So You Want to Date? Here is How.

So You Want to Date? Here is How.

How we date is just as important as who we date.

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about a couple of important principles when it comes to WHO we date…1) Character over characteristics, 2) Don’t settle, and 3) Focus on being the right person not finding the right person.

Today, we’re going to look at HOW we date. What does the process look like?

Note: This post is a summary of two pieces of curriculum that I can not take any credit for. One is an Orange Curriculum XP3 series called Obsessed, and the other is a talk on Dating from Ben Stuart of Breakaway Ministries. 

Ah, young love. There’s nothing like the first few days and weeks of a relationship when you’re figuring out things you have in common, creating inside jokes, and learning new things about each other. You fall asleep at night texting them and wake up the next morning with them on your mind. Guys, you start using emojis in your texts for the first time. You walk around with a goofy smile on your face because your head is in the clouds. You can’t think of anything else. Everything else around you is a blur. You find yourself wishing you could spend every moment of your life with them. It’s fun. It’s an emotional rush.

But then there’s a problem. And it happens when you actually do end up spending every moment with them.

Your friends drop off the face of the earth. You never hang with your family anymore. Your grades start to slip. Your performance on the team starts to suffer. Everything in your life starts to fall by the wayside because, let’s face it… YOU’RE IN LOVE!

Maybe this has been you before. Maybe it’s kind of embarrassing to remember those days. Or maybe that’s you right now, but you’re totally oblivious to it. But all your friends are hoping you’ll realize it. Or maybe you haven’t been in a relationship before, but you hear this and think, I want to feel that way.

But when the dating process becomes unhealthy, it doesn’t end up being a good thing. There are huge risks in making dating a bigger deal than it ought to be at this stage of your life (high school).

  • We miss out. There’s so much to do in high school that you will miss out on if you’re obsessed with a relationship or the idea of a relationship
  • We alienate people. Your friends aren’t stupid. They realize—even if you think they don’t—when your heart, time, energy, and thoughts are completely not in their world. They feel distance and separation, and eventually, that takes a toll on a relationship. All of a sudden, the people you used to care about the most don’t feel like you care about them at all, even if you do. People notice when they’ve fallen completely off your priority list. And eventually you will fall of their lists as well.

When dating becomes your whole world, you’re not really dating any more—you’re pretending to be married. You’ve begun to act like an old married couple in a teenage couple’s world. Some of you may think that sounds great! But it’s actually weird. And not healthy. And even if you do end up with this person forever, you’re missing out on the whole purpose of dating right now.

But this isn’t just my opinion. Look at a verse from the book of Proverbs. If you’ve never read the book of Proverbs, I highly recommend it. It’s full of practical and honest information—and it’s written by the wisest man to ever live—King Solomon.

Proverbs 25:16 says this, “If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it and you will vomit.”

What did I tell you? It doesn’t get a lot more practical than that. Eat too much honey and you’ll barf. That’s just good advice. And it’s in the Bible.

Just like honey, just like sugar, dating is the same way. It’s good. It’s fun. And because we like dating—and it provides a lot of cool things—we’re tempted to over-indulge. There’s something appealing about getting caught up in a relationship, but too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. Dating might not make you literally vomit, but obsess over it too much, and you may end up equally miserable.

One of our college students, when asked what they would say to their high school selves about dating wrote to me:

I wish I would have known in high school to relax and not take dating so seriously. High school is a perfect time to build your foundation with Christ before you get thrown into college and there’s no rush to become serious with a specific person yet. High school is a great time to make friends and build a community instead of isolating yourself with one person.

We need some insight into what dating should actually look like.

How should we date in a way that glorifies God?

1. Date prayerfully.

Prayer takes the anxiety out of dating. Pray and then pursue that person with the Lord being the focus of YOUR life.

Trusting God through prayer will take the desperation out of dating. Being satisfied in Christ first means you have the contentment you need to say to God, “If he is not the One for me, I will be okay.” I trust God with my life.

One way we have to trust God, prayerfully, is to understand that no one can complete you. We have bought into this lie that we aren’t complete until find this person out there that will bring fulfillment and satisfaction.

You don’t have to be anyone’s significant other to live a significant life. There isn’t a human being on the planet who has the capacity to complete you and make you whole. The more you search for fulfillment in others and not in Christ, the more miserable you will become.

