IDENTITY – Who We Are and Why We Are Here –
A Journey of Discovery
By Colleen Donahue
PART 8 – WHAT DOES EMBRACING OUR IDENTITY ENABLE US TO DO?
IT KEEPS US STRONG AND STANDING UNDER SPIRITUAL ATTACK.
- Satan HATES God’s children. If any of us decides to follow Jesus into God’s family, we’ll have a target on our back. Like it or not we’ll be at war. Satan will use any tool in his arsenal to make us give up. This verse lists three of his tools
He wants to:
STEAL: - the truth from taking hold in our life.
- Our joy in Christ, our confidence that God hears our prayers
- Our true identity in Christ
KILL: - The dreams God has put into our hearts
- Any hope that we will be like Jesus
DESTROY – Our morality
- Our testimony2. In short, Satan will do everything possible to hijack our faith and slander our identity. What does this verse call Satan?
Satan will always be accusing us of something. He’ll accuse us to ourselves and to others, but he won’t stop there. According to Revelation 12:10 (that we just read), he’ll go straight to the top and accuse us before God – not once or twice – but day and night!
3. What we need to know, and be confident about is that he is a toothless tiger. He is already a defeated foe! We need to practice having conversations like this:
Satan: “Look, you’ve done it again. There is no way you can belong to Christ.”
Us: “Lord Jesus, I know that I failed again by sinning in this way. I am truly sorry. But according to Colossians 2:13, I know that God made me alive in you even when I was dead in my sins. You forgave all my sins – including this one.
Satan: “You’ll never be able to overcome this sin of (fill in the blank) ____________.
Us: “Father, according to Colossians 2:14 you took the record of my sins and nailed it to the cross with Jesus. When Jesus died, my old sinful self died with Him, and therefore I am no longer a slave to sin.
I now wear the robe of righteousness that Christ died to give me.”
2 Corinthians 5:21
Satan: “Say what you want, but you’ll be back with me before too long.”
Us: “Jesus, according to Colossians 2:15 you disarmed Satan and his entire army of demons. You triumphed over them at the cross so that Satan now has no power over me. You have already rescued me from his evil kingdom and brought me into God’s kingdom. It’s there that I have been redeemed and forgiven.
I am a new person in you.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
4. Notice you don’t need to argue with Satan. You just ignore him and reaffirm with God what He says is true. Most of the time you’ll need to do this when you “blew it again” and feel like a failure. But our new identity in Christ isn’t based on our feelings. It’s based on fact.
5. We can wrap up our conversation with God by praising and thanking Him that He has redeemed us and will continue to extend his grace to us throughout our life. Satan hates to hear praise and thanks from a child of God. That’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard! Satan will leave us at this point because he’s lost this battle. Now we’ll be left with God. What will God be doing for us after suffering through an attack like this?
1 Peter 5:10
6. Satan is a master at surprise attacks. He’ll stir up deception in our thinking, division in our family, or some depression or discouragement. Maybe he’ll orchestrate just a well-timed distraction. He’ll catch us with something when we least expect it. But no matter what it might “feel” like, he is still defeated and he doesn’t get to win …… unless we let him!
Jesus has already defeated Satan so we don’t need to fight. What is our part?
1 Peter 5:9
We have no powers on our own to resist Satan. That’s why Peter says our resisting has to be done “firm in our faith”. What does this mean?
7. First, that word “resist” means to “stand against” or “withstand”. And what do we stand on? We stand on the truth of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit from within us will be reminding us of what God has said so that we can “stand firm in our faith”. And when we do that what will Satan have to do?
James uses the same word “resist” that Peter uses. It’s not that we have to fight but that we have to put our holy foot down on the truth of what God has said.
8. It’s not the people in our lies who are the source of our problems. The real source is Satan who uses and manipulates people to be his tactical tools. Paul referred to these as principalities and powers.
9. When the “evil day” (Ephesians 6:13) comes, we don’t need to panic and run. We just need to stand our ground with our whole armor from God in place, starting with the belt of truth.
