It’s been about a year since I took a break from writing. I have much to share with you all, but not quite the right words to capture what the Father has led me through over the past few years. And since I do not know from where to begin, I’ll simply begin. No editing. No revisions. I’m not going to worry about getting these writing perfect. I’ll just share what’s on my heart and pray it encourages your spirit.
I began writing about church because I hold a heavy burden for the Church. At first glance, onlookers may suppose I am embittered by the church. Not so the case.
It is true I do not attend a church institution — this is the season I’ve been in and will likely continue in for quite some time. This has been a purification season for me from everything religion. It’s not to say church is bad — but the roots it has established in my life were unhealthy. My journey has been one of uprooting untruths so I can begin to understand my place as a son in my Father’s house. It has been quite necessary for me to experience this outside the confines of a church building.
And what a journey it has been.
My hope in writing about the Church is to help people find authentic identity in Christ. So much of church is so accidental, ritual, and unintentional that it’s hard to really have a grip on life. Church — we are at war in a spiritual realm. We live it, eat it, breath it every day whether we choose to realize it or not. This war has had a dramatic impact on the way we experience each other as a body in Christ.
As I speak with my siblings, friends, co-workers or even customers, I see a constant thread: people thrive in authenticity and perish without it.
How many times have you sympathized and understood the tragedy that people often enjoy the company of non-believers over believers. While there are many thoughts about why this is, I believe it’s quite simple: we believers don’t quite know how to be authentic. In fact, we’re trained in how to not be authentic — how to be “holy” or how to be “righteous” (we’ll discuss the ironic meaning of righteousness later). When we’re not authentic, we’re not who Christ made us to be, and we oppose every natural law God has in place for our lives. When others aren’t authentic, we certainly don’t trust their motives, their actions, nor their words. When we’re not authentic we absolutely aren’t a unified body of Christ. And here’s the kicker:
I never knew I wasn’t authentic when I wasn’t authentic.
Talk about a house of mirrors. This is a trick clearly crafted by the Enemy — I may remind you — the master of deceit — who comes to kill, steal and destroy. He’s rather ruthless, and never demonstrates mercy. So, how does dis-authenticity really affect our lives and faith?
I can only speak from experience. I was so utterly defined and shackled by religion when I thought I was experiencing true freedom. What I didn’t know was that all of my identity was summed up in just that — my religion. I was proud to call my church “MY church”. I was proud that I attended on the weekends and that I volunteered. I was overjoyed and full of the Spirit during worship services. I loved taking communion. I enjoyed getting to pray in big groups and even gleaned at the possibility of one day having the prestigious privilege to lead a small group (oooh – ahhh). I was doing everything the right way, the way we are supposed to.
But what happens when I don’t have all those things to do? What happens when I don’t have the crutch of easy consumerism Christianity? What happens when nothing or no one can lift my spirit. What happens when it’s just me — and God (a scary thought for most of us who are honest with ourselves)?
That friends, is where identity comes in.
You see, identity is what enables to be who we are…to be authentic. isn’t about all the things we do as a body that makes us the body. God didn’t make just the body of believers and call it quits. In fact, God started with the individual, then came the body. God started with just Adam and God, and he called it good! (intrinsically good!). It was then that God introduced Eve and went on to reveal to us the importance of community.
So, everything starts — and ends — with God. When the curtain comes down, the accolades slow to a grinding halt, and the charades disappear, identity is what keeps us steadfast, not overcome by fear, but overcoming darkness. When we lack substance in our identity, we subconsciously (without knowing it) look to others for valuation and we require them treating us in perfect relationship in order to be unified. Without identity, we lack self-confidence and grow weary with self-doubt, wondering if every action and word that others say and do are intended to harm us. We simply do not trust the world, and for good reasons.
But when we know our identity, how easy it becomes to be content with who we are as individuals, to engage with others in community, not requiring their approval, not thinking about how to interact appropriately, but purely being who we are. It is then that we are able to engage authentically in community. This then frees our energy and redirects our focus away from self-governance towards spiritual freedom. You see, “unbelievers” as we have carelessly learned to label those who do not yet know Christ, are more enjoyable because they are who they are. They aren’t so self-governing as we have grown to be. This is why we enjoy their company so much.
