Who Are You? Identity Confusion and God

Who Are You? Identity Confusion and God August 2, 2016

Baptism of Gloria for Patheos 782 x 411Romans 6

Changes of identity fascinate us human beings.  It’s one of the reasons Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and multiple personality disorders (Three Faces of EveSybil) intrigue us.  People like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and David Bowie are particularly notable examples of the chameleon-like nature of modern identity.  You’re all familiar with the gender and identity confusion that our culture is slouching towards, and now we also hear of the hybridization of human identity and computers or animals.

But the worst change in identity took place thousands of years ago when Adam and Eve were willing to scrap their identity as ones made in the image of God for ones made in their own image.  Thankfully, thankfully! God is in the business of giving us a new identity, which is that of Jesus Christ, both God and man.

St. Paul begins with the sad tale of how we were once children of God but have horribly mutated ourselves into children of wrath by nature.  We told God that we wanted to live for ourselves, and God let us do just that.  We are part of not the Addams family but something much more grotesque and twisted: Adam’s family – a tribe of selfish, cheating, lying, murdering cowards.

This is who we are and how we are born.  But God then offered us to be made His children again, by accepting the sacrifice of His Son so that we may live in His family once again and receive His blessing, so that He might take the sinful children of darkness and make us His children, children of light.

After being born into the Body of Christ, we learn to be disciples from other disciples by worshiping and living together in the Body of Christ as we crucify ourselves and put on Jesus Christ. 

God begins this work in baptism.  Paul says that we were buried with Christ through baptism into death (verse 4) and united together in the likeness of His death (verse 5).  But baptism was also considered by the early church to be equivalent to regeneration (rightly understood, and not in the modern sense of the word), a being born again, the time at which we are given a new Name and new identity, which is Jesus Christ Himself.  Through baptism, we are brought into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, to whom we have now been united.

The early church baptized infants, a practice continued from the Old Covenant and the circumcision of infants, and one that was universal among orthodox Christians until after the Reformation.  But there was no notion of baptism saving by itself, and the worship, doctrine, and discipline of the church were taken very seriously

After being born into the Body of Christ, we learn to be disciples from other disciples by worshiping and living together in the Body of Christ as we crucify ourselves and put on Jesus Christ. 

After being born into God’s kingdom (family), we must learn to live in that family: this is what may be called discipleship. A disciple is to be made like Master in all things, and so we must be taught to serve Father with love and obedience.  This happens in the Church, God’s heavenly family into which we are born.

How do we learn from the Master, when He is in heaven?  He is here with His Body here on earth, by His Holy Spirit.

Imagine that you were adopted into a wonderful new family.  This was the 2 biracial children adopted by my brother Paul and his wife Cindy, who have raised these children as Christians.

Imagine further that as soon as these 2 children were adopted and brought to the U.S., that Paul and his wife left them to themselves.  They wouldn’t learn much about their new life in their new family, would they?

Well, that’s what the Church does too often: it takes us in and then abandons us because we don’t really understand that we are the Body of Jesus Christ.  Even parents who love their children don’t understand that their first obligation, above preparing their kids for a good job or academic success or athletic or artistic accolades or a large and active social network, is to be trained as Christians and to stand against the culture and its many wonderful temptations.

After being born into the Body of Christ, we learn to be disciples from other disciples by worshiping and living together in the Body of Christ we crucify ourselves and put on Jesus Christ. 

A crucial part of our life and growth in Christ is to crucify our Self, that anti-Christ who must die if Christ is to live in us and we in Him.  When Jesus calls us to be His disciples, what does He say? “If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross daily, deny yourself, and follow Me.”

There are 2 parts to the call to discipleship: they are 2 sides of the same life of faith.  “Take up your Cross!” is Christ’s call to discipleship.  “Deny yourself” is His call to follow Him and crucify the Self who must die because he is the source of death.  But “Follow me” is His call to put Him on and to find life.  When we live in Christ, our old man was crucified by Christ for us, and therefore he must continue to be crucified by us for Christ, who is in us (see verses 6-8 and 11-12).

You are to take every opportunity to deny the part of you that follows selfish, ungodly ways.  If you are tempted by impure thoughts, then take immediate action and turn away from it.  If you are tempted to become angry because you don’t get your way, then take immediate action and turn away from it.  And if you are tempted to do what God has told you is wrong, then take immediate action and turn away from it.

Every day you have dozens and dozens of chances to practice denying yourself, crucifying yourself, and every one of them, if faithfully done, is pleasing to the Master and brings you closer to Him.  Also, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes!

But you can’t beat something with nothing: the only way to crucify self is to take up your Cross every day, and that Cross is Jesus Christ Himself.  At the same time that you crucify yourself, you must put on Jesus Christ.  “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. . . .  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (verses 5 and 8).

In other words: you are a new creature – live like one!  You have been freed from sin – act like it!

But you can only act like it if you take off your old self and put on Jesus Christ.  It’s not enough to try to turn from what you know is wrong: you must turn to Jesus, and He will save you.  He will live with you and in you and give you the power do what He has commanded you to do.

The Christian life is much more than simply avoiding sin: God wants you to lead a new life of love, as He has loved.  Only if you put on Jesus Christ, and let Him live in you, will you love and live the way God intended for you to.

You are not left to your own devices to do this.  This is the mistake of many churches and many preachers.  We tell you to turn from sin, and then offer no help in doing it.  And many people in church prefer it that way because they don’t really want to stop living for God and start living for themselves.

One of the reasons God puts us all in human families, is so that we can learn to love and so that we can be accountable to live in community for others and not only for self.

I don’t like to lose when I play games that I care about or think I’m good at.  Sometimes I take games too seriously.  If you think I’m bad now, you should have seen me earlier!  I used to upset games when my brother was about to win.  I actually cried when I lost!  And that was just last year (well, not really).  Recently I was playing a game with the kids and things weren’t going well for me.  The kids didn’t say anything, but just there presence made me reconsider my thoughts and actions.

The Church is God’s family.  One of the reasons He has brought us all together is so that we can live our lives together and disciple each other and teach each other to deny self and give self up to God.  We’re much more likely to consider our thoughts and actions when we live in the family of God.

God is in the process of making a New You.  It began with your being baptized into His family, and sometimes it begins earlier.  He is in the process of transforming us from creatures of darkness into creatures of light.  He has adopted you and His children, and now He wants you to learn how to live in His family.

This is what He is calling us to, all together, as His Church.

Therefore, today, consider yourself dead to sin and your old self, but alive to God in Jesus Christ your Lord.   

Prayer:  I yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate me with thy Holy Spirit, to receive me for thine own Child by adoption, and to make me a member of thy holy Church.  Grant, O Lord, that being baptized into the death of Christ, I may also be made partaker of his resurrection, so that serving thee here in newness of life, I may finally, with all thy holy Church, inherit thine everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

Points for Meditation: 

  1. How does it make you feel to know that you have been adopted out of the family of Adam and sin and pain and into the loving family of God?
  2. How can you take off the Old Man today?
  3. How can you put on Jesus Christ today?

Resolution:  I resolve to find one way today to intentionally put on Jesus Christ today. 

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