Chasing Identity (Part 4 – The Trouble With God’s Grace)

Part 3 of this series on identity left off with me, a new follower of Christ, still very much struggling with identity issues. I knew that God loved me, but had no confidence that he took any pleasure in me. This made for a real emotional roller coaster…alternating between desperate attempts to gain his approval and despairing slumps of apathy.

You may  be tempted to suggest that I didn’t understand the cross, that I was trying to earn grace by being good enough. On the contrary, I was keenly aware that I had done nothing (could do nothing) to effect my own salvation. That was part of the problem.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Jesus gave his life to pay the debt of my sins because he gave his life to pay the debt of everyone’s sins. He offered salvation to all who would believe. I was included among the redeemed because I had accepted this great gift. Yes, it was an act of unimaginable sacrifice and extravagant love, but this was in keeping with his flawless character. He is love. He is just. He is gracious and merciful. This extension of grace meant nothing about his regard for me as an individual. I had no reason to believe that God saw anything particularly valuable or attractive in me.

Both in the pages of the Bible and within contemporary Christianity, I saw examples of faith, passion, and boldness that I didn’t even come close to competing with. I worked at offering my heart and life to Christ, but did he really want it—on anything other than principle?

I knew I was supposed to find my “identity in Christ.” I knew I was “God’s daughter” and a “princess of the King.” But these cute phrases and titles had little practical meaning for me. Such concepts were universal to all believers and described legal position, not honest-to-goodness relationship. What did that have to do with my personal worth in God’s eyes?

I came to the conclusion that all of my desires to be individually noticed and appreciated by God amounted to nothing more than selfishness and pride. This, of course made me feel even more wretched. And maybe that’s just what I needed—to recognize and embrace my insignificance. Perhaps I just needed a good old fashioned dose of humility. That would put me on the right spiritual track.

But then I ran into another problem—what exactly was humility, and how did one go about getting it?

I’ll share more on that in part 5, but in the meantime, I welcome your responses.

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4 thoughts on “Chasing Identity (Part 4 – The Trouble With God’s Grace)”

  1. Hi Crystal. I just found your blog and I love it. If I may, I wanted to add just a few things that spoke to me and who knows, but that they may help someone else? In the beginning you addressed the offering of salvation to all who believe. I am in full agreement & thanks with you! 🙂 Thank the Lord for that. You mentioned you felt included only because you had accepted the great gift. The Word tells us though, that while we were still sinners is when Christ died for us. So essentially, we weren’t included because we accepted the gift – the gift was given out of pure vulnerability and with no guarantee that we would actually accept it. It’s the same way God asks us to approach those who don’t know him – we go out on that same “limb” not knowing if we will make ourselves look like idiots. But the message we’ve been given is worth it enough to make ourselves vulnerable. There’s no guarantees someone will accept Him, but like Christ, I’d rather say I took the risk of giving my all & was rejected than that I didn’t take the opportunity to offer the freedom someone needs.

    You also spoke of our identity and how that relates to our position or place with Christ. I agree with you that all the legal titles get old. However, we can be sure and have faith that we aren’t just on some list to get the hand-me-downs. The Word says we are heirs & co-heirs WITH Christ. That lets me know that long before I even graced the earth with my presence, I was appointed a part of the “pie” if you will of whatever Jesus would possess – his character, not just His “stuff”. We can have His faith, His justice, His love, His compassion, His gifts, His callings & His eternity. This promise not only denotes relationship, it appoints identity in the highest form. It allows us to be a co-heir with a sinless lamb for the entire existence of our still being sinners.

    Lastly, I wanted to reflect on that God gives us the command to cast our cares on Him for He cares for us. That is Him saying He desires me to relish in His love. He wants me to be individually appreciated and noticed by Him. I don’t believe wanting these things makes us selfish or prideful – it makes us children. I don’t feel God asks us to be “humble” and not yearn for His affections. That would be like a husband telling his wife, “be humble….don’t ask for my affection because I’m too above you.” I don’t think any of us would do this because it’s the core and essence of the relationship.

    Christ loved us and showed it through dying before there were any guarantees. He included us whether there were any promises or not. He made us to gain His same inheritance out of an incredible relationship and identity that would always be available to us and He yearns deeply to have our deepest affections.

    In the purest love,

    1. Hi Tamisha! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

      I loved what you said about vulnerability. This is a very important concept.

      …we weren’t included because we accepted the gift – the gift was given out of pure vulnerability and with no guarantee that we would actually accept it

      Here, though, I see I wasn’t quite clear. I did not mean that the offer was mine because I accepted the gift – only that the benefits of the offer were actualized in my life because I accepted the gift. It is of no benefit to those who reject it. Quite the opposite (2 Cor 2:16).

      …long before I even graced the earth with my presence, I was appointed…

      How do you understand this in relation to the vulnerability of God’s offer?

      I don’t want to be contrary. You make some very important points – our co-inheritance with Christ is of tremendous significance. But to someone who is struggling to define the nature of their relationship with God, it can easily still be seen purely as a matter of position and authority – it doesn’t have to speak of God’s particular interest in an individual. Since this series traces the development of my understanding of what it means to find my identity in my relationship with God, I feel I should call attention to the sorts of things that seemed inconsistent and confusing to me. In what way was I appointed…and why? Did it have anything to do with God’s desire for me as an individual – or just his perfection of character flowing out generally to all mankind?

  2. Great thoughts. I relate to this as the journey of the heart catching up with what the mind doesn’t yet fully understand. This has been the case with me, too, and what seems to be the process of “working out your salvation” as Paul talks about in ph’p 2:12. A continual growth and exercise of faith that proves God’s work true in individual lives. It’s a huge deal and potential stumblingblock to many. A great topic for our time!!! Keep up the great work.

  3. I love that we are implored by Jesus to come to Him as little children. If you really want to know how to grow in faith, watch children with their parents, especially little children who are still in that stage of being in awe of their moms and dads, untouched by the “ickies” of this life. I think the best description is – wide-eyed wonder! I don’t think they ever question whether or not they are included in their parents’ love and attention, even if it is a large family. They simply accept, knowing that every need will be provided and expect that they will be heard by their parents.
    The more simple we are in our faith, the more our eyes are opened to see our Father and know His character and His love for us.
    Just don’t confuse simple with easy! Faith, like love, is rarely easy, but always worth the effort it requires to stay focused and BE PRESENT! And unfortunately, when we come to Him as adults, we have a lot of unlearning to do before we remember how to be simple. Oh, but what an adventure – for all eternity!!!

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