My dear friend, Dr. Zachary Eswine, has written an excellent book in a fine series on the Old Testament. I fear both Ecclesiastes and Zack’s book may be overlooked, even though they are very suitable for readers today.
Here is wisdom on our relationship to money, health, church, life in a fallen and ordinary world, leadership, and purpose. Zack is wise, and his writing style is captivating. It was such a pleasure to read, and I am sure you will be glad you spent your money on this more than a sandwich or movie rental.
You’ll be surprised, and capture what the writer of Ecclesiastes is saying to our culture.
You are what you eat? What if we changed it to “you are what you love?” Not, as Descartes put it: “I think therefore I am.” We are not fatheads (1 Cor. 8:1). Discipleship is not a matter of more information; rather it is about transformation. True Christianity is an inside-out way of transformation of the heart because out of the heart flows what we love, either good or ill. This is why to want things or people as ultimate things or people are idols of choice, but to want God as the ultimate good is freedom and blessing. https://www.amazon.com/author/robert_davis_smart
We all live and are drawn to what we want, so we are what we want most (Augustine and Jonathan Edwards). We might say that we become like what we worship (Psalm 8). To discover what we are becoming is to ask ourselves what habits are we practicing in order to get what we want. James K. A. Smith asks the following similar questions:
- What are the things you do that do something to you?
- What Story is embedded in your cultural practices?
- What kind of person do you want to become?
- To what kingdom are your habits or rituals aimed?
- What do the cultural institutions in your life want you to love?
 James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazo Press, 2016), p. 55.
The utopian online dreams of liberation from “the Californian ideology” (essay in Mute Magazine) counter-culture helped pave the way for the matrix of phenomena we now know as social media. How liberating, however, is it to be under constant watch?
Jacob Silverman’s Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Communication (2015) examines the effects of invasive and evasive of commercial influences on identity. People who live under observation are required to make constant negotiations of identity and privacy. Silverman shows “how these acts help to create a culture in which to watch and be watched has become not just a matter of law enforcement or intelligence work but also a social practice. Through it, we become conditioned to want surveillance, not only for paternalistic protection but also for self-expression.”
Facebook promises to make us more authentic through exhibition. “Sharing becomes person-hood” because one’s identity and existence, as we photo our life events, are affirmed and “liked.”
“When our sense of ourselves depends on being seen,” Silverman says, “on being visible and circulating through the network, then when someone chooses to opt out, the whole enterprise can be called into question.” The whole enterprise here is a culture of surveillance that reaches beyond our browsing habits into our very souls, shaping our identity more than we may realize. Therefore, I find the questions Silverman calls to it profound.
Kenneth D. Boa nuances Christian identity in the context of spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines. Boa believes that there is a growing trend of since the 1800s in Christian theology, which emphasizes “an experiential approach to the spiritual life that is based on the believer’s new identity in Christ” (Kindle Locations 140-141). I wonder what you think about this? Perhaps it is because Western culture has had its foundations shaken (psalm 11:3), causing fundamental and philosophical questions to the public square.
Boa’s Conformed to His Image adds another component to the conversation on identity in Christ; namely, that true Christian identity requires a strong sense of belonging to the local church and the Church universal. Boa asserts: “Corporate Identity and Purpose We do not discover our identities in isolation; we are connected through a common story. In a context of relationships, first with God and then with others, our purpose and identity are defined. This communal identity flows from the realization that we are alive not for ourselves but for the Lord and one another. We have become “a people for God’s own possession” so that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2: 9) on two axes: to the ends of the earth and to the end of this age” (Kindle Locations 8183-8187).
Do you believe that radical individualism has skewed the way we think about our identity in Christ?
Boa, Kenneth D. Conformed to His image: biblical and practical approaches to spiritual formation (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan) ePub Edition June 2009; ISBN: 0-310-86146-2
Mark Driscoll has contributed to the conversation on Christian identity by preaching and writing from the book of Ephesians. It is so clear that Christian discipleship and formation in the early church emphasized one’s identity. Ephesians is helpful in this regard. Driscoll and I share a similar conviction. He begins this book by saying, “I believe that correctly knowing one’s true identity is the one thing that changes everything” (p.2).
Although his diagnosis of just why Christians embrace a false identity is not isolated in one chapter, Driscoll writes at one point: “This propensity to find our identity in others is commonly referred to as giving in to peer pressure, people pleasing, codependency, and having a fear of man” (p.10).
Of all the authors on Christian authors, very few address the demonic as well as he does later in the book. Driscoll offers some very practical advice: “If you struggle with believing Satan’s lies, get a journal, write a line down the middle of the pages, and write, ‘Lies’ at the top of one column and ‘Truth’ in the other column. Every time you hear a lie, write it down in the ‘Lies’ column, and next to it, in the ‘Truth’ column, record a refuting truth from Scripture. As you do, you are engaging in spiritual warfare” (p. 222). Then the author provides a form of prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge that this [name the specific area of sin] may be empowered by demons and evil spirits. If it is, I want nothing to do with them. I confess that you triumphed over these demons and evil spirits by the power of your shed blood that purchased forgiveness for all my sins and by your death, burial, and resurrection that provided my new life in Christ. I ask that you send any demons and evil spirits away from me. Demon, in the name and authority of Jesus, I command you to get away from me now. Lord Jesus, I thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Please fill me anew with your Holy Spirit so I will be empowered to live in obedience to you and in freedom from sin and harassment” (p.222).
ISBN 978-1-4002-0386-4 (eBook)
Driscoll, Mark (2013-01-07). Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ (p. vi). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
On a recent trip to Medellin, Colombia to teach at a seminary, I read one of my favorite authors, Jerry Bridges of the Navigators. He struck me as very humble and thoughtful when I had lunch with him at Glenn Eyre, Colorado. In 2012 Cruciform Press published his book, Who Am I in Christ? Identity in Christ. The book is organized in the form of answers or declarations about the Christians identity. Who are you in Christ? The Christian, according to the author, is a creature before being united in Christ. Then, she is justified, adopted, made a new creation, anointed a saint, ordained a servant, and not yet perfect. Bridges uses scripture to answer this vital question, and helps readers see the dangers of autonomy:
“Our tendency, however, is to look within ourselves to try to find some reason to feel good about ourselves, and this, of course, misses the point entirely. We are performance-oriented by nature, that is, by our sinful nature. To use a British term, we don’t want to be “on the dole”— to be a charity case before God. We want to “pay our own way” to self-respect based on what we accomplish” (Kindle Locations 1165-1168).
Reading this kind of paragraph reminded me that I do not have to base my sense of well-being on my performance or resume. Rather I am free in Christ to simply be myself. Have you ever been tempted in a new situation to try to prove you’re somebody?
This is a helpful eBook with 40 short chapters, which seek to answer the vital question about who you are in Christ. Myers is particularly helpful in diagnosing why we feel dreadful without a solid sense of being. Myers writes:
“Why do we feel like this? Because we’re basing our self-image on (1) Satan’s lies, (2) our own past experience, and (3) our feelings—instead of on the solid, glorious, scriptural facts of who God is, what He has accomplished, and who we are in Him” (Kindle Locations 128-130).
Myers, Ruth (2010-06-24). Christlife: Embracing Your True and Deepest Identity The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.