The other night, as I walked into my room, something happened that annoyed me. I don’t remember exactly what it was; but whatever it was, it was enough for me to react by saying something bad in my mind. Almost as quickly as I thought the bad thought in my mind (and, not to justify my bad thoughts, but in the pantheon of bad thoughts, it wasn’t that bad), I immediately responded to that thought by saying to myself, “And you’re supposed to be a Christian?”
Right then and there, however, something suddenly dawned on me: I engage in a lot of “self-talk” that is destructive (what Alcohol Anonymous would, no doubt, call “stinkin’ thinkin'”). It’s not just that I’m critical of my behavior – which, on some levels, has its place – it’s that I am critical of my identity. Instead of recognizing my actions, thoughts, or behavior for what they are – sinful acts that, though inexcusable, nevertheless are single acts – I start projecting these onto my identity, questioning whether it’s justified to call myself a Christian, a pastor, a child of God.
To some extent, this self-commentary runs through my mind all day, every day, saying stuff like, “You’re supposed to be a pastor, and yet you haven’t even cracked open your Bible today?” Or, “Some Father you are; more concerned with your e-mail than playing with your children.”
This type of thinking will ultimately destroy a person, though. God wants us to come face-to-face with our sinful behavior and thinking, but He doesn’t want us to question our identity in Christ. Though repeated and continual sin does ultimately result in changing a person’s character, and eventually their identity, if we recognize our behavior and receive Christ’s forgiveness, we don’t have to fret about the “ultimates” of where our sin may lead. Our identity remains in Christ.
This, again, is not to excuse sin, to pretend it’s not a big deal. But one sin shouldn’t be magnified to the point that we think it takes us outside our identity in Christ (again, recognizing that repeated sin, when unrepented of, does eventually take us outside of Christ). And we should ever have before our minds one of the most important truths: that when God said of Jesus “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17), He was saying it of us as well – with all our sin and unrighteousness. I know that when it comes to my earthly parents, whenever I did something – or do something – wrong, I never said to myself, “Oh, boy. I guess I’m not their son anymore.” How much more so should I recognize this about my heavenly Father?
Ironically, one of the most important keys to victory over the sin we do commit is the continual realization of who we are in Christ at all times. This realization sets us free from sin.
How about you? Do you ever engage in this “stinkin’ thinkin'”? Do you ever question your identity, simply because of a sin you may have committed?
May we all recognize sin for what it is: an act that needs to be repented of. And may we not magnify it onto our identities as a whole.