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Christianity

A Question Of Identity

Figuring out who we are and who we’re called to be is a lifelong endeavour. The paths we take on this journey are often determined by factors that we’re not always conscious of.

Some of these factors are pain, doubt and fear.

As Christians, it goes without saying that the source of our identity is God. He should be the One guiding us through our journey of life.

But what version of God have we embraced and how does it affect how we see ourselves?

Is our God the sum of what we know to be true about Him and the work He continually does in us and through us?

Or is He the sum of what our pain, doubts and fears have made Him out to be?

We can all point to fundamental moments or seasons of our lives that shaped the course of our trajectory from that moment on. But it’s one thing to acknowledge the role that a significant experience (whether positive, negative, or both) has played in shaping your life. It’s entirely another to build your life on the foundation of that experience.

It’s the difference between setting up camp on the way to your destination long before you arrive, and proceeding on to your destination until you get there.

We can allow our experiences to be tools in the hands of our Maker that He works for our good. Or we can take them into our own hands and use them to define ourselves.

So much of the latter is happening. Perhaps because life has a way of undressing us…leaving us naked and vulnerable for the world to see. In our mad rush to make sense of things and restore some sense of dignity to ourselves, we end up clothing ourselves with the very thing that undressed us in the first place.

All around I see individuals, movements, ministries, etc whose very existence is driven by pain, anger and tragedy.

It sounds like it could be a redemptive thing except lemons will never bear apples. Seeds of pain can never birth fruits of peace. Seeds of disappointment and sorrow can never birth fruits of contentment and joy. Seeds of anger can never birth the fruit of peace. At best, they can serve as catalysts to get us on the right path. At worst, they only result in a multiplication of themselves under the guise of being a testament of survival.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

    the days that were formed for me,

    when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16 ESV

Every day – every single day – of our life on earth has been intentionally mapped out by God. We were always meant to be more than one experience, one high, one low, one phenomenal success, one devastating tragedy.

Our lives are meant to be centred on our Creator; not merely our experiences as created beings. Only divine healing can birth testimonies centred on the Healer and not the disease and the diseased.

God cannot use us to redeem that which we have yet to overcome. If Christ is not at the centre of all we are and all we do, there are plenty of idols waiting to take His place. Our experiences – good and bad – are some of the most underestimated idols we worship…and in the process, lead others to the very same idolatry.  

While we may be able to work people up to a frenzy with these idols, and build a name for ourselves in the process, all we will have done is build a house on sinking sand. It’s only a matter of time before just the right wind of life brings it all crashing to the ground.

We need to think long and hard about what we’re consuming as Christians even from fellow Christians and the Christian world. I always say the simplest test to whether something is good for you is this – is it bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Or does it just tickle your flesh and make you feel justified about holding onto the fruit of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like?

For the record, orgies don’t have to be about sex. There are plenty of orgies of jealousy, hatred, anger, selfishness, etc happening online each day that we partake of without second thought.

We need to think long and hard about what houses we’re building as Christians. Are they monuments to our survival from what we (secretly) think God should have saved us from? Are they Christian-shaped idols that point people to us and our ability to overcome relegating God to be the sidekick to our stories?

Or are we in service to THE house of the living God? The One who takes every dart the enemy meant for our downfall and uses it to propel us to our destinies. The One who gives every triumph and every tragedy the right perspective and position in our lives.

Our experiences devoid of God’s mark reduce us to gods who can only give the illusion of salvation. But when we place our very existence in the hands of our Maker, there’s no limit to redemption His presence and power in our lives can bring about.

May everything we are, and everything we do, point the world to Jesus. Because it is Him, and only Him, who is THE way, THE truth, and THE life that the world desperately needs.

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Christianity Rose Gold Crowns

Work Out Your Salvation

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

– Philippians 2:12-13 ESV

We’re living in an interesting age in the Body of Christ. I can’t say it’s a unique age because there’s truly nothing new under the sun. The generations that have gone before us dealt with some variation of what we’re now contending with. But how we’re dealing with the crises of our day will determine a lot about how the generations that come after us will fair.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about the Christian who doesn’t want to adult in their Christianity.

When we get saved – regardless of our biological age or life maturity – we are like babies being born into a new world. There is much for us to learn and grow into. In an ideal setting, God places you into a spiritual family (church) who will journey with you. While there may be need to transition to a different family after a duration of seasons, no Christian is supposed to walk alone. For all the imperfections there are, church exists with good reason.

As with a baby being raised, there are changes in how you’re handled that need to happen over time. Otherwise your growth will be stunted and your overall well-being jeopardized. As you start to gain mobility in the things of the spirit, you’re entrusted with the little that you have capacity for with a lot of grace extended for the messy process that is learning. Much like one would give a toddler who’s reached a given development marker a plastic spoon as they’re learning to feed themselves but do so knowing there will be spills and that’s okay. Even if they try to reach for your metal fork you’re not going to give it to them because they don’t have capacity to handle it and it would cause them harm.

With time, the spiritual toddler who could barely express themselves begins to learn how to speak and starts to find their voice in the things of the spirit. But they are continually learning how to process their thoughts and emotions and filter what to say and not say and how to say it. They are being chastised when they step out of line in both their words and actions. The measure of their ability to hold certain responsibilities is still limited to their level of maturity.

