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The past two weeks we've been looking replacement identities. We either tend to put our identity in our achievement, or we seek to put our identity in our relationships. But there's a third area where we're at risk:
Identity in Performance
In the early days of his faith, Joe was overwhelmed by the desperateness of his need for God's grace. He was seeing his sin everywhere, and he was constantly thankful for the daily mercy and patience of the Redeemer. Joe was also patient with the people around him who were struggling. He knew that they were essentially no different from him, and that he was only kept by God's grace.
As Joe continued to grow, however, something began to change in his heart. He began to feel as though he deserved to belong in the community of God's children. He was proud of his theological knowledge and had little patience for Christians who were "just too lazy" to really know their faith. He looked down on brothers and sisters who struggled faithfully to participate in public worship and small groups.
When he put his check in the offering plate on Sunday, he scanned the sanctuary wondering who was getting a "free ride." He loved to show people the photo albums of the many short-term missions trips he had been on, and he didn't understand why some people were never willing to give up one week to serve God. The tender, grateful Joe had given way to a hard and self-assured man.
Joe approached every Christian activity as an opportunity to put another notch in his belt of righteousness. He was active and involved, but there was little sense of gratitude because he had little sense of need. Although he could not see it, Joe was much like the Pharisee Jesus describes in Luke 18. Joe had once been a man who had found his identity in Christ; now he was a man who got his identity from his own performance.
Although Joe was in church every time the doors were open, there was little true love and worship in what he did. The bottom line was that Joe was doing it all for Joe. The praise always went to Joe, while the judgement went to anyone who was unable to live up to his righteous standard. Joe was in the middle of his life, but he had lost the joy of his salvation. He was a sullen and critical Christian with little heartfelt excitement for his faith.
- Could it be that "Joe" might be you? Where can you see similarities?
- Is there a chance that you replaced the joy of identity in Christ with the pride of identity in your own righteousness?
- Are you more critical and judgmental toward the people around you than you are about criticizing yourself?
- Ask yourself: "Do I feel today like I need Christ's grace as much as the first day I believed?"
Paul David Tripp