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Episode 13 of Kindavangelical just released! Patriarchal Regrets

Identity Defined
5-DAY READING

How do you see yourself? Has your perception of yourself been negatively influenced by lies from your parents, peers, or society? These lies can easily enslave us, but if we’re in Christ, we have a new, freeing identity in Him. In this 5-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe teaches us what the Bible says about our new identity in Christ that, if we grasp it, will change our reality today!

Day 1

The Christian Faith Is a Mystery

Mysterion: noun. Greek.

1. A mystery. Something inexplicable by normal means.

2. What theologians call something when they don’t have a clue about what is going on.

I like to have everything figured out. Most Christians in the Western world feel the same way. We have systematic theology, four spiritual laws, diagrams and charts to describe the Trinity, constitutions, and bylaws to spell out what church is, etc. That’s all well and good… but it’s not enough. I mean, it’s really not enough.

Authentic Christianity doesn’t come from just facts and figures; it comes out of a mystery. Sure, religion is based on formulas and to-do lists, but a relationship with Jesus Christ takes place in a completely different realm: The realm of the mysterious. The apostle Paul spoke about this in Colossians 1:25:

I have become its (the churches) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.

What is a mystery? According to Scripture, a mystery is something formerly hidden in God from all human eyes but now revealed through Christ and made understandable to His people by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, “There ain’t no way we can figure this out on our own.” We can read about it, listen to sermons about it, and study it all we want, but unless God brings it to life in us, we aren’t going to get it. This is particularly true when it comes to our self-identity.

Second only to our concept of God, our concept of “self” is the most important thing about us—and in a world that is bombarding us with lies, we desperately need to know the mysterious Truth about who we are.

Lord Jesus, You have taught us that if we want to experience “the mystery,” then we’ve got to surrender to the Holy Spirit. I’m doing that right now. I want to know the Truth. Reveal the mystery to me. Make Your Word come alive in my heart. Take the blinders off my eyes, unveil it. I want to know the Truth about who I am so that the Truth can set me free.

Day 2

Christ in You, the Hope of Glory

“Who are you? Who, who? Who, who, who?” —The Who

The 1960s were pretty confusing times for everyone. Some have said, “Anyone who says they remember the 60s must not have been there.” It seemed like everyone was asking hard questions, but no one had the answers. Case in point, the rock band “The Who.” The repeated question from their hit song still echoes across the airways. But does anyone have an answer to this most important question? Who are you? The apostle Paul did:

“To them (believers in Christ), God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

In this passage, Paul identifies the mystery of the mystery. He answers the question of our identity at its deepest level: What really matters is not who you are but Who is in you. The answer to that question should never cease to stun us, because it is our hope of glory, it is our glorious riches… and it is the great mystery: “Christ in you.”

Lord Jesus, by faith and by the truth of Your Word, I ask that You would lead me into this mystery—this powerful, profound truth about who I am in You. I want to know this in my soul and experience it in my life. By Your grace, I want to understand this mystery that goes far beyond my understanding. Reveal to me, my Lord, this Truth that You are in me, and I am in You.

Day 3

You Are the Truest You When You’re in Christ

I always wished I would grow up to be somebody. Maybe I should have been a little more specific. —Lily Tomlin

Everybody wants to be somebody, but how do we know who that somebody is? That’s another question that is often asked. In this situation, however, the influencers in our world are happy to give you their answer… and then sell you what you need to make it happen. There is no mystery here. In the modern Western world, your identity is almost always determined by four different things: 1) What you look like, 2) What you do, 3) What you have, and 4) Who you know.

Every time we buy into this value system, our life becomes consumed with “I must have,” “I ought to,” and “how do I get people to like me so I can get what I need?” It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle that only gives temporary results. It’s tragic when you think about it—and usually very expensive.

Christ offers an option to this cycle. Rather than basing our identity on possessions, performance, or people, He calls us to enter into the mystery of the ages—to experience the profound realization that our true identity is found in Him, not in ourselves. Remember Paul’s description of this powerful mystery:

To them (believers in Christ), God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

If your life today is consumed with finding your identity in the things of the world, freedom and peace are at hand. By discovering who you are in Christ and who He is in you, rest and peace can be yours.

