Subtitle: “Who or what defines your identity (who you are)?” This week, we return to the third lesson I’ve learned (or I should say, still learning) after reflecting on my time in the pastorate. (As a side note: realize that this particular series of blog posts are primarily related to men in the pastorate, but many of the principles apply to people in all walks of life – both men and women, young and old, rich and poor, from all countries and cultures).
Number 3: Your identity is defined by your relationship with Jesus…not by your ministry!
By “identity” I mean the place from which you derive your sense of worth, your sense of value, your sense of significance as a person.
What you do (your ministry) does not define who you are. If your ministry went up in a puff of smoke and disappeared off the face of the earth – you would still be who you are. Your core identity would not have changed at all. Your core identity is: “I am a child of God.” He loves you “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). That will never change. God is your “mighty rock, your refuge” (Psalm 62:5-7).
The world constantly tempts us to find our identity in someone or something that is smaller than Jesus. It tempts us to place our identity in what we can achieve, attain or accomplish. In direct contrast, Colossians tells us that our identity is found “in Christ!” (Colossians 3:1-4).
It’s so easy to “default” into deriving our sense of worth from human approval and acceptance by others. As long as things are going well and people seem to be approving and accepting of what we do and who we are, life is pretty easy. But once the tables are turned and you begin to experience rejection from people instead of acceptance, disapproval instead of approval…it is then that your true identity is put to the test! Who are you at that moment? Do you still have value? Do you still have worth?
I have found that it is usually during the hard times – when you are experiencing rejection and disapproval – that the true source of your identity rises to the surface. Is it Jesus? Or is it your ministry?
Remember: Jesus is my supreme treasure! For me to live is Christ…not my job or ministry! My core identity is found in Christ! Christ defines who I am.
Is your ministry your idol? One way to tell is how you would respond if it all collapsed tomorrow. Where do you draw your “life” from? Jesus…or your ministry? Jesus never changes and will always be the same. Ministry is a roller coaster from week to week, month to month, year to year.
Remember: Because you are a child of God, who is loved and accepted by Him, you have nothing to prove and nothing to lose. You have total and complete acceptance from the only One who really matters – God!
As the Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
“When we are united to Christ, we don’t need to spend our lives trying to earn the approval, earn the acceptance, earn the affection of those around us, because Jesus has already earned God’s approval, acceptance, and affection for us. Do you realize how freeing that is? How liberating that is? How that will radically change every relationship that you have?
Because of Christ’s finished work, we can have the justification and the love and the mercy and the grace and cleansing and the new beginning and the approval and the acceptance and the righteousness and the rescue that all of us long for, and that all of us are looking for in a thousand things that are smaller than Jesus.
It was rediscovering the Gospel that enabled me to see that because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak. Because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose. Now I could lose my place and my position and my reputation, I could lose all those things and not lose my core identity, because my identity was located, anchored in Christ. Not in anything I could do, not in anyone I could become. It was rediscovering this Gospel that freed me.
Let me tell you a little secret…when you are free to lose, it enables you to live a life of unbounded courage, sacrifice, and generosity. You can spend your life going to the back instead of trying to get to the front. Listen, life cannot beat a man who doesn’t care if he loses!
It’s why Paul was able to say, “To live is Christ, to die is gain!”
Nothing and no one in this world can take away from me that which makes me, me. Namely Christ. You can slander my name, you can tell the whole world lies about me, you can beat my body, you can beat my reputation, you can throw me under the bus and run me over again and again and again, and I can suffer with a smile because you are not taking away who I am.
In Christ my identity is secure, which frees me to give everything I have because in Christ, I already have everything I need. That sentence changed my life… The Gospel calls us to live radically and generously.”
Until next week…may Jesus be your supreme treasure and your greatest passion! And may you find your true identity in Him and in Him alone! Remember: He (Jesus) is the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46), not your ministry! Your identity is anchored to Him!