Christians Are Having an Identity Crisis

Christians Are Having an Identity Crisis May 12, 2017

I can’t quite help but sense that modern Christians are having an identity crisis – and this ultimately is what seems to be at the root of our troubles. We have so narrowly defined the gospel, as if the only thing that matters is the truth claims of the gospel and the indicative reality of what those truth claims have accomplished. Yet in this, we have left a lopsided gospel. We have often advocated merely for the indicatives of the gospel over and above the imperatives of the gospel.

In effect, we have vigorously pushed a gospel that doesn’t always lead people to see that truly believing these set of truths comes at a high cost. There are two aspects to that cost and we do extremely well presenting one side or the other, either in an antinomian fashion or a legalistic fashion – yet scarcely do we uphold them both at the same time so as to show the many faceted diamond that is the gospel.

The more I study the Scriptures, the more I come away with a sense of awe in an incredibly simple, yet utterly profound indicative statement of the Christian. We are new creations in Christ. Before you gloss over that – slow down, come back, and pay attention. It means something much more than we’ve given it credit for and a lack of understanding on this is what I firmly believe is at the root of not only our personal issues and battles, but our corporate issues within the church. More clearly, a failure to understand what it means to be a new creation in Christ, purchased for His purposes, His glory, and His means, results in a lopsided view of what it means to be a Christian.

We’ve studied grand theological systems and upheld principles of humanitarian service that have us deeply indebted in more ways than one – yet we’ve missed the forest for the trees. All of these things are speaking to the identity of the church, and respectively, to the individual in the church, as a new being with a new purpose. Believe it or not, that purpose is not rooted in simply knowing more and serving more; it is rooted in a positional stance in Jesus Christ and out of this stance do we then come to know more and serve more.

It is both a work of the Holy Spirit and a command to the believer to not conform to the spirit of this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Why? So that you may prove what the will of God is – that (speaking of the will of God in a substantive sense) which is good, perfect, and well-pleasing to God. All of this stems from the indicative reality of being purchased for Christ; we were not simply saved from something, but to something. When you hem and haw at the moral principles in scripture, it is all born out of this focus. When you speak to these theological systems that refine and purify our concept of God, it is again, born out of the focus of what it means to be purchased by and for Christ.

The unique thing is that this is both an active and a passive work. It is active in that you are not to conform to the pattern of this world, which assumes that we know the pattern of this world, in that it is subjected to the futility of a darkened heart and mind and hostile to God. This plays out in every single thing that this world touches; there is not anything that is truly neutral, because man lacks the ability to be neutral. Yet there is a passive means by which this happens, as we are continually in a world that by disposition, seeks to press us into conformity. The temptation then, to be conformed to this age, is surely one we all wrestle with.

It is a passive work in that if you are in Christ, this renewal process will be that which transforms you – all of which being clearly linked to the work of the Spirit of God. And yet, Paul gives a command that we be transformed by the renewal of our minds, bringing out an active participation in this work. Again, we see there is a measure of dual focus; the Christian must put off the active/passive work of conforming and being conformed to this age in order to be transformed by the renewal of their minds and actively walk in that transformation.

Yet if you spend any amount of time on the internet or in face-to-face discussion with different stripes of professing Christians, you will find an amazing disparity in not only what they believe, but how they carry out that belief in action. I am not speaking toward differences of secondary and tertiary doctrines, but of issues surrounding the notion that we live in this world, yet not being of it.

Some will laud a show that has not only gratuitous, but incredibly graphic depictions of nudity, while wrapping it up under the guise of freedom in Christ. Some will find ways to say they really value the life of a child – but God forbid they have one of their own and make that sacrifice. Others still capitulate to the cultural ideals of progressives, trying to make it sound super spiritual and loving, when in reality, they are simply becoming apostate as they move toward another religion entirely. There are a host of ways this is done – and all of it stems from a lack of understanding that you, Christian, are not your own.

