False identities and our true identity in Christ part 2 (godly identity)

False identities

In this second post in a series, I’m going to look at one of four false identities that the Father had to remove as part of my journey to wholeness and discovering who I am in Christ.

***CONTENT WARNING***
This is a vulnerable post about my journey to sexual wholeness and may not be appropriate for minors nor for those of a sensitive nature.

I have been honest about my struggles so that others who were trapped in the same lies of shame can also find freedom and release.  Please handle with care.

False identity #2: My identity is in my sin

Hello my name is John and I’m addicted to porn.

The first time I said those words was like a thunderbolt of revelation.  I knew my life had spiralled out of control but confessing that I was addicted was a bitter truth that had taken years to face up to and finally confront.

The first step of the 12 step program used in alcoholic anonymous and other recovery programs based on it is:

We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviours, that our lives had become unmanageable.

A brief history of my addiction (content warning)

It took over 30 years to get to this point.  From an innocent fascination with scantily clad women in the lingerie section of home shopping magazines grading up to softporn magazines when I was 18 and old enough (and sometimes brave enough) to buy them.

They were my escape from my life which was full of abuse and empty of love.  It might have been an illusion to think these images were interested in me – but the illusion was better than the reality.

Encounters with the Holy Spirit and meeting my wife were transformational and I was free for some time.

But then the internet.

Porn became accessible without even having to leave the house.  I spent hours searching for images to escape the stress of my job and the shame built as I couldn’t tell my wife just how much I had let her down.  So I dumped it on my wife and made everything her fault.  As our marriage headed for the rocks, things got worse as online video became a reality and a more powerful pull.  I started looking at porn at work and even got caught by a co-worker.  I reached out for help and had filters installed on my machines but I couldn’t talk about it in any depth with my “personal pastor” as he found the whole thing bizarre that I would do anything like that.  I received healing for many of my childhood wounds and began to learn who I was in Christ but the addiction was so strong it often felt like I had no choice.  It became a habit where I was looking for porn online (despite the filters) every day and masturbating every day.  “It can’t get worse than this” I though.

I was wrong.

I was so used to “normal” porn that to get the fix I needed stronger fix and so I started watching worse and worse.  Each time I would feel physically sick but soon that would subside and it became a new normal.  I kept trying to reach out to the men in my church asking if anyone else struggled.  No-one admitted they had a problem.  In addition, they were upset that I had even mentioned that at a men’s meeting.  Eventually, I found one man who was not shocked and helped me fine tune my filter on my computer.

But my understanding of who I was in Christ was weak and so I still felt powerless against the addiction.  This belief led me to secretly buy new laptops to use or to use keyloggers to steal the filter password from my mentor.

The shame grew – how could I admit to my mentor and my wife each time I did something like this again.

It was then I discovered recovery groups with xxxchurch.com

After so long, I finally had a community of men who were Christians and who were open about their struggles.

It was with this band of brothers that I could finally fully open up about where I was and receive God’s light into some very dark places.

I sin or I am the sin?

However, it was a short step in my journey from saying I was addicted to saying I was an addict.

But this is a very big difference in my identity.

One says I have a problem, the other says I am the problem.

I had defined myself by my sin not by who I was in Christ.

Whilst admitting I had a problem was liberating, saying I was the problem was a cage.

You see confessing that we have sinned sins brings healing (Jas 5:16) whereas saying we are the sin brings shame.

Shame says this is who I am and nothing can change it.

Like Adam and Eve, shame leads us to hide God and cover ourselves up.

I remember being walked through the story of the prodigal son through prayer ministry and I couldn’t embrace the Father.  I felt I was too dirty.

