True Identity

Kent Ernsting

Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? What have I been designed to do? What is my identity?

Perhaps the runaway success of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life indicates that incredible numbers of people are searching for the answers to those same questions. Every man battles with these same issues every day.

Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says ‘Identity is Destiny.’

Who we think we are determines who we become, our dreams for the future and how we go about making those dreams become a reality.

As young boys we are told to, ‘Be a man’ or ‘Act like men.’ But how does our culture define masculinity? Movies, media and athletes practically shout their answers to the question. Is the ultimate man John Wayne, solitary and heroic, who is never intimately connected to anyone? Or perhaps it is a James Bond kind of guy smart, suave and debonair. He has a bunch of one-night stands. The message is that sex, without connectivity, validates maturation and masculinity. Or perhaps it is a sports hero with glorified images of power and strength and athletic ability? Or perhaps manhood is all about money and power. Success is measured by net worth and your value as a man is based on the size of your bank account, your house, the car you drive, or the prestige of your job title.

These are all examples of false masculinity. There is no relational piece to it at all. Where does that whole setup leave us? Isolated and alone. Hiding who and what you really are. If you’re hiding your true identity then you can’t connect with anyone else.

These images of masculinity promise satisfaction but always disappoint. There’s a huge bait and switch going on here.

John 10:10 identifies who is behind the spirit of the age and points to the One who has the solution to this dilemma. ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

If men are to discover and live out their calling as men then we must uncover and embrace our God given identity. At the core of the crisis that men face is that we lose touch with our true identity. We lose the fascination with the story God wants to tell through our lives. The enemy of our soul is so enraged with the image of God that is reflected in you that he will hurl his mightiest weapons right at your soul. The thief is attempting to steal, kill, and destroy your identity, who God says you really are as a man. If he succeeds then he will render you spiritually impotent. He will kill your heart by watering down your true identity and slowly seducing you into living for a small god with shallow dreams.

With our identity stolen, we numb ourselves to escape this false identity by watching TV, surfing the Internet, or working too much. We struggle with pornography or creating fantasies or becoming workaholics. Men are bored.

What is our true identity? Genesis 1:26-27 tells us, ‘Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the bird of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

What did God have in mind when he created man? In the ancient near East the kings had a special advisor. The role of this advisor was to remind the king of his plans and to keep him on course. It is from the name of this adviser that we get our word ‘man.’ The Hebrew meaning of the word ‘man’ is ‘the remembering one who takes action.’ Men express God’s movement and action. Men ask, ‘Am I dangerous?’

God created men to uniquely move into chaos and mystery and have a vision for what it could be and create it. As men we can move into the uncertainty of circumstances that we don’t understand and cannot predict. We can move into the uncertainty of how people will respond to us. And having a vision for what our wives and children can become as image bearers we move into changing our generation. We move into leaving a legacy by embracing who we are and whose we are. We are faced with a choice today. Embrace your true identity or run from it.

God’s Mercy vs. The band of bullies

Martin Fierro

Walking down the street you are heading towards home. It has been a delightful day with areas of victories and successes to be proud of. And then it happens before you can realize it: you are in danger. A bunch of guys come out, seemingly out of the blue, and surround you! This band of bullies begin the initial taunt and jeering of your character and personality. You stand there stunned asking yourself, how do they know my weaknesses like they do?

There is an obvious leader who decides to confront you by saying to you, ‘sissy, what are you going to do about it?’ Your heart races, and the fear for your life begins to take view asking yourself internally ‘What should I do? Where can I run to? Who is going to help me?’ So, the gang leader again approaches you and this time physically pushes you in the chest saying ‘loser, what are you going to do about it?’ And before you know it this bully has your arm twisted behind you back which causes an intense sharp pain in the arm as you crouch over facing the ground attempting to levy the pain away. Taking advantage of your position of weakness, the bully gets really close to your ear and whispers, ‘hey loser, what are you going to do now?’
This band of bullies are now in full force laughing and making belittling comments about who you are and your predicament. One of many probable thoughts running your head is how did I ever get into this? And more importantly, a thought that if I get out of this, I will never in my life time walk down this street again.

Feeling helpless, powerlessness, ambushed, overwhelmed, and fearful are common themes in recovery. Such experiences occur when sudden attacks corners us, like being surrounded by the band of bullies. Their main goal is to remind you of your past behavior and who you were when in the throngs of sexually acting out. This band of bullies knows nothing of edifying, encouraging, or mercy. For that is not their job. The band of bullies job is to remind you and distract you from the Truth that God has offered mercy for all your sins, even your sexual vices. And this band of bullies knows that if they can distract you enough from the Truth of mercy, emotionally you will spiral and not experience victory in your behavior, thoughts and feelings.

Mercy is a powerful word in that it is received, as it is accepted. God so desires you to grasp that His mercy is powerful and wants you to take it in to be part of you. When we sit in the shame and guilt of past behavior, tormenting thoughts and feelings feeds a defeated attitude. In that we then become polarized, stuck in the moment. U2, a famous rock band from Ireland, wrote a song entitled ‘Stuck in a moment’ which was written after a friend of the band completed suicide after a long battle with his ‘demons.’ Being ‘stuck in the moment’ is the twisting of the arm by the enemy–when we place our face to the ground in a powerless moment. But crying out for help and receiving that mercy from God empowers us to not be ‘stuck in the moment’ but moves us towards better and hopeful moments.

Being ‘stuck in the moment’ can be pure helplessness but not powerlessness. Your prayer life has a strong part in ushering the power of mercy into your life, and maybe more forgiveness towards yourself.