The autonomy that this world owns and loves in every instance of their selfish, little, insignificant lives, is not yours to have. It’s idolatry. It’s actually slavery to sin. It’s the way of death. But for those purchased by Christ, you have true autonomy. You have the ability to have true religion; you are not a slave to sin, but to righteousness. Intrinsic to that call is not only legitimate freedom to enjoy God’s good gifts, but to be free from the abuse of His good gifts. This assumes you know not only how to do that, but what this means. Freedom in Christ to go and do things assumes you know what you are free to do and what you are not free to do, as well as having the ability to demonstrate self-control so that you do not abuse this freedom.

What’s the issue? I truly have a hard time seeing many Christians, at least in the States, have much of a concept of what it actually means to be Christ’s possession in this regard. We are so inundated with individualism and having cheap, easy, and immediate gratification that we are truthfully bored of plodding along in the imperatives of Scripture. We are bored and so we find ways to be entertained, but in our entertainment, we have acted as if it is somehow neutral – that we have not the capacity to abuse freedom, or that it’s really no big deal when we do. And so we put on a movie that portrays two people having sex, acting as if when we go to the bedroom, that taking in what is not ours to take in, will not come out in any way. Or we pretend that simulated sex isn’t that big of a deal, even though we have a bird’s eye view of their naked bodies feigning that which does not belong to them to feign.

We can’t be bothered to really know our bibles well enough to obey the teaching contained within it – but oh do we want to say we know Jesus. We don’t know Jesus all that well and we especially don’t know what it means to be a possession of Christ.

Many people know Social Justice Jesus – yet have no idea how to serve.

Many people know Hippie Jesus – yet have no idea how to love.

Many people know Socialist Jesus – yet only know how to covet, steal, and be lazy.

Many people know Republican Jesus – yet have no clue how to be the moral majority.

Many people know Democratic Jesus – yet haven’t the slightest idea of how to keep from killing people.

Many people know Fundy Jesus – yet have no conception of grace.

Many know Charismatic Jesus – yet aren’t filled with the Spirit, but divisiveness.

Few people know Jesus of Nazareth – and many that do, don’t carry out the implications of what it means to know Him. Why? They routinely ignore the Scripture’s teaching on what it means to be in Christ. They’ve got the indicative side of the gospel down, but not the imperatives. They have an identity crisis; they’ve bought into the system of beliefs this world holds dear. We have to stop thinking trite thoughts about God and His holiness. We have to stop pretending as if what we think about God, the Bible, obedience to the Scriptures – everything, doesn’t have big ramifications in the way we conduct our lives. The two are not separate in the Scriptures; our mental and moral being is one faculty and must be exercised appropriately.

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  • Who’s this “WE” you’re talking about. I do not identify with mainline Christians, nor with mainline Christian denominations that embrace humanism, political-correctness, secularism or prosperity routines. I stay with people whose yes means Yes; whose no means NO; whose behavior follows the Golden Rule; who settle [rather than stuff] differences and disputes; and who make it clear their Leader is God and God’s Will for our times. Let the dead bury the dead; let the blackslider reap what s/he has sown. I’m busy with God right now.

  • tovlogos

    Thanks Grayson — “We can’t be bothered to really know our bibles well enough to obey the teaching contained within it.”
    Absolutely. Many are reading a cultish christianity, Yet many have read — even studied the Bible — and simply disbelieve. People believe that God created everything; but can’t believe He did it in 6 days — I find that peculiar.


    • Alonzo

      Who are these “many?”

      • tovlogos

        Some things are obvious — for example: (here’s something from Gatestone Institute International Policy Council)

        “Welcome to the progressive “next frontier of ‘liberation'”, where the most urgent question in Western democracies is “genderism”.
        North Carolina was subjected to a year of being boycotted, until it withdrew its transgender bathroom law. Last month, the National Union of Teachers in Great Britain asked the government to teach children as young as two new transgender theories. New York recently presented the first “trans-doll”. American universities are wracked with hysteria over the correct use of neutral pronouns. Even National Geographic, instead of writing about lions and elephants, started covering the “Gender Revolution”. One of the first announcements of Emmanuel Macron, as the French President-elect, was that he would appoint officials from a “gender equal” list.”

