How to Move Forward in Your True Identity When it is Hard

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?” (Mark 8:34-37 – The Message)IMG_1837

I have longed for relief for a few days – for an escape. What from? I see it laying there before my feet today again. I dread it. Christ has laid for me to pick up daily. It represents many painful experiences, but it is the only way to live. It says that Christ is in control of my relationships, calling, and legacy. He has assigned my reputation and my place of service. It represents the crucible of preaching week after week, the death of self-protection in leadership, and the loneliness of abandonment.

The strange and counter-intuitive nature of the Christian life is that when we pick up our deadly crosses that are laid at our feet each morning we are choosing life. We are choosing to be lead by Another Savior and experienced leader. We are choosing to suffer a better, redemptive pain. We learn to navigate through relational and physical scars from Him who bore the utmost suffering for others. We refuse the dreadful consequences of self-preservation and self-help. We offer up our daily sacrifice of ourselves only to find our true selves and identity in tact and saved. Either we choose His way or our way, which is a tragic loss of our souls.

“It is an evidence of a discontented, distrustful, unstable spirit, to be weary of the place in which God has set us, and to be for leaving it immediately whenever we meet with any uneasiness or inconvenience in it. It is folly to think of escaping that cross which, being laid in our way, we ought to pick up. It is our wisdom to make the best of that which is, for it is seldom that changing our place is mending it.” — Matthew Henry Commentary on Ruth 1:2

Life on Life Missional Discipleship: Avoiding Legalism

2 Timothy 2:1-2 “And the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

I made a deep commitment early in my Christian life to invest my life into faithful men, who would do the same. I challenged men to seek four generations of men to be raised up from at least one man they had invested their life in. God has raised up a number of faithful men over the last three decades, who are active in this ministry. IMG_1510

Life on life missional discipleship is the most strategic and fulfilling ministry that I have ever been a part of. Meeting “grandchildren” in the Lord through a few “sons” can be very rewarding, especially when high standards for evangelism, prayer, scripture memory, and true fellowship are practiced.

A Vision for Multiplication of faithful men and women, however, is never enough. Even a consistent practice of it, where the Gospel and identity-in-Christ are assumed, is always one generation from loosing the strength needed to sustain a multiplication movement of four generations or so.

Why? The dangers of legalism hang around this kind of movement. People can easily fall into seeking a righteousness of their own, while denying the righteousness of Christ by which alone a Christian is accepted by God. Without a constant reminder of the grace of Jesus, people attempt to fulfill a vision of spiritual multiplication in their own strength.

What are some signs of legalism in a life on life missional discipleship movement?

Five Warning Signs:

  1. When the activity of discipleship is greater than the reasons for it.
  2. When discipleship tools are more important than the Gospel.
  3. When numbers and spiritual disciplines are valued more than Christian maturity and godly character.
  4. When a good practice is made into a biblical mandate.
  5. When high standards of Christian practice have no underlying grace to motivate.

All the beauty of the strategic vision in verse two is dependent upon verse one – “Be strengthened by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:1).” Without being strengthened by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the life on life process of discipleship quickly looses its luster and ability to continue. Gutting out the fulfillment of the multiplication vision in verse two will only breed self-righteousness, unless there is daily strengthening of God’s grace in verse one. In fact, the whole point of spiritual disciplines is to be strengthened by God’s grace.

Have You Found Acceptance? (Five Warning Signs)

The Bible tells us “not to lie to one another” (Col. 3:9), which can be translated, “Don’t be false with one another.” Don’t pretend to be some one you want to be known as, because you simply are not such a person. There is only one person whom God will love, bless, and use mightily for His glory; namely, you.

When people refuse to embrace their true and ordinary selves for fear of rejection and want of affirmation, they foolishly attempt to spin out of their imaginations an ideal self that others will adore and that they must become. 34530007

Some people try to act like some one they admire at the expense of enjoying God and who He made us to be. Unfortunately, the person striving to become an ideal self will inevitably despise his or her real self. Thus, this person is like a clock’s pendulum, oscillating between a fallacious perfection and a manifestation of self-hatred. In time this dual effort, of trying to become the ideal and of hating one’s self, results in deep disappointment for everyone involved. It is a hopeless search for glory. It is like carrying coals to New Castle.

This lack of embracing ourselves with honesty exists on a continuum that ranges from mild to severe, but here are five warning signs:

  1. Inability to own weaknesses and imperfections
  2. Inordinate desire for the approval of others
  3. Overreaction to criticisms
  4. Inability to accept the way one looks in a picture or a mirror
  5. Envy of others advancing in the same career or calling