What is competing with your identity in Christ?
At Sunday night’s Mass Event, this was the question posed to participants, and we asked them to text their answers.
The answers poured in:
…having friends, not feeling alone…popularity…success…want to be accepted and succeed…relationships…doubt…pride…perfectionist…trying to be the life of the party…getting good grades…anxiety that I will never dance well enough…depression…$$$…music…fear of failure…being good enough…balancing others’ expectations…distractions…selfishness…negativity…trying to do too many things…my own independence…my self hate…trying to be number one at all I do…college…people pleasing…trying to impress my parents…being the better swimmer…grief…trying to understand who I am…sports…trying to perform to the best of my ability…work/job…fear of letting go of my pain…desire to feel wanted…self harm…
As we considered the theme of identity, Pastor Matt Popovits discussed how we like to paint a picture of ourselves, of our identity, of who we want to be. “And that’s cool,” he said, “but, there’s God, and God’s plan for your life may be very different from your plan.” God doesn’t just see what you look like or what you do. He sees His beloved, Baptized child. He doesn’t see potential, He sees the love of His son wrapped around you. “God’s plan for you will have more to do with that love in Jesus being made known in you and through you, than you achieving every dream in life,” he said.
What we’re all looking for is righteousness. It’s a status, a standing that says you meet every expectation, that you are worthy of love and praise. You’re looking to be good enough. But nothing will ever answer that question. You will always still wonder, am I good enough?
This is where Jesus comes in. “This is where Paul looses his mind over the awesomeness of Jesus,” Pastor Matt said. Jesus says, I will be your righteousness. I will be your good enough. Am I good enough? you ask. In Christ the answer is always yes. Christ alone makes us good enough; He makes us righteous. “This is why Paul said that he counted his accomplishments as trash in comparison to knowing Christ. It’s not that they were bad. No. They just couldn’t do what Jesus does,” he said. Whatever you’re good at…compared to knowing Jesus, it might as well be garbage.
Rev. Tige Culbertson and his wife Sara took the stage to share their personal story of struggling with being good enough. They talked about growing up and struggling with issues of parental acceptance, identity, and relationships, of trying to self-medicate their hurts by turning to porn (in Tige’s case) or constant exercise (in Sara’s case). Through the struggles, they always wondered Who am I? Am I good enough? Why can’t I be good enough?
The Culbertsons pointed us to Philippians 3:8-9: “ Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
“You’ve heard about our bad trash…but we have good trash, too,” the Culbertsons said. “For the most part we’ve dumped the bad trash. God’s done some incredible things in our lives.”
Tige shared, “In Christ alone I reconnected with my birth dad after 30 years. The miracle is that through that miracle God taught me that He knows me accepts me and loves me. In Christ alone I’ve enjoyed almost eight years free from porn. In Christ alone I get to be pastor of Restoration Fellowship. God uses the worst in my life to show his best.”
And Sara shared, “In Christ alone my marriage is healthier than ever and I trust my husband. I no longer obsess over exercise.”
— LCMS Youth Gathering (@LCMSNYG) July 18, 2016
“We’re not defined by our bad trash, and we’re not defined by our good trash,” they said. “The world doesn’t get to define us. We don’t get to define ourselves. God looks at us and sees Jesus. He doesn’t see the trash. He sees His Son whom He loves.” We are righteous and that means we are good enough. In Christ alone we are good enough. In Christ alone we are renewed, forgiven and restored members of the body of Christ.
If it’s not Jesus, it can’t give us real lasting peace. We are righteous in Christ alone apart from our accomplishments and regardless of our struggles.
On Monday morning the identity conversation continued at Bible study where participants were asked to complete this statement: I am _______.
The Scripture focus was on Philippians 3:4-6: “Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal,a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
There must be something deeper than our lists of who we are. The issue is identity…true identity: who are you? who am I? And it’s all muddled apart from Christ.
Who does God say that we are? We find our identity in Christ alone…righteousness of Christ is ours through faith. You are loved by God in Jesus.
What does all of this mean for that list of who we are and how we define ourselves? Our lists are rubbish APART from Christ. Jesus is the true man. Our identity in Him completes us. It makes me more me, not less me. Talk about vocation, making holy the mundane.
It is in your Baptism that you are given a new identity, and that new identity is still alive, each day. By remembering your Baptism, you are remembering that God has given you a new identity today.
Photo credit: Matthew Boness, 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering Media Team