There are many ways that God describes His relationship to us throughout the Bible. He is depicted as a King, and we are his subjects, or as a Father and we are His children, and even as a Builder and we are His building. One of my favorite metaphors, however, is the metaphor of marriage; He is the husband, we are His wife. This is all throughout the Bible, over and over God describes Himself as the groom, and us the expectant Bride.

Here is what Isaiah says,

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” – Isaiah 62:4-5

Every bride, as she walks down the aisle looks stunningly beautiful. I remember my wedding day, watching my bride Jen, turn the corner and walk down the aisle. It seemed natural that everyone stood from their seated positions – something like that just awakens that kind of response.

Now, Scripture is telling us is that is how God sees us. Which is crazy because he knows every part of us–the good, the bad, and the ugly. My wife had no idea what she was getting into with me! Yet, God in His grace, looks at us and rejoices over us.

Before we jump into a dating relationship, we need know that His love for us is enough.

2. Date with clarity

Trusting God in prayer helps bring clarity to relationships. You don’t have to play games. You can have the confidence in God to be clear with your intentions.

Ephesians 4:15 tells us to “speak truth to one another in love.”

Proverbs 24:26 says, “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”

Say what you mean and mean what you say. And guys take the initiative. Use the word date. Make your intentions clear. But you can only be honest and vulnerable if you are okay with the answer and content in your relationship Christ. If you realize know one person can complete you.

3. Date with autonomy.

The Bible acknowledges only two relationship statuses:

When you are single…brother and sister in Christ. When you are married…husband and wife. And there are a different verses about what this relationship should look like.

Here is the problem: in our culture we have created an intermediate category called “we’re dating”. With that status we think we have certain responsibilities and certain privileges and this is where all of our confusion lies.

“Hey, why didn’t you text me today? You’re my boyfriend, your supposed to text me and let me know what you are doing.”

“You are my girlfriend and so I have access to your body. I can put my hand where I want.”

The problem is the Bible doesn’t recognize this status. Here is where understanding you are brothers and sisters in Christ clears things up. For example, I get asked “How far is too far sexually when we are dating?” Well, look at 1 Timothy 5:1-2:

5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

How far is too far with your sister? Your mom?

We need to give people total autonomy, even while dating, to make their own decisions. I don’t care if you use the words boyfriend or girlfriend, but when you do, know there are not certain rights or privileges that come with it. Dating is a process of evaluation not a status that gives you certain rights and privileges.

3. Purity

And that is where we come to purity.

If dating is a process, sex sabotages the process.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. Sex was intended for marriage to unite and bond two people together.

Science has now discovered what the bible has taught all along–that you are chemically and emotionally connected to a person when you engage in sexual activity. They have discovered when you participate in sexual activity the brain releases a drug called dopamine. Sexual activity causes a dopamine brainstorm which one researcher compared to the effects of heroin on the brain. It is no wonder we can not be objective in evaluating a person when we are chemically addicted to the rush we fell when we are with them because of sex.

Love without friendship is infatuation.

4. Patience

Finally, we need to date with patience. Do not rush into forever. Give things time. Be patient and wait. Our Pastor, Dr. Carney, has told our high school seniors they should at least know someone for 5 seasons before marrying them. I believe he is very wise to tell us to observe someone’s behavior over time and see how their character holds up in good and bad, warm or cold, etc.

The best way to strengthen your future marriage is to patiently work on your friendship first. I agree with Tim Downs, from Family Life Today, who says:

People seem to have two sets of rules for relationships: One for friendship and the other for romance. We long for romance so we rush past friendship and hurl ourselves into romance. Then we wonder why romance doesn’t last.

Years ago I discovered that there’s only one set of rules–the rules of friendship. I met a woman and said to her, ‘I just want to be good friends,’ and now we are married and have kids. I fell in love with my best friend. It’s the only way to go. 

 

I am looking forward to continuing more blog posts weekly on rhbcyouth.wordpress.com Hope you will find it helpful!

Advertisements

3 Dating Mistakes You Might Be Making

adriana-velasquez-110186

Dating is a complex, confusing, and sometimes painful process. How do you go from “Oh, she’s cute” to “You are the one I want to marry”?

One of the key points in scripture about dating is the fact that the Bible doesn’t ever talk about dating at all. There are no words in the original languages that can be translated girlfriend/boyfriend or “boo” or “bae”. There are no verses that say, “And Moses took Zipporah to Chilis on a date…they shared fajitas and talked about their feelings.”

