Identity, Authority & Motives (part 1)
Most people in life have struggled with their personal identity at some time or another. The teens years often are very hard on adolescents as they try to figure out “who they are”. Many don’t find out until much later in life. How many men have went through mid-life crises’ because they hadn’t truly “found themselves”? Identity is a big issue in our lives.
Matthew chapter 4 tells the story about Jesus being led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Jesus had fasted 40 days and nights and was hungry. The devil came along and brought three temptations against Jesus. There are several different applications to these temptations but I want to look at one application concerning these temptations. I will do this in three separate posts.
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4)
In the first temptation I want to look at the arena of identity. Satan tempts Jesus by saying to Him, “if you are the Son of God, then turn these stones into bread.” 40 days earlier Jesus had been baptized. God the Father spoke out of heaven giving Jesus identity, affirmation and validation (see the end of Matthew 3). Now His identity is being questioned — “if you are the Son of God.” The devil could have said “since you are the Son of God” but he didn’t. He posed the temptation as a question. Jesus was hungry and I am sure that that bread would have been very tempting. Jesus was fully human so his hunger was very real. This temptation wasn’t just a fleeting thought. This was a real temptation. Jesus had the power and He could have turned the stones into bread. But to do so would have proven His identity in the wrong way. He didn’t need to prove His identity. He simply needed to live by what God had said about Him. That is all that matters. What does God say about you? This is your identity.
Yet, many of us tend to struggle with believing what God says about us. Some of us have been fed lies about what God truly thinks about us. Some can’t see past their own failures and mistakes. Yet, our truest identity comes from what our Father says about us.
I’ve lived for years trying to prove my identity in many different aspects. In essence I have been trying to turn stones into bread to prove that I am a son of God. I’ve lived in a performance mentality always trying to prove my worth, my goodness, my ability, my value and my ability to get God’s attention. The problem is I always come up short. Whenever I try to prove my identity by what I do, then I run the risk of not measuring up because what if what I do isn’t good enough? Then I am not good enough. But when God tells me that I am good enough then it doesn’t matter what I do, I am still good enough because God said so.
It’s interesting that we know basically nothing about Jesus until his baptism. What did he do for his first 30 years? It’s interesting that God declares He is pleased with Jesus before Jesus didn’t anything of “ministerial” significance. Jesus’ identity, value and worth didn’t come from what He did or didn’t do. It came based upon what His Father said about Him. Our worth and identity come from God because of what He thinks about us, not what we do or don’t do.
Jesus walked in the identity of what His Father said about Him, not what he had or hadn’t done. It’s interesting to note that for 30 years Jesus never did a miracle or tried to save anyone. He simply worked as a carpenter. Did that make Him any less the son of God? No. He was who He was because He was what God said He was. You are who you are because of who God says you are.
I once heard the movie character Madea say that it’s not important what people call you — it’s important what you answer to. That’s a great statement. People and the devil (and you, yourself) will call you all kinds of things. If you are a believer in Christ, God calls you His son or daughter. What will you answer to? What will you allow your identity to be? What you can do (or can’t do) or what God says about you. Jesus allowed His identity to come from what God said. We should do the same!
Jesus didn’t have to prove His identity to the devil or to Himself. He didn’t need to prove anything to God the Father. He was the Son of God in whom the Father was pleased. Enough said. No proving needed. He just had to live that out. The thing about Jesus in this example is the fact that Jesus believed what God said about Him. Because He believed it, there was no need to prove it. When I fail to believe the good things that God says about me, then I have to prove myself to Him based upon my actions and works. These will never measure up to God’s love because they will not earn me God’s love. He loves me because He is love. I am His son based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ and my faith in that work, not in my performance.
One last thought. We don’t get to determine our value. God does because He is our creator and our Father. He determined that we were worth dying for. That’s our identity. I am a human being made in the image and likeness of God designed to have an intimate relationship with Him as a child to a Father. My identity and your identity doesn’t come from what we do or do not do. It comes from what He says over us. As followers of Christ, we are privileged to be called His children. May we learn to live and walk in that identity as Jesus did. May we overcome the temptation to turn stones into bread to prove who we are.
Do you struggle with believing the good things God says over you?