Monday, October 18, 2010

Finding Your Identity

Hello girls, 

My sincere apologies for the delay in articles this month. I have been pretty sick the past week, and life has continued to go careening by. The final three articles are finished and I will be posting them intermittently between now and the next two weeks. 

Idolatry is one of the most subtle sins. “I go to church, am involved in ministry, work hard at school, love my family. There aren’t possibly any idols in my life!” That’s the lie of idolatry. More often than not, idolatry grows out of a love for something good. Idolatry is when we make a good thing an ultimate thing.

Tim Keller defines an idol as, "Anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give."  An idol is anything, even a good thing, that steals your heart away from being all for Jesus. This doesn’t mean that if you spend more time on something other than reading your Bible or if you think about something more than you think about God that you’ve necessarily made an idol. Maybe how you’re spending your time and where your thoughts are going is an indicator of what your idol is, but not necessarily. Let me give you an example. If I spend 5 hours on school but only 30 minutes reading my Bible and praying, that doesn’t mean that school is necessarily an idol. If I think about a project on and off for 3 hours and only think about God a few times within that hour, I haven’t necessarily made that an idol.

An idol is anything that competes for first place in your life, anything you find your identity in. Your identity is anything that makes up who you are, defines you…if you achieve or have that one thing, then you have security and supposedly satisfaction. For me, it’s easy to find my identity in doing well in my speech and debate league, in my music, in my ministry, in my family, in what people think of me, and even in my spirituality.

The problem with finding our identity in these things it that if we fail to uphold them, we are heart broken, depressed, failures. But even if we are “successful” in achieving them, we’re either proud or unsatisfied. In their book “Holding Hands and Holding Hearts”, Richard and Sharon Phillips wrote, “Idols never satisfy, but always demand increasingly more, constantly adding to the burdens of our lives and in the end giving nothing of lasting value.”

Lindsey Vonn, after winning a gold medal for the US in women’s downhill skiing, was asked how she felt at that moment, to which she replied, “This was all I wanted” or “This is the happiest moment of my life.” While I don’t doubt that she was very happy, she was finding her identity in something that would prove to disappoint. It wouldn’t sustain her through the rest of her life.

So Paul presents an alternative solution to this dilemma—a change in identity. In Philippians 3, he writes of all the things he found his value in, all his idols. And then he goes on…

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from_________ [the law] but depends on faith.”

In Jesus, I have a hope and a joy that aren’t worth trading with all the rubbish of my former identities and idols. Like Paul said in Galatians 4, “Now that you have come to know God…how can you turn back again…?”

And this, I believe, is the key to destroying the idols in our lives, namely, focusing on the gospel. The gospel is the primary place where we see God for the glorious God that He is and we see our worthless idols for what they are. Milton Vincent, in his book “A Gospel Primer” wrote:
“The gospel reveals to me the breathtaking glory and loveliness of God, and in so doing, it lures my heart away from love of self and leaves me enthralled by Him instead. The more I behold God’s glory in the gospel, the more lovely He appears to me. And the more lovely He appears, the more self fades into the background like a former love interest who can no longer compete for my affections.”

Preaching the gospel to ourselves everyday, whether by digging into God’s Word and rehearsing passages like Romans 8:31-35 to ourselves or by using tools like the Gospel Primer to remind us of the good news, is the primary way to shift our focus from ourselves and our ambitions to the glory of the true God.

One day, Jesus will come back. And when He does, all the things we’ve set up as idols, the things we’ve made ultimate in our lives, will be torn down and exposed for the pointless ambitions they are. And King Jesus will be displayed for who He really is. Zephaniah 2:11 describes this day: “The Lord will be awesome against them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations.” Is the thing you’re striving for and finding your identity in going to survive that last Day? Lord, reveal now the things that we’re treasuring other than You. Crucify those old passions and desires. They are but rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing You.

Lauren Reavely, Oregon


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