10. It’s just a fact that in warfare whoever has the high ground has the advantage. And that’s what every believer has. While we take our stand on earth for God and against Satan, where are we spiritually?
Being seated with Christ in the Heavenly places means that we are looking down on these attacks already knowing we have won the victory. In this way we can display God’s grace in all situations.
11. In the evil day we stand on God’s word to resist, and we stay abiding in Jesus. What then will happen?
WE’LL BE ABLE TO BE VICTORIOUS OVER TEMPTATION
Satan will use deception (a misleading falsehood) to get us thinking wrongly about God’s identity. Let me explain using Adam and Eve. God had given Adam and Eve everything with only one command. There were not eat from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” – for their own protection. In this exchange with Satan – read Genesis 3:4-5 --- we find him giving Eve twisted truth. Underneath his words was the question, “How could a good and loving God keep something so delicious from you?”
Any attacks on God’s identity needs a firm and confident response from us. We can say something like this, “Father you are a good and loving God all the time. I don’t fully understand why I can’t do this (FILL IN THE BLANK), but I know that your ways are the best and in time I will understand.”
12. Had Eve affirmed what she already knew about God, the entire world would have proceeded differently. But she started to look and consider until she became convinced. She failed her temptation and brought Adam with her.
13. Now let’s look at the time Jesus was tempted. Right before this time of temptation you’ll remember that Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist. When He came up out of the water, the heaven opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, and then everyone could hear the Father’s voice declaring Jesus to be His beloved Son.
14. It was a glorious, triumphant start to Jesus’ ministry. But immediately following this it says Jesus was actually led by the Spirit to go into the wilderness (or desert regions) to be tempted by the devil.
Satan knew all about Christ’s baptism and the Holy Spirit’s descent upon Him. He too had heard God’s affirming words that Jesus was His beloved Son. So, in the three temptations the devil threw at Jesus they were all targeted at his identity as God. He was in a sense saying to Jesus…….” prove it!”
15. Temptation #1 – Matthew 4:3
“If you are the Son of God….” Then use your God powers to turn these stones into bread. Jesus ignored the request and said, “It is written….” Then he quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3
16. Temptation #2 – Matthew 4:5
“If you are the Son of God….” Then…jump off this high place and let the angels catch you. On this temptation Satan now quotes scripture to Jesus! He quoted from Psalm 91:11-12. The devil will quote scripture to us as well but he’ll twist things a bit or use the words out of context. In this case he conveniently leaves out Psalm 91:9-10. “If you make the Lord your refuge and if you make the Most High your shelter…” Jesus was already doing this but Satan wanted Jesus to defy gravity, be a dare devil, and tempt God to save him when he jumped! Jesus quotes scripture right back to him. “The scripture also says….” And then he quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16
17. Temptation #3 – Matthew 4:8-9
“If you will kneel down and worship me….” I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world”
Jesus responds this time with even greater intensity. Matthew 4:10
I like how the New Living Translation puts it: “Get out of here Satan….for the scriptures say….” And then he quotes Deuteronomy 6:13.
18. We know that Jesus was victorious during these temptations because of what happened next.
From these two examples: of failure (by Eve) and victory (by Jesus) we can see some important truths for today.
First, when we are rooted and grounded in our true identity – the one that God gives us – then we can be confident when the devil attacks us, we can stand firmly in place knowing that we are unconditionally loved, chosen and adopted. We are a new creation in Christ, redeemed, valued, empowered by the Holy Spirit and raised to newness of life in Christ.
Knowing our identity gives us the confidence to put our holy foot down and say as Jesus did…. “It is written…”
Second, it’s important to know by heart some key Bible verses so you have some ammunition in your arsenal. The Holy Spirit will help you in this by bringing to mind things that Jesus said and did. But the more we store up God’s word in our mind, the more likely it will be recalled quickly when we’re in the heat of the battle.
