Over the past five weeks, I've written to you about identity amnesia (2 Peter 1:9) and some common locations where we try to find identity outside of Christ: in achievement, relationships, spirituality, and the created world.
Today I want to briefly examine three "fruits" that develop as a result of a lifestyle, or a season of life, shaped by misplaced identity.
We often buy the delusion that identity is tangible and can be found in the physical world. It's not, and it can't. Think about it: our meaning and purpose is derived by faith from a vertical relationship with an unseen God, not horizontally from what we touch or feel or experience.
We also buy the delusion that what we have is going to last. But your future success in business isn't guaranteed. Your church or ministry won't stick around forever. Your kids will grow up and move out. Your body will change its shape, wrinkle, weaken, and malfunction.
When you seek identity from a horizontal or tangible experience, you're placing your hope in something that will wither and fade (Isaiah 40:8). Only God outlasts time. Only God avoids decay. Only God eludes chaos. Trusting anything or anyone else is a delusional danger that inevitably will come crashing down.
Unlike the delusional crowd, many of us don't have positive experiences with the tangible, physical world. We feel as if life has been unfair. We struggle to celebrate with others when they receive blessing. We've told ourselves again and again that our success is just around the corner, but it never seems to come.
Feeling ripped off and envious, we question the goodness, love, and wisdom of God. Why would he single us out for this treatment? Why would that person (who clearly doesn't deserve it) experience life in abundance? But notice the danger here – we define "the good life" in physical, horizontal terms rather than vertical, spiritual relationship with God.
Finally, whether we're delusional or disappointed, we'll experience the emptiness that misplaced identity never fails to produce. Why? Because the Bible states that "man shall not live by bread alone" (Matthew 4:4).
Jesus teaches us that human beings are spiritual beings, created to "feed" on the Lord himself. He is to be our meat and drink. He alone is able to satisfy our deepest hungers and our most pervasive thirsts. And it's only in a vertical relationship with an eternal God that such satisfaction of heart can be found.
I would encourage you this week to take inventory of your identity stock. Where are you seeking meaning and purpose: from achievement, relationships, spirituality or creation? And then, how are you responding: with delusion or disappointment?
God is always giving us an opportunity to take an accounting, to make honest confession, and to begin walking on a new and better pathway. Identity "in Christ" never leads to emptiness, but rather, life in abundance.
Paul David Tripp
- Which of the four identity traps - achievement, relationships, spirituality, or creation - do you think you fall into most?
- In what ways have you been delusional about that misplaced identity trap?
- In what ways have you been disappointed by that misplaced identity trap?
- How has that misplaced identity trap resulted in emptiness?
- How does vertical identity "in Christ" avoid delusion, disappoinment, and emptiness? Try and be specific.