Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. 1 Pet 1:22-25
Peter is quoting from the deeply prophetic Isaiah chapter 40 which among other things contrasts the greatness of God with the apparent weakness and yes- the relative insignificance of man’s life on earth. Hence the featured image for this post is titled “The Pale Blue Dot”. It is a photo of Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from 6 billion kilometers or 3,728,227,153 miles away. Carl Sagan noted that every human being who has been born has lived and died on this “mote of dust”.
I was in Rocheter NY in 1990. I can’t find myself anywhere. Job 38
Obviously, the God whose love power, and sovereignty are beyond our comprehension loved us enough to save us from His wrath Eph 2:1-3 or we wouldn’t be here. Those in Christ Jesus are saved and afforded the right to BECOME sons of God. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Rev 3:5, 1 John 5:11-14 We are new creations in an ongoing process of transformation Rom 12:1-2 for the purpose of being conformed to the image of His Son Jesus. Rom 8:29
That means I’m not done yet. Neither was Paul.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-16
We must keep in mind that not only did He redeem us from the wages of sin which is death, Rom 6:23 God is in the process of redeeming all of His creation. The Gospel of Salvation is fulfilled. The Gospel of the Kingdom is not. We miss the big picture entirely if we make the Gospel just about ourselves. That’s not snark directed at the self absorbed but an exhortation to stop selling ourselves short. We must be mindful of the fact that God’s endgame is a wedding and a return to our original state in the Garden of Eden with the added benefit of receiving the right to eat from the Tree of Life. Rev 22:14.
Still, would it surprise you to learn that most cultures, especially the middle eastern ones in which the Bible was written are not based on the individual? So consumed with ourselves, our rights and well being are we in the West that we read the Bible as if it were written about us as individuals rather than for us as His bride, the church. There’s a world of difference. In any case, your true identity is not about you being you. It’s about you being a part of His body that in turn is becoming a spotless bride in preparation for the wedding. Rev 19:6-9
This is where and when the fullness of our identity will be found.
That being said, any real understanding of our identity requires that we examine Adam and Eve’s original state of identity before the Fall. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Gen 2:25 Sin was born when the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked…Gen 3 Immediately they sought to cover themselves with fig leaves. Suffice it to say that the door to sin was opened with the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The first fruit of sin that is the seed of all other sin was
the birth of self-centeredness.
Self-centredness is the root of guilt, shame, and condemnation.
Before the fall from grace, Adam and Eve were so completely focused on God and His plans that guilt, shame, and condemnation did not exist. They didn’t even know that “nakedness” was a thing. Where they previously walked in perfect intimacy and union with Him, their newly gained knowledge of good and evil created a distinction and separation between themselves and God. That separation has continued to widen over time.
The world in which we live today is the exact opposite of the prefall Garden.
It’s not that we weren’t already narcissistic. But the advent of the smartphone took our inherent narcissism to new levels. Where we previously recognized narcissism as a character defect, it has become so imbedded in the collective psyche that today it’s a character strength and a cultural norm.
Still, we may not recognize it as narcissim because the failure to fall fully in love with one’s own reflection is often labeled as low self-esteem resulting from not feeling “seen and heard”. We wonder why anxiety and depression are so far off the charts and try harder to affirm ourselves, each other and especially our children. “If only they knew who THEY are!” we say. Yet denying self – not affirming self is the first step in God’s plan for our freedom after we are saved. “Do as thou wilt” and self affirmation are Satan’s. How ironic that one’s birthday is regarded as the highest day of celebration on the Satanic calendar.
Here’s a quick reminder before I proceed. God is Good. God loves you. He desires the best for you. His plan “A” is that one day you will rule and reign with Him. Rev 20:4-6
Still, so many believers struggle to comprehend how an obsession with one’s identity in Christ could become narcissistic. Those who begin to grasp it often make the mistake of plumbing the depths of guilt, shame, and condemnation never realizing that this is just another form of self-obsession. If only we could grasp that narcissism and self-loathing are just opposite sides of the same coin.
If only we’d realize that Jesus’ command to deny self, Mat 16:24 (to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with, to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s interests) is the first step after salvation on the path to freedom. That Jesus loves me is not expressed in His affirmation of me. But rather in His desire that
I be free from the bondage of me.