19. Temptation is real for every believer, and we can always be triumphant in it. Why?
1 Corinthians 10:13
WE CAN STAY STEADY WHEN WE ARE CRITICIZED
20. As believers in Christ, we come from a long line of verbal abuse victims. All of the “greats” in scripture were heavily criticized – including Jesus. Here were a few criticisms and taunts aimed at Jesus.
Matthew 11:19 / 26:67-68 / Mark 3:21 / 14:56 / John 7:20
21. Criticism and false accusations are to be expected. It’s part of the territory when you don’t go along with the crowd.
John 15:20 / 1 Peter 4:12-13
22. In fact, it’s a bad sign when everyone speaks well of you!
23. And what does Jesus say will result when people mock and persecute us for our faith in Him?
24. There is such a thing as “constructive criticism” which usually reflects a critic’s ability to judge and discern a situation and then offer advice. We see this in Moses’ life when his father-in-law Jethro observed Moses with the people.
25. But most criticism has Satan behind it, masquerading in your own voice. He’s a master at twisting the truth, repackaging lies to sound true, and getting us to believe them especially if he can match them to our feelings. He’ll be like an “angel of light” getting us to embrace the lies or half-truths he keeps repeating within us.
2 Corinthians 11:14
26. Or….he’ll employ unsuspecting people dressed in “robes of righteousness” to be his spokesman.
2 Corinthians 11:15
27. People are often the pawns in his web of lies. A casual critical remark by someone we respect can reenforce Satan’s message that we are not who we think we are in Christ. Unsuspecting comments can be like a match setting off a forest fire!
Anyone – even the saintliest – can be used as Satan’s tool if they aren’t guarding their tongue. This means someone’s words shouldn’t be ingested as “gospel truth” at all times. Anyone can be a blessing one moment and toxic the next if they aren’t guarding their tongue.
28. This means that we have a responsibility to filter the words aimed at us (criticism, accusations, and rebukes) through the filter of God’s Word. How do we do this? James gives us three things to do.
In other words, we need to hit the PAUSE button and NOT the REACTION button! We might say to the person who criticized us, “Thank you for what you shared. I’ll consider what you say and take them to God in prayer.”
When you do that and the Holy Spirit shows you their words are true, then receive them with humility and grow from it. But --- DON’T QUESTION YOUR IDENTITY IN CHRIST!
29. If the words aren’t true, then pick up your shield of faith and block the fiery darts from penetrating your thought life. This is important so that you have the confidence to stand firm! You actually need every piece of God’s armor to stand firm!
30. We must not get distracted and derailed by criticism.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4
31. Instead, as believers, we have the responsibility to grab hold of the lies, half-truths, false accusations, and rebellious thoughts floating around in our head so that they line up with God’s Word.
2 Corinthians 10:5
32. The words of a fool or a liar don’t need to find a resting place in our mind or heart. We can let our Father God be our defender.
Isaiah 54:17 / Romans 12:17-19 / 1 Peter 2:21-25
AFTER FAILURE WE CAN STAY FAITHFUL
33. The Bible never sugar-coats the failures of the people whom God chose to use. They were all imperfect in some way – just like we are. But when it comes to an example of an epic failure, Peter comes to mind first. As one of Christ’s first disciples he had come to know and understand that Jesus was the Messiah and he truly loved Jesus. What three things did Peter insist he would do for Jesus?
Matthew 26:35 / Luke 22:33
34. But Jesus knew better, and had been in prayer for Peter and all his disciples the night before his trial and death.
Luke 22:31-32 / John 17:12
35. When the confident and cocky Peter denied Jesus three times, it plunged him into such a despair that the Bible records how he reacted.
Imagine this big, burly fisherman crying so hard that he couldn’t stop. Maybe you’ve been there with Peter.
Peter thought he was done – disqualified from being in the band of brothers that served Jesus. But there was a glimmer of hope to this aching heart when one of the women disciples reported having seen an angel at the tomb with a message. “Go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee!”.
36. Then, when the two disciples joined by Jesus and walking home to Emmaus, returned to tell all the disciples that Jesus was alive, they already knew about it. Why?