How do we cover our shame?  In my life I have sought to cover my shame through five ways:

  • Religion – I will cover myself in good works to try to counteract the shame I feel inside
  • Transference – I will put my shame on other people and say it’s their fault that I am like this
  • Rebellion – I am the problem, I am rubbish therefore I act rubbish – I live out my identity of sin
  • Self-harm – I am the problem therefore I will punish myself
  • Distraction – I will try to drown out the voice of shame with sensuality (eg drugs, alcohol) or busyness (eg TV, gaming)

Dealing with shame

We don’t need to cover our shame because Jesus has dealt with shame fully at the cross.
You see, the thing they don’t tell you in Sunday School is that the Roman method was to crucify people naked as a final humiliation.  Jesus was shamed to take our shame.

This is symbolised in the Day of Atonement – there was a sacrifice to deal with the punishment that our sin deserves (propitiation) and there was a scapegoat that was sent out into the desert to symbolise our shame being taken away (expiation).

Jesus was the fulfilment of the Day of Atonement – he took the punishment our sins deserve (Isa 53:4-5) but he also bore the shame of our sins (Heb 12:2; Rom 10:11).

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps 103:12

This is true even if the shame you feel came from someone doing something to you.  Jesus was innocent but was shamed by others.

Our shame only leads us to withdraw from God, but never does it lead God to withdraw from us.

God came to Adam and Eve in the Garden after they sinned – it was them that hid from Him.

In the story of the prodigal son, it was the Father who shamed himself by running and exposing his legs (which in that culture was a really big deal) to embrace his son.  Furthermore, he bore the shame of what everyone would have said about his son’s behaviour.

In Jesus, God stepped down into our world to meet us in our circumstances and our messes.  In the words of Corrie Ten Boom, “there is no pit that Christ is not deeper still”.

Just like in the story of the prodigal son, God doesn’t wait for us to get home and “get it right” before He loves us.  We just have to turn to Him – that is repentance – and he comes running to us even while we are far off.

That’s why Jesus accepted the shame – because of the joy set before him (Heb 12:2) – the joy of seeing sinners repenting (Lk 15:7,10) and expanding the Kingdom (Lk 10:21).

But there’s more.

Cleansed and made righteous

God not only deals with the punishment our sin deserves and takes our shame taken away, He also makes us righteous:

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21)

Just as in the story of the prodigal son, when the Father meets us he covers our nakedness in a robe – that robe of righteousness is Christ:

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:26-27)

God looks at us and sees Christ.

This was foreshadowed in the sacrifice system.

When a Jew brought a lamb as a sin offering, the priest didn’t look the Jew – he looked at the lamb.
If the lamb was without blemish or defect then it was acceptable (eg Lev 22:21).

Similarly, God doesn’t look at us for perfection, He looks at His Son – the Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) who was without blemish or defect (1 Pet 1:19) and so God is satisfied (Jn 1:29).

It’s not about us – it’s about Jesus.

That’s why in the story, the father stops his son just before he says “I am no longer worthy to be called your son”.

It’s true, we’re not worthy – but Jesus is worthy for “while we were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8) – in fact whilst we were his enemies (Rom 5:10).  We didn’t love him or pursue him first.  God initiated “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).

There’s no way we can earn our salvation – that’s why it is a free gift (Eph 2:8).

The Father sees who we are in Christ as our life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3).  And since Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Eph 1:20) we too are seated in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).

This is the reality.

Living from our new identity in Christ

That’s why we’re told to set our hearts on things above (Col 3:1-4) as that is where our life, our true identity is.

This is also why we’re told to put to death all the things that belong to our old nature (Col 3:5) and throw off the sin that easily entangles (Heb 12:1) – as it’s no longer part of us.  It isn’t who we are any more.

Danny Silk in his excellent book Culture of Honour says that he once stepped on a nail which went through his foot but never did he think “I’m a nail!”  Similarly as a child of light if we discover darkness inside us – we don’t then say we are darkness.  That is as silly as saying “I’m a nail!”  We were once in darkness but now we are children of the light and so we live as children of the light (Eph 5:8).  God has dealt with our sin powerfully and has made us righteous.  We live from that reality – yes we might sin but it’s no longer natural (1 Jn 5:18) – we’re going to fall into righteousness not into sin.

