Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

February 10, 2005

Destiny is Identity

I think it was Winston Churchill who once said, "Character is destiny." There’s a lot of truth in that, of course, but (loath as I am to fiddle with any Churchillian maxim) I want to reverse the equation. I think that the Bible actually teaches that destiny is character. Of course we live it out in Churchill’s order–character unto destiny. That’s how we experience it. But in the spiritual realm our destiny is changed, and only then, gradually, our character. But I choose to use a different word than "character." It is our very identity that is changed. We take on a new name. Destiny is identity.

The other day, a friend of mine said, "We need to walk in our identity as children of God." She said it with a tone of gentle frustration, because she could see clearly that this is often not the case. We are a new creation, the Bible says, but so often we look just like the old one. We’re walking in the old way, speaking the old words, thinking the old thoughts, enslaved it seems to the same old passions. What are we to do? Is the very newness of the new creation entirely reserved for the future Kingdom? Or can we experience a foretaste, a "down-payment," even now?

If you’ve been reading Mr. Standfast for very long, you will have anticipated my answer. I am convinced that God wants us to be happy now. Today. And I’m also convinced that all our happiness, our "fountains," are in God. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, We seek Him, and what we get is both Him and happiness. He reigns. He blesses. He provides. He is trustworthy. He loves us. He is working out his will for his pleasure in his time, and it is all good.

I said the other day that I believe that the devil brings to bear his biggest guns against our joy. That’s because our joy is our testimony. When you walk in joy, you are the very embodiment of the Good News. When you walk in joy, you are a light shining in the dark. You are the manifested promise of God, and people will want to know the source of your confidence and strength. That’s why the enemy will do everything he can to undermine your joy. And that’s why I do not hesitate to say that depression is one of the biggest issues facing the body of Christ in our day.

Imagine a man who has spent his entire life in a prison cell. He knows no other reality. As for his future, there is no chance of parole, it seems. He is awaiting the execution of a sentence of death. His life is merely a slow wasting away, and he can do nothing about it. His destiny is the grave, and his life is a kind of living hell.

But now a powerful Advocate has come to his defense. The verdict is miraculously reversed. The guards come and open the cell door. He’s free to go. This is the position in which every man woman and child on earth finds himself (since Christ died for all). The question is, does our hypothetical prisoner trust the new verdict? Does he put his confidence in the Advocate and walk out of that cell and into freedom and joy?

The tragedy is, many do not. They suspect a trick. It just can’t be true, they think. So they remain in the cell. Wasting away. And the further tragedy is that even those that have put their trust in the new verdict, who know that their Advocate has accomplished what no one else could, still linger in the cell, fearful of freedom. They do not "reckon themselves" free, alive to God. Instead they reckon themselves prisoners still. Though their eternal destiny has been changed, and by that means their present reality is potentially transformed, yet they remain in their chains. For them, it seems, there is no experiential difference between being in the cell and being outside the cell. There is no difference between bondage and freedom. And yet, all they have to do is stand and walk!

Destiny, you see, is identity. And identity is character. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counts certain people as blessed. Now the word in Greek, scholars tell me, might better be translated, "happy." Jesus says, for example, that people who know their spiritual poverty are happy. Not that they "will be" happy someday. He says they’re happy now. Why? Because, he says, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Take a moment to notice how many of these "blessed are" statements depict people who are lacking something (they’re poor in spirit, they’re hungry, thirsty, meek, they suffer persecution), and yet they’re "happy." And notice also that the second half of each verse, the consolation, has something to do with their Kingdom-inheritance or destiny. In other words, their present happiness hinges on their future destiny. Because they have this destiny, they are happy. It is not their present circumstances that shape their identity, but their future destiny. Destiny is identity.

Now, this is not merely a matter of positive thinking. It’s a matter of accepting what God declares. Sometimes it’s hard, because it happens that our up close may look about the same as before we believed; but our far off, our destiny, is radically different. Our trajectory, our roadmap, our path, our way, our destination, is radically transformed. And furthermore, God pours out His Spirit in us to guide and equip us along this way, so that we will be able to overcome every single obstacle that stands in the path. He goes with us. He will never desert us. He has promised this, and He is a promise-keeping God.

To walk out of the cell is to trust the verdict. People talk about strongholds of the mind, but the truth is that God is our stronghold, and no other stronghold can stand therein. There is truly nothing hindering us from walking out of that cell except lack of trust. So my message today is, if you lack trust, if you’re fearful, if joy seems an illusion, if happiness seems far off, go to God. Rediscover that the Advocate who has affected your release is none other than Jesus Christ; that he did so by means of the Cross; and that that sacrifice is totally sufficient to cover your situation. You are who God now says you are, because when he looks at you, he sees the righteousness of Christ. Once you know this, once you really get it, it will set you free. Get up and walk!


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