        Would you like to know who ‘they’ are?
        These are among the things that certify 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 will take place. This wave has overtaken the world; though believers in Messiah Jesus look forward to it — for us it’s homeward bound.
        It has overtaken the world not because millions of people have decide to, take up their crosses and follow Jesus, as in Matthew 16:24–26.

        • Alonzo

          You still do not explain “they” that ties in to what Gilbert claims. All you do is quote a secular organization and offered a disjointed and out of context citation of biblical passages without explanation of them and how these passages relate to and support the article.


          Besides your reference to “bibles” is obscure. If you are referring to the Bible and to Christianity, then those terms are proper nouns and should receive initial caps. You also fail to define “cultish Christianity.” According to who? You? How do you read “a cultish christianity.” One can read books, words on a computer or television screen. But how does one read “a cultish christianity?”

          And please, when you reply, do not offer personal assaults or more pejoratives as you have done They are irrelevant and say nothing.

          • tovlogos

            That’s what I thought — I seem you speak — you love to argue and hear yourself talk. How are you the Salt that Jesus spoke of? Have a good day.

          • Alonzo

            After I cautioned you about personal assaults and pejoratives, what do you do? You engage in personal assaults and pejoratives.

            Please brush up on your grammar. You have no antecedent for “That’s…” and you use improper grammar in stating, “I seem you speak.”

            Do not bother to reply again if you insist on engaging in personal assaults.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    You didn’t mention that “Many know the Reformed Jesus – yet….???” Haummm…. Still room here to be recreated. 8>) All the best to all in Christ.

  • Kiam Larsen

    Sorry Grayson Gilbert, you are WRONG about Hippies- I belonged to the HIPPIE / or FLOWER POWER movement in the late 1950’s and IT was founded on the concept of “Freedom to LOVE / CARE about (Everyone)”. You need to do more research before you complete your Masters Mate. Dr. Chaim Larsen

  • Alonzo

    I agree with Larsen. Gilbert needs to do his homework before writing article.
    He engages in a lot of hasty generalizations. Gilbert fails to identify these Christians and their identity crisis. Rather, he projects some sort of generalized crisis on these generalized Christians.

    Then he claims, “We have so narrowly defined the gospel, as if the only thing that matters is the truth claims of the gospel and the indicative reality of what those truth claims have accomplished.”

    REALLY!? Who is doing this? Not stated. It seems that Gilbert seeks to change the gospel into something it is not, and he is going to Moody? Is this what professors are teaching at Moody?

    Furthermore, he speaks of a “we” and what this “we” is doing. Just who are these we? It seems that he includes himself, but who are the others. Is Gilbert also guilty of doing what he claims others are doing, whatever that is?

    Additionally, he criticizes these Christians of perverting the gospel and then provides a list of supposedly how they are doing this. He begins each item in his list with, “Many people know…” and then launches a criticism of these people. His previously stated “we” appears to include himself. However, we do not know these “many people” and what it is they really know apart from some pathology about them. Gilbert fails to cite any Scripture or theological tenet that these people seem to be violating.

    What is Gilbert’s conclusion? “We have to stop thinking trite thoughts about God and His holiness. We have to stop pretending as if what we think about God, the Bible, obedience to the Scriptures – everything, doesn’t have big ramifications in the way we conduct our lives.”

    It seems that Gilbert is doing what he accuses others of doing – engaging in trite statements about others. The latter sentence is awkward and incoherent.

    I am sorry Gilbert, but I give your paper a D. Better rewrite it.

    • David

      Salt says: “Gilbert fails to cite any Scripture or theological tenet that these people seem to be violating.” I agree. Unless there’s a lot of what God actually said, our essays are just human opinions. True, Grayson paraphrased some Scriptures with his own words, but actual quotes are better. Yes, you’re writing a paper that must have a lot of your thoughts, but some Scripture will make it much better. Actually, I agree with the basic thrust of Grayson Gilbert’s thesis, but back it up with Scripture, Grayson!

