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The Christian's Identity Crisis

Elmer Grobler

In Matt 26:73,74 we read the story of Peter when he disowned Jesus. This is the story of Peter's identity crisis: "And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not know the Man!" Peter was afraid to identify himself with Jesus because of the possible consequences.

When you avoid to identify yourself with Jesus Christ in public, the inevitable result is that you disown Him. Jesus said in Mar 8:38: "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." Christians are disowning Jesus daily without even realising it. This is the Christian's identity crisis. Surely, little doubt exists that the Church of Jesus Christ in the western wold is currently experiencing the greatest identity crisis since the reformation! Who is truly a Christian and how does one identify a true Christian in today's world?

A teen's identity crisis

Many children arrive at an identity crisis during their teens. During the transition years from childhood to adulthood their world changes from a protected, homely, relative closed and limited world, to a new outside world where quite often different norms and standards apply, and they become confused. The result is an identity crisis! Who am I? Where do I belong? With whom must I identify myself? How must I behave in a world that thinks, feels and act differently to how I have grown up?

We all know the symptoms of a youngster in identity crisis -- obstreperousness and rebellion; doesn't want to go to church anymore; ring in the ear or other places; clothes and book cases with slogans and signs; strange dress and hair styles; etc.

The Christian's identity crisis

Many Christians of our day are also confused! Who, what and where is the Church? With whom must I as a Christian identify myself and with whom not? The norms and standards of the Church of our day is not the same anymore as those I have grown up with! In the past it was relatively easy to know if someone was a Christian. All you needed to know was whether a person was born again or not -- and you could see it even before the person would confess it. A Christian would look, smell, speak and act differently than the world! Almost everyone who call themselves Christian today, are claiming to be born again. However, few are showing the true identity if regeneration, namely a changed and holy life!

At one stage I picked up an hitchhiker, and while I was talking to him it came to light that he was a member of Hare Krishna. (This is Buddhism.) When I asked him how it came about that he became involved in Hare Krishna, he replied: "I was born again." It is therefore possible to believe that you are born again and still be lost in sin!

How does identity and symbolism work in practice?

A policeman is identified by his uniform, which is a symbol of the authority of the state. A scholar is identified by his or her school uniform, and is symbolic of a particular school. Membership of a club, association or organisation is identified by a badge, jacket or identity card. A business is identified by its name, emblem and promotions, and the public forms an image of that business or organisation on the basis of its public activity and communication. National and regional sport teams are connected to an identity and symbol. Every country has a flag and national anthem that uniquely identifies them. In the same manner you can go through life -- every human, group, society, business, organisation, church, political party, or country, is connected to some or other symbolism that uniquely displays its identity.

The stickers on the back of a car identifies the character of its owner. Out of the abundance of the heart the car's bumper and the social media overflows. A person's dress speaks volumes of his or her personality, character and status. In the same way you can go right through life. Every person in the world can be identified in one way or another, and the Christian is no exception! When a Christian cannot uniquely be identified and distinguished from the world, the Christian has lost its salt!

People are read by others!

As we have already said, when you see a policeman in uniform, you are expecting a certain behaviour from him. When someone exhibits the identity of a certain organisation, authority, group, religion, church or institution, the public expects a behaviour from that person or group in accordance with the identity they are displaying. It is exactly the same with a Christian! All people are read by others. When two people see or meet each other for the first time, they read each other and form an opinion of each other. Also Christians are being read! The Bible confirms this in 2 Cor 3:2,3: "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart."

The Christian's confused identity!

What is confused Christian-identity? Surely, Christians are people who testify that they have been redeemed by Jesus Christ from sin! A confused Christian-identity are Christians who convey an ambiguous testimony to the world because they have a divided heart. With their mouths they confess to be Christians, but that with which they identify themselves do not testify of redemption.

How do I identify a Christian? Are all who say they are Christians, really Christians? Does the Bible not also have an outward standard for Christians? Or is the Gospel only an issue of the heart? Some regard all outward signs of being a Christian as legalism. But is that so? The Bible is unambiguously clear about confused identity!

It is written in 1 Joh 2:15,16: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world." It is also written in 2 Cor 6:14-17: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE." Therefore "COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU." "I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY.""

With whom should a Christian identify him- or herself?

With Jesus Christ, naturally! The Christian is indeed carrying His Name! But in what must I identify myself with Jesus Christ? A Christian can and must identify him- and herself in every aspect of Jesus' life. However:

The secret of a Spirit-filled life, as well as unity among Christians -- is identification with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection!

If you do not identify yourself with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you will be carrying out a confused Christian-identity to the outside world. You will not know the power of being a Christian! When I speak about the identification with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, I am not speaking about holy communion and baptism! Nor am I speaking about that cross around your neck! What then, does it mean to identify oneself with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

It means to reckon yourself crucified and dead to sin, your sinful nature and the world, in exactly the same way Jesus Christ died for your sins on the cross of Calvary -- and to reckon yourself risen with Jesus Christ into a new life, just like He has risen from the dead!

This means that your 'great-I' or sinful nature who wants to maintain and live his own identity, and wants to do his own thing and live the way he wants to live, must be crucified with Christ!

This message runs through the Bible like a golden thread! We read among other, in Rom 6:1-14: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. ... Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, ... Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."

Obviously, this is something that one can only do in the power of the Holy Spirit, and therefore it begins with a prayer of absolute surrender where you trust the Lord to fill you with His Spirit! If you want to know how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, please read 'The Secret Of The Covenant'.

Dear brother and sister, someone who identifies himself with Jesus Christ, have turned their backs on sin and the flesh! Someone who identifies him- or herself with Jesus Christ hates sin, the world and the flesh, and goes out of their way not to identify therewith! It is true that I must identify myself with sinners, for I am also one saved by grace -- but I may never identify myself with their sin! The moment you identify yourself with sin and the world, you are denying Jesus Christ -- for Jesus is holy and He hates sin -- so much that He laid down His life for the sin of the world! If you identify yourself with Jesus you will hate sin as much as He does, and you will want to surrender your old man, your sinful nature to be crucified with Christ!

It is told that at some point in time Alexander the Great asked one of his troops who was accused of misconduct: "What is your name?' The troop replied, Alexander, Sir", to which Alexander the Great replied: “Young man, change your behaviour, or change your name!” Is your name Christian? Are you identifying yourself with Jesus Christ in your relationships, your conversations, your pleasures, your affiliations, your behaviour, your language, your appearance, your dress, and your habits?

Christian, change your confused identity -- or change your name!

If you identify yourself with Jesus Christ and His Gospel as we have explained above, you will also want to identify yourself with God's world of John 3:16. You will develop a passion for a lost world without the Gospel. If you do not have a passion for souls and a lost world -- seek God, for then you are on a wrong road, with a confused identity.

The Author

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