In a previous post I asked for input for a new small group series I am going to teach in the spring. In the middle of working on that series I ran across something that put it all in perspective for me. This piece of information showed me that I was starting a series with no foundation. The series is going to be called “Dealing with Life’s Difficulties” and is going to center in on dealing with difficult people, difficult situations and difficult decisions. Then I read this line from Mark Driscoll’s new book “Who Do You Think You Are?” that made a light bulb go off in my head,
As a parent and pastor, I believe that correctly knowing one’s true identity is the one thing that changes everything.
For years, I pastored and counseled people struggling with issues such as alcoholism, sexual perversion, pride, depression, anger, bitterness, and more. Often I felt as though I were talking to a wall because, though I gave biblical counsel, many people seemed to either not hear or not care and instead continued down a path of destruction. It was frustrating and heartbreaking. I felt there had to be a way to help people find freedom.
Then, thanks in large part to the wise words of older and more seasoned counselors, it dawned on me that underlying our struggles in life is the issue of our identity.
This world’s fundamental problem is that we don’t understand who we truly are–children of God made in his image–and define ourselves by any number of things other than Jesus. Only by knowing our false identity apart from Christ in relation to our true identity in him can we rightly deal with and overcome the issues in our lives.” (p.2)
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks because it showed me that I wasn’t starting in the right place. I was trying to jump to solutions and scriptural advice without first dealing with underlying/foundational identity formation issues. If people don’t really understand who they are, how will a few words from scripture help them get things worked out? So instead of launching straight into the series on dealing with difficulties, I am going to use Mark’s book as the basis for some curriculum and then jump into the other series. I guess you could think of this as an Ephesians approach (oddly enough Mark works through Ephesians in the book) in that it starts with all the information about who God is and who we are and how we relate to him and have identity in him (Eph 1-3) before diving into what we are supposed to do with all of that (Eph 4-6). Kind of came full circle there.