Human children will physically become like their parents not through their own efforts but naturally because of their DNA.

This is a shadow of the spiritual reality that because we have God’s seed in us we will naturally become like Jesus and stop sinning .

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God (1 Jn 3:9).

That’s why it is fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) – it’s something that grows naturally as we live by the Spirit not the flesh (Rom 8:5-13) and keep in step with what the Spirit is doing in our lives (Gal 5:25).

The battle for our new identity

That’s why Satan will try to get us to fix our eyes on ourselves, on our sin.

Because as soon as we take our eyes off of Christ, things in the natural will look hopeless.  So either we will mistakenly try to fix things ourselves through rules (which are powerless to bring about any change, see Col 2:20-23, and will just result in us becoming proud Pharisees or) or we will give up.  Either way we won’t be living as a loved son seated in heavenly places.

But more than that, Satan wants us to fix our eyes on our sin so that, we will stop running the race as we doubt that we can do anything.  Whereas God has made us co-workers with Him (eg 2 Cor 6:1) planned good works for us to do (Eph 2:10).

This is why we need we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2 NASB).  That’s who were are and we are becoming who we truly are.  The Spirit is working in us (Phil 2:13) will finish the work Christ started in us (Phil 1:6).  We just have to keep in step with the spirit (Gal 5:25), we will be transformed from glory into glory into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) until at last we will be like Him when we finally meet Him face to face (1 Jn 3:2).

Summary

You are not your sin.  You are a beloved son/daughter who has been forgiven and made righteous in Christ and welcomed to your true home.  Receive His love, receive His embrace that is dependent on His love not your ability.  Enter now into the party he has thrown for you (Lk 15:23), hear His songs of joy sung over you (Zeph 3:17) and draw strength from them (Neh 8:10).  Let His love transform you:

Fathers love letter soaking video

An allegorical tale about our identity in Christ

Click here to be taken to the Amazon page.

TLP ana and the prince cover

Other posts in this series:

Other relevant posts on this blog:

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Taking off false identities part 1 (godly identity)

False identities

In life there are two choices: believe what God says about who we are or to believe what someone else says about us.

In this first post in a series, I’m going to look at one of four false identities that the Father had to remove as part of my journey to wholeness and discovering who I am in Christ.

I am going to be very vulnerable so that I may bring freedom and release to others who are trapped in the same lies that I was. So please handle with care.

False identity #1: My identity is in what I do

God has designed us men to embody his transcendent/outward nature – his “doingness”. As such it is easy for us to mistakenly define ourselves by what we do. That’s why one of the first questions we men ask when we meet someone new is “what do you do?”

We forget that doing flows from being and not the other way round: What I do flows from who I am.

Chapter 1

I was a secondary school teacher for about ten years who was dedicated to his work and had won awards and praise from staff and students alike. But truth be told I was a workaholic – typically putting in 76 hours a week and neglecting my wife in nearly every way.

Whilst I was aware that I was working very hard I never realised the depth of my problem until extreme circumstances exposed what was really in my heart (Dt 8:2-3). For many reasons my wife developed clinical post-natal depression and tried to kill herself. She was sectioned (‘forcibly’ admitted to a mental ward) and I was left home with a baby and a stressful job (which included being attacked by a student). I couldn’t cope and I had a breakdown. It was during this time of brokenness that I heard God tell me to quit my job for the sake of my wife and first child.

I was devastated: “what will I do? All I’ve ever done is teaching!” I didn’t realise it at the time, but the fear wasn’t because I wouldn’t be able to get another job it was because I didn’t know who I was apart from the job.

While I would never want to repeat these events I am so grateful that God allowed me to walk through something this extreme which was the only thing that could expose my problem, separate me from this false identity and then force me to hunger for Him to deliver me and show me my true identity in Christ. Only then would my priorities fall into place permanently.

Since we act out of our identity when our identity is in our job then our worth and value is in the job. Therefore we sacrifice our spouse, our children, our friends and our health to the job to become the best so that we