Identity 4


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


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