During my life time, the American dream was having a white picket fence around a nice little house and 2 or 3 perfectly behaved children. It was the “Ozzie and Harriet”, “Leave It to Beaver”, and “Father Know Best” all rolled into one, the perfect family.
Unfortunately there is very little reality to this fantasy.
Christianity is sometimes also framed in unrealistic terms. It was something we all did on Sunday and personal faith was seldom spoken about. God was good but not really knowable. There was no requirement other than membership. Children were not taught the idea of sacrifice or being sold out for Jesus. In fact this foreign concept almost didn’t exist. Pot lucks were the ideal of sharing. Rummage sales were how we paid for the needs of the church. Does anyone remember this style of Christianity?
In the 1970’s there was a type of revolution called the Jesus Movement. Young people were tired of a faith and a God that was not real. Millions of these young men and women got radically saved. I was one of them. We wanted to see God move and touch humanity. We knew that we were not the sum total of everything and that there must be something greater than ourselves. The slogan “Jesus is the Answer” became our reality. I have been a Christian since 1971 and that reality has matured and gotten stronger.
I was introduced through a book to a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a German pastor, martyr, and prophet). He was a man who truly lived out the Christian life. In the midst of Hitler’s Germany, Bonhoeffer stood up against the tyranny of Hitler, and for this, 4 days prior to the ending of the war, after 18 months as a prisoner of the third Reich, he was killed and thus became a Christian martyr.
Bonhoeffer lived and breathed the scripture. He believed it to be God’s word and a Christian must live by this book – the Bible.
He lived the following verse of scripture found in Galatians chapter 2 and verse 20:
I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Eric Metaxas states in his book, “Bonhoeffer”,
“Who stands fast?” he asked. “Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principle, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
“Bonhoeffer’s life’s answer and call was as a part of the resistance to Hitler and for this he gave his life.”
I must admit that this is a far cry from the white picket life spoken of earlier. One must come to a place of complete surrender in order to enjoy the fruits of a set apart life. This life has a claim on you.
Paul said in Galatians, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” I do not believe we can be world changers for Christ without this attitude. The halls of heaven are lined with those who have gone before us and heard these wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
Paul, Peter, the other apostles, Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, all knew what it meant to live for Christ. We must ask ourselves this question. Are we ready to live our Christian lives as those who have gone before us? Are we willing to give our all for His utmost? I pray this for me and you.
“I am Spiderman!!!” my 3 year old yells from the top of his lungs as he is sporting his said costume. Let me try to explain why this is important. My son Aiden for the past year has been consumed with superheroes – not an unusual thing for a boy his age. I was the same way. I remember tying a towel around my neck pretending that I was superman. There is something about super heroes that makes every little boy want to be one. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the super powers or catching the bad guy or maybe it’s getting the hot girl. But there is something about it that consumes us. Maybe it takes us to a place where we are something different – something more than we have become.
I long so much to be a super hero to my kids. Sometimes I am far from even acting like a superhero. Like when I blow up after a hard day, or blow them off when they just want to spend time with daddy and all I want to do is veg out in front of the T.V. Then I think to myself, “what a loser superhero”. Where is my cape? Where are my powers? In those times of feeling like a loser superhero my personal worth goes out the window.
I am ashamed to say, but I’ve been trying to get my super powers from the wrong source. I’ve been believing a lie and basing my faith on a deception. A new friend of mine enlightened me on the matter. He explained it like this. Man has three deep needs: to be significant, accepted, and secure. These three things give me personal worth. Now, the world teaches us that we get these deep needs met through marriage, children, education, possessions, power, job, popularity, looks, and encouragement. God’s word teaches something different. My friend went on to say that we as Christians tend to look for our identity through the world we now live in, believing that if we could get enough of the things in the list above working for us then these things would filter down and give us acceptance, significance and security and finally a sense of personal worth. The truth of the matter is that these things produce only a fading glory.
I was happy to be reminded that my worth is not based on the things above, but on what Christ did on the cross. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). I had forgotten what kind of words were used to describe our worth through Christ; like Saint, holy, blameless, beyond reproach, priests, ambassadors. My super powers come from the cross. Not the cross and something else that only takes away from the power of the cross. Christ alone is sufficient. I am a new man and I want to teach my little spiderman this same thing.
Satan is still using the same methods to deceive you as he used with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He tries to convince you that you need something outside of a personal love relationship with your Creator to identify you and give you purpose and value.
Satan tells you your identity comes from what you do, what you have, how you look, and in what other people think about you. When you are successful in these areas, you are a valuable person. But when you are unsuccessful you are worthless.
When you agree with this lie from Satan your purpose and meaning in life will be to become valuable by being successful in all these areas. You will spend your life trying to do things well, have nice possessions, look good, and please others.
Here are some examples of what a person might think, feel, or do if he/she is looking for identity outside of relationship with God.
Which of the following have you seen in your life?
1. I’m not really good at anything. If I were ___________________ (smarter, more artistic, athletic, outgoing, etc.) people would like me more and I would feel better about myself.
2. I really messed up that ___________________ (relationship, marriage, job, project, assignment, conversation, New Year’s resolution, etc). I must be a failure; I wonder what other people are thinking.
3. I’m never going to ___________________ (look good, loose weight, get the job, be successful, be the best, be good at that, etc.), so I might as well not even try.
4. If only I could get that ___________________ (girlfriend, boyfriend, promotion, job, career, house, new wardrobe, etc.), then I would be happy.
5. I spend large amounts of time thinking about _________________ (how to fix it, how to do better, how I messed up, how to make it work, what I should have done differently, what he/she/they must be thinking, etc).
6. I think I’ve done well for myself. I got the ___________________ (family, house, job, girlfriend, boyfriend, car, etc.) I wanted.
7. I’m embarrassed by the actions of my ___________________ (spouse, sibling, parent, child, or friend).
8. I work really hard at ___________________ (school, job, marriage, relationship, parenting, etc.) because I’m afraid of messing up or I’m afraid of loosing what I already have.
9. It feels good to be needed. My ___________________ (spouse, children, boss, church, teammates, etc.) would be lost without me.
10. I feel overlooked or undervalued. I wish someone would recognize the good I’m doing.
11. I want to be a better Christian. I need to spend more time ___________________ (reading my Bible, praying, witnessing, serving others, etc).
12. If only I could do something important like ___________________ (care for orphans, write a song, start a successful business, raise good kids, etc.) then I would feel better about myself.
When you believe your identity can be found outside of your relationship with God you will try to find fulfillment and satisfaction in the things the world has to offer. This will lead to wrong thinking, wrong choices, and negative emotions. You may experience disappointment, fear, worry, exhaustion, and depression.
What negative results have you seen in your life as a result of finding fulfillment outside of your relationship with God?