Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Am My Relationships

Last week I wrote you about identity in achievement. While God calls us to be fruitful and productive, could it be that you've looked to your success to provide identity, meaning, and purpose? Achievement alone is not an evil thing, but once that false identity begins to define who you are, you're in danger of compromising who God has called you to be.

Here's a second area where we might find a replacement identity:

Identity in Acceptance

God created us to be social beings. His plan, from day one, was for us to live in meaningful community with one another. Our relationships are so important to God that He positioned the command for us to love one another as second only to the call to love Him (Matthew 22:37-39). Those relationships must be a very high priority as we make our daily decisions.

Yet, in our sin, many of us look to other people to do the one thing they were never designed to do - give us identity. If we're parents, we tend to try to get our identity from our children. We begin to live vicariously through them, as if their successes are our successes. And when we need the success of our children in order to feel good about ourselves, we'll do anything possible to make them succeed.

We tell ourselves that it's for them, but in reality, it's for us. We become smothering, domineering, success-obsessed parents. But we're blind to it, because we're always able to say that it's good for them. If anything, their success is a hymn of praise to another Father who provided everything they need to be where they are and to do what they're doing. As parents, we're never more than instruments in His redemptive hands.

Perhaps your marriage is the place where you seek identity. You live for the next shot of acceptance and appreciation, and the love of your spouse is the thing that makes you feel most alive. You'll feel alive when they notice your efforts and seek your company, but your joy will come crashing down when you feel ignored or taken for granted.

This is all very dangerous. No sinner can ever be your rock and fortress. No sinner can give you a consistent reason for hope. Sooner or later, everyone around you will fail you. But there's an even greater danger here.

As you look to this person for identity, you're not really loving them - you're loving you. You've turned the second great commandment on its ear. Instead of serving people because you love them, you're willing to serve them so that they'll love you. This kind of parasitic relationships is never healthy.

Our children were never given to us to be trophies on the mantel of our identity. Our spouses were never given to us to be personal messiahs. No relationship should be the source of our identity, because we look to people to give us what only God could give. We ask our relationships to provide us life, contentment, happiness, and joy, but sooner or later, like anything other than the Creator, they'll fail us.

1.Are you asking flawed people to provide for you what only the Creator can provide?

2. How might some of your expectations for your relationships be unrealistic and unbiblical?

3. How does identity in Christ allow you to combat the temptation of finding identity in your relationships?

God bless

Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Am My Success

When I was in junior high, I became obsessed with cars. I found a Whitney auto parts catalog, and I was amazed with its size. Page after page was filled with replacement parts for nearly any car on the road.

Just like that catalog, our fallen world offers an endless catalog of identity replacements. None of us are free from their seduction. Each of us will turn a page in life and find one that's attractive to us.

I've found in my years of counseling that these identity replacements tend to fall into four major clusters. We'll look at the first one this week.

1. Identity in Achievement

God calls us to be fruitful and productive. We should be concerned about our harvest and the return on our investments. But the minute we take on our achievements as an identity, we become slaves to a never-ending stream of potential success.

This is the profile of a workaholic. He (or she) gets purpose from the next notch on his belt, so he's unable to say no and unable to slow down. Take away his ability to build toward the next success, and he'll be irritated and discouraged.

This replacement identity will also distort your decisions. You'll tend to go after the things where you think you can succeed, rather than going after them because they're in line with biblical priorities. You'll also be more excited about what these opportunities do for you than how they fit inside the plot of God's story.

If you find identity in achievement, you're at risk in two areas. First, maybe you're beginning to be sidelined. If you're a parent and your kids have left the house, you can't claim achievement in that area anymore. Perhaps at work responsibilities are being shifted to others, sometimes younger and less experienced. Whatever the case, if achievement has become your identity, when it gets taken out of your hands, you'll feel depressed and discouraged because the thing that has defined you is gone.

Here's the second area, and it's the opposite of the first. Maybe you're being given more opportunities to achieve than you've ever had in your life. You're finally becoming a decision maker at work, or you've finally reached a placed in ministry where you're so respected that people hang on your every word. You feel alive, and you find it hard to say no. You're at risk of becoming enslaved to achievement, making bad choices, and staying too busy, because success is where you find meaning and purpose.

Does personal achievement mean more to you than it should? Could it be that you've looked to it to provide identity, meaning, and purpose? Now remember what I said at the beginning: God calls us to be fruitful and productive, and achievement alone is not an evil thing. But once that false identity begins to define who you are, you're in danger of compromising who God has called you to be.

1.How can you be fruitful and productive for the Kingdom of God this week?

2.What achievements have been taken from your hands? Have you become depressed and discouraged?

3.Where are you at risk of being enslaved to achievement?

4.How does identity in Christ allow you to combat the temptation of finding identity in your achievement?

God bless

Paul David Tripp