyes and therefore weakens the devil's hold on you.

Frederick Douglass was a black slave who taught himself to read and write. Consequently, he was able to escape from slavery and became a leading advocate for black rights in the North during the Civil War era. He explains that as a child, his slave owner was attempting to teach him to read and to write. However, her husband caught word of the tutoring. He quickly put an end to the lessons. Why? Because knowledge is power. If Douglass was able to read and to write, the dividing lines between whites and blacks would blur. Douglass would realize he too, in fact, is human and endowed to certain "unalienable rights".

Romans says that we have not been "given the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear..." We are adopted into God's family...we have a whole new identity!!! However, Satan uses our lack of knowledge of what that means to keep us tied up in anger and bitterness and enslaved to certain people and situations in effort to protect ourselves.

You are hidden in Christ now. You are safe. He, Who Colossians 1 says is the God of the universe, is your protector. Ultimately, we are all going to die and spend eternity somewhere. Ultimately, all of this crap down here is going to be over and where we end up (either in Heaven or in Hell) is what is going to matter. Keep eternity in mind. "Set your minds on things above", Colossians 3:2 states. Realize, what Jesus did on the cross 2000 years ago defines you. Shut Satan up. He doesn't deserve your time, or your identity.

More on this later.