The world encourages us to find our identity by looking within or looking to others’ approval, but our identity can only be found in our Creator.
Fake or Follower
By Andi Andrew
Identity Is an Inside Job
In our human nature, we’re an image-conscious, goal-driven and self-preserving people and have been since the fall of man, when Satan deceived us to look to ourselves instead of to God for who we are and what we need. I often have conversations with our kids in which I explain that the spiritual world is more real than the ground we place our feet on because this world will fade away, but our spirits, the essence of who we are, will remain alive forever. That said, we are made of flesh and blood in the image of God—this was not a mistake on God’s part; it was deliberate. But if we’re not intentional, we’ll forget where we came from and where we’re going once we breathe our last breath. We’ll also forget to whom we belong and that we were created for him. So are we faking it, constructing our own identity, or are we following Jesus into the arms of our Creator, who holds our true identity in his hands?
Unconsciously, we allow comparison and outward appearances to dictate our identity. The apostle Paul addressed the Corinthian church, saying, “You seem to always be looking at people by their outward appearances” (2 Cor. 10:7). Sound familiar? This is still a problem today. We judge people by the facade we see without going any deeper. We look at perfectly curated social media feeds and people’s ability to influence others as a standard we must attain or have fallen short of. We let the number of followers or lack of followers we have determine our value. We are drawn like moths to a flame to “reality” television shows that couldn’t be further from reality. We compare ourselves among ourselves and have created a culture in which success (according to man’s scorecard, not heaven’s) and fame, add validity to human lives. Being known by the multitudes strokes our egos in an attempt to fill an unmet need that only God can fill.
Meanwhile, we’re lost at sea and don’t know who we really are because we now measure ourselves against the outward appearances and successes of our peers. Comparing one of God’s creations to another is unwise. We don’t have the luxury of rating the Creator’s work, yet we set ourselves up to do just that, as Paul reminds us: “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (v. 12).
Author and speaker Rebekah Lyons used her social media account to quote an idea that came up in a discussion at a Q Idea event: “One in 4 millennials believe they’ll be famous by the time they’re 25.” If you’re not a millennial, you may have just chuckled at their expense, and if you are a millennial, you’re probably sick of hearing about what millennials are doing wrong. The truth is millennials are getting a bad rap. This is not just a millennial problem. I believe this way of thinking has seeped into the whole of society, including the church. Whether we admit it or not, we believe that being known by others gives us value. As I said earlier, social media is rewiring our brains to look out instead of in. It’s causing us to focus on externals instead of doing a deep dive within ourselves and asking God all our questions about our inherent value. Following Jesus means surrendering our whole lives to him, accepting our human limits and allowing God to divinely direct our paths.
Remember, resurrection means that we first must die to ourselves before what is actually in our God-breathed nature can be resurrected. If we don’t follow Jesus into his death, we can’t be resurrected into his life. Truly following him and finding ourselves may cost more than we think, but I’ll say it a thousand times—it’s worth it. Remember the apostle Paul’s words:
“And he has taught you to let go of the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self-life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions. Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness.” —Ephesians 4:22–24
This is mind-blowing. We are re-created “all over again [born again] in his perfect righteousness,” and we “belong to him in the realm of true holiness.” Take that in for a moment.
Whether we are seen, accepted or validated by others does not have the power to dictate our value and identity unless we let it. Christ has met every need we could possibly have! We all want to be seen, heard and loved, and if we’d wake up, we’d discover that we already are! The problem here is that the search for our identity quickly turns into individualistic narcissism that slowly destroys us and causes church leaders to build self-help churches or churches that validate their identity rather than growing radical, saint-equipping gatherings that go out and effect change in their spheres of influence.
Excerpted from Fake or Follower By Andi Andrew. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2018. Used by permission. BakerPublishingGroup.com