      “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
      16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

      “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect … Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
      9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
      14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Romans 12:1-2,6-14

    • Stephen “Steve” Sponsler

      I disagree. I don’t see any hasty generalizations at all. It’s rampant! He’s exactly correct. People have not Known Galatians 2:20 or Romans 6:6..let alone Colossians 1:27 nor Job on talks of a Road to Emmaus Experience or a “Threshing Floor Experience’ or a Calvary (Hill of Skulls) Experience” all…most Christians never read their bible if so barely so don’t go asking for scripture. If one reads the bible and actually understands it…they wouldn’t need to be asking for ‘scriptural ‘proof’ to begin with!”…as they would then see what is going’s nothing Ephesians..Read 1 Corinthians and wouldn’t assume ‘that is not us today’..we have too many walking around with halos on.

  • Stephen “Steve” Sponsler

    Agree 100% with this write up.

    “If the focus of our testimony is our changed life, we as well as our hearers are bound to be disappointed.”

    I see going on in most of the churches in various ways in our area, but don’t think it’s anything new. Paul had the same kind of issues with the Corinthians and Romans. He prayed that the eyes of understanding that in one’s inmost being (Spirit’ be opened to See the Light of the Gospel in all Wisdom and Revelation so that they might have an Understanding of Spiritual Realities of the Kingdom of God on earth as is in Heaven and whom they are in all ‘Wisdom and Understanding” (Ephesians 1) so that the might see and Understand Objectively From an Eternal Perspective (as well). That we Identify into Christ..that we Died in the Baptism of His Death..and Now are New Creatures..this is not just cheap words..these are realities that if People understood they’d have their hearts and mind consecrated toward the LORD , reading scripture in a New Light.. “Having the Mind of Christ”…a Love and Zeal for the LORD for doing active service in whatever way to Serve the LORD, public or private as the A-One Priority rather than putting a ‘Jesus’ on the back burner somewhere, even in a wait out some kind of legalistic duty to ‘have to’ Go to Church…. People don’t know themselves…and are afraid to know their true spiritual condition before the LORD , if they did, the churches wouldn’t be in the predicaments they see themselves in today. Yes, there is an Identity Problem..but first people need to know themselves…Psalm 36:9…If a person has not In Truth (Spirit) as He is spirit seen themselves before the Lord (as He sees us)…then that gives ‘liberty’ or ‘freedom’ to go on in Sin. What? We are well behaved dare someone say that!”…I’m convinced people don’t even know what Christianity is! “Do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?” II Corinthians 13:5

    Instead of be not conformed to the patterns of the world but be transformed by the renewing of the mind..and “love not the world nor the ways of the world’..that simply in many ways cannot be seen to be what is going on around us (in general, but not all the time in all places). Again, this issue is not something new… I’ recommend “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee – ‘Back to the Cross” , also by Watchman Nee…just for starters. Related verses might be ‘Romans 6:3-6 Colossians 1:27 (“Christ in you , The hope of Glory), Galatians 2:20 ‘ and a host of others too numerous to mention. Here is another respective read on line :

    And might want to read “Christless Christianity”

    “Jesus was not revolutionary because he said we should love God and each other. Moses said that first. So did Buddha, Confucius, and countless other religious leaders we’ve never heard of. Madonna, Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Dali Lama, and probably a lot of Christian leaders will tell us that the point of religion is to get us to love each other. “God loves you” doesn’t stir the world’s opposition. However, start talking about God’s absolute authority, holiness, … Christ’s substitutionary atonement, justification apart from works, the necessity of new birth, repentance, baptism, Communion, and the future judgment, and the mood in the room changes considerably.

    “If we think the main mission of the church is to improve life in Adam and add a little moral strength to this fading evil age,
    we have not yet understood the radical condition for which Christ is such a radical solution.”