Identity 4

Identification

i·den·ti·fi·ca·tion, (īˌden tə fəˈkā shen) – A process whereby an individual relates to a person or group with feelings of close emotional association.

 I love football and when I was younger I enjoyed playing football. Living in New York at the time the New York Jets were my favorite team. My idol was number 12, Joe Namath, who was the Jets quarterback. My Dad and I would watch the Jets on TV every time they were on. He took me to see the Jets play at Shea Stadium. I had a Jets helmet and a Joe Namath jersey. Later in life as I journeyed through my tumultuous teen years I identified with Rock Music. I was not a musician but loved music and went to many concerts and owned dozens of records and eight tracks (anyone remember those?). I grew my hair long and dressed in jeans and black t-shirts. I owned lots of black t-shirts. I was in search of an identity, an association, like so many young people (and older people) do. Each of us identifies with something or someone. To identify is to associate with or see ourselves as the same or related to. There are many ways we identify ourselves; by gender, family name, ethnicity, occupation, sports, school, music, talents, clothes, money, religion, and many other ways.

One of the first places we identify with is our family. When we are asked by someone who we are, we typically answer with our name. I would answer, Joe Nicola. In most families in the U.S., our first name is unique to us and our last name is shared among family members, which comes from our father. Sometimes we are identified by our last name only, that identifies us with a particular family group as well as being more unique than a first name. When I was in the military I was called by my last name the majority of the time. Another common way we identify ourselves is by our occupation. Earlier in my life I would say I was a motorcycle mechanic or business owner. Then later I would answer, I am a youth pastor and now I typically say I lead a congregation. Notice how we typically say, “I am” this or “I am” that. When we say, “I am”, we are making a statement that identifies us.

It is interesting how we automatically identify certain people when we hear their name. For instance; if I said the name Elvis, what would come to mind? We probably would think of Elvis Presley and would answer something like, a great entertainer, a great singer and musician or maybe an actor, for those of us who remember Elvis Presley movies. Or, how about the name George Washington? When I hear the name George Washington, I think of a great general and the first president of the United States. When you hear the name Tiger Woods or John Wayne what do you associate their names with?  Tiger Woods was a great golfer and John Wayne was a movie star. See what I mean? We associate people with something they are known for. There are many people in different realms of society we remember like this. This is natural and normal. It is also interesting that typically we associate their name with something they do or have accomplished, not necessarily for who they are as an individual person.

Obviously, everyone has a mother and a father even if you never knew either one or both of your parents. Our mother and father have certain ethnic genes that are passed along to us. In my case, my father is Lebanese and mother has a mix of ethnicities. So, I am more Lebanese than the other ethnic mix that I received from my mother. Many people, even children of God, identify with their ethnicity more than their new identity in Christ. They associate more with being Caucasian, African American, Asian or Hispanic, etc. than they do with being God’s son or daughter.

As a note; I resist using the word “race” to differentiate between ethnicities on the fact that scientists have concluded that all humans belong to one race, the human race. Therefore, it is incorrect to delineate the different ethnicities as separate races even though it is very common to do so. Regardless of the color of our skin, origin of our birth, rich or poor or have special needs, every human being has been created in the image of God and according to His likeness and therefore has value and worth! If we constantly focus on our differences, we will always see ourselves as different and separate from others. This leads to thinking we are either better than others or we have it worse than others. I am not saying we should ignore our ethnicity or not discover our family heritage. However, I am saying that as followers of Christ we are exhorted in scripture not to recognize one another by the flesh (natural) any longer. This would also include ourselves.

Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh (natural); even though we have known Christ according to the flesh (natural), yet now we know Him in this way no longer.       2 Corinthians 5:16, (parentheses added)

Another area of identification many Christians associate themselves with is Adam. The name Adam means man or humankind and he was the first man created by God.  Adam and his wife Eve disobeyed God by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God told Adam beforehand that if he ate from that tree he would surely die. Death is a perversion of life, a corruption. Because of their disobedience, a curse was released that caused this corruption, called death, to affect all of God’s creation on earth. Therefore, all men must be born from above or born again to escape this curse. This gives us a new identity recreated in God’s image.