Dating as our culture knows it is never mentioned in scripture because it is a fairly modern invention. There has always been a process of evaluation that leads to marriage, but different cultures and time periods have had different ways of doing it. And there is a lot of confusion about what that is supposed to look like. What is even worse is our culture has turned a process into a status. We are going to talk about that next week.

I would define dating as the process of evaluating who you want to spend the rest of your life with. What are you evaluating in dating? You are evaluating a person, and even though scripture doesn’t use the word dating, it has a ton to say about WHO we should date. Next week we will cover HOW we should date.

The biggest mistake we make in determining WHO we should date is this: We look for characteristics not character.

Mistake #1: We look for characteristics not character. 

We look at features and they are not a bad thing to notice, however, they are a terrible foundation for a future marriage. Ask someone what they are looking for in a girl or a guy and what do you get? More often than not, you get a list of features: tall, not tall, funny, serious, fit, or smart. The list is different for everyone. But this sets us up for some real disappointment: Why? Because NO ONE can measure up!

In the age of the Tinder app,  we have distilled dating to a swipe left or right. We evaluate people solely on two characteristics: Do they have something witty/funny to say? Are they hot? Every potential mate is simplified into what scripture calls charm and beauty.

Proverbs 31:30 warns us about evaluating a person on charm and beauty alone. The verse says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” In other words, charm can deceive us into thinking someone is who they are not. Charm can hide true character. And beauty–it is vain, empty. Beauty fades, it doesn’t last.

We must run away from this consumer mentality of dating because it is toxic. We have turned people into products. You are not an assembly of features, you are a person. And you need someone who is going to see you that way.

How do you evaluate whether you are being treated as a person or an assembly of features? What do they compliment you on? What are their texts to you like? Do they pressure you sexually?

Character is greater than characteristics. Chemistry and attraction have merit, but they cannot hold up the weight of a marriage. In his book, Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler writes, “our physical attraction should always be held in check by the character of the person to whom we are attracted.”

The other mistake we tend to make in the dating game is:  We settle. What should be the non-negotiables of who you date?

Mistake #2: We settle.

Well, the first thing is they need to be a believer in Jesus Christ. You have to be aligned with them on the most important thing about life.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

What does that mean? What does an egg yolk have to do with dating, as one student asked me? Well, to be yoked is actually a farming term. You don’t want to hitch together (with a yoke) an ox and a donkey to plow a field—it won’t work.

The passage is not saying we should not associate with non-believers, the bible clearly doesn’t teach that. But why shouldn’t a believer and a non-believer get married? Think about it. If you are a follower of Jesus, your faith and view of God’s Word defines your worldview, allegiance, and direction in life. For the non-believer, self-actualization or fulfillment or some other intrinsic motivation determine direction in life. These two systems may not clash on a date to the movie theater, but when you are wrestling with some of the big questions in life–how you are going to raise your kids, how you spend your time or money–there will be tension. Either the follower of Christ will be constantly nagging their spouse to come to church or follow Christ, which they are not interested in doing, or you will be pulled in a direction of compromising your faith.

Not only do you want to date a believer in Christ, but you want someone who is pursuing Christ. Don’t settle. Just because he/she goes to church and claims to know Jesus doesn’t mean you are equally yoked. Make sure they don’t just say the right things, make sure they do the right thing. I knew plenty of guys who would dial up the religious talk when they were around girls who were pursuing Christ just so they could get a date. We have to be more cautious and set a higher standard.

McKenna Best, one of our college students I reached out to about what dating advice she would give herself in high school wrote this:

Hey Bart, my advice would be to never, ever settle for someone who isn’t pushing you towards the Lord. It’s so easy to neglect our faith when it comes to who we date especially when that person has a lot of good qualities. I typically found myself asking, “Am I being too picky?” when it came to a guy who wasn’t a Christ-follower. I thought, “At least he goes to church, has a bible verse in his Instagram bio, etc…” I would tell high school me, “You are being picky and that’s okay! Do not settle!”

When you are evaluating a person to date, you need to ask yourself, is this person pushing me toward the Lord? Am I more effective and challenged in my walk with Christ as a result of being around this person? They are not going to be perfect, but are they pursuing Christ? Are they running with you toward Jesus?

