Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Thursday, May 1, 2014

My name is Mark, and I am a.........

  The older I get, the more convinced I am that identity is extremely important. What we identify with can define us. It can help us in life, or hinder us in life. It can help us grow as a Christian, or pull us further away from God.

  I read and shared an interesting blog post earlier this evening titled "Should Christians Use the Term 'Gay Christian'?" The blog post addresses more than one aspect of that term, but the one I found of interest was when he talked about people who struggle with same-sex attractions and had either stopped their sexual activities, or had never indulged, and was serving God and with His help, not giving into their desires. He made the point they should not refer to themselves as gay, as that is an identity, and their identity should be in Christ, not in their sexual desires.

   As for relating to that subject, I have been increasingly sure that someone who does deal with those attractions and is living for God and not giving in, should NOT identify himself or herself by the term "gay." Because gay is an identity. It is most often used to refer to someone who is giving in and going against the what the Bible says, so if you are refraining from the sin, why identify with it?

  We don't hear Christians say "I'm a liar" - well, I hope not. If you are, you need another trip to the altar..... or "I am a porn addict", "I am a gossip", "I am a thief." No - once saved from those sins, you don't identify yourself with them anymore, so why say "I'm gay", if God has saved you from the sin of homosexuality? Makes no sense.

  Yet some argue it doesn't matter.

  One of the most interesting arguments I have heard about this, and I can't remember who brought it up to me, though I think it may have been a certain best friend of mine.... whoever it was pointed out how successful Alcoholics Anonymous is, and anyone who goes to those meetings introduces themselves by saying "Hi. I am Mark, and I am an alcoholic." It is hard to argue with their success, but I still have to wonder.... is that healthy? To go through life calling yourself what you are trying not to be?

  As I have been thinking about identity, I have been thinking about that. And I wonder if the success of AA has nothing to do with saying "I am an alcoholic", but is in spite of saying that. Maybe their success comes from the people meeting with others who are where they are, who are battling the same demon - alcoholism. Maybe it comes from having a sponsor who they can call when they are at their lowest, when they are about to give into that craving for a drink.

  Maybe one reason AA is successful, is alcoholics get a similar crowd like they are used to hanging out with at the bar, and without the group, it would be easier to go back to the bars.

    Quite a few years ago, I read the book "The Blessing" by John Trent and Gary Smalley. That is a great book, and everyone should read it, especially parents. Anyway, they related a story that has stuck with me. There was a Christian woman who had a husband who was not a Christian. I don't know that he was an alcoholic, but he spent a lot of time at the bar.

   She got him coming to church, and he became a Christian, only to stop going to church after a while, and went back to the bars. His reason? He missed the companionship and fellowship that he got at the bar. That is a sad and pathetic church that has a man seek out the bar because he wasn't getting fellowship and companionship at the church.

  Could it be that if the church stepped up to the plate, that people wouldn't have to go to AA for help for alcoholism? That people who have addictions and struggles could get help from the church? Or is the church full of people who don't have time, or don't want to commit?

  If alcoholics, gay people, drug addicts, and anyone else who has an addiction or major struggle, could get help at church, could leave their identity at the door and be known as a child of God, as a Christian, and could get support there..... would they have to go to a meeting and identify themselves with the thing they are trying to get away from? Maybe that is why it becomes a lifelong thing, going to AA, because they can never get away from the identity of being an alcoholic.

  And if that is true, is AA truly successful? Is success defined by just keeping someone away from becoming a drunk again? Or should success be defined by more than that? Should it be defined by giving them a new identity?

  I know AA refers to a "higher power", but do they advise total surrender to God? Do they tell their members the only way they can truly find deliverance is to ask God to forgive them and serve Him? I  could be wrong, but I don't think they go that far with it.

  And in case anyone be offended, I am not attacking AA. I am just questioning the idea of having their members constantly identify themselves as alcoholics. It seems like it would hinder progress.

  The devil is sly, and is a master at what he does. He doesn't care how he holds us back, how he discourages us. If he can get us to be anything but what God wants, he has achieved his goals. And for years, he did that with me. On more than one front, but identity was one, and it has taken me almost 45 years to realize that.

  The list of things he got me to believe about myself is long, and I believed it all. Things like:


A mistake

And more.

   People who don't know me well, and maybe even people who do, may be surprised to know that about me, but it is true. Due to more than one thing in my life, I became a great target for Satan to shoot those things at me, and they stuck.

  It may sound like a weird way to put it, but Satan is the first to come up with identity theft. God intends our identity to be in Him, and to reflect that, but Satan steals the identity from us and replaces it with things like I listed, and more: Murderer, thief, adulterer, addict, gay, dishonorable, dishonest, hateful..... and the list goes on. And soon our identity is in those, and not in God and what He intended.

  As I have tried to combat depression, and worked on battling my unbelief in God's love, I have had to confront these lies I have believed. I have had to deny these identities I have held to and believed were me for so many years.

  It isn't easy. When you throw poor self esteem into the mix, it is even harder, but I am getting there. It does mean I have to find my identity only in God, and use other terms for my identity, such as:

Child of God
Man of God

  It is a long journey out of depression, towards believing God loves me after not believing that for years, towards a new identity that is good and brings hope instead of despair. I haven't totally arrived, and still have some work to do on severing ties with all of the wrong identities, but God is helping me. Chane doesn't happen overnight, but He is getting me there.

  I never want to identify myself as anything that puts me down, that identifies me with any sin or any negative thing the devil wants me to think. I want to identify myself as God's child, and all that comes with that.

  No matter what our sin or struggle, our intro should be "Hi. My name is Mark, and I am redeemed, a Child of God, loved enough to die for." That is the best identity we can ever have.


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