Heavenly Father, show me the ways that I have bought into the world system of possessions, performance, and people to determine my self-worth and my identity. Set me free from the clear demands of this world around me. Lead me into the mystery and the peace and the rest that come through understanding who I am in You and the fact that You are in me. Lord, this is a huge mystery. It is so much easier to buy into the rules that the world gives me. But I’m tired. I want the real thing. Show me who I am in You. I want to be that somebody.

Day 4

We Need the Spirit’s Help to Comprehend God

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Then, through the theologians, they turned Him back into words again. —Karl Barth

We usually come to God intellectually. It’s one of the great mantras of Evangelicalism. You know the emphasis: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” We say that if you learn it, then you will live it!

Please hear me: I love to think! I love it when you think. It’s a good thing to think, I’m not saying it’s not! But hear me, experiencing “Christ in you” is not learned that way! Experiencing Christ in you is learned through God’s power, by His Spirit, as opposed to human wisdom. Consider Paul’s words:

When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God… No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Corinthians 2:1, 7)

One commentator said, “This mystery is too profound for human ingenuity.” Another said, “It is wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” This is not God’s Plan B. He thought of this long before He even created the world. This is God’s Plan A. He wants us to fully enjoy a mystery previously hidden, long prepared, and, unfortunately, missed by most.

None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him”—these are the things God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:8-9)

In other words, you can’t hear it, you can’t see it, and you can’t think it. I don’t care how smart you are; none of you can figure out on your own what God has prepared for those who love Him. The Apostle Paul could not be clearer: If you want to experience the mystery, you will not be able to do it coming at it from an intellectual position. It doesn’t work that way.

Dear Father, my brain can only take me so far. I thank You for good doctrine. I thank You for teachers and classes and books. But I need more than that. I need You. I need more than intellectual understanding; I want to experience this mystery. I want to experience the reality of being in You and You in me. Make the Truth of Your Word come alive to me. Empower my heart, for I desire to walk in the strength of Your Spirit, not in the power of my own flesh. God, take me deeper, by faith, into the mystery of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Day 5

Living Your “Now” With the Next World in Mind

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world. —C.S. Lewis

Believers in Jesus live on two planes of existence simultaneously. Don’t worry, I’m not about to go science fiction on you. (Actually, this is even crazier than sci-fi!) The truth is that we live in Christ… and we also live in Dallas/Phoenix/London, or wherever. We are in Christ spiritually, and yet we are in our physical location, living our lives with work, family, and other commitments.

Yeah, it sounds nuts, but the New Testament is full of this dual reality. Consider Paul’s salutation in Colossians 1:1-2.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.

Notice the words at the end of this verse, IN Christ IN Colossae. He is saying that they are in Christ but that they are also in Colossae. How can someone be in both places? Think about what Paul wrote in another letter, 2 Corinthians 4:18:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The words “temporary” and “eternal” are key here. The world we live in can be seen; it’s physical and visible, and we interact with it continuously. It’s also temporary. It’s here for a while, but then it will go.

Then there is the invisible world. It is Christ and all that comes with Him. He is our purpose for being, the reason we go about things in the physical world.

We like to compartmentalize and sort things. That’s why label makers and organizing software sell well. (Unfortunately, it’s also why Christians tend to think they can do church on Sundays, head to lunch, and that was their Jesus fix for the week!)

We can’t compartmentalize the eternal and the temporary. The two are interchangeable for believers. We live in both right now! And if we’re paying attention to the eternal, our temporary life will show it.

Jesus, thank You for putting eternity into my heart. Thank You for the timeless perspective You give me. Help me, Holy Spirit, to know and understand that I have a temporary life and an eternal life. Help me live in such a way that my temporary life points to Your eternal work! Amen.

Reflection:

  1. Do I base my identity on the things of this temporary world or in Christ eternal?
  2. Am I more concerned with who I am rather than Who’s in me?
  3. How can I live now with eternal life in mind?

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