If that seems paradoxical or confusing, then consider that Jesus who was perfect and blameless conquered Satan, sin, and death by becoming the biggest loser in the eyes of the world. He was beaten more severely than any human being before, since, or ever will be, and still remain alive. Then He died a criminal’s death on the cross. His was the most brutal and shameful form of public humiliation. It was completely counterintuitive to everyone’s worldview both then and now including that of His disciples. After all, how could losing a fight make one a winner?
The Kingdom of Heaven is upside down to the world where the least is the greatest Mat 23:11, Luke 9:48 and losing is gaining. Mat 16:25 Biblically speaking success looks more like people maligning us than praising us. Luke 6:26 We should be honored to be found worthy of being called the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things 1 Cor 4:13 and a bit terrified to be placed on a pedestal and celebrated as distinguished and wise.
One of our biggest challenges as Westerners is that we don’t do well with the tension of paradox. We want a clear delineation of boundaries. Am I this or am I that? The idea that we exist as both the offscouring of all things and Abraham’s seed, – heirs according to the promise. Gal 3:29 boggles our mind, will and emotions otherwise known as our soul and our flesh. On the the other hand, if we are able to embrace the paradox we soon realize that our newfound identity in Christ is but spiritual milk which is foundational. The foundation is important but it’s not the finished work. 1 Cor 3. The context of our new identity is that he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Cor 5:14-21
Yes you are a new creation.
Just keep it in context.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:3-4
…On Earth as it is in Heaven…
Once again, just as a pickle can not return to a cucumber, if you have truly given your life to Jesus and have been baptized, the old man is dead and you are a new creation. “New creation” looks like a sperm penetrateing an egg or a seedling penetrating the soil. A lot of seedings today are desperately trying to affirm themselves as giant red woods. The DNA blueprint is there. But there’s a lot of maturing to do. Hence there is a reason why Jesus framed the fulfilment of the Gospel of the Kingdom in the context of childbirth. Mat 24:3-31 The point here is that none of us are finished works. If indeed you have believed, and given your life to Jesus you are a newly formed creation. Take your last big gulp of milk believe what the word says. “God loves you!” Now pursue solid food that leads to maturity. Maturity is the the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Eph 4:11-16
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Phil 2:12
Again our purpose here is not to lambast the self-obsessed. This is the default state of all as a result of the fall. If guilt shame and condemnation remain it is not an identity problem. It’s a flesh problem. We are still carnal. Either we aren‘t born again, we have unconfessed sin, or we are simply walking in the flesh.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Rom 8:5-6
How do we do that?
Start by not listening to teachers apart from the whole counsel of God and the Berean approach to verifying the truth. Acts 17:11 Our hope is not in this world 1 John 1:15-17 but in the final revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13 Holy Spirit with whom we are sealed is just a down payment on our future inheritance, Eph 1:14. Our true and full identity will only be realized in our appearing with Him in glory. It will be made manifest when we are fully conformed to the image of His Son. Rom 8:29 That said, it will only be realized in the context of a unified bride, Eph 4:13 without spot or wrinkle. Eph 5:27 We will be assured that we have arrived when we cease our painful and fleshly Rom 7:13-25 struggle because we see Him face to face and know Him even as we are known. 1 Cor 13:12 In the meantime we are growing. We know in part, we prophesy in part, we see as in a glass darkly.
The dark image we see in the mirror is our identity.
Finally, the wrong emphasis always produces wrong foundations. Milk-fed flesh eventually results in jealousy and strife rooted in a culture of celebrity. Today, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos” looks like “I follow Bill, or Todd or Justin or… We divide because we are building on different foundations never considering that the teachings of our favorite preachers might be destined for flames. 1 Cor 3:9-15…If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire...We glorify man and vicariously glorify ourselves by proclaiming and defending our tescgers teachings as if they were our own. 1 Cor 4:7 We do it because it’s easier to let others think for us. We read books about the Bible by our preferred celebrity teachers and quote them as if we are quoting scripture itself. Is it any wonder why the body of Christ continues to be blown about by every wind of doctrine? Is it any wonder that we remain so anxious and confused all the while striving to deny the vapourous nature of our lives James 4:14 and the truth that
“All flesh is as grass And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Only the word of the LORD endures forever.
That is why He has magnified His word above all His name. Psalm 138:2
Build on that.