Who are you?
Pause for a minute and really think about this question – who are you?
I believe one of the primary causes for confusion and division is we don’t really know the answer to this question. We search for meaning and purpose, but we don’t know foundationally who we are, and so all of our searching leaves us unfulfilled and unsure of who we really are.
The same was true for me as a Christian.
While I was brought up in a Christian home and professed to believe in and love Jesus at the age of 12, I still had no idea of my true identity. I walked away from “the church” organization for over 10 years starting in High School.
I experienced a life changing tragedy at age 27, where God showed up in an unbelievably powerful way in my life – even though I had essentially abandoned Him some 12 years earlier. I returned to what I had been raised in – I went back to “church”.
In fact, my encounter with God set my life on a completely new trajectory. My wife and I began teaching Sunday School, I went to seminary, and became an ordained minister. Yet, there was still this nagging question, “Is this all there is to this life and being a Christian?” Deep within me I knew there had to be more to it then just “going to church” and being good.
While my knowledge of God’s presence had been radically changed (for the better) in 1996, I was still missing a critical piece of understanding God and His love for me. Like most people, I knew God loved me, but I also believed I needed to live up to that love. Looking back, that’s clearly foolish – how does one live up to unconditional love?
This is exactly what Paul of Tarsus reveals in his letter to those trying to “live up to” God’s love in the ancient city of Galatia. Paul writes,
“Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”
~ Galatians 3:1-3
There it is! We exchange the cross with a ladder. We abandon what brought us back into perfect relationship with God (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) and go to work climbing (the ladder) – attempting to earn what we’ve already recieved unconditionally.
This is where I found myself – climbing. But as the truth of the Gospel of God’s grace (His unconditional love for me given to me by Jesus’ completed work and not my effort) began to dawn in my mind, I had a complete paradigm shift. My understanding of my relationship with God exploded like a firework – beautiful, vibrant, loud!
I found my true identity.
Our identity is not based in all of the other things we think will reveal who we are. It’s not found in our skin color, our denomination, our politics, our sexual orientation, our gender, our titles, our bank accounts, … the list is endless.
No, our true identity can only be found in the One who created us, and in experiencing His unconditional love poured out upon us.
Our identity is not found in our performance. It’s not found in our heritage. It’s not even found in our churches. It is found in Christ alone.
Once we understand this, all of these other things that consfuse, consume, and divide us will find their rightful place – far below who we really are.
If we depend on any of these “lesser things” upon which to build our lives, our thoughts, our relationships, etc., we will always be left wondering – isn’t there more to life than this?
Within God’s unconditional love is the only place we will find the power to truly love others and be able to give ourselves away…unconditionally. And that’s Good News!
Are you still attempting to earn God’s love?
Do you think His love for you is based on your ability to be good?
Do you think you still must remember and confess every sin to be loved and forgiven by God?
Is your devotion to God based on how well you think you’re doing living up to His standards?
Do you think God is “keeping score” of your good and bad deeds and thoughts?
Is your relationship with God, in any way, still based on what you do for Him (or what you avoid doing) to keep Him happy with you?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I’m pleading with you to look closer at the pure Gospel message. Read 1 Corinthians 13 (remembering that God is perfect love) to see God’s character and how He relates to you. You can replace “love” (and references to love) with “God” as you read it.
With this understanding of God’s character, read Paul’s entire letter to the Galatians. Look to see how this letter would reply to the above questions.
Then let me know your thoughts in the comments.