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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Identity Crisis - Romans 1:23

I have noticed many people who have been searching for their identity. It is as if they are doing something else instead of doing what they should be doing. You would be surprised how many people are searching for their identity in this world, especially Christians. If I ask you these questions, I bet you know someone who would be a perfect answer: Have you ever met someone who is working in the wrong profession? Have you ever met someone who is living in the wrong place? Have you ever met someone who was dating the wrong person? Have you ever met someone who hangs out with the wrong type of people? All of these questions have one common denominator that significantly tries to answer who that person is searching to become. People have always wanted to know "who they are" instead of asking "who am I" suppose to be.

A great example in sports would be defined by two remarkable athletes named Tim Tebow and Tiger Woods. Both has achieve great things in their careers, yet one is on the decline and the other is on the rise. Tebow has been nationally recognized as a practicing Christian who living for the Lord in the NFL. Everyone in the media knows what they are getting when they meet Tebow - a devote follower of the Lord Jesus Christ who expresses his faith transparently through media, charity, and family. His job is to be a professional quarterback, but that is just what he does, not "who" he is. He "is" a Christian. His identity resides in Jesus alone. We can affirm that his identity is not in crisis.

Yet on the hand, Woods has become a self-disarrayed individual who seeks to find his old luster of glory as one of the greatest golfers who ever lived. When the news came out that Woods was a twenty-time-cheating-and-lying-adulterous husband who had a secret identity with women, his identity was in crisis. He was the face of the sport of golf, and now he was the face of the tabloids. Everyone in the media was in shock and did not understand how he could do this to his family and fans. Today, Woods is still revered as a great golfer and hopes to keep his identity in the sport to define his life, but it will always be overshadowed by his revealing "who they are" moment when the world learned of his out-of-control sexual identity. Only if Tiger Woods asked "who am I" suppose to be, he quiet possibly would of not indulged in rampant immorality and maintained his integrity as a husband, father, role model, and face of the sport of golf. Nevertheless, he is now searching for a new identity which will be more difficult to discover than ever before.

What we can learn from these two individuals is their identity is solidified around their careers. What they do as athletes matters. However, "who they are" as athletes substantiates their real identity. Tebow was a Christian doing what he does best playing football. Woods is not a Christian and was doing what he does best until he decided to place his identity in something else because golf was not satisfying enough. Therefore, the illustration is clear that there are two kinds of people in this world - those of the flesh and those of the Spirit. Those of the Spirit know who they are I suppose to be in Christ as their ultimate identity.

While I was in school at CBU, I read a book called Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? by David Needham. The book was very thought provoking and stimulates the Christian reader to analyze his origin as created in the "image of God," and how Christians have been regenerated, by faith in the gospel, to display that "image of God" correctly in Christ as our ultimate identity. Needham correctly states there are only two kinds of people, those of the flesh and those of the Spirit (as I mentioned in my brief example of the athletes). He further explains those who are of the Spirit are Christians who have been "born-again" or "made a new creation" through the sovereign work of God. He proposes a correct answer to the many theological problems of Christian identity while writing with a great balance of theological knowledge and the practical works of faith. It is also interesting to note that Needham labels Christians as "miracle children" because they have been regenerated and transformed into a new identity in Christ (i.e. the family of God). The majority of his book, however, explains how the outworking practicalities, the "mechanics" of the Christian faith, must be lived out in unison with image of God to glorify God, which is our main purpose in life. Sin has distorted the image of God through Adam and its implications to be image-bearers of God's glory and goodness to the world. Thus, Christ came into this world to restore the image of God through himself, and made evident to the world the image-bearing responsibility of all those who follow him by example (walk like Jesus did and you will find your true identity in Christ!).

The problem of identity crisis resides in the sin of idolatry (I will be posting blogs on the use of "image" among the OT and NT in the future posts, so stay tuned!) Paul biblically understood the doctrine of harmatology (sin). He biblically understood the doctrine of anthropology (man). Therefore, Paul dedicates almost half of his introduction to the Romans about the fallen state and depraved human condition centered on idolatry [worship of anything or anyone outside of God himself]:
Romans 1:18-23 says, 

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things."  

Notice what Paul says in Romans 1:23, "Exchanged the glory of the immortal [eternal] God for images resembling mortal [temporal] man." I believe with all my heart that this is where identity is either lost or discovered, as in the words of G.K. Beale, "Who you revere you resemble." If you are desiring to be like man - fame, fortune, worldliness, pride, immorality, materialistic - then you are exchanging the glory due to God for yourself. Watch out for idolatry. If you are desiring to be like God - holy, humble, righteous, justice, truth, love - then you are exchanging the glory of man for God himself! If you resemble the world and its luxurious temporal indulgences in creation, you will struggle to find personal identity with fulfillment and satisfaction. If you resemble your Creator and his glory, you will gain a rich identity grounded in Christ that will bring unending joy and non-stop satisfaction because your hope is in something greater than yourself. If you have an identity crisis at hand, turn to the cross of Christ and make him your true identity that will never fade away. 

"'In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.'"  (2 Corinthians 4:4-6 ESV)

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