Most Christians would say that their identity is found in Christ. Theologically, theoretically and confessionally this would be what they point to. But, in reality, this just isn’t the case. For most professing Christians, their actual Christian experience never quite measures up to their theology. Not a few professing Christians still find their identity in the world, in their career, their accomplishments, their race, their appearance, their victimhood, their nationalism, their political ideology, their status, their titles or their lifestyle.
But most professing Christians find their Christian identity in their church or their denomination. The priorities, qualities, beliefs, life focus, values, character, lifestyle and behavior which define one’s Christian identity often have far more to do with the church they attend, the church programs they participate in and the church ministry they are involved with than with Jesus. Their Christian identity is defined primarily by their church.
Many spend their lives revolving around their church. Their church is the Sun and they are the plants orbiting around it. Though many start out with a vibrant relationship with Christ, over time, they slowly drift away from Jesus as the first love of their lives grows dim. Many begin to spin out of orbit and find new “Suns” to orbit around in the form of church involvements, church programs, church allegiance, church agendas and church fellowship.
Oh, Jesus is still on the periphery of their lives but He has been regulated to the sidelines as a symbolic figurehead who we acknowledge more with words and church works than with a
genuine personal relationship. He becomes like the Jesus in the story of Martha and Mary – sitting outside with a few devoted Mary’s while all the rest of the church Marathas go about their performance driven lives frantically serving a Jesus who is there in name only. Sadly, some of these wake up ten or fifteen years down the road and realize they have not had a real relationship with Jesus for many years.
This usually happens due to some life crisis or painful call to accountability. Maybe it was a stint in the wilderness of re-evaluation. Maybe it was the “dark night of the soul” when all the convenient church props and support systems that held everything together were removed. Maybe it was as direct as a personal wakeup call from God. Maybe it was due to a failure in ministry, spiritual burnout, heavy-handed abuse, betrayal by fellow believers, the sobering realization of a failed system, a church split, a divorce, a financial crisis, a death or an abandonment? It often happens when all the shallow supports and religious foundations upon which you established your identity and once thought were so sure are suddenly stripped away and all that is left is you. You find yourself alone, naked and wondering who you are going to lean on now? It is then that you start to realize that the “Who” who really counts has been placed on the missing persons list. I found myself there once upon a time and it scared the hell out of me.
In this present hour God is calling for a gut-level identity check. In fact, this is at the very heart of what makes churchianity “churchianity” and Christianity “Christianity”. It is at the very center of God’s call to “come out of her My people.” It is at ground zero of what constitutes God's last days remnant. It is about finding him again, finding our Christian identity in Him and renewing our first love with Him.
Most of us have heard the expression, “Christianity isn’t about religion but a personal relationship with Jesus.” So, back to the original question; “What defines your identity?” - or should I say, “WHO defines your identity?” He is a jealous God who wants all of us -not just the leftovers after church gets through with us.
“Behold, He stands at the door and knocks.”