We trust them because we know their intentions because they aren’t hiding who they are because they aren’t ashamed of who they are. Religion has taught us to be ashamed of our sin. We’ve been taught to feel “inferior, inadequate, or embarrassed” as thefreedictionary.com so clearly defines it. In some sub-sects, it’s almost something to boast about, feeling ashamed of ourselves in our sin. We’ve learned to go through an appropriate period of shame (long but not too long, short but not too short — you know the drill) before approaching our Father for forgiveness. How all of this is backwards!
The Father is the one person in all of the universe whom we should always feel comfortable running to, no matter how covered in mud we are. He is our Father, our creator — He sees all and knows all — he is always desiring of us to run to Him (may I remind you of the parable of the prodigal son).
So why is it that we feel ashamed and avoid our Father?
We struggle to take hold of our true identity.
We often get this picture in our head that if we are “good” for a long enough period of time (meaning we do good) that we will be pleasing to the Father. Many of us may get visuals in our heads of what “good” looks like. We see a “better version” of ourselves doing all the things we know we ought to do and not doing all the things we know we ought not do. Many times, it is only when we feel like we are fulfilling this version of ourselves that we feel comfortable speaking to God — because we’ve been taught that we are not worthy — and we’ve been taught that the Father cannot be in sin and so he certainly cannot be with us in those times when we are so sinful. And so we must wait out for the passage of time to drain the stench of that ugly sin before we can then — and only then — be considered worthy to approach our Father.
Much of this is a lie straight from the Enemy to keep us from relationship with the Father. By the way, let’s now dissect the meaning of righteousness alluded to earlier in this chapter:
Righteousness is the condition of being in right relationship with the Father.
So, how can we attain righteousness? Has God not already adopted us as children, as His very own? How can we become righteous, is God not the only one who can make us righteous, and has He not already done so? So why does it feel like we always need to do something to be righteous enough. And speaking of, why do we think there are levels of righteousness as if it’s something to boast about (as if we can accomplish righteousness on our own). Is righteousness, right relationship with the Father, not a yes or no condition? And why do we feel that we have to prove our righteousness to God. Is he not the one who makes us righteous by calling us His own?
These are all untruths that we face in our lives every day. And yes, this is exactly the type of spiritual warfare I refer to. You see, God justified us in our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the perfect lamb. We now live free of the guilt of sin (so shame has no place), and are literally adopted into the family of God. We are righteous because He has put us in right relationship with Him as we have accepted his offer of redemption. We don’t travel through these mysterious levels of righteousness, but we are righteous. This isn’t something to take advantage of, but it is something to be steadfast in. Simple truths, like these, are the types of truths the free us from the shackles of religion, and from the distractions and deceptions of the Enemy, allowing us to find our identity.
So how do we live authentically? We find our identity. How do we find our identity? We uproot long-held shackles (lies) and seek out and claim truth. What is the effect of authentic identity? Natural relationship with God. How does natural relationship with God change our lives? We live steadfast, authentic lives. We engage with community and can in good faith commandeer the trust of our fellow believers and unbelievers alike. Identity is the way to the transformation we often hear about but never experience in church. So how do we pursue these truths and claim our identity?
Seek first the Kingdom of God, and these things will be added to you.
So friends, be encouraged. The meaning of our lives is not boiled down to earning crowns, jewels and rewards in heaven. It’s not boiled down to how many lost sheep we find. It is not about how good we are nor how good we do. In fact, it’s not about what we do at all. The meaning of our lives is simply that we are alive by the One who made us — and we are His — and He calls us good — and He calls us His Own. When we find all of our self-worth in the Father alone — when all of our spiritual and emotional needs are met by his comfort, how exceedingly easy it becomes to love others unconditionally. How then, we can be the unified body of Christ.
My hope throughout these remaining chapters is to encourage you in truths and to challenge those untruths that we’ve long-held in our tradition.
Peace be with you,