I remember the first time I noticed Jen. She was giving a testimony for our campus ministry during our weekly meeting.  She was dating someone at the time but I prayed that night, “God, I want a wife like her! It doesn’t have to be her, but someone like her. Who talks about you like she talks about you. Who takes risks for her faith like she does. Who loves people and invests in people like she does.” Little did I know that a few years later, God would answer that prayer at our wedding.

Which brings me to my last point and then we will continue our discussion next week. The third mistake we make in dating is worrying about finding the right woman instead of  concentrating on being the right man. Or, the other way around, ladies.

Mistake #3: We worry about finding the right person not being the right person. 

Another student, Erin Underwood, who responded to my question about dating advice wrote this:

Hey! In regards to your message: I was literally obsessed with the idea of having a boyfriend because all of my friends did and I always wondered what was wrong with me and why I was (seemingly) the only person to not be in a relationship. Saying that, I wish I wouldn’t have been so preoccupied with the idea of having a boyfriend and would’ve used that energy to pursue the Lord and see what he had for me during that time. Because in reality, the Lord isn’t ever going to give me someone if I’m looking for him, because that shows I’m not ready.

When it comes to WHO you are dating, don’t forget:

  1. Character over characteristics.
  2. Don’t settle.
  3. Work on being the right person not finding the right person.

Series Recap: Beyond Me

explore-2I hope our series recaps will be helpful to you all as we take a look back at what we have been studying in Crave on Sunday nights. Parents, perhaps this will lead to some family discussion for you all as we know the typical response from all teenagers when you ask what they learned at Crave is probably going to be some kind of unintelligible grunt.

Here are some of the highlights I thought might be helpful:

Week 1 (Selected readings from Acts)

  • Church has become far too much about me and my needs. The gospel message was always meant to go “beyond me” and out into the world.
  • The apostles were not superheroes taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, these were ordinary men who were captivated by the message of Jesus Christ and who could not keep from talking to people about it boldly.
  • Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian here is either a missionary or an imposter.”
  • The filling of the Spirit here (in our hearts) will produce the Word of God here (our mouths). Almost every time scripture says the apostles were “filled with the Spirit”, they would boldly be proclaiming the gospel message.

Week 2 (3 evangelistic stories from Acts 16)

  • Acts included three important conversion stories: Lydia–a wealthy business woman,  a demon-possessed slave girl–held spiritually and physically captive, and a Philippian jailer–a high ranking Roman official.
  • These three stories were included to teach us something. Primarily, 2 important principles:
    • 1. Everyone needs Jesus!
      • The gospel is for everyone. There is not a soul on earth that is not in need of the message of the gospel. We all have the same Creator, the same problem (sin), and the same solution (Jesus).
      • We can not make assumptions about people
        • You don’t know that the popular girl that seems to have everything together cries herself to sleep at night because even perfect isn’t good enough for her parents.
        • You don’t know that the guy who is antagonistic toward christianity has been burned by the church and is just waiting for a genuine christian to break down the walls of hostility.
        • You don’t know that the addict who is self medicating is so riddled with guilt and shame they are dying for the freedom found in Christ.
    • 2. To show us how to reach different types of people with the Gospel.
      • The spiritually interested (Lydia)
        • Invite them in! Let God do the work (the scriptures say when Lydia heard the Word, God opened her heart)
        • Invite them to study the scriptures with you
        • Invite them to a small group
      • The spiritual or physical captive (the slave girl)
        • We have to go to them, they will not come to us
          • This is why missions is so important!
        • Pray, proclaim freedom in Christ
      • The antagonistic or uninterested in faith (the Philippian Jailer)
        • Let them see how we respond to pain. Paul and Silas stayed in prison instead of escaping as a testimony to the jailer. They endured suffering with joy and put God on display!
      • Closing thought for week 2: Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. There is not a problem with the harvest, he needs workers!***Zakk taught us in week 3 and so I will let him recap week 3. Special thanks to Pastor J.D. Greear and his sermon series on Acts, “Sent”. Much of his material is reflected in the above and was too good not to share!

How to Pray for Your Child

4bzzkxhqtserktzufysi_onthedock

I think we would all agree that praying for our children is important and something we should do.

But, I bet if we are being honest we have no idea how to do this outside of asking God to keep them safe.

That’s the heart behind this post. We want to equip you as parents to know how to pray for your student. We want to make it easy to know what to pray and even give you some scriptures to use as you pray for you child.

