In my last blog, I kicked off this series by looking at the way traditional and modern cultures formulate identity. You might recall that traditional cultures have their identities given to them by the community, whereas in modern cultures, identity formation is done by the individual. I also offered a third option for identity formation – a Christ centered one.
A Christ centered identity begins by embracing the idea that we are created beings. This is the most basic truth about you and me. This means you and I are not Superman and don’t have to be. As created beings, we have certain limitations, and are both dependent on God and accountable to God.
It is this kind of identity that produces the humility needed to manifest lasting spiritual fruit. According to Jerry Bridges,
“recognizing that I am absolutely dependent on God for every breath and every morsel of food; seeing that I am accountable to God for every thought, every word, and every action; and realizing how often I fail to honor God in these ways—these should produce a deep and abiding sense of humility.”
This dependence manifests in different ways. We are dependent on God for our very livelihood. Some may balk at this and say they are the ones who work and make a living. What does God have to do with it? The simple answer is everything. While God only extends his saving grace to those who have repented and trusted in him, God extends his common grace to all people. Common grace means God meets the needs of everyone by his grace.
Because we are human, we are also dependent on him for our future since he directs our plans. Therefore, when we try our best and don’t succeed, we don’t beat ourselves up for failing. I have found this truth to be quite liberating. If our identity is in our performance, and our plans don’t work out, it can be a blow to our identity. However, if we believe God is sovereign and ordering our steps, then it will cushion the blow because we acknowledge our own limitations.
Yet another example of our dependence on God is that He is the one who equips us with our abilities. We live in economy where most employees’ performance is always getting evaluated.
Years ago, I taught elementary school and realized that, no matter how hard I tried, it was very hard to be good at my craft. After four years of teaching, I discovered that the best I could hope for was to be an average elementary school teacher. I simply wasn’t equipped with the ability to succeed at this level. At the time, this crushed me. However, if I had knew my limitations, and it was okay to have limitations, it wouldn’t had bothered me so much.
Years later, I found out that teaching at the university level was more my forte. It was what God wired me to do.
Next time we will look what it means to be “in Christ.”
Reference – Jerry Bridges. Who Am I? Identity in Christ. Cruciform Press (February 28, 2012)