In middle school and part of high school, I was on the wrestling team. I was good at it. There was a technique rarely used called the “barbwire.” It became my finishing move. During that time I was consumed with wrestling. It was my identity.
Later in high school, I took an interest in playing guitar. I joined a band. We started playing parties, talent shows, etc. I would sit for hours on end every single day and practice chord progressions and pentatonic scales. For many years guitar became my identity; it consumed me.
As a young adult, I became an entrepreneur. I started a small business and eventually opened a retail store in a local mall. My partner and I worked very hard for the business to be successful. It became our life. We basically lived there. Being an entrepreneur and small business owner became my identity; it was my life.
At age twenty-four I rededicated my life to Christ and answered the call to preach. I began Bible College and was offered a position as an associate pastor in the city where we lived. Ministry captivated me; it defined me. I became consumed with being a good pastor and preacher. It became my identity.
As I continued my education I was drawn into the world of academia. During college and seminary, I became enamored by academics. Without even realizing it, the pursuit of knowledge began to define me. The degrees on the wall became my identity.
One day Jesus showed up and wrecked me.
Even though I was preaching, and studying, and pastoring, and doing all the things I thought I was supposed to be doing, I had made Jesus a supplement. He was an add-on to my interests and ambitions. That encounter with Jesus changed everything about my life.
You know what interests me now? Life in Christ, that’s it. Walking with Jesus. Abiding in Him. Drawing closer to Him. Chasing hard after Him. Intimacy with Him. Being free in Him.
It’s liberating to not be bound by anything but Him. The day I need something besides Jesus for my identity is the day I find myself in bondage again. When we need something other than Him for our identity it makes us insecure, incomplete, and incapable of contributing anything of value to the Kingdom of God.
I don’t want to spend another minute trying to find myself in something other than Jesus. I want to wake up every single day and not need anything from anyone, except Him. Then, and only then, can I give myself fully to the world around me that desperately needs Him flowing through me.
We live in a culture infatuated with identity; self-expression is the chief right of our age. More than ever people are attaching their identity to gender and sexuality. There are others who search for identity through political affiliations. Some allow the cause they represent to identify them. There are also people whom identity by whatever it is they do; their career becomes their identity. Some are identified by art, or music, or sports; others attempt to discover their identity in various hobbies, like golfing, hunting, dancing, etc.
If I wake up every day for a relationship, or a career, or a hobby, or ministry, or even a church, then I’m only as good as the relationship, career, hobby, ministry, or church is going. If it’s going well then I’m okay; if it’s not then I’m not okay. However, if I wake up every day for Jesus alone then I’m as good as He is in me.
We live in a world where Republicans are shouting on one side of the aisle and Democrats are shouting on the other side of the aisle. Policemen are yelling on one side of the street and protestors shouting on the other side of the street. Every activist group under the sun is demanding their voice to be heard. For many, the chaos has led to an identity crisis. All the while, God is whispering in the midst of the noise: “Turn to me and I will set you free.”
How can I give the world Jesus if I’m not completely free in Jesus? How can I offer people religion that merely becomes another form of oppression? The world is already in bondage; they don’t need a new form of the same thing. The world needs Jesus with no additives.
Intimacy with Jesus is the key to success in life. If you’re searching for purpose and meaning, you’ll never find it by identifying through anything other than Him. Most of us are striving to do more, achieve more, and become more, thinking that somehow that will lead to fulfillment and happiness. It won’t.
Jesus doesn’t want you to make Him part of your life; He wants to become your life. Let Him.