The Christian Identity Crisis

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, July 29, 2015 2 comments

by Logan Ames

It never fails with certain members of my congregation that if they are in church one Sunday but might not be able to make it the following week, they apologize. I do appreciate their desire to be at church, so I play along. But I certainly know that my calling to be their pastor is unaffected by whether or not they have perfect church attendance. It doesn’t hurt my pride either when the attendance is lower. I also take notice when I personally or we as the congregation choose to help someone that has either never been there or hasn’t been for awhile, and that person suddenly feels they need to explain why they haven’t been attending or how much they’ve been wanting to get back there soon. While church attendance is a good thing, many get wrapped up in it as if it’s a matter of salvation. It’s not the only thing we confuse for salvation either.

What would you say is what makes a person a Christian? Over the course of the next month, the blog writers at Worldview Warriors will be addressing the Apostle Paul’s teachings on salvation going forward in the Book of Romans. But before we get to that point, we need to think about the identity crisis that exists in many churches. It is not up to us to judge whether others are believers or not, because only God knows for sure. The best we can do is look at whether a person’s life bears fruit that is consistent with following Jesus. But I do believe that self-examination is important for each of us. I should know what it is that makes me a Christian, and so should you if you claim it. However you choose to answer that question, your security should not be in your church attendance, ability to do good things in your life, or your parents’ relationship with Jesus.

Evidently, many of the Jews during the time of the New Testament had a bit of an identity crisis when it came to their standing with the Father. In Romans 9:1-15, Paul addresses his sorrow over the spiritual state of the Jewish people. Paul himself was a Jew who was zealous for the law and for persecuting Christians at one time. However, he came to know Jesus and was instantly persecuted by the same Jews with whom he used to work. The Book of Acts details that persecution. Ultimately, while Paul desires for his own people to have the same hope and freedom he has in Christ, he recognizes the true “people of God” has little to do with geography.

First, he presents all the things that the people of geographical Israel missed in their rejection of the Messiah. They are listed in Romans 9:4-5 and culminate with the fact that Jesus came directly from THEIR ancestry. God had chosen to give them all the signs ahead of time and then also had the Messiah come from their ancestry, but they still rejected him. Just in case one might think that God either didn’t do enough to bring his people into reconciliation with him or that his promise that Abraham’s descendants would be God’s people was untrue, Paul gives his clear verdict of the situation: “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (v. 6). To explain what he means further, he gives them a little history lesson.

Paul says they are not even all Abraham’s children, even if they are his descendants (v. 7). It is at this point that God’s foreknowledge of mankind and specifically of the Israelites becomes obvious. Paul quotes from Genesis 21:12, where God tells Abraham that his offspring would be reckoned “through Isaac.” Going back further in the history lesson of Genesis, we see that Isaac was the son promised to Abraham and Sarah long after Sarah was barren (Genesis 17:15-19). He was the son that came by God’s work, not by the futile plans of man. Abraham and his wife had already agreed to have him sleep with her servant to create a child because they lost faith in God’s plan for his promise. That led to all sorts of problems and drama. Abraham loved both Ishmael and Isaac, but God’s favor was clearly on the son that was by faith and according to his promise.

It was through Isaac, and the rest of Jesus’ Jewish ancestry, that our Savior was born. So Paul says, “In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:8). Jesus said something similar in John 8:38-47. Take a few minutes to read that passage. After telling the Jews who opposed him that they could be set free from the slavery of sin, they took offense and boasted that they are descendants of Abraham. Jesus knew that they were biologically correct, but that was irrelevant. Because they did not do the things Abraham did and instead tried to kill Jesus, he did not regard them as Abraham’s children. They then claimed God himself is their Father. Jesus said that’s not true either because if it were, they would love him rather than attempt to murder him since he came from the Father. To their disdain, he tells them their father is the devil and that they don’t belong to God.

Those words of Jesus may seem harsh to us. But the Jews who opposed him needed to know that their standing with God was based on how they responded to the Messiah and NOT their biological descent. The same is true for us. Ishmael was a child of the flesh while Isaac was a child of the promise. Abraham’s true offspring, and God’s true children, are those who believe in the promise, not the flesh. God set it up this way from the time even before Isaac was born. That means that we can’t rely on things of the flesh. Our identity as Christians cannot be found in acts of goodwill, attendance at church, being raised by godly parents, or obeying the law. Each of us must decide whether or not we believe in the promise of Jesus as our Savior, and if we are willing by faith to live with him as our Lord. If so, we are set free and become children of God. If not, we continue living to please ourselves and are children of the devil. Since there is no middle ground, I strongly encourage you to examine what gives you your Christian identity. If you are not even sure whether or not you belong to God, please let us know. Anyone at Worldview Warriors would be more than happy to discuss it with you.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for letting your light so shine through your obedience in speaking about the truth that only through our God given right to choose to Believe in our Savior Jesus Christ and what HE did at Calvary is what makes us Christians.Again I thank you for your obedience.Glory to God!

Logan Ames said...

To Anonymous,

I thank you for your encouraging words and for taking the time to read this post. Glory to God is RIGHT! At Worldview Warriors, we are not seeking our own glory but are understanding that the world needs to be told the truth about God and His Word in love. We are commanded to speak it in the Word and if we don't, we are held accountable for those who are lost. If we share truth and people reject it anyway, they are responsible. But if we are unwilling to share it because of what others will think of us, then we are not really loving those who are headed down a path of destruction and the only thing that can save them is the truth of God's grace and mercy in Jesus. Again, thanks for your support!