Tuesday, April 22, 2014

MANAGING YOUR IDENTITY

Kriston Couchey
SON OF GOD SON OF MAN
Jesus was the ultimate identity manager. He was a Jewish male, but identified himself in various ways and didn't disagree with others who also identified Him as being a Rabbi, Prophet, Son of David, Messiah, and Son of God. But, for much of his earthly ministry Jesus identified Himself simply as the "son of man."

The scholar Reza Aslan makes observations about Jesus' claims of his identity that I have encapsulated in the following paragraph that resonate with me.  The term "son of man" had never been used by anyone in recorded history as a title of identity until Jesus did so.  The term "son of God" or "son of the gods" was a term commonly used to refer to the kings of nations in Jesus's day. Even the Jews used the term "Son of God" to refer to David and the kings that followed him, not as an equation to deity, but to establish the king's inherited right to rule the nation. Jesus was recognized by some as being the Son of God, but He told them to keep it quiet. It was not until his last journey to Jerusalem that Jesus publicly accepted the title "Son of God". For to do so was to claim the right of ruler-ship and commit the crime of sedition against Rome which was punishable by crucifixion.

The Jews said to Pilate: "He made Himself out to be the Son of God."  But, when Pilate tried to release Jesus They said: “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”  Jesus carefully managed his identity for the sake of fulfilling redemption's plan; Jesus used the term " son of man" for a couple of reasons: 

#1 He was identifying himself with men to reach them with God's Love.
#2 His time had not yet come to be crucified. 

I AM WHO I AM
The apostle Paul wrote of identity in Christ:"There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." 

He also went on to say:"To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law)... ...I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."Paul even used his identity as a Roman citizen at one point to get out of a sticky situation. While Paul identifies himself with different groups to further the gospel, unwisely using or embracing identities can also hinder the gospel as much as it can advance it.

MANAGING OUR IDENTITY
The only identity that mattered about Jesus was that He was the son of God, the Christ, and the king of God's kingdom. Paul's only identity that mattered was that He was a son of God, in Christ, and a citizen of the kingdom. Your only identity that matters is being a son of God, in Christ, and a citizen of the kingdom.

No other identities according to Paul exist in Christ. The is NO Jew, Greek, American, Russian, Israeli, Democrat, republican, conservative, liberal, or any other designation that matters in Christ. This calls for wisdom on the part of everyone who has been joined to the Lord in how they manage their identities.

I have been identified with many Christian "identifying" and "defining" movements from the past; apostolic, prophetic, charismatic, evangelical, organic, institutional, home-church, grace preaching, etc.  The term Christianity is also an identifier that is involved in dividing or unifying people. I could probably put together a good sermon from what I have learned from each of these, yet my main identity is not these. I will use these past identities to preach about our son-ship, unity in Christ , and our citizenship in the kingdom to reach these various groups, but I will never use these as a means of division. 

IDENTITIES THAT DIVIDE
I am a United States Citizen by birth. This identity automatically sets me at odds with people whose own identities are at odds with the United States. The best path to breaking down that barrier is to embrace an identity as a Kingdom citizen that is not perceived to be an enemy of those whose identities set them at odds with the United States government and its people.  I am very careful to not emphasis this identity in situations where it will hinder the gospel and it propagation.

In the same way as a national identity can hinder the gospel, there are voluntary identities I can NEVER take on in Christ because they immediately disqualify me from ministering Christ to those opposed to them. The Spirit has spoken to my heart clearly that is it pertains to parties such as conservative or liberal, or nationalist movements that demonize or attack others. If we are persecuted for political persuasion it is no glory to God. If my being a conservative keeps a liberal from listening to the gospel I share I will not be one, and vice versa. That is why I take care to not get involved in fruitless political wrangling.

CHRIST YOUR IDENTITY
In the end, Christ is our identity and His kingdom and advancement of it is the measure of whether and how an identity should be used to advantage his kingdom. If taking one on causes offense that would keep one from embracing life in Christ it is nothing and needs to be kept in its proper place.     

In Him and his Love
Kriston Couchey

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