There are a ton of different way and areas you can pray for your child, but what’s presented below is a great way of getting started.

Two quick thoughts before we dive in: 1) It’s never to late to start! Even if you child is in college, they are still you child and you are still their parent. So don’t worry that you haven’t started sooner. You can start now!

2) Let your child know you pray for them. I still remember as a 10th grader seeing my mom’s prayer list and seeing how she was specifically praying for me then, the kind of man I would (hopefully) become, and even for my future wife.
As a 10th grader it was not lost on me on how big a deal it is to pray for your children. And it is all that more powerful now that I’ve become a parent.

I pray that my children would:

  1. Receive and love Jesus as their Savior – I pray that my children will understand that You loved them so much that You gave Your only Son for them, and that because they believe in Him, they will have life forever with You. John 3:16
  2. Commit their lives to make Jesus Lord and be filled with Your Spirit – I pray that my children will recognize that Jesus is the Name above all names and will confess Him as Lord of all. I pray that they will trust Him with all their hears, not lean on their own understanding, and acknowledge He is Lord in everything; thus You will guide them in Your best way for them. May they be filled with Your Holy Spirit to the fullness of Christ. Phi 2:9-11; Pro 3:5-6; Eph 5:18; 1:23; 4:13
  3. Know the true and living God intimately and cherish and apply all Your names – I pray that my children will desire to truly know You, Father. May they love You, know You intimately, powerfully apply Your names, and rely on the character they represent in all their needs. Dan 11:32b; Phi 3:10; Psa 9:10
  4. Learn to pray and praise – I pray that my children will learn to communicate with You, their loving Father. Put Your praise in their hearts and on their lips continually. Lead them to be dependent on You for everything, so they talk with You about all things and give You the honor and glory that You deserve. Mark 10:14-15; Matt 21:16; Phil 4:6
  5. Know who they are in Christ – I pray that my children will know how precious they are to You. Teach them to base their identity and security on Christ. Give them Christ-centered confidence and Christ-centered worth. Give them Your mind about how You see them and how You feel about them. As Your creation, help them to fully know who they are and what they have in Christ and what they can do through Him. Eph 1:4,7,11-14; Col 1:27
  6. Be protected from the evil one by the blood of Jesus – Protect my children by the covering blood of Jesus. I pray that my children will know the power of the blood to defeat all the works of the evil one. By the blood of Jesus, bind the enemy from interfering with Your perfect purposes in their lives. John 17:15; 1 John 4:4
  7. Receive the love of God the Father – I pray that my children will know Your Father-heart and have the assurance of Your great love. Let them know by experience how extravagantly and unconditionally You love them. Father them with Your holy love, so that they know without a doubt that You are always working in their lives in Your love. 1 John 3:1
  8. Love the word of God – I pray that my children will treasure Your word more than wealth. Teach them to love Your word and base their lives on it as their standard of life. Give them understanding as they humbly seek You in Your word. Teach them to plead Your unbreakable promises and to defeat all the lies of the enemy with Your truth revealed in Your word. Psa 119:127-130, 159-162
  9. Learn to hate sin and love holiness, righteousness, and fear of the Lord – I pray that You will write Your word on the hearts of my children, so that they will choose the obedience of hating sin and loving Your holiness. Work in their lives the holy fear of You and the righteousness of Jesus. Help them not to just keep a set of rules, but to desire to please You in all they do. Create in them a pure heart. Make them wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. Move in them to dedicate their lives to You as living sacrifices. Psa 119:9,11; 2 Tim 2:22; Rom 16:19b; Pro 8:13
  10. Grow up in maturity in the Lord – I pray that my children will be built solidly on the foundation of Jesus and grow in Your grace with a conscious sense of Your presence conforming them to be like You. May they continue to be built up with your wisdom, favor, truth, love, life, faith, strength, and thankfulness. Luke 2:52; Eph 4:15; Col 2:6-7
  11. Glorify God in their bodies as Your temple – I pray that my children will honor You by keeping their bodies pure because they are the temple of Your Spirit. Teach them the great price you paid in the death of Jesus for their holiness. 1 Cor 6:19-20; Rom 12:1-2
  12. Respect those in authority – I pray that my children will submit to the authorities You have placed over them as to You. Let them understand that You have established loving, wise covering for their good through parents and others in authority. Cause them to obey and not reserve for themselves the right to choose whether to obey, which You call rebellion. Give them a joyful, grateful heart as they submit to Your ordained authorities. Rom 13:1; Eph 6:1, 3:22-25

 

Here is a PDF version if you would like to print it out and keep it where you have your prayer time or where you’ll be reminded to pray for you child. Praying for Children

Parents, Don’t Give Up!