Nothing more is said about this private meeting between the Lord and Peter but Peter was back in the game and stronger for it.
Jesus knew what Peter would do under pressure but he also knew what Peter’s life would be like after he repented. After the Resurrection Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” He asked this three times to symbolically counter each of the denials Peter made. (John 21:15-17)
37. The post-resurrection Peter now knew without doubt that Jesus knew him through and through. The cocky man who thought he knew himself and all that he would do for Jesus was gone.
38. When Jesus first met Peter and his brother Andrew, Jesus had invited them to “follow me” (Matthew 4:19). Now, he reinvites Peter after his failure.
Failure hadn’t finished Peter, rather it had humbled and matured him to walk with the Lord into the next chapter.
39. This colossal failure of Peter should give all of us hope. It was recorded for us today who have failed in some way. When we’ve failed the only things that Satan wants us to be thinking about is:
How we are dead in our sins. – Ephesians 2:1
How we have been following the priorities of the world. –Ephesians 2:2
How we are enslaved to sin and unrighteousness. – Ephesians 2:3
How we are without God, without hope, without peace, and without a future. – Ephesians 2:12
40. According to the enemy we are still all these things and therefore could not possibly be a Christian. But scripture places us differently.
Romans 6:4-5 / Ephesians 2:4-6
41. After failure we are free to consider ourselves….
After failure there are two things we need to do.
42. First, we need to “own our sin”.
1 John 1:9
43. Second, we learn from the sin and humble ourselves before God.
1 Peter 5:6-7
Notice that it’s Peter writing these words. He had learned them first hand and is now passing them onto you and I.
Failure doesn’t need to finish us. When responded to with repentance and humility, they can reposition us for a deeper level of intimacy with Jesus and a broader reach in ministry.
WE CAN BE GLORIFYING TO GOD AT ALL TIMES
God’s glory is the expression of one or more of his amazing attributes. Therefore, for anyone to glorify God means that in some way they manifest or reveal God’s nature. God’s nature goes on display through us and then when someone else sees it they respond by glorifying God has well.
44. Jesus showed us the secret to glorifying God. He walked in sync with the Holy Spirit indwelling Him. What resulted?
45. Notice in these examples from Jesus’ life the reaction of the people who witnessed something He did.
Mark 2:12 / Luke 7:16 / Luke 13:17 / Luke 18:43
46. Jesus tells us plainly how He brought glory to His Father.
47. And that’s how our life will do the same. Jesus lived his entire life to bring God glory and that’s how He wants us to live out our life as well.
1 Corinthians 10:31
48. It’s not a matter of doing great things but of doing well what the Holy Spirit directs us to do day by day. For most of us it means a lot of ordinary mundane tasks. The first thing is to recognize that as Christ’s ambassadors we work in His name.
49. The second thing to see is that the sum of our ordinary, daily tasks should be done with a whole heart because we are doing them for the Lord and not other people. In all that we say or do we serve the Lord Jesus Christ and continue His work here on earth.
50. Doing (fill in the blank) with all of our strength and energy glorifies God.
1 Peter 4:11
Everyday becomes like a blank canvas that shows the world what God has done. Nothing is too small or insignificant, so we should never look at our daily work and responsibilities as burdensome, or enslaving.
51. Our identity in Christ means that Jesus is living his extended life through you and I and that makes everything we do important.
WE CAN FINISH STRONG AND BE TRUE TO GOD UNTIL THE END
No matter who we are, life will test our identity and it will show us where we’ve put our worth and sense of importance.
52. Too many of us have placed our identity in our performance and when that gets sidelined our world along with our identity collapses. Perhaps the best example I can think of to illustrate this is Paul – back when he was still Saul. His sense of righteousness and importance was based completely on his pedigree and performance.
53. Then one day, on his way to Damascus to round up Christians, Jesus met him on the road and dropped Saul to his knees. After this encounter what changed?
Paul found out that when life throws you a curve ball, your identity in Christ will be enough.
