This post reflects Tim Keller’s sharing entitled “How a Gospel Identity Grows” around the 15-minute mark.
He said that basing our identity on our commitment to Jesus is subtle but vastly different from our identity in Christ (also known as Gospel Identity).
How is it different?
Tim used Peter’s denial as an example. When Jesus told Peter he would deny Him three times, Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33 NIV).
Peter was using his bravery and commitment to Jesus as his identity. He is saying none of the disciples were as brave as him. Therefore, he would never deny Jesus.
There are times, if not many times, I can recall in my Christian walk, I used my strength and bravery, like Peter, to do God’s work. In short, I identify myself based on my commitment to Jesus, not what Christ did for me on the cross.
I am using my strength, my talents, and my esteem, even if these things I do for the Lord, to justify myself as a Christian.
Unfortunately, maybe, fortunately, these things do not hold. Just as Peter’s bravery shrank and failed when Jesus was arrested, I can recall times when my strength, talents, esteem and bravery failed me. As much as they are glamouring, they come crashing down, like building a house on sinking sand (Matthew 7:24-26).
This is hard because I grew up based my identity on my strength. I guess that most Chinese men (me included) do that. We are very good at doing and identifying who we are by what we do.
And here Jesus is telling us don’t identify ourselves on our strength but on what He has done on the cross.
What does that mean? For me, the fundamental starts with my esteem. Do I get up happy because I am strong and accomplish some hard things? Or can I be happy when I wake up weak or sick because my joy is in Christ and not myself?
As I am older, the good thing about me is that I messed up more times, which humbled me. Life, or as I get older, I made some foolish mistakes. Maybe I lost some money here or missed an opportunity there. It proved to my ego that I am not as good as I think and should be more sober-minded.
I used to tell myself I was a good Christian because I spent my time doing ministry or I do missions, or I go and help the poor. I am relearning that I am a good Christian because I placed my identity in Christ.
It is hard, and it is not easy. But I am learning it more and more every day.