A Man’s Identity

David Powlison: Who are you? What gives a man his identity? On what foundation are you building your sense of self? Your answer, whether true or false, defines your life. Wrong ways of defining who we are arise naturally in our hearts, and the world around us preaches and models innumerable false identities. What are the ways men get identity wrong? Perhaps you construct a sense of self by the accomplishments listed on your resume. You might identify yourself by your lineage or ethnicity, by your marital status or parental role. Your sense of self might be based on money, on achievements, on the approval of others, on your self-esteem. Perhaps you think that your sins define you: an angry man, an addict, an anxious people-pleaser. Perhaps afflictions define you: disability, cancer, divorce. In each case, your sense of identity comes unglued from the God who actually defines you. Who God says you are God’s way of sizing up a man

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Fill Believers, Not Buildings: Why Success in Ministry Isn’t a Numbers Game

Jaime Owens: Pastoring an existing church is stepping into a family. As you dig into the archives and sift through old photographs and letters, you take in the highs and lows through the years and are presented with the opportunity to reflect on the life and character of those who pastored before you. All this feels a bit like becoming acquainted with distant relatives. In the church I pastor, Tremont Temple in Boston, Massachusetts, there’s a long list of pastors spanning back to 1839, and it wasn’t long after I swung open the massive, iron, bank-style vault door, that I took a special interest in Frank Ellis. He was the pastor of our church way back when it was called Union Temple Baptist Church, from 1880–1884. Guy Mitchell, Tremont’s very own historian, produced an impressive unpublished manuscript in the mid-20th century titled History of Tremont Temple. In it he reflects on Ellis’s short tenure as pastor: Although most of the clouds which

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What Does it Mean to “Find Your Identity in Christ?”

Gavin Ortlund: We are often told (or tell ourselves) to “find our identity in Christ.” And rightly so, because living out of our new identity in Christ is the defining root of true sanctification. But it can also seem like a rather abstract concept. What does it actually feel like to find our identity in Christ in real time and amidst genuine struggle? How do we unite this great comprehensive category of sanctification to the concrete particulars of Scripture and everyday life? I was thinking about this the other idea day and jotted down 5 initial thoughts, though I am sure we could add more. 1) To find your identity in Christ is to think much of heaven (Col. 3:1-4) Colossians 3:1-3 is bracketed with union language: “you have been raised (v. 1) … you have died” (v. 3). As in Romans 6, our union with Christ is specifically a union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. But

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Who God says I am in Christ

  Scott Thomas and Tom Wood: “I keep a list of these positional promises on my desk to remind me who I am declared to be in the Word of God. Even though I do not always feel this way, these Scriptures remind me of who I am in Christ.” Through Christ, I am dead to sin (Romans 6:11). Through Christ, I am spiritually alive (Romans 6:11; 1 Corinthians 15:22). Through Christ, I am forgiven (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12). Through Christ, I am declared righteous (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Through Christ, I am God’s possession (Titus 2:14). Through Christ, I am an heir of God (Romans 8:17). Through Christ, I am blessed with all spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Through Christ, I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20). Through Christ, I am free from the law (Romans 8:2). Through Christ, I am crucified with him (Galatians 2:20). Through Christ, I am free from the desires of the

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The Work of Union with Christ

Tony Reinke: Here’s one quote from what I think will end up proving to be one of the very best books published in 2014, Michael Reeves, Christ Our Life (Paternoster; September 1): When Christians define themselves by something other than Christ, they poison the air all round. When they crave power and popularity and they get it, they become pompous, patronizing, or simply bullies. And when they don’t get it they become bitter, apathetic or prickly. Whether flushed by success or burnt by lack of it, both have cared too much for the wrong thing. Defining themselves by something other than Christ, they become like something other than Christ. Ugly. Our union with Christ thus has deep plough-work to do in our hearts. It automatically and immediately gives us a new status, but for that status and identity to be felt to be the deepest truth about ourselves is radical, ongoing business. That is the primary identity of the believer,

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More Blessed than the Virgin Mary

Justin Taylor: Can you imagine if you had been there? What would it have been like to be with our Lord Jesus face to face? To walk with him and to listen to him for hours on end. To hear the tone of his voice. To ask him any question you want. What if, instead of just being one of the disciples in the outer circles, you were one of the key players: Mary the humble mother of God; Peter the exuberant bumbler turned repentant leader; John the Baptizer, who leaped for joy at Jesus in Elizabeth’s womb and then was able to baptize his cousin and Lord. But if you are in Christ, the reality is that things are better for you know than it would have been to be any of these folks who knew Christ in the flesh. For example, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one

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Facing the Truth

Andrew Peterson on the healthy sanity of honesty about who we really are. The conclusion: Jesus is making us into something. C. S. Lewis wrote that God is making us into “little Christs.” We all ache for the day when we’ll be free of our sins, our bad habits, our bitterness, the things about us that we think ugly or undesirable. But perhaps the road of sanctification will be an easier one when we recognize in ourselves the sin of self-consciousness, the sin of reputation management, the sin of lying to ourselves. To live our lives with a pretense of self-sufficiency, strength, and have-it-togetherness is to diminish the visible work of God’s grace. One of your greatest blessings to the community around you may be your utter brokenness, it may be something about yourself that you loathe, but which Christ will use for his glory. When Jesus is Lord of our brokenness we are free to rejoice in the mighty

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Jesus Gives Us an Identity, Not Just a Task

Trevin Wax: We often think of “witness” as something we do (such as evangelism), rather than something we are. But in the commissioning scenes in Luke (24:44-48) and Acts (1:4-8), Jesus speaks of the disciples in terms of present reality (“you are My witnesses”) and future identity (“you will be My witnesses”). What’s the significance of being Christ’s witnesses? Jesus is the Focus of Our Witness First, note the emphasis in both accounts on Jesus claiming authority over the disciples’ identities and activities: My witnesses. This could refer to the fact that the witnesses belong to the Lord —”you are the witnesses who belong to Me.” Or it could mean that the witnesses speak of the Lord in line with their identity —”you are the witnesses that speak of me.” I’m inclined to go with the latter understanding since Luke 24:44‒48 focuses on bearing witness to all that has been fulfilled in the Old Testament (not to mention the focus in Acts on the expansion

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Remembering All Four Elements of Our Identity in Christ

Identity & Perspective By Terry Johnson: What happens when one or two aspects of our Christian identity get emphasized at the expense of others? What happens when we fail to keep the four central elements (sons, saints, servants, sinners) of our identity in tension with each other? Let’s see. Some have made “sons” and “saints” the message of the gospel and have neglected the categories of “servant” and “sinner.” The result has been a strong emphasis on our unchanging security as children of God and our safe status as “holy ones,” righteous in Christ. Many hurting souls have derived great comfort from this constant refrain. Those of “tender conscience,” to use the Puritan term, have found deep consolation in regular reminders of sonship and sainthood. However, in the absence of an ongoing emphasis on “servant” and “sinner” the result too often has been complacency about duty, service, responsibility, and even about sin. “Don’t should me,” some preachers have been known to say. “There

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