Christianity’s Enmeshment with the World, Fuzzy Identity and Our Corresponding Decline

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Do you know your story?

If you don’t know your story then you are susceptible to someone else giving you one. This is what makes the difference between the child who accepts the playground label that everyone else puts on them and the one who doesn’t. The person who knows who they are knows other’s deceitful descriptions of themselves from the start because they already have a story to fill the gap. It makes incompatible stories and labels far less easy to stick.

Do you know who you are?

If you don’t, other people will inform you. Once you hear it enough you will believe it, identify with it and live like what they told you because you have nothing else to go on.

This works on a micro/individual level. It also works on a macro/corporate level. Not only do Christians need to know their story in order to know their true identity, churches do as well.

One of the biggest issues with Christianity and a leading cause of our malaise and lack of growth is that we got our story so mixed in with the story the world is telling that we no longer know who we are in a pure Gospel infused way. Christianity has gotten in bed with culture for so long that our stories have intertwined and enmeshed so thoroughly that many Christian no longer realize why they are different. Paul warned us of this when it came to Christians soliciting prostitutes in Corinth but it is also true sociologically/religiously as well. If you get in bed with the world you will become one with her. Then your identity is so confused that you no longer know who you are. When churches compromise their story by buying into competing narratives their salt becomes less salty and they lose their purpose in the world rendering them ineffective.

This is one of the main reasons churches are in decline. We have taught doctrine over identity. Both are necessary and the first can buttress the second but if all you know is a checklist of right beliefs you still don’t know who you are and if all you know of who you are has been that you are the church that finally got it right, that won’t cut it either. That narrative lacks the essential elements of the scriptural Gospel narrative.

The narrative of the world says that differences are to be ignored and that tolerance is not only expected but that diversity in all things is to be celebrated. In some areas that needled did need to be moved but it can move too far. The world hates intolerance because recognizing differences is discriminatory by nature…noticing that some people are different than others…some values are different and that some are right where others are wrong. Of course I am not saying we are to be mean spirited people but there are some things we are not called to be tolerant of and we let scripture define that for us.

The story the world identifies with runs counter to the Christian story because the world’s story is a world with no personal accountability. In order to pull that off you have to level the playing field where everything is the same so that no one is the subject of judgment much less shame. Tolerance is not enough…where this ultimately goes is the demand to celebrate what any given person decides to do.

You cannot embrace all that entails and embrace the Christian faith.

Unfortunately Christians have bought into that because Christians often don’t really know their own story. If our story is that we believe in Jesus so we don’t go to hell then we don’t know our story. If we don’t know the difference between what it means to be in Christ and what it means to be lost then we don’t know our story. It is time we learn our story. It is time we go back to scripture and continuously ask ourselves who we are and begin listening for God to define that for us. What you will find is a story unlike any other. What you will find is that God defined all of that in the man Jesus, the Christ. It is not a story where anything goes and it is not a story solely about personal accountability (although that second one is in there). It is a story about a Creator God who is trying to right a world full of wrongs through His Son Jesus, the Christ, and the working of the Holy Spirit. Accepting the very nature of this story is to accept that not all the world says or does is right and not even all that we personally say or do is right but that we are all in need of deliverance in order to embrace the hope of a world made right. When you know that story and live that story you will know when competing stories are being told and will know which parts of them can and cannot be embraced.

How does one who is so enmeshed in the world call anyone out of the world into something that is little different than what we are calling people out of?

2 Responses

  1. Matt, I think one of the reasons for “doctrine over identity” is that is what we often teach and how we teach. In other words we expect people to come to assembly where they hear doctrine, but they may not hear Christ in that time. We also want to teach people doctrine so they are baptized into the right doctrine of the church and in doing this we leave out Jesus as the entry into God. A Christians identity should be tied to Christ not to the church or through the church. Our identity should be Christ and this through the word of the scriptures. We are to pattern ourselves by what we read, not by what we are told. The life of Christ and his teachings are a straight line, unlike many of our topical lessons that try to see a point and make it stronger by commentary and jumping around in the scriptures.

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