Mistaken Identity

thoughtspicture640In the world around us many live with a mistaken identity. When I write of mistaken identity I am referring to the way we view ourselves. I have found that it seems easy for us to persuade ourselves that we are deserving and better then we really are. Meaning that we fail to acknowledge our weaknesses and tend to undermine any evidence of our guilt as sinners. My days that I spend ministering inside of prison I often am approached by men who claim innocence of their convictions. On one occasion recently I asked one of these men why he thought God would allow him to be placed inside of prison if he was so innocent? His answer to me was that God allowed him to be locked up because he must’ve not had known his true intentions of why he did what had done. Sadly this man was serving a life sentence on a murder but somehow even though someone had been killed he was innocent. The person whom I was talking to was asserting that God our Creator must have incorrectly assumed something of him that wasn’t true.

Friends, I believe knowing who we are, truly is important. But don’t be mistaken, our Father and Creator in heaven knows more about your identity then you do! Your personal identity no matter how you would like to distort it, it will never undermine the fact that you are sinful. When we embrace our sinful nature, it means we’ve looked at ourselves long enough to know we can’t make it without looking to another. Embracing doesn’t mean that we obsess over the evil that we have done but rather look at who we really are and how badly that we need God.

Tim Keller once said, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” What a paradox this is — and one, it seems, that very few people can comfortably embrace. I have witnessed many respond to the simultaneous realities of their sinful corruption and God’s great love in one of two erroneous ways. They either minimize the extent of their sinfulness or refuse to believe God could possibly love them. The former deny the depth of their wretchedness and embrace desires they should mortify; the latter compulsively obsess over the evil within them and retreat into self-hatred.

Friends we need to humbly embrace that we really are as corrupt, distorted, and sin-ravaged as God says we are. It is only through this humble reality that we can understand God’s love towards us. A love that is not thwarted by our evil condition but so high and fierce that he, at great cost to himself, provided a means for us as wretched, guilty sinners to be reconciled to him. The bloody Cross of Jesus demonstrates both the extensiveness of our corruption and the enormity of God’s affection for us — and the only proper way for us to respond is in humble belief.

Pray for me as I challenge men daily inside of prison to not make excuses for where they are at but embrace that they are there because of their sin and that the only way their lives and identities can change is if they humbly submit to the one and only Savior Jesus Christ!

5 thoughts on “Mistaken Identity

  1. Yes! I appreciate the emphasis of Luther: “Simul Justus et Peccator.” We must live in this tension, yet it is hard for many. In our age of age of self-esteem and self-help, I think it has become a major tendency for people to deny the depth of their sinfulness – not just prisoners but many Christians in our churches. I emphasize your points in a book I wrote, which made your post jump out to me. Keep sharing this message – it needs to be heard!

    1. Laura, thank you for your comment! You mentioned a book that you wrote, I was wondering if you could share its title with us and where we could purchase a copy?

      1. More at the link. If it looks interesting to you, I can give you a free copy, an e-book or a tangible copy. https://lightenough.wordpress.com/my-book/

        In some of my research on self-esteem, the issue of prisoners came up – Christians can think we must avoid being “negative” (talking of sin) and focus on the “positive” (God’s love, etc) with prisoners but that does not work. As you point out! And an article on self-esteem noted that too many prisoners had really high self-esteem. So their crimes were not linked to so-called low self-esteem. They actually thought too highly of themselves. Again, your post seems confirmatory.

        I think you are taking the right (a biblical) approach. May God continue to use you to bring prisoners to faith. They can be set free, even if they never leave prison!

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