Where Do You Find Identity?

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1 ESV

Dear Overcomer,

Your identity is found in God’s love. The reason you are a child of God is because of the inner work of the Holy Spirit. Our identity is formed not in what we do, but in how we accept God’s love.

This is a big choice. Knowing God’s love and accepting God’s love are two different things. Knowing with your head doesn’t change your heart. Accepting God’s love in your heart changes you completely.

God is intentional about making us into the image of His son, Jesus. When you become more like Jesus, be prepared to lose certain attachments to the world. Outside of God’s love, identity is based upon vain imagination. Confidence and security are byproducts of knowing you are loved. If you search for security or struggle with a lack of confidence, take a moment and see if God’s love has been welcomed into every part of your life.

Your purpose is to be identified with God’s love. Because of God’s love, your confidence is not based on what you can do. It is based on what God can do through you. Because of God’s love, your security is not based on what other people think of you, it is based upon who God says you are. Deeply loved, highly valued and filled with His Spirit.

The Root Cause

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.  – Ephesians 5:3-4 (ESV)

Weeds grow with neglect.  They show up in places you don’t expect and re-appear after poor assassination attempts.

The Canadian Thistle was a tough plant to kill during our farming years in North Dakota.  Wild oats emerged every spring as their seeds laid dormant in the ground for years.  Other weeds showed up in our garden and could be eradicated with the Troy-Built rototiller.  My irritation with weeds is that while they can be controlled, they never really go away.

Today’s verse illustrates the growth of weeds in a neglected heart.  Forget about the weeds for a second though.  If we focus on the weeds too much, we’ll try to tell ourselves that they are something different than they really are.  What if we focused on the condition of the heart to make it compatible with growing a crop of righteousness?

Soil can grow anything but cultivation is required to grow something of value.  A neglected heart will grow weeds that bear fruit listed in today’s verse.  An attended heart will grow fruit that lasts and is similar to the character of the Holy Spirit.

There are three practices of a person who tends to their heart:

  • Cultivation: this person is willing to accept correction and direction from the Holy Spirit because they have surrendered control of their life’s steering wheel to God.
  • Water: this person prioritizes their life based on their love for God.  This love for God exceeds even their love for themselves.  They realize that love is not an emotion towards God, it is willing service.
  • Fertilizer: this person gains their energy for life by focusing on others.  They reflect God’s heart towards other people in serving others, caring for their family and looking to others before themselves.  They don’t do this to feel good about themselves, they do it because God rejuvenates them through their security in Him.

Being conscientious about the condition of our heart is healthy.  You’ll find that tending to your heart, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can make it compatible with holiness.

Ah….NOW I get it!

Learning Old Lessons

It is funny how things appear when we are distanced from them.  That’s why I like the account of the Gospel of Mark in relation to Peter’s life with Jesus.  Peter was the person we all think we’d never be towards Jesus.  Sure, Peter had enthusiasm but he was short sighted; he had drive and determination but was fearful in dangerous circumstances.  We’d never be like that; we could see what was going on!  By golly, we’re reading the story here and we know how we would act!  

What’s interesting to me is the change from Peter the actor in the story to Peter the writer in the Gospel.  Through John Mark, who penned Mark, Peter’s perspective is amazingly displayed in this Gospel.  Peter apparently didn’t try to hide any of his shortcomings.  We read about Peter being called “satan” by Jesus, his steadfast assurance that he would never desert Jesus…until he denied Him, and of course, that ear incident in the garden as Jesus was being arrested.  People who are writing a book generally prefer to be in a favorable light and if they have to write of a negative experience, well, there’s usually someone to blame for that.

One thing that is missing in the book of Mark is the account when Jesus searches out Peter upon His resurrection.  You’d think that Peter would want that little tidbit in a book that he’s being written about.  The old Peter would have wanted that in there.  (See, Jesus looked for me!)  The Peter that “got it” after being filled by the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2) was the Peter that didn’t need to trumpet his personal forgiveness for credibility with others.  Peter knew what he had been forgiven from and may have even struggled with re-telling the story of that certain forgiveness that Jesus gave him.  It’s no simple thing to betray a friend; much less one you’ve loved like Peter loved Jesus. 

It’s a good thing that Peter had John as a friend though.  Great friends still believe in us when we make a big mess of things, they believe that we are still redeemable.  In John’s account of the Gospels, he tells the story of Jesus searching out Peter.  Even though it appears that Jesus is grilling Peter about his apparent lack of love for Him, Jesus is really telling Peter that he still has a chance to be effective in the Kingdom.  But, to be effective, Peter will have to submit to a Leader greater than himself.  Peter’s strong will was of no concern to an Almighty God.  God’s power to redeem and to restore greatly outweighs our power to destroy and mess up.  

Side note:  we may “forgive” people but never care to speak to them again, I’m sure glad that when Jesus forgives us, He still desires to speak with us!

Even though it took a little time for Peter to “get it”, the work that God intended to happen through Peter did happen as a result of his submission to the Holy Spirit.  The fact that he could look back at his life and recognize the times that he and the disciples didn’t understand, the times that Jesus was ready to pass them by because of their hardness of heart and the times that they tried so hard to please Jesus in their own strength but failed miserably; that fact gives each of us hope that we can “get it” when it comes to the purposes of God in our life.

The “getting it” revelation most likely always comes with the choice of humility.  Peter didn’t “get it” early in his life because he tried so hard to impress God, but he “got it” later because he chose to listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading.  Peter stopped trying to please God with his own strengths and began honoring God with his obedience.