Christian “Rights” and False Identities

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We live in the “My Rights” age. Although this seems legitimate, especially if we live in a “free” country, it often bleeds over into self-centeredness and “meism.” There’s another problem that attaches itself to this, and it’s a false identity problem. If you have both these things working in your life, you’re probably angry, as we have seen as the prevailing attitude in America in the past 50 years in particular. Today, we see angry people blow up buildings, shoot groups of people in cold blood and inflict carnage that is indescribable. Much of this is nothing but goofy religion that has nothing to do with the Lord Jesus or Father God.

The Bible is clear that violence in people proceeds directly from their wants that are not immediately met by God; sometimes He’s not asked at all:

What leads to [the unending] [a]quarrels and conflicts among you? Do they not come from your [hedonistic] desires that wage war in your [bodily] members [fighting for control over you]? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and [b]your lust goes unfulfilled; so you [c]murder. You are envious and cannot obtain [the object of your envy]; so you fight and battle. You do not have because you do not ask [it of God] (James 4:1-2 Amp).

The Rights Mentality

The rights mentality can affect Christians to the extent we believe it’s our right to receive from the Lord and not a privilege granted to us by virtue of God’s great mercy and kindness. We may find ourselves demanding from God (sometimes angrily) if we believe it’s our right as child of God to get what we want when we want it.

A case in point. There’s the true story of a pastor who had given many years in service to God. His wife became pregnant, but it appeared the child would be stillborn. The pastor, believed deeply in healing because of his right as a child of God. He began to cry out to God that the child not be stillborn. His prayers turned into demands. When it appeared his prayers weren’t getting through, he got angry with God, and told Him, in no uncertain terms, that if He (God) didn’t heal the child and allow him to be born, the preacher would no longer serve the Him. The child was born but proved a rebellious hellion for his parents his entire life.

Taking our cue from Jesus, as usual, we find how different He was in His approach to life:

Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus [look to Him as your example in selfless humility], who, although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as One with Him, possessing the fullness of all the divine attributes—the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man]. (Philippians 2:5-7 Amp)

This is hard to grasp for us often-selfish humans. Get this: He was God but He didn’t assert His right to being so, but emptied Himself of His right to be God and became a servant to everyone! He had the title of God Almighty, but He chose to live the life of an average person, only dependent on His Father to do mighty acts of miracles. He often chose to hang out with the derelicts, the party crowd and to others who were offensive to “religious” people. His goal was freedom for the human race by delivering us from slavery to sin and darkness.

God’s Goal: Our Freedom

God’s ultimate intention is that all people be made free. This is expressed in the Bible very clearly with the admonition that this freedom is not used incorrectly, thereby returning us to spiritual bondage:

It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed] (Gal. 5:1 Amp).

This yoke of slavery speaks of legalism that creeps in, whereby Christians began to establish control through laws in the church, self-imposed rules for ourselves or others for living the life that has been establish only through the power of grace. In the Galatian church the leadership had done so, trying to place the people there under the law:

Galatians 2:6

Moreover, [no new requirements were made] by those who were reputed to be something—though what was their individual position and whether they really were of importance or not makes no difference to me; God is not impressed with the positions that men hold and He is not partial and recognizes no external distinctions—those [I say] who were of repute imposed no new requirements upon me [had nothing to add to my Gospel, and from them I received no new suggestions].

Part of the problem is that people love titles, thinking titles give them so sort of leg up on the rest of us. Today it has become fashionable to ensure you have a title in the church – prophet so and so, apostle so and so and so on. This is often nothing more than a legitimacy crutch. I heard one preacher, who had a doctorate, say that having that title was like the curl in the pig’s tail – it just looked a little better! Notice God’s attitude in the passage above. Paul sarcastically states there were many who were “reputed to be something.”

There is nothing wrong with titles, of course, as in most cases people worked hard to attain those titles. It’s the inclination to think we’re something because we have one. Our identity can be enshrined in the title and not in the fact that we are God’s kid, and that’s plenty of credibility! Let’s face it: Much of the self-centered living we experience is attached to attempting to identify with something other than being a child of God. To overcome this takes some serious revelation by the Holy Spirit because we can certainly try to identify with titles, as I mentioned above, our works, our education, the football team we root for, our jobs, our place in the community, the fact that we’re a “prayer warrior” or a prophet. (I’ve noticed that the church, in many cases, has gone gah-gah over titles, thinking people will think more of us.) A friend of mine, who has traveled the US as an evangelist-teacher for more than 40 years, told me that he got tickled over the fact that churches wanted to attach the title prophet in front of his name. When asked by one pastor what he preferred – teacher, prophet, etc., he said, “You can call me Steve.”

Paul was Paul

This identity thing becomes downright silly. Paul was known as Paul, and Peter as Peter. Yes, Paul addressed his opening letters to the churches with his title, apostle, but it was because it was necessary that they understood his authority as a church builder, whose calling was partly the responsibility for their growth and welfare. He also included with the title of apostle the fact that he was a bond slave of Jesus Christ. Later, people got religious and called these brothers, saints. After that many churches became Saint Something. These brothers were, as many of us are, filled with all manner of sin, but as Paul stated to the Corinthians, “But you were washed,” referring to the Blood of Jesus. All who are born again are saints! I believe that as we grow in Jesus and our ego gets killed over and over, we realize it is only Christ’s righteousness that manners and NOT who we are or what we do!

In these cases where titles are sometimes demanded, the ego must continue to be fed to satisfy the longing for recognition because of the title. Recently, the Holy Spirit said to me, “You are not your job.” What had happened was I wasn’t getting the kind of feedback for good performance I was used to from previous employers. As a matter of fact, I was getting essentially nothing positive in my job except that I needed to improve in certain areas. Ok, cool, I’ve been working since I was 15. I will soon be 69. I’ve worked for major corporations, etc. Titles now mean essentially nothing to me, but yes, an “atta boy” helps, but maybe the “atta boy” needed to die as well.

Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self (Luke 9:23-27 The Message).

Joseph Beckham is the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls –

And Overcoming Bipolar Disorder & Other Mental Difficulties: A Christian Perspective –

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