I met Keith in college. This year at the Scorre conference, he looked familiar to me. Then we realized we’d known each other in college! Very fun! Keith is passionate about helping people fall in love with God’s Word. He’s a speaker, author, blogger and biblical storytller. You can read his blog here, find out more about his ministry, like him on Facebook, or join him in the Twittersphere.
There is a phrase that has always bugged me. I’ve heard it thousands of times over the last four decades. It is used when talking about friends, people from church, neighbors, authors, speakers, or the parent of a kid on our child’s soccer team. It’s used a lot. And it bugs me.
“_____________ is such a good Christian.”
Yep. Bugged me even to type the words.
Why? Because when we use that phrase, it leads us to equate the living out of our faith to what we do, rather than who we are. It also bugs me because it reminds me that this is exactly what I did for the first 30 years or so that I hung out with Jesus. Ugh.
A couple years ago I was praying through one of the chapters of my last book. As I prayed, God challenged me with these words:
If you lived out your faith from a place of identity – instead of a place of morality – everything would be different.
This sentence pops into my mind all the time. I have had heaps of conversations about it since that day. And as I have sought to embrace its truth, I have come to know its power.
It truly is a mindset shift that changes everything.
Remembering our identity helps us live our morality.
When we know who we are, living it out is just a natural response. I don’t want my kids to tell the truth because lying is wrong. I want them to do it because they are truthful people. I don’t want to be faithful to my wife because unfaithfulness is wrong. I want to be faithful because I am hers.
If I read my Bible, pray, or go to church because I think it will somehow put a star by my name in the What Makes God Happy List, then I am missing the point. The point that He is my Daddy. That I am dearly loved. That I am His child, His chosen. That He wants me.
Focusing on morality frequently squelches our identity.
Morality is much easier to talk about – or honestly – write about. Did you do this? Did you not do that? How much bad language did you use today? How did you vote?
When we do that, our identity gets squelched. Squelched because we falsely base our identities on our actions (or inactions). The end result is legalism. Not much is more ugly than that. We forget that in Christ we are a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) In Christ we are – and are becoming – the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21).
How soccer and baseball helped me understand this “identity thing.”
Right after 6th Grade something major happened. My family moved to Spokane. You see, in central Kansas (where I spent my elementary years) there was just one sport at a time. Spring = Baseball. Fall = Soccer. Not the case in Washington State.
A week into my 7th Grade baseball season, I found out I could play soccer year round. I promptly quit the baseball team and joined a soccer team. My love was soccer.
From that day on, technically I did some things and didn’t do other things. I laced up my soccer cleats. I didn’t put on my baseball hat. I ran out to the soccer field. I didn’t go to the baseball diamond. I practiced my shots. I didn’t take batting practice.
None of these decisions were made because they were the right or wrong decision. These decisions were made because that’s what soccer players do. And I was a soccer player. I was not a baseball player. I had been. But I wasn’t anymore.
The old was gone. The new had come. My mindset – and my identity – had shifted. Yes, my actions changed. They simply followed who I was.
How are you tempted to live your life from a place of morality instead of a place of identity? What is one step you can take today to remind yourself – and let God remind you – of who you are?