We associate all too often with Adam and a fallen, sin nature. Because of some popular teaching in the Body of Christ that has led us to develop an incorrect belief system causing us to be more sin conscious than we are God conscious. We tend to identify with sin and disobedience that we associate Adam with more than we do with righteousness and wholeness that our new Christ-like nature represents. The new birth in Christ severs us from the grip that the corruption of this world has on us! This is a very powerful effect that the new birth in Christ has on us when we understand it and begin to walk in its truth and reality. Hear what 2 Peter 1:4 tells us; For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.  Wow!

Joe Nicola

 

Identity – 3

Names are very important to God. One of the first things God had Adam do was to name all the animals. God is very careful about the names He chooses to call things, especially His people. We see this many times in scripture where God changes a person’s name as He did with Abram and changed it to Abraham. Abram’s wife Sarai He changed to Sarah and Jacob to Israel, etc. all for His purpose. Let’s not forget that God was very specific that Joseph and Mary were to name their child, Jesus. These are just a couple examples.

A name describes the nature and/or the character of a thing or person. It also describes the purpose and function along with the authority to accomplish it. For example; the name Jesus means Savior and Deliverer. The name Jesus describes His purpose and function. Along with purpose comes the authority, given by God, to accomplish His purpose and function. This is a reason we pray in the name of Jesus, which means when we pray according to His will our prayer has the power of His authority behind it to accomplish what we have spoken.

Abraham’s name was changed by God from Abram. The name Abram means exalted father. The name Abraham means exalted father of a multitude. By changing Abram’s name God gave Abraham a new purpose and function along with the authority or ability to accomplish it even before Abraham had a child.

It is very popular in many Christian circles to say that we are “sinners saved by grace”. In other words, to call ourselves sinners and say things like, “we are all sinners”. This sounds humble, but it is a partial truth. It is true that we are saved by grace but, after we are born again we are not called sinners in the Bible. It may be surprising to learn that nowhere in scripture does God say that His children are “sinners saved by grace”. You can’t find it in the New Testament scriptures except in the case of one who falls away from the truth and reverts to a lifestyle prior to his born-again experience, James 5:19.

We may still sin, but that doesn’t make us sinners. I can bark but that doesn’t make me a dog. I love to swim but that doesn’t make me a fish. To call someone a “sinner” is to describe a person’s state of being, his nature, in other words, his identity. The difference is this; a sinner lives a lifestyle of sin, it is his way of life even though they may do acts of righteousness at times. True children of God love and practice a lifestyle of righteousness even though they may sin at times. This transformation is only possible because our identity has changed; we have received a new Christ-like nature and the love of God has been shed abroad in our heart. The basic source of our behavior, whether sinful or righteous, flows out of our perception of God and our self. What we believe about ourselves is what we tend to become. If we believe we are a sinner or a failure, our incorrect thoughts construct a false identification and will affect the way we speak and behave. The reverse is also true, if we believe the truth about our self, based on what God says about us, that will also affect the way we speak, the way we behave and the direction we go in life. It is the natural outcome of our perceived identity. A paraphrase of Proverbs 23:7 says, as a man thinks within himself so is he. How we think about our self is what we tend to become. If I believe I am a sinner then I have an excuse for sinning because, well, that is what I believe I am. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that the moment we are born again, we are “new creatures”, i.e., new creations, old things pass away and new things come. Many Christians believe they are sinners due to an incorrect belief system and bad teaching. The truth rests with God and the way He views us and what He says about us. The truth does not rest upon what we have been taught or always believed.

We behold what we identify with. We become what we behold. To behold means to fix our attention on, to reflect upon and compare to. Have you ever been driving your car down a road and begin to look at something on either side of the road and your car start drifting in that direction? When our focus is in that direction it causes us to drift that way.  When we begin to focus on sin and failure we will also begin drifting in that direction and experiencing the negative consequences as a result. When we shift our focus to behold Jesus we begin to become more like Him. This scripture in Second Corinthians teaches us this principle.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

                                                                                                                            2 Corinthians 3:18

Joe Nicola

Author of Ekklesia; The Government of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

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