The IF Virus (Identity = Ground Zero)

Early in the Gospels we find a peculiar story where Satan gets the chance to go “mano y mano” with Jesus.  Yes, Satan assaults Jesus in broad daylight.  It’s the first account we have of him drawing the incarnate Son of God into a human temptation ring.  Sure, the assassination plot in Bethlehem proved a fiasco, but now it’s man to man.  If you had “one shot” at the Son of God, one chance to skew the redemptive campaign of God, what would your opening punch, your TKO attempt be?  For Satan is was insidious: sabotage of identity.  No physical strike, no IED or nuclear strike – Satan fires a cosmically ballistic virus of “if you are” to draw Jesus into a vortex of compromised identity.  Prove it.  Grab the ring of acclaim, comfort and validation, Jesus!  Why?

The corruption of identity is the cosmological equivalence of sabotaging the core reactor, corrupting the very OS of a human.  A WMD when deployed effectively.  Swap the IV drip from water to poison and the toxic cascade begins instantly!

If this is the signature play of Satan for Jesus, what are the implications for us as followers of Jesus,?  Like going to Baskin Robins, there may be 31 flavors but it’s still all ice cream – and while there is a wide array of “poses” we each may battle, it is the same essential fulcrum of identity we must confront directly.

Jesus asks YOU – who do YOU say I am?  God asks you if you want to live your broken life or my perfect life?  In Christ, when we exchange our life for His, He is the one living through us and nothing we do determines or enhances that identity…but trying to earn it is one way to deny it and fail to experience it!

Satan asks “if you want to be like, then try to/get/do/look/feel..”

Notice that Jesus didn’t wrestle Satan MMA style, he shut down the argument.  You don’t wrestle, you don’t entertain and satisfy the test – you shut it down.  Name it (as death), claim it (life by identity in with complete work of Jesus) and move on.

What are you trying to prove?  That you’re good, you’re better, reformed, excellent, worthy, accomplished something, secure, powerful, brilliant, deserving, approval of your father?  All of those are 31 flavors to death apart from Christ.  What defines you?

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Jesus @ Work

It was a Friday night in Chicago and I was wrapping up a busy week at work.  I was one of the last people in the building and as I looked at my desk and task lists I began to whine in my spirit, “God, whats the point!? I just spent 60 hours this week making ‘widgets’ that don’t matter eternally.  It feels like a waste. I know I am created, called, commissioned for more than this.  When will I get to live out my purpose that You have gone to such great lengths to call me to?”


That night God corrected me in a loving, Fatherly way.  He revealed to me the false dichotomy I had embraced of a “sacred versus secular” life – viewing my work as simply a means to pay bills and uphold a testimony, while magnifying “ministry” as being what was happening on Sundays, Wednesdays and times I was doing official programs under the banner of my local church.  Sure, I was the “Jesus guy” at work and my faith was no secret – but that department I led, with 60+ people (most of whom did not know Jesus) was somehow simply a forum to maintain a good testimony (don’t screw up) while living on standby for the “real mission” to begin.  Within minutes I was wrecked as God called out some lies and truths that reset my vision:

 

(1) If my W-2 determined my calling, was it really a calling?

(2) If being a disciple-maker was limited to context, was I truly a disciple?

(3) There were more people who did not know Jesus at my office than on any given weekend at my church, and rather than an hour I had 40-60 hrs/wk with them…why was that not a mission field?

(4) If who pays me and where I am determines who and how I am then I must not get this being a slave to Christ, ambassador for Christ, identity forged by the work of Jesus in me

Once I was confronted with this truth I confessed the sin of my ignorance and short-sightedness.  I also realized that now that I “got it,” I didn’t really know what to do next.  I had read lots of books, taken courses, been mentored in ministry programs but how was I to live out the life of an ambassador for Jesus in a Fortune 50 company?  Realistically, how does that work?  I found that God loves when we ask the “how” questions out of a heart to obey (much better than “tell me why first”!).

In this journey of having my worldview re-arranged, it was striking to me how Biblically normal workplace ministry was and how unBiblical my sacred/secular mindset was!  122 of 132 stories of Jesus in the Gospels take place in marketplace settings (not synagogue/temple).  45 of 52 parables…marketplace settings!  100% of disciples were marketplace guys – small business owners, federal contractors, tradesmen, working in the family business.  39 of the 40 miracles in Acts outside of a church gathering or temple setting.  “Work” mentioned 800x in Scripture (avodah, Hebrew “service as worship”), seems to be significant.

If the favorite place for Jesus to heal, teach, make disciples and show up was @ work…why don’t we follow Him in that tradition?  Are you going to work expecting to see Jesus, be Jesus, show Jesus?  What would it look like for you to approach work as WORSHIP and live as a TRADER in your work?

Additional texts: Col 3:17-23, Ps 90:17, Mic 6:8, Prov 14:23, Ecc 3:22, 2 Cor 5:17-20, Matt 5:16, 2 Cor 5:10, Mark 12:27-31, Matt 28:18-20, 1 Cor 7:17, John 5:17, Ecc 9:10

The TQ Life

Tragically we have become slaves to anecdotal truisms, superstitious parodies, amputated theologies and pop religion.  The operative pronoun is “I” and our most life-shaping beliefs hinge on verbs like “think, feel, like, prefer, have found, heard, choose and want.”  The destructive results of this hazardous life are legion.

How many meetings do you attend where the most compelling metaphor or illustration trumps facts and results?  How often do your conversations about issues gravitate to a cacophony of peanut gallery opinions and uninformed perspectives? How much of your theology is caught like ideological bug splatters on your proverbial windshield without validation, evaluation or credibility?

Decision making, the life of following Jesus in all things and navigating circumstances is risky business.  The stakes are high.  Our instincts often poor.  We do not serve a God of confusion, chaos, contradiction nor is He distant and disengaged while we scurry in a maze.   Throughout the Bible is a cry for us to listen, remember, know, understand, and walk in the “fullness” we have in Christ – that our Father is in the business of granting wisdom to the seekers and unpacking mysteries!

Through intentional methods like triangulated discernment, tetherball anchoring and Biblically-shaped decision making matrices we must war against our propensity to embrace false dichotomies and cheap answers to big questions.

The TQ Life is one of refusing to casually dismiss truth or experience as inconvenient, but pressing in for the coherent truth even if it frustrates us.  The Kingdom of God is like a treasure in a field and we should never be surprised why trinkets of belief acquired from cosmic pawn shops fail to yield the “Kingdom of God here” life our souls long for.