Recently, in order to show we all have powerful desires and motives that lead us in life, a question was asked of a select group of seasoned and not so seasoned folks.
The question was, what did you want to be or do when you grew up? Coming as no big surprise, there was a wide range of answers. A medical missionary, a protester/demonstrator, a chicken farmer, a research scientist, a pilot and so on. One guy wanted to be like Mark Twain. Some also knew what they didn’t want to be, which is just as big of an influence.
In each was a powerful inner desire to pursue a dream job, a goal, a lifestyle or an ideology. Think for a minute of what we did or didn’t do, things we gave up or took upon ourselves in order to achieve our goal. I knew I wasn’t cut out for a suit and tie so for me it was back to the land. I spent much on learning skills, buying tools and running with like minded folks. Having a ponytail and living the simple life wasn’t just a fad or a buzzword it was the way I wanted to live. I was taking on the characteristics of those I wanted to associate with. It was my identity. You didn’t have to force this tray of warm homemade granola to want to be next on the cover of “Mother Earth News”. This image was what I wanted to be and reflect. It was me!
In reading what the Apostle Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi we see some similarities.
What we refer to as our identity he calls it being in Christ, in Him and in the Lord. In his letters to the early churches he uses these words over 160 times. That alone tells us of its importance.
Paul, too, had his future shaped by his cultures struggle to be free from oppression and his own family history and pedigree. But most of all it was his religious training and zeal to enforce it his beliefs.
His persecution of the early church only reflected his desire to live out his beliefs as misguided as they were. This was who he was. If there was a “Today’s Pharisee” magazine he would have been on the cover.
In Philippians, he calls all this rubbish what he once lived for and would have died for. What we know of this turn about is that he had an encounter with this resurrected Jesus and began to trust in Jesus’ work on the cross rather than his own work enforcing the law. His new identity was in Christ by faith.
The same zeal he had for the law he now has for Christ. It is the indwelling Christ, not mandated rules and regulations, that now drive his desire to want to not only be like Him but to live for Him. His present suffering circumstances only confirm this. He is under house arrest for preaching this good news of Christ that frees us from that which is most oppressing in us and it’s not who’s presently in office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He frees us from our own sin nature.
Now Paul tells us to press on walking in the newness of life. It’s living the dreams, goals and passions of life for Christ being in Him now rather than for myself. For some how to’s on moving our identity in Christ from a fad or a buzzword to a lifestyle see “the one anothers.”
Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understandings. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Bruce Macek is pastor at Newman Community Bible Church, 9230 Sagle Road.