Sunday, April 19, 2015

Identity Theft: Dreamer

This post is in response to Newbreak's latest sermon series: Identity Theft.  

I first heard about the danger of identity theft on some kind of nighttime news show. It seemed pretty horrible. Someone can steal your name and your social security number and then open up credit accounts, destroying your credit and ruining your life. Pretty scary stuff. Back in those days, experts warned people to shred their mail to prevent this from happening. Of course that wouldn't prevent an unscrupulous store clerk from the dangers of identity theft.

Nowadays technology opens up apparently unlimited ways for someone to steal your identity. Unscrupulous people can research archives can access your history. I saw an article this morning warning that these criminals can steal your kids' social security numbers. There's an easier way to steal an identity. Most of our lives are posted online. Hackers can set up ways to see what we do on the internet and they can break into the data posted on sites we do business with.

So we set up firewalls and change our passwords so often we can't remember them. (Maybe that's just me.) And we're still exposed. The faster we come up with ways to prevent identity theft, the faster the thieves come up with ways to steal our identities, destroy our reputations, and take our money.

I'm not trying to minimize this type of identity theft, but at the end of the day, even if these thieves take my identity, I'm still me, and while my creditors may be confused, I'm not, and my friends and family aren't confused either.

There's another type of identity theft that may be more dangerous, at least to my true identity, the way I view myself and the way others view me. This identity theft changes the way I live, the choices I make, the way I interact with the people around me and with God.

Our true identities are often formed by the identities we assign to ourselves, and those identities or names we give ourselves have the power to shape our lives. They can open up possibilities; they can shut down our dreams. They can propel us to move forward; they can paralyze us so that we can't move at all.

Think about it. If I see myself as a dancer, I dance boldly and confidently. And I hone my skills. If I think I can't dance, then I just don't dance. Incidentally, I don't see myself as a dancer. I wish I were, but I gave that dream up long ago.

If I see myself as a student, I believe my efforts at learning will be successful, and so I move forward with conviction that I will do well in my classes. I keep up on my homework. I study. I put forth efforts to absorb the material. If I don't think I can learn, if I doubt my ability to succeed, then I think, why even try? (I have a lot of students who take on this pattern.)

If I see myself as a teacher, I teach. I watch my students and assess their learning. I critique my lesson plans and make them better.  If I think I am a writer, I think my writing has purpose and power. This gives me the power to write, and as I write, I get better. If I think I am not a writer, why bother writing? 

My identity is closely linked with learning, teaching, and writing. I believe God created me to use this identity for His glory, and He has used this identity to draw people closer to Him.

And yet, there have been moments when I doubted my identity. I was tempted to stop learning, thinking that I was too old to learn new things. I was tempted to give up my dream of becoming a teacher. I have given up my identity as a writer more than once.  

In Ephesians 2, Paul tells us that we are saved by grace; we did not earn our salvation, our acceptance into God's family. He adds that this salvation is not merely for our benefit, that we are God's masterpieces and He has prepared good works for us to accomplish. These are His dreams for us, and as we set out to do these works, He gives us strength to accomplish them. We are part of His family, and we join Him in reaching out to the rest of the world by beginning these works. 

There is no greater joy than this. 
And this is part of the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10 when he says, "The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance." 

To put the passage in terms of this discussion, Satan wants to steal your identity, your dreams, and your joy in joining Christ to reach the world. He wants to stop you from doing the things God planned for you long ago.   We need to become increasingly focused on Jesus and His plans for our lives so that we can experience the abundant life He promised. We need to allow Him to establish our identity and our dreams as well as to protect this identity from those who would steal it.  

Long ago I allowed the thief, the enemy of my soul, to begin erasing my identity, and out of desperation I cried out to Jesus to rescue me. I am so grateful that He did. He is restoring and recreating my identity and my dreams.  He is doing more than I could have imagined.  

I hesitate to think what my life would be like if I had let the enemy win.  

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