Thursday, August 25, 2011

Identity Theft

"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."
(Matthew 5:48)

I received a new credit card this week that I will use when traveling.  I specifically requested this card because of the "benefits" that come with it.  One of the many benefits is the coverage for purchases that are made by someone "pretending" to be me.  Today, we call that "identity theft" and there is a great deal of security built into our banking systems in order to keep someone from stealing our identity.

There were groups of people in Jesus' time known as the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  Each were a "sect" of the Jewish culture known for their religious duties.  The Sadducees were the "upper class" of the social structure.  They held roles in politics, religious matters, and even some very honored social roles.  During Persian rule, the temple priests began to take on important political roles outside of the temple - the Sadducees were those folks.

The Pharisees were always in conflict with their Sadducean brothers.  The Pharisees associated with the common people - unlike the Sadducees that were of the upper class.  As you can imagine, there was constant "struggle" between the beliefs of the Sadduccees and the Pharisees - upper class vs. commoner, so to speak.  The "big deal" with the Pharisee sect was they tried hard to interpret the Law of Moses, breaking it down piece by piece into "rules and regulations" that they said must be followed in order to abide by the Law.

The Sadduccees had some basic beliefs that really began to show that they were not quite following their original Jewish belief system.  One of the main beliefs they held was that there were no rewards or penalties after death.  In other words, they held to the belief that what we get in the hear and now is all there is - if it is rewards or penalty, we will receive it on this earth.  The belief they held dearest was there was no after-life.  Now, that is kind of a form of "identity theft" in that they believed they could perform the works of the ministry without their foundational beliefs being correct.

The Pharisees were committing their own kind of "identity theft" in that they were trying to find their way into the graces of God by the rules they kept.  They were "working" their way to heaven, so to speak.  When Jesus brought the idea of salvation without works to them, they freaked out!  They could not possibly consider that God would not require tons of good works in order to win his favor, or grace.  They wanted to have the identity of God, but they wanted it on their terms.  When we look at these two groups, we wonder how they got so far off course in their "identity".  

Jesus was all about challenging the "identity" of the ones he came into contact with as he walked this earth and he is still doing that today.  He is not looking for us to create our own identity, based on what we interpret from the Word.  He is looking for us to allow him to create his identity in us.  This is not "identity theft" - it is assuming the identity we have been freely given.  It is kind of like the "witness protection program" - we leave the old and totally assume the new!

Whose identity are you displaying today?  Is it one that "morphs" what you believe into what God teaches?  If it is, it might be a form of "identity theft" because our identity is displayed best when we embrace the one we are freely given in Christ.