The child grows into a young adult who has provisional freedom that comes with much needed oversight. This is because they are transitioning from childhood into adulthood, which is a very precarious time. They are coming to terms with their spiritual identity with a level of understanding of themselves, God, the Church and the world that they didn’t have before. They are getting reality checks in how the world and the kingdom works and they are beginning to realize that those who have raised them spiritually aren’t perfect human beings; they have flaws and errors, they make mistakes and are on their own journey of learning, but this doesn’t take away from their role in the young adult’s life or the need to give them the honour, respect and love that is due to them.

Eventually the young adult becomes a fully-fledged adult who is required to be a responsible member of the kingdom. They now have more freedom and less restriction. But this is not for them to go crazy and do whatever they want however they want to. It’s for them to put into practice everything they have learned thus far. As they increase in maturity, so does the work they need to take on. Along the way they end up on the other side of the table, where they’re the ones changing the diapers of a new spiritual baby, just as someone did for them once upon a time. But even at this stage, they are still accountable to those who raised them. No matter how mature they get, they never outgrow the need to submit to the counsel of those God has placed in their life to help them stay accountable to Him and to their faith.

When it comes to bashing Christian leaders and their relationship with their flock, I have three strikes against me – I’m a believer, I’m a pastor’s wife and I’m in church leadership. I won’t dwell on the bashing and everything that comes with it as that’s not the focus of this post.

But because of those very strikes, I have seen for myself what happens on both sides of the table. I can acknowledge the views – right and wrong – I had of Christian leadership when I was just a believer in the pews. I can also now understand the reality that those in genuine Christian leadership are grappling with.

We have an alarming number of Christians who have refused to grow up. Even though the time and season they’re in requires them to actively be serving the kingdom of God, they want to remain in toddler mode with someone who regularly changes their diaper and makes excuses for their toddler ways. They want someone who will feed them, clothe them, and take care of their every spiritual whim without holding them accountable for a single thing. They want someone who will give them attention not admonish them for anything. If what you’re suggesting to them involves any inconvenience or discomfort on their part, you may as well shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Oh, and how dare you rebuke them in any way – they’re either always right, didn’t know any better (even though this is the 10th time we’re dealing with the exact same thing they still won’t take responsibility for) or are unable to do better (insert every conceivable excuse on earth including the devil who is given credit for far too much).

Here’s the thing. There is a stage in a Christian’s life where all these things are plausible and even expected to some degree. But when you have an adult who wants to be treated like a toddler there’s a crisis at hand. The same holds true when you have toddlers who want to be treated like adults. We have a staggering number of both in the Body.

We were never meant to remain frozen in time as the people we were when we got saved. We’re supposed to grow in our salvation. This starts with acknowledging that we really don’t know that much and we need to allow those who’ve been at this much longer than we have to guide us. It means accepting that at some point, we have to take on the responsibilities and challenges of the church we’re in and the Body we’re part of. In between, we have to have the humility [right estimation of self] to take on what we have the ability to handle and give those whose leadership we’re submitted to permission to call us out on our speed of transaction – when we’re getting it right and getting it wrong.

“Well, at least they’re saved” isn’t doing us much good. Not with the way this world is going to hell in a hand basket. We need every mature believer who’s ready out in the front lines in church and in the various gates of society. Every time I hear/read someone asking where Christian leaders are, I want to jointly ask them where they are as believers.

The role of the Christian leader doesn’t negate the role of the believer in the pews. We have relegated spiritual responsibility to those who hold certain positions when it was supposed to be carried by all of us. The Body of Christ isn’t made of leaders only; it’s all of us. Yet as the harvest increases by the day, the labourers keep dwindling in number.

We are called to work out our salvation not to ensure our entry into “heaven” but so that God too may work in us that we may work for Him. There’s no part of this equation that doesn’t involve responsibility and work on our part. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you’re in the wrong faith.

Any Christian leader worth their salt is able to gauge where you are in your spiritual journey and walk with you accordingly. But they can only do so to the degree you are willing to listen to and trust what they have to say and take heed of the counsel you’re given.

None of us is gifted or mature enough to do without accountability. If anything, the more gifted and mature you become, the more you need the accountability lest you become yet another statistic taken down by pride.

Are you a Christian adult who wants to babied?

Are you a Christian toddler who’s demanding to be treated like an adult?

Here’s the kicker – as believers, we can simultaneously have areas of our lives where we’re adults and others where we’re toddlers in so far as our ability to navigate them with the required maturity. We’re all bias to self and that’s why having leaders we’re submitted to and spiritual family we’re running with comes in handy – they speak the truth to us in love and address our junk – especially that which we’re totally oblivious to.

For the sake of the world we’re in, the service needed in the kingdom and the sanity of your leaders, I urge you to take stock of your journey of faith.

Where do you need to take on more responsibility (and stop making excuses for why you can’t get things done!) and where do you need to accept your limitations of maturity and stop feeling entitled to and demanding for that which you have no capacity to handle right now?

Better yet, be courageous enough to ask the people you’re journeying with help you audit yourself; not just your friends but particularly those who hold a leadership/oversight role in your life.

Toss the junk. Embrace the work at hand.

Take a stand and become a believer that the Body of Christ will richly benefit to have.