54. The person without Jesus travels through life by feel, instinct, and best guesses. But Christians have Christ’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit) abiding within them to be their NorthStar. They don’t travel by guesses but by their internal GPS – “the Spirit of truth”. The Holy Spirit keeps us grounded in Christ and so when the seas get rough, we stay anchored. Jesus equated traveling through life with His Spirit as building the foundation of our life on a rock. What is opposite to this?
55. The reality of life as we get older always involves loss and limitation. Life starts out with the world before us. But soon enough our choices limit us to a particular place, with certain people, and doing the same things day after day in what seems like endless routine. Then comes retirement time and Satan especially uses this time of aging to show us that we’re now a has-been and irrelevant. But this isn’t true!
Psalm 92:12-14 / Proverbs 4:18
56. Paul said he actually had learned the secret of living content and satisfied in all stages of his life. What was that secret?
Philippians 4:10-13, 19
Knowing Christ and who we are in Him is the secret to staying satisfied for a lifetime. The older we get the more dependent we become on Jesus and He loves that. That’s why we can be true to the end. The more we “let go” of our tight-fisted control of life, the more Jesus will undertake for us. He cannot fail.
57. The Day of Judgment is a coming reality for all of us. It will be the great equalizer. No one will be able to go back and redo something. There will be no chance to speak or do something that should have been said or done. There will be no way to delay this day so we can prepare for it. The books will be opened and we will be asked to give an account to God as to how we lived the life that He gave us.
2 Peter 3:10 / Revelation 20:11-15
58. This judgment is actually wired into our conscience.
59. Eternity will run through a single, narrow opening.
2 Corinthians 5:10A
60. This backs up what Jesus told us.
The gate or the door into eternity is Jesus Himself. We may have bypassed Him on earth but at life’s end He will be the ONLY way into eternity.
61. When we stand before Jesus Christ to be judged, what will be looked at?
Matthew 12:36 / Romans 2:6-11 / 1 Corinthians 4:5
62. The bottom line when we stand before Jesus in eternity will be this:
63. How will we ever be able to approach this day with confidence?
Hebrews 4:14 / 1 John 2:28-29 / 1 John 4:17
64. If we have put on the new nature of Christ here on earth (the gift of righteousness -Romans 5:17) then when we stand before Jesus, He’s going to recognize Himself in us! Ephesians 4:24
65. Therefore, Jesus will be able to present us to God, and when He does that what will you and I look like?
66. Since no one is righteous without Jesus, eternity will be reserved for those who became righteous through their faith in what Jesus did on the Cross.
2 Corinthians 5:21 / Philippians 3:9
67. These are the only people (i.e., those who have taken on Christ’s righteousness) who will have their name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
68. With all this in mind, we must ask the question: What sort of people ought we to be while we wait for this Day of Judgment? King Solomon, Peter, and Paul all addressed this question. Make a list as you read of their instruction to us.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 / Romans 13:11-14 / 1 Peter 4:7-10 / 2 Peter 3:11-14
69. This means that we need to start living everyday with eternity in sight.
1 John 3:2-3
70. If we have received Christ’s Holy Spirit as our new nature, and are now following the Savior, what will we be able to be certain about?
71. Sometimes we think that our walk with God is our own doing and in the sense that we have free will to cooperate or not, that’s true. But according to Philippians 1:6, it’s been God working in us all along to do a “good work” – at the start of our new birth, in the middle of life, and then clear to the end. Cooperation and obedience are our part as Christ lives on through us.
72. Jesus will not allow His true children to be snatched away from Him.
73. While we live out our identity here on earth, who should we trust ourselves to?
Psalm 37:3 / 1 Peter 4:19
74. This faithful Creator (Jesus – Colossians 1:15-17) will help us maintain confidence and endurance right through to the end.
75. We will not be able to stay true to the end by our own strength. What is the only way this will be possible?
76. Jesus is the ONLY ONE who is able to save us completely and bring us home to God.
77. We will be able to declare with Paul:
2 Timothy 4:7-8
Next Study: Summary