One can encourage people to take the mercy God offers, but it takes faith to accept that mercy in spite of life events and situations. God offers mercy to you irregardless of your situation brought on by you or by a band of bullies. Crying ‘uncle, UNCLE, UNCLE,’ will not release you from the enemies clutches. It is relying and believing on the mercy of God that you can say ‘Jesus help me’ or, ‘God help me,’ and/or ‘Holy Spirit, help me I am in danger’ –these prayers chase off the band of bullies.

God’s mercy is the element that will pick you up no matter what befalls you. It is the key to your accepting and receiving forgiveness from God. Even though He gives it, you have to receive it by faith.

Continuing with the introduction story: So you are facing the ground and the band of bullies are in full force, so you call out, ‘God help me.’ Then in a powerful quiet approach, three blurred figures come towards the band of bullies. This blurred three approaches with synchronized momentum as they come quickly from behind the leader of the band of bullies, who has no idea what is happening. But then he sees that his troupe is breaking apart and then running off, leaving him all by himself to deal with this blurred three which comes into focus as One. As He approaches, makes eye contact and states, ‘Flee, NOW.’ The leader releases your arm and struts off saying with a defiant attitude, ‘yeah, whatever, I’ll be back, you’ll see.’ As he walks away you fall to the ground narrowly miss hitting your face as your one un-injured arm supports the hard landing.

This Helper is now reaching out to you offering comfort and encouraging you to sit and recover because He will keep watch for you. You are too weak to get up now. ‘Rest with Me,’ He says. Then He reaches out and takes your arm over His shoulder and supports you to stand. He brushes you off, and walks with you home.

On the way home, you finally recognize who it is. It’s your Heavenly Father. ‘Dad’ you say, ‘I am so embarrassed, they made fun of me and all that I was.’ He responds, ‘First my child, I love you for who you are today and who you will become tomorrow and lastly I can assure you I will deal with that band of bullies in due time.’ He smiles and you both continue the walk home. ‘It is sure a long walk home,’ you say. He responds, ‘yes, but I am here right with you to support you if you let me, I wont force myself on you, please don’t do it alone.’

For help in the fight for sexual purity, see Every Man’s Battle.

Celebrate Your Victories!

Jonathan Daugherty

There is one thing I wish we as Christians were much better at doing, and that is celebrating. We tend to struggle on the whole at really cheering one another on in the faith and throwing parties in honor of those demonstrating the character of Christ. In this article I want to challenge you to cultivate an attitude of celebration in your ongoing pursuit of purity.

God designed us for joy! He didn’t design our minds, bodies, or spirits for anxiety, depression, or gloom. Yet, how often do you find yourself stressed to the max and feeling as if you can’t breathe under the weight of your life? The pace of life, the onslaught of temptation, and uncontrollable circumstances beat you down. But is that reality from God’s perspective or just the excuse often used?

The truth is that it is simply easier to point out faults than to celebrate victories. One reason for this may be that we are spending more time giving into temptation than we are living in purity. But does that mean we must wallow in our sin and shame while our moments of faith and resolve go completely unrecognized? I think not.

One thing I have found to be true in pursuing purity is that the “domino effect” works in both directions, whether following our lusts or following Christ. The more we give into temptation the easier it becomes to fail more quickly the next time we are faced with a similar situation. Conversely, the more we discipline ourselves to obey Christ, taking every thought captive, and connecting with our band of brothers, the stronger we become in resisting attacks. Because of this principle I believe it is all the more important that we develop an ongoing attitude of celebration, not only for our own benefit but for the benefit of other brothers striving for purity.

I have numerous people contacting me every week, wanting to know how to break free from sexually destructive habits. I try to respond to every person based on the core values of ministry (hope, integrity, humility, honesty, compassion, perseverance, accountability, faith, and love). The values that amaze people most about how I interact with them are hope and love. Many times people will attempt to argue that their situation is unique and they really can’t be free. But I never back down from the hope of freedom available to everyone through Christ. What many of these individuals have missed much of their life is someone sharing the truth with them and cheering them on when the journey is hard. They have never been celebrated for doing what is right, only chastised and shamed for their sin and addiction.

Jesus Christ was the incarnation of joy. Many times, because of the very serious nature of his mission (salvation of all mankind) we tend to picture him sullen and, well, miserable. Last time I checked, I didn’t see throngs of people dashing to see a sullen, miserable person. People were drawn to Jesus because He exuded life, true life. As his followers we are to do the same. And one way we do this is by celebrating the successes we, and others, have on our journey to purity.

Here are a few ideas on how you can celebrate your victories:

When you meet a purity goal

– Give yourself a gift of some sort to remind you of meeting that goal.

– Share a meal with your band of brothers in honor of accomplishing your goal.

– Celebrate with a favorite hobby or activity (i.e. golf, hunting, professional sporting event, etc.)

When you resist temptation

– Call a buddy to share the success with them.

– Say, “Thank you Jesus for this victory!”

– Write down what happened to remind you later of the victory.

Here’s the real key to celebrating victories: don’t celebrate alone! God wants us connected, to Him and to others around us. We can certainly have personal moments of celebration just between us and the Lord, but the ongoing impact of celebration is most often realized in the context of others. Surround yourself with people of celebration who understand how to balance getting excited about doing the right thing and holding you accountable when you stray.

So, how’s your “celebrateability?” I challenge you to watch for the moments and situations worthy of celebration. Then, don’t be afraid to cut loose and enjoy the freedom God has given!

For help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.