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Your identity vs. your role

I woke up to a light blanket of snow on the ground here in north Georgia as I prepare to fly to Flint, Michigan today. And with a fire in the hearth and Whimsy at my side, I spent the morning meditating on this concept of being Jesus’ disciple. Who knows what the airport holds for me in a few hou…
By Seth Barnes

I woke up to a light blanket of snow on the ground here in north Georgia as I prepare to fly to Flint, Michigan today. And with a fire in the hearth and Whimsy at my side, I spent the morning meditating on this concept of being Jesus’ disciple. Who knows what the airport holds for me in a few hours, but the morning started off right.

So, I define discipleship as “waking a person up to their
identity and role in the kingdom
of God.”

identityvsrole 2What I’ve discovered is that most people would rather focus
on their role first (thus creating a “false self”). But a disciple of Jesus must get clear about
his or her identity first or their perception of their role will intrude on
their understanding of their identity.

You are not a fireman or a stockbroker, a mom, or a husband.
These are roles you may fulfill, things you occasionally do with your time.

If you’re a follower of Christ, 2 Cor. 5:17 teaches you’re “a new creation.” You’ve got a new
identity as a citizen of his kingdom.
So, an essential part of following him is understanding that
identity. Understanding my sonship helps
me to resist the temptation to define myself according to what I do – my role.

All of this is particularly difficult for us guys, who are
prone to task-orientation. And it is
even more difficult for us as American guys, as our culture prizes busyness, or
“doing.” We come to prioritize tasks and
think of ourselves in terms of our achievements (see this earlier blog that touches on the subject).

Discipling requires undoing a lot of falderal in a person’s
mind about doing vs. being. Christ’s
work on the cross is finished. Nothing I
do can improve on it. This undoing and
re-forming requires a long time – generally years – as memories need healing,
demons evicting and habits unlearning.

Most would-be disciplers too frequently ignore these things, focusing instead on sharing information thru Bible studies
or preparing for a role thru class-work or mentoring. This is certainly true of any Baptist, Presbyterian, or Methodist church I’ve ever been a part of. Oh, the years I spent like a gerbil racing on its wheel trying to learn more! I wish somebody had set me free to understand that life with Christ is a conversation, not a “To-Do” list.

Whole generations of seminary students are graduating to the role of pastor or missionary without ever doing the hard work
of waking up to their identity. Too many
of them then apply the same methods as they teach others. If people are desperate enough to follow
Jesus whole-heartedly, we who disciple them must patiently focus on identity issues first.

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