Identity, How We View Ourselves (pt 3)

We all live our lives on the boundary between our internals and our externals. The internals are things that come from us: our self-perception, thoughts, feelings, personality, our will, the way we respond to others, and so forth. Scripture is clear that we are accountable for and thus have control over our internals. The externals are things that come from outside of us: the circumstances we find ourselves in, the things people say to us, the events at our jobs, etc…. We don’t have control over the externals. Our relationships happen at the border of these two worlds—where our internals and our externals meet. This is the ground on which we practice our relationships. Our internal world is meant to draw off of something. Before we’re saved the only place our internals can draw off of is our externals. Our feelings are the result of a situation we have, or our thoughts are because of a conversation we had, and so forth. Because of this, our internal space learns to draw off of the external space we live in. The lessons we learn in life and our worldview are shaped by the belief that the environment I’m in determines the quality of life I experience. When we become Christians, something significant happens to our internal space. God brings new life to our spirit and the Holy Spirit moves in, our internal space now has access to rooms that were locked up before. Within that expanded internal space is a new power source that our internals can run off of. The problem, though, is that we’ve spent our life learning that we need to draw from our externals. As long as we continue to look to our externals to determine our internal space, we will always be under the control of the environment around us to some extent. If the enemy chooses, he has the ability to set a situation up and change the quality of life we experience; thus, we give him control of our internals through the externals he has the ability to influence. Naïve Christianity expects the point of Christianity to be that God will now start controlling our externals and as a result our internal environment will be guaranteed to be enjoyable. This, as any Christian for more than a month or two will tell you, isn’t the reality of the situation. The truth is that God moves to start working in the internal space, not the external space. The enemy works from the outside in; he controls the external space and uses that to manipulate our internal space. God works from the inside out; He wants to renovate the internal space and use that space to change the external space through us.

Scripture is clear that God sets forth a destiny for us: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers,” Romans 8:28-29. “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved,” Ephesians 1:5-6. The subject of predestination is a large and complex discussion on which there are many points of view. I don’t want to enter into that discussion other than to observe a point most often not discussed: what we are predestined to is a process of growth. God sets in front of us a destiny to become someone new. That person is conformed to the image of Jesus and adopted as a son of God. We often don’t recognize the invitation to learn to draw from the Holy Spirit instead of situations around us because that invitation is always relational in nature. Everything in God is relational in nature. God brings us into situations where He can be something for us, and in that situation, is an invitation to experience relationship with Him in a way we haven’t yet. This means being exposed to a situation where the current way we’re living life is drawing off the externals. God brings us to a situation where we clearly aren’t experiencing the quality of life He has for us and lets us lose control. Every loss of control in our life is an invitation to upgrade our experience of God.

Any place where our peace is under constant onslaught then is an opportunity for God to establish peace in us. We feel out of control because as soon as we fix one external problem, another one arises that steals our peace. All of this is exposing where we’ve yet to learn to access our peace from God. If we find ourselves in situations where we are always feeling right on the brink of bankruptcy, there is implicit in that situation, an invitation to know God as provider. If you are frustrated a lot, perhaps that is the very place God wants to establish gentleness in you. Lying within each of these situations is an upgrade if we have the eyes to see it. If we have the faith to believe that God has predestined an identity for us to become and that all things work together for our good, we start to see how we become more than conquerors in every situation. In every situation, we find ourselves, God is working to become more to us, to establish us in our identity, and to strengthen our ability to draw off our internal space. This is the power of being predestined to be something. Let’s consider one of the more famous passages about the victory of Christianity: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ [an internal reality]? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword [external reality]? As it is written, “for your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us” [drawing from the internal reality], Romans 8:35-37. Paul is commending us to focus on the internal reality of God’s love and let that be what we draw from and focus on. Now this doesn’t mean that we’ll never have negative emotions or thoughts, but what it does mean is that those emotions or thought won’t have leverage over us. We may feel frustrated, sad, or lonely, but we’ll be okay feeling those emotions. We won’t feel out of control as a result of those feelings, because we know even the negative is an opportunity to do life with God. Paul writes of this in Philippians 4:11-13: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul says that he knows how to exist in the mountaintops and the valleys of life and to be content in both and that the secret is to do it through God. As we learn to live our life through the lens of our relationship with God, we gain the ability to be content in every situation. We are more than conquerors because God will only bring us into places in life where our relationship with Him can grow and mature.



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