The whole intention of the culture is to define us and dictate our identity because whatever we believe our identity to be that is what we will live out of and live out. The whole conflict comes down to this: Who or what is shaping your core identity; determining what you believe about yourself?
Before Adam fell in Gen.3 he knew exactly who he was – and who he was was based entirely upon and flowed out from his deeply personal and intimate relationship with God characterized by the pure and undistracted communion he had with God. He was the image of God brought from heaven to earth and presented in a dust wrapper. So when heaven observed this man in the earth it always saw him as the image of God.
In the fall man lost sight of his true identity. When his relationship with God was broken by sin his view of himself was totally confused and perverted by that sin; man no longer knew who he was – he lost sight of the image of God within. He began to live out of false identities as defined by a view that was devoid of heaven’s perspective. But here is the far more important issue: Did heaven change its mind concerning man, and did heaven lose sight of the image of God within man – did heaven become confused regarding man’s true identity?
The conclusion has to be that heaven never changed its mind concerning man, never lost sight of the image of God within man, and never became confused concerning man’s true identity. I can tell you what heaven did: it set in motion the means whereby, through the wonder of redemption, there would be a total restoration of man’s true identity – a total restoration of the image of God. All of this is provided in the Person and the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. So where do you think we are going to find our true identity: in our personal and deeply intimate relationship with this redeeming Christ, or in adapting to the definitions and values of the culture around us?
In Isaiah chapter six we have the record of one of the most incredible and transcendent visions ever given to man. It is a vision of the throne of God. We hear the conversations and/or declarations right at the very throne of heaven. And in the same statement that declares the holy awe of God we have reference to ‘The whole earth…’ Isa. 6:3 – “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory.” What I want us to see is that for all we know or may not know about the mystery and wonder of heaven this much is certain – heaven is totally aware of the earth. There are endless conversations in heaven about this earth. So here is the great question: Where do you think we are going to find the real truth and understanding concerning the events unfolding on this earth; is it by focusing upon the events and circumstances of this earth, will we get it from CNN, or is it by listening to heaven’s conversations about the earth?
If I hear heaven’s conversations about the earth I will be able to properly interpret the events unfolding in the earth. Take this back to the theme of this message: ‘Who Defines You?’, and we begin to understand that any real understanding of our true identity is rooted in heaven’s conversations concerning us.This is what we learn from the life of Gideon.
The conditions of his world are deplorable. For seven years Israel has been under the cruel oppression of Midian. The primary outcome of this domination was lack; nothing but reduction, diminishment and never having enough. Also there was fear, shame and humiliation. They were demoralized as a people and constantly reduced to less than human – reduced to the level of a mere animal. And that, in my view, was far worse than the lack of materialism because this struck at the very heart of their identity. Read the story and it becomes clear that we are looking at an entire people in the midst of a deep identity crisis. The surrounding conditions were defining them as a people, and caught in the vortex of that imposed definition they lived more like animals than like the image bearers of God.
The angel of the Lord dropped into that mess and brought a message from heaven to a man who had no clue who he really was as seen from heaven. Notice that the first thing the angel did was to address Gideon by his true identity – “O valiant warrior.”And here is something we might not be aware of; the name Gideon actually means ‘one (a warrior) who hews, hacks, chops and cuts down the enemy.’So the angel did not simply make up some unrelated title or description and throw it out there. He defined Gideon by the true meaning of his name. I would expect that Gideon likely knew the meaning of his name, but the story makes it obvious that he was not living out of that meaning or definition.
Gideon is so defined by his surrounding conditions that he doesn’t even pick up on the angelic designation – “O mighty warrior.” He simply recites the details of his world. And when you drop down to verse 15 you find the real root of his problem. It has nothing to do with Midian oppression; it has to do with family history: “…my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” Or as the ‘Message’ puts it: “My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.”
From this we learn that there are two things we look to as primary factors in defining who we are. One is the surrounding conditions or circumstances of our life and world. The second is our family history. What I can tell you about this is that our true identity lies far beyond both of these factors. It is not what my family history says about me, nor is it what surrounding circumstances say about me – it is what heaven says; it’s the conversation in heaven that defines me.
Almost always your surrounding circumstances and family history will tell you the exact opposite of what heaven is saying about who you are.
I want to finish this out by looking at verse 14: The Lord looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” We need to see the picture here, and please do not miss the incredible weight of these words: ‘The Lord looked at him and said.’ Your identity may be so deeply buried in family history and surrounding circumstances that you can’t even begin to find it, but the good news is it has never been lost to the Lord; He knows exactly where to find the real you. It is a wonderful day when the Lord looks at your true self and speaks to your true self. It is a wonderful day when you know your true self has been discovered.
What we learn here is that the affirmation that brings real healing to the self and reveals our true identity is found in this relationship with the Lord in which we know He sees us and speaks to us. But what was it He spoke? This is the critical dynamic in this entire process of becoming an effective kingdom person.
“Go in this your strength…” Question: What was his strength; go in the strength of what? In my view this statement connects the past and the future. By that I mean it connects with the first part of the conversation – ‘The Lord is with you, O valiantwarrior.’– as well as the second part of the conversation – “Deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?”
Gideon’s strength was to be found in two realities. The first was his true identity based upon heaven’s view of him – heaven’s conversations concerning him: “O valiant warrior.” The second is revealed in these two facts: “The Lord is with you” – and, “Have I not sent you?”
We are not here to be intimidated by the culture around us – we are here to impact that culture as salt and light. To do that we must know our true identity as determined by heaven’s conversations concerning us. What is heaven saying about me? And secondly we must know that heaven’s God has sent us – this has to do with Kingdom purpose – Kingdom potential – while we are in the earth. And thirdly we must know that He is with us throughout that purpose. Living out of these realities we will throw off the oppressive weight of Midian and transform everything we touch.
Jesus asked His disciples one day regarding public opinion as to His identity. It seemed that everybody thought Him to be someone raised from the dead: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another of the great prophets. In all of this they were assigning His identity based upon history rather than immediate revelation. How many people are allowing their past to define their present identity which in turn cripples their future?
Simon rose above history and declared: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Notice the Lord’s response: “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God Himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am.” That is called present revelation.
And then look at what happens. “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.” Obviously he was Simon, son of Jonah – but obviously his true identity was rooted in a reality far beyond that flesh and blood relationship. That greater reality was in how heaven saw him – what heaven had to say about him. In a moment of revelation Peter discovered the true identity of Christ. But in direct relationship to that discovery he also discovered his true identity.
Get to know who Jesus is and you will get to know who you are.Otherwise the culture, your history, your profession and your family connections will define you. We hear time and again –“I’m just trying to find myself.” I understand that – but I also know that until you come up into and believe heaven’s conversations about you, the earth will simply continue to assign you a false identity.