Are you, believer, the sum total of your actions or choices? Does behavior always follow beliefs? Who are you? What defines you? Who defines you? Who do you allow to define you? How we answer these questions individually will, no doubt, vary; but answer them we must, at some time and in some manner, if we are to understand not only who we are but whose we are.
After the LORD had graciously caught me in my sin, I remember an officer telling me, after I had quite the breakdown in front of her:
"This act does not define you. This is something that you did, not who you
are." I was not expecting her to tell me that, and I will not soon forget it.
I have come to learn that many times our various behaviors and decisions do not always consistently follow our beliefs. We can be quite inconsistent creatures. We can believe and reason in one manner, holding tenaciously to our beliefs, and then behave in the exact opposite manner, thus betraying our beliefs.
Some people often quote Proverbs 23:7 from some semblance of the King James Version: "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Contextually, however, that is not a proper concept, and there are better translations which accurately capture the essence of this proverb: "Do not eat the bread of the stingy; do not desire their delicacies; for like a hair in the throat, so are they. 'Eat and drink!' they say to you; but they do not mean it" (Prov. 23:6-7 NRSV).
Or, for another example: "Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. 'Eat and drink!' he says to you, but his heart is not with you" (Prov. 23:6-7 ESV). This man makes one statement with his mouth, but in his heart, he is not being honest. He offers a nice gesture, but he does not really want to grant the offer.
In other words, he appears genuine and generous, but inwardly he is uncharitable. What he feels and thinks inwardly is not how he appears outwardly. Others may think of him as generous and even thrust such an identity upon him. But generous is not his true nature; stinginess and greed are in his heart. When he appears generous, he is acting against his true desires.
Do you wonder what people think of you? Do you wonder what identity people thrust upon you? Those with low self-esteem believe people think very lowly of them. People who think much of themselves believe others think very highly of them. There may be a small amount of necessity as to what others think of us. "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold" (Prov. 22:1 NRSV). But who we are in Christ Jesus is what matters most.
Moreover, not who we are but whose we are is of utmost importance. Even if the societal perception of us is less than pleasant, God's perception of us is paramount. If we have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God views us as holy and blameless (cf. Eph. 1:4). We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21). What is the righteousness of God?
The word righteousness -- dikaiosuné -- refers to justice, just or justness (link). From the word dikaiosýnē, it refers to being judicially approved, what is deemed right by the Lord and what is approved in His view. For all my wrongs, I am right from God's perspective, by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Though I have sinned, I am counted as sinless in Christ.
Now that is an identity perspective in which I can rejoice! My past behaviors donot define me, nor do they define you. I am not the sum total of my respective decisions and actions from God's perspective, and in Christ neither are you. Moreover, I will not allow others to dictate my identity, and neither will you. Our actions are merely symptoms. Jesus is the solution and cure.
This post was written by William W. Birch. For the original post go to: http://www.wpfences.com/2012/10/actions-and-identity.html
BE A MAN.