My wife and I had a great idea. Let’s sit down once a week for a family devotion, read a bible story to our kids, and pray as a family. I asked everyone to join me in my daughter’s room and I opened up the Jesus Storybook Bible (our favorite) and began reading. Fast-forward two minutes and I am angrily telling my son to go to his room because he can’t be quiet, my daughter has jumped off the bed and hurt her self for the 10th time that day, and my wife has that look on her face that says, “This was a disaster.” I honestly felt like giving up, but I knew it was just the beginning of the process.

All of that to say, parenting is hard. Parenting and trying to raise your kids to love Jesus–even more difficult. Being a parent is one of the messiest, most challenging, beautiful, rewarding, stressful, and thankless jobs in the world. Multiply that by 20 if you are the parent of a teenager.

Don’t give up. Just like God is relentlessly pursuing your heart, don’t give up pursuing the heart of your child. Keep challenging them to follow what God has called them to do. Don’t give up modeling the kind of love for Christ you want to see develop in them. Pray for them daily.

You will not get everything right. You will make mistakes. However, you will also teach your teen some incredible lessons about Jesus in the process–especially as you admit your weakness and your own dependency upon Jesus’ grace.

RHBC parents, know you are loved by our Student Ministry Team and we want to partner with you in this process! Look for more blog posts and video blogs coming soon!

Hi, I’m Bart and I’m an Approval Junkie

photo-1472950755543-5293dbab893a

It is time to recap a few highlights from week 2 of our series Fake ID: Reclaiming Our Identity in Christ. This past week we tackled some common misconceptions about self-image. Here are a few thoughts from the talk. Credit to Kyle Idleman and Southeast Christian Church, whose message and series inspired much of what we have talked about. Here is what you might have missed Sunday night at Crave:

We are obsessed with how we portray ourselves and how others view us. We are all “brand managers”. Selfies are one symptom of our need to manage our image–we want control over how we look in a photo and which photos we put on social media.

We have bought into a huge lie: My self-worth = My performance + Others’ Approval. So many mistakes in our lives can be traced back to wanting to perform or wanting to be loved.

In Ephesians 2, we find the remedy for our image problems.

1. You are not who you were. We are not defined by our failures.

Paul says, in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead…” In order to get a picture of who we are in Christ we have to remember who we were. He reminds us of who we were, but it is not who we are. We think the truest thing about ourself is our past failure, but that is not the truest thing about you.We do not have to live from our old failures and old identity. Those failures and sins may be true of you, but they don’t have to define you in Christ!

2. You are not what you do. We are not defined by our successes.

Many of us were told early and often our personal achievements build our worth. Our value is defined by what we accomplish. Or maybe we have been told our religious resume is what makes us a follower of Christ.I have struggled with this mindset in my battle with perfectionism. A perfectionist is someone whose standards go beyond reach and reason. Someone who strains compulsively toward impossible goals and who measures their self worth entirely in terms of their performance. Those who are miserably caught up in the trap of their own success–always having to prove ourselves once again, or do better, or accomplish more.

Legalism is also a result of determining our worth by our own religious accomplishment. It is falling into the trap we have to earn our right to stand before God. We have to be good enough to earn God’s favor, or at least, we have to be “better” than the other people around us.But Paul reminds us we are not defined by our personal or religious successes. Ephesians 2:5 says, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith…it is the gift of God, not by works…” There is nothing we can add by our own strength to what Christ has already done and accomplished for us on the cross. There is no sin too great Christ cannot forgive.The world says, you must achieve your worth, Christ says just receive it.

3. You are not what people say or think about you. We are not defined by others’ approval.

Finally, we are not what people say or think about us.

Let me introduce myself. Hi, my name is Bart and I’m an approval junkie. I love to be loved. I am constantly afraid of not being liked. I, unfortunately, often give others the power to define my worth by what they think about me.

How do you know if you are an approval junkie too? Do you get crushed by small words of criticism? Are you afraid to run against the crowd? Is it hard to say no, even when it is wise? Do you lie to make yourself look good?

