May 15, 2019
In 2017, one person out of fifteen was affected by identity theft. In 2018 the number had increased and the crime became more sophisticated as data breaches exposed social security numbers. But there is an identity theft Christians are experiencing and few are aware of it.
If you are a born again Christian, here are three signs your identity has been stolen:
You are depressed.
You have anxiety.
You wonder if God even listens to prayer.
Gideon in the Bible is a classic example of a person with a stolen spiritual identity, exhibiting all three signs. He knew his flesh identity. He was a son in his father's house. He was born into the tribe of Manasseh. He lived in the town of Ophrah. He was an Israelite.
Gideon knew the roots of his flesh-born existence. What he didn't know was who God created him to be.
His flesh-born existence was a reality that faced him down everyday. It limited him. It determined his borders and daily activities. It set his hopes and drew the image of his expectations. In short, he allowed it to form the identity inside of him, what he thought of himself.
From an earthly perspective, Gideon had a reason to be downcast. Until the Lord showed up and reminded him of what was possible.
Gideon's Bible story begins in Judges 6. Unlike his ancestor Abraham, Gideon did not acknowledge the important looking visitor sitting under a tree. Perhaps he was too busy hiding, hastily and fearfully whacking out some grain. Perhaps he was too bitter to care.
Finally, the Visitor, who was the Lord, came to Gideon. We learn two things about Gideon from their conversation. One, Gideon did not recognize God. Two, he did not expect any help from Him.
Gideon lived during the time of the Judges. It was an era when Israel wavered in their devotion to God, giving Him occasional obedience and casual worship. Israel worshipped the gods of other cultures, some people engaging wholeheartedly, some combining the false gods with the worship of the only true God, Yahweh. God couldn't bless either version.
It is said that during the Old Testament, Israel had little concept of Satan as the adversary. As the enemy of God, it is Satan's desire to deceive and distract people away from God and make them think God is not working to benefit them.
God requires complete trust. Israel broke that agreement by dividing their worship and essentially their hearts to honor gods who were Satan's inventions to destroy man. By God's design there are only two choices open to men. One, follow God and be blessed. Two, don't follow God thereby putting yourself in Satan's domain and be...not blessed.
God predicted Israel's actions in Deuteronomy 31:17 when they, by their own choice, had turned from Him and established their hope in another. "Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?" They believed God had left them.
And that is exactly what Israelites were saying in Gideon's day.
God had sent them a prophet to tell them why they were in the dire straits they were in. But this new knowledge did not stir repentance or hope for mercy. Unlike Abraham who asked for mercy and goodness because He expected this was God's character, unlike the Israelites in Egypt who begged for mercy and deliverance and got it, the Israelites became resigned to what they believed was their fate: God had forsaken them.
But there He was sitting under a tree in their midst, unnoticed.
Gideon was wondering. But not only did Gideon not recognize the Lord, he had little hope in His character and did not see mercy when it was being offered to him.
Because Gideon was asking questions, God visited him. Because Gideon was too preoccupied with his problems, God walked up to him.
It may seem odd that the Lord called Gideon a mighty warrior as he was hiding in a winepress, a pit, to harvest wheat. Only poor people beat wheat with a stick to harvest it. He was behaving this way, harvesting a few grains with meager resources in a low place because he feared the aggressive hoards of camel-riding Midianites surrounding him. Their goal was to steal what he produced. It kept him depressed and discouraged.
Gideon's tribe hadn't always been so low. Manasseh had been a valiant warrior in the days of Joshua. The man the tribe was named after had been Joseph's oldest son, but his younger brother had been given his rights, his blessings. The tribe did not let that define them. Under Joshua, they gained two parcels of land, honor and respect.
When God addressed Gideon, He answered his questions immediately. "The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." (Judges 6:12) God also revealed how He saw him, as a strong warrior, and reminded him of what was possible when God had been Manasseh's God.
Gideon did not immediately understand the Lord's desire for him. Even when he did, he did not completely trust His word. God told Gideon to go in the strength he had. The Targum, an Aramaic paraphrase of old Hebrew, puts it this way, " my Word shall be thy help."
God has left us His word to help us who live today. But many Christians have the same problem as Gideon. We don't completely trust God's words, we doubt His goodness and intent to do good for us and we don't know who we are as co-heirs with Jesus and sons of God.
We are to pray the kingdom come, that God's will be done on the earth as it is in heaven. We are to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, but this is a kingdom that works from the inside out.
How did Gideon gain his freedom? How did Gideon win his victory? He acted on what God told him. Depressed? Find out what God says about joy and praise. Anxious? Find out what God says about His love. Doubtful? Find out what God says about trust. Then start speaking those truths into your life.
Jesus is the Word. He is our help. He has already won our victory. It is time for Christians to push back against circumstances, claim our identity in Him and let it define us and bring worth to our life lived in the flesh.
Because really, what good are genealogies, DNA results and family and tribal history if you don't know the most important part of your identity? Commit to living your life inside out.
Image by Colton Sturgeon courtesy of Unsplash
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