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First of all, what is the good news? What exactly is the Gospel? Is it that Jesus paid my sin debt so now I can go to Heaven? Well, Heaven is part of the Gospel trip, but there’s a lot more to what Christ accomplished. The Word of God says I died with Christ, the old me. It says I rose again as Jesus rose, as a new me. It says Christ lives in me, and the life I now live, I’m to live by the faith of the Son of God in me. These and many other identity truths form the beating heart of the Gospel of power, not merely forgiveness.
That all sounds good, but how does it work out practically?
It starts by agreeing with God, recognizing our identity as he states it. That’s the background. We have to know who we are; we have to ask God to show us the difference between soul and spirit, between how I feel and who I am. Relationship with God and deriving our sense of identity from who he is and what he says about us – these things are always primary. We’re to practice faithing in our identity, practice recognizing the continual presence of God.
But let’s get down to brass tacks with a specific example.
Let’s say someone hurts us; they say or do something that causes us inner anguish. We feel an inner reaction. Incidentally, anger is often just self-protection for the hurt we feel.
We’ve got to accept our reaction, our feelings; in short, we’ve got to accept that we are human. Cut my hand and I bleed. Cut my soul, and anguish in some form gushes from the wound. Some people think Christians are supposed to live in this cherubic place where nothing ever bothers or tempts them. As nice as that would be, that’s not the case. We live in a fallen world. Our human minds are subject to temptation, to believing lies, to fear, and a host of other ills.
An unkind word or action slices us. Sometimes in the initial soul-bloodletting it is optimal to get away fast. This depends largely on the size of the cut versus the size of our faith.
The relevant question is always, “Who am I?”
If we have been raised with Christ, died to sin, died to self-effort, and are now indwelt by the Creator of the Universe, is that Being more powerful than any hurt?
What it comes down to is choosing the truth even when we don’t feel like doing it, or even when our feelings seem more valid and real than the Facts in the Word of God.
Some questions to ask ourselves when hurt by another:
Precisely just what am I hurt about? What about this hurts me?
For instance, if some friends snub you, what precisely is the sting in that? For me it would be the sting of not-belonging, of feeling on the outside. For an analytical mind like mine there would be the extra added bonus feature of spending a lot of time wondering what exactly one had done to merit such treatment, coming up with a list of possibilities, mentally voting on which scenario is the most plausible, and then going over it all again and again, always coming up with different answers, spinning wheels in the mud, which is mostly just a fixer trying to figure out a way to fix a situation. Isaiah 50:10-11 says, “Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God. Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled—This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.” Ever spend the night there, in torment from a flame created by the sparks kindled by your own effort because you’re not trusting the Lord in the darkness, instead trying to see, trying to fix, trying to walk by the light of your own fire?
But let’s move on and deal specifically with the feeling of being left out, of feeling on the outside.
It is a feeling, not a Fact. I am not my feelings. I am much more than how I feel. I am on the inside, on the inner ring, with the Creator of the universe. He died for me, and caused me to die in him, and rise in him, as a new creation, so that I could take part as a co-operator in his kingdom. He has given me everything I need for life and godliness. He claims he is one spirit with me, that I live by the faith of Christ in me.
In other words, my feelings come and go. But the Fact of me remains, the Fact of who I am, who God has made me, how his Spirit lives in me, making me into who I am meant to be. I am Spirit, clothed in a soul and body. Sometimes clothes get dirty and need to be washed.
I think we need to treat ourselves like we would treat a little child, to hear our feelings and recognize them for what they are – feelings. Feel them. But then look underneath the feelings to see the “Why?” And then deal with the “Why?”
So back to the snubbing. I feel shoved outside. I feel rejected. Am I outside? With so-and-so, maybe. With God? No way. I am in Christ. I’m on the inside with the most powerful King in the universe. How much more inside can I get?
Am I rejected? By so-and-so, maybe. But not with God. God has accepted me in Christ, totally, completely, forever. Satan is attempting to trick me into getting my identity from people. Maybe he even tricked me for a little while. But I am going back to trusting God, right now.
Once I basically re-cognize my identity in Christ I’m freed to recognize an essential fact in dealing with people: Since God is love, and God lives in me and claims he is one spirit with me, I am love for the other person by virtue of Christ living in me. In fact, in reality, I am not here for myself; I am here for them.
Was Jesus rejected by men? Yes. Yet because he knew his oneness with the Father who is love, he despised the shame of it, and because of the joy set before him – you and I – he endured being tortured and executed, faithing that he would rise again. With that same Spirit in us, we can take it.
In fact, to go even further, Jesus called Judas, “Friend.” He said that the coming torture and execution were “My Father’s cup.” It was an opportunity to manifest the life of the Father to the world, and by that life redeem the world.
These situations of temptation are our opportunities to manifest the life of God to others. God is actually using that other person in our situation to fix us more firmly in the truth of our identity. “The devil is God’s devil,” said Martin Luther. Maybe that snubbing is just one more of God’s chess moves to get me off of thinking I need to be liked or esteemed. Maybe, also, he is giving me something valuable to say which will benefit someone else.
That’s our model. That is how we take up our Cross and follow him. That’s how we “fill up the measure of his sufferings.” We’re to live by faith and not by the appearances of things. We’ve got a God who is working “all things after the counsel of his own will” and working “everything together for good to them that love God…”
I used to think I had to wrestle my false self to the ground and “get victory.” But I am beginning to see that all I need to do is turn my attention to my real self in Christ. Turn on the lights, and darkness disappears. Where does it go? The darkness is still there potentially, waiting, if the lights go out. But it has to disappear if the lights are turned on; darkness has no choice in the matter.
Which of course is why so comparatively few of us know our real identity in Christ; it’s the dark side’s game of hiding the light switch.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.