The solution to our need for approval is to understand no one has the power to label you or define your worth–only the One who made you! In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “You are God’s workmanship…” The Greek word for workmanship used in scripture is poiema. It is the same word we get the English word poem from. It means, literally, “something made”. You are God’s design, His creation, and our worth comes from what He says about who you are in Christ, not what others say!

We need to hear these truths about ourselves regularly. They need to be the determining factor for our identity. To wrap up the night, we asked students to go home, take a dry erase marker, and write one of these truths on their mirror. Hopefully, these truths will help you!

1. I am not my failures (Eph. 2:1)

2. I am not my successes (Eph. 2:5)

3. I am not what others think about me (Eph. 2:10)

 

Fake ID: Reclaiming Our Identity in Christ

hello_sticker_smaller

Imagine you walk into a room and you had to fill out one of those, “Hello, my name is…” stickers. Seems simple, however in this case, you have to write something OTHER than your name to identify who you are. What would you write?

We asked our students to do the same exercise last night at Crave. Responses, of course, were all over the board. I wrote “Dad” on my name tag because it is an identity I feel a lot of pride in right now. Most students wrote nicknames or what they do (football player, drum major, student). Most people, probably define themselves by what they do. Others, maybe what people say about them and have spoken into their life. Word have power to shape the very core of who we are.

Identity is important. In fact, who we are, or what we think about ourselves, or even what others say about us, often determines our behavior. Who we are becomes what we do. Everyday we live our lives out of the identity we have assumed. If our identity is in our performance, we strive for perfection or achievement. If our identity is found in what people think about us, we strive for popularity and approval. We gut-wrenchingly ask ourselves questions like, “Am I good enough? Do people like me?”

If what we do flows from our identity, we must decide who we are in order to know how we should live. We must know what scripture says about our identity. Last night, at Crave, we looked at Ephesians 1:3-14 and our identity in Christ. I say “in Christ” because that is how the Bible defines our identity as Christians. In fact, scripture mentions the phrase, “in Christ”, or something similar at least 216 times! If I repeat something 216 times to you, you must know it is important!

Perhaps, then, a better question to ask ourselves when it comes to our identity is not “Who am I?”, but “Who am I in Christ? What does God say about my identity?” Knowing who I am in Christ means when something in life is taken away–my health, approval from others, or my ability to perform–the core of who I am is still firmly planted in Christ. I am on a firm foundation and my identity cannot be shaken.

If I were to re-write my name tag based on who I am in Christ, from Ephesians 1:3-14, I would find my true identity and so can you. Here is what He says about us!

IN CHRIST, I am…

Blessed (v.3)
Do you ever feel like nothing ever goes right for you? Do you feel defined more by what you don’t have than what you do have? Well, to put it somewhat bluntly, open your eyes to what you have been given in Christ! In Christ, God has given us everything we need–every spiritual blessing according to verse 3. Time would cease before we could really exhaust the many blessings we are given in Christ. We do not deserve grace, but it has been given! We do not deserve another breath, but God has mercifully allowed us another day of life! We are blessed–maybe not in the way you expect–but so much more!

Blameless (v.4)/Forgiven (v. 7)
It is easy to allow our sins to define us–to dwell upon our failures and all the ways we don’t measure up. If people knew our thoughts and desires, they would know the “real you” is far from God’s standard. We slip into the trap of just giving in to sin or trying to clean ourselves for God. However, according to Ephesians 1:4, we don’t need to work for our identity, we need to work from our identity in Christ. We can’t earn forgiveness that has already been given and our sins don’t define us. In Christ, we can stand before God holy and blameless. Not because of what we have done or will do, but because of the holy and blameless life he lived. Our sins are paid for, forgiven, and they don’t define us.

Adopted (v.5)
To understand the idea of adoption, we must think about the life of an infant in the Roman world. Infants were often placed at their father’s feet and he either picked them up, acknowledging they are his, or walked away and abandoned them. Children were abandoned for many different reasons–wrong gender, physical deformity, and many others. Because it was unlawful to kill a child, they would simply leave them in a public place and let the gods determine their fate. Praise God when he looked at us, even with our flaws and the ways we have been damaged by sin, He looked at us and lifted us up and adopted us into His family! In Him, we are loved and accepted and will never be alone!

May our identity in Christ forever shape who we truly are! Don’t miss part 2 of our series at Crave next week!