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…