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The Pastor as Identity-Worker

This Sunday, Steve Trout from the Kaleo Counseling Center preached a message entitled, Gospel-Centered Counseling.  One idea he unpacked stuck with me:

How you see yourself tends to determine what you do & what/who you end up loving.

The Bible would agree.  Think about how much time is spent on identity, new names or even (as Steve pointed out) in the 6-chapter book of Ephesians there are 20 different mentions of a Christians new identity.  

Saints, the beloved, adopted, co-inheritors, Jesus workmanship, fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, a dwelling place for God…

It seems much of the work of a pastor is helping Christians believe this new reality so thoroughly it shapes how they live.  Sadly, in a world where many Sunday's messages are dedicated to how to live in response to Biblical principles, the identity created is a religious people.  These people must put on the outward works-based righteousness because it is the identity being told to them each Sunday.

Identity work is critical. The powerful nature of the gospel is that instead of pressing against someones will, which may lead to outward change, you can help people see they are a new man now alive in Christ.  They are ambassadors, fellow heirs, saints, a dwelling place for God almighty, beloved and accepted in Jesus Christ.  If more Christians believed this, how different would we live out this inward reality in how we live and love others?

Of course, many of us have to first believe this too… 

5 Comments

  1. Drew, I agree.

    Our pastor has been preaching recently in the book of Hebrews and a major emphasis has been that we were created to rule & reign with Christ … here.. now.

    How many Christians truly believe they are reigning on this earth? Do we live like it?

    Are we Christ-like in every area: how we use our money (do we hoard it, or give it away?) , how we spend our free time (prayer, or television?), how we treat the environment, who we associate with (do we ever venture outside the church walls?) Are we serving each other, in Christ-like submission…and do we feel it’s our responsiblity to do so? Most likely not.

    I think that once a Christ follower realizes who he/she is called to BE, the “works” follow. Most of the time we think backwards.

  2. Wow — provoking stuff — very good.

  3. Yes, I think identity should be the fundamental emphasis. Just look at how Paul starts and spends so much time on identity (indicatives) in his letters.

    I also wonder what the appropriate emphasis is on “how to live” (imperitives) – Paul spends time writing about what Christian behavior should look like, giving instruction for living in that identity (Romans 12:9-21 is an instance). Paul also tells people to imitate him, as he imitates Christ (1 Cor 11:1). How should people be taught the indicatives (identity) and the imperitives (how to live), giving appropriate emphasis on each?

  4. Gospel identity is all about the Imperatives (law keeping out of gratitude) flowing out from the Indicatives (who we are in Christ) in scripture, not the other way around. So much of preaching today is the exact opposite….as if we could “LIVE these principles” then we would “BE/HAVE a purpose driven life” or whatever. It’s so easy to forget this, I definitely suffer from Gospel Amnesia and need to constantly be reminded by the faithful preaching of God’s word, as do we all. I’m afraid many churches today (including some of the most prominent in San Diego) suffer from “Gospel Alzheimer’s” which may require more than a good knock on the head.

  5. Another thought…

    What if we really took home this one indentifier: SERVANT.

    We are called to serve one another as Christ served his disciples, and indeed, as He served all of humankind through His death on the cross. What if I woke up each morning, with my motivation being “to serve”, and:

    – I went to work, to serve my boss, co-workers and the public community

    – I went to church to serve

    – I went to school to serve students, my professors, school staff

    – I got married to serve my spouse

    – I had children to serve them

    If we all thought of ourselves (were entirely convinced that we were,) servants, in every area, out of reverence for Christ, just imagine the results.

    And that is just taking ONE identifier to heart…

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