The past three weeks I've written to you about finding identity in something other than Christ: achievements, relationships, or spirituality. Today I want to complete this portion on misplaced identity with a fourth and final category: creation.
Let's face it: physical things are seductive precisely because they're physical. We can feel their texture, see their shape and beauty, and smell their aroma. While the Bible tells us that the most important things in life are unseen (e.g., 1 Samuel 16:7), creation is stiff competition when it comes to what gets our attention and shapes our living.
To make matters worse, our culture assumes that something is wrong with us if we're content with what we own and aren't constantly looking for bigger and better. We've grown so accustomed to this message of acquiring that we don't even realize the extent to which we define ourselves by the created world.
In my experience, these are the 6 most commonly recurring items in creation that tend to trap and define us:
You name it: a home, a second home, a car, a second car, a widescreen TV, an in-ground pool, a game room, the newest Apple product, or even just a well-manicured lawn; it's nearly impossible to not be defined by your stuff, or lack thereof. While these possessions can be used for hospitality and generosity, often times our purchases are not motivated primarily by the Kingdom of God.
- What do your most recent transactions expose about your heart?
I love food; I'm thankful that so much of the glory of God in creation is edible! If you take the time to consider the combination of flavors that the Lord invented, it's impossible not to worship his creativity. But, too much of even a good thing can become a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing in our hearts.
- Do you spend too much time and money seeking out the next best meal?
Like food, sexual pleasure is a physical sensation that God gave to his people for their enjoyment and his praise. But when we lose sight of God's ownership and name sex as our own, we overstep his protective boundaries and risk destructive addiction.
- Where are you violating God's beautiful design for sex?
We live in a culture that has institutionalized the practice of being defined by Crossfit, six-pack abs, and big biceps. While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
- Have you spent more time this week caring for your body than for your soul?
Men will attach their identity not only to their work, but also to the value of the suit and watch and shoes they wear to work. Women will come home with more clothes and handbags than they can possibly fit into their wardrobe. And it's rarely out of necessity; it's frequently due to identity.
- At some point, haven't we all stressed over the outfit we're going to wear to church?
Life in this fallen world is hard, and a break from the schedule is needed; after all, God did invent a day of rest. But we probably don't need the over-luxurious vacations we take, and we definitely need to question our motives before sharing the pictures on our Facebook or Instagram.
- Do you enjoy telling others about your leisure because it produces envy?
I have to say this: a good Creator lovingly created a pleasurable creation. That means that the world we enjoy is not inherently evil. But, like I said at the beginning, even a good thing becomes a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing in our hearts.
Listen - a big home won't produce lasting confidence; a luxurious car won't give your heart rest; a fashionable wardrobe and washboard abs won't provide the comfort your soul craves. Only the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ has the ability to do that for you. At some point, the creation will fail you; Jesus never will.
The evidence is persuasive and the conclusion is clear: we tend to let the physical things of this world define us instead of Christ. But God won't give up on us in the midst of our stumbling. He'll continue to chase us down, sometimes taking away our possessions if necessary, so that our hearts will worship him alone. And a heart that worships God alone is a heart that finds rest, security, peace, and joy, regardless of the circumstances.
Paul David Tripp
There are 6 questions for reflection above. Use those, in addition to the two below, for this week's devotional.
- In what ways does your culture celebrate and promote the acquisition of "bigger and better stuff"?
- What does Jesus do for your soul that creation can never do?