Identity Microsurgery 

We form our sense of identity from those we are connected to - family, friends, work colleagues, and the wider society as we interact with it through media, the internet and other means.  But God always intended that the strongest source of our identity should come from our relationship with Him.  All of us have lived at least some of our time separate from God and so we can expect that this will have led to our sense of identity being distorted.  And this makes us susceptible to temptation.  

The bible highlights three broad God given areas of our identity where we are susceptible to temptation:

  • Our Appetites for food, shelter, clothing, safety, shelter etc
  • Our need for Approval and acceptance by others, and
  • Our Ambitions to achieve things.

God always intended that

  • our Appetites would be supplied by His Provision
  • our need for Approval would come from being His children, created in His image in other words His Paternity, and
  • our Ambitions would be aligned with His Purposes.

When we are disconnected from God:

  • we can become open to Fear that our Appetites won't be fulfilled and we can seek to fulfil them in inappropriate ways
  • we can become open to Shame when we experience disApproval and rejection and we can become controlled by our search for approval, and
  • we can become open to Guilt about our Ambitions and achievements and we can begin to strive OR give up.

Even Jesus, who's identity was sure and secure and in no way distorted, was tempted by the devil in these areas of appetite approval and ambition:

  • "If you are the Son of God (notice the questioning of Jesus' identity) turn these stones to bread" (appetite)
  • "If you are the Son of God throw yourself down from the temple" (approval)
  • "Worship me (the devil) and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world" (ambition)

But Jesus knew that:
  • at the deepest level everything, even the bread we eat comes from the Word of God who said let there be..... (appetite)
  • he didn't need to test his Father's approval (approval)
  • as He served his Father, his Father would give him all the kingdoms of the world (ambition)

We need identity microsurgery
If someone has an accident and their hand is chopped off, these days through the miracles of modern medicine, that hand can sometimes be reattached.  However it isn't as simple as sowing the hand onto the arm.  The muscles, sinews, blood vessels, and nerves also need to be reconnected through microsurgery.

It is similar when we are being reconnected back to God.  We become God's children but we also need various parts of our identity to be reconnected to God - identity microsurgery.  

Now when some of us become Christians it sometimes seems like God does an almost instantaneous work of restoring people's identities and reconnecting them to God's provision, purpose and paternity.  But for most of us, and even those who experience dramatic reconnection, there are parts of our lives where we need to cooperate with God.  Now restoring our identity is God's work of grace but I would like to suggest two ways in which we can open ourselves to God and receive his grace:

1.  Change our thinking

  • We can meditate on scriptures that remind us of God's provision, purpose, and paternity (The Lord's prayer is a great place to start).
  • We can meditate on the way Jesus responded to temptations in the areas of appetite, ambition, and approval.
  • We can reflect on our own actions and see if we can identify habits of acting and thinking that are based on being separate from God rather than connected to God.  
  • We can then think about how the truths of the first two dot points can correct those habits of acting and thinking.  And we can the plan reminders (eg notes on bathroom mirrors) to help us form disciplines of new ways of thinking that will then become habits and over time a lifestyle.

2. Pray intentionally and specifically for God to work in your life
You might like to pray this prayer (or one like it) on a daily basis:

Lord by your Spirit, please renew my identity as your precious child.  By your grace and power, please

  • connect my appetites to your provision and free me from fear
  • connect my need for approval to your paternity and free me from shame, and
  • connect my ambition to your purposes and free me from guilt and striving.

Additional Resources:
We did a four sermon series unpacking Appetite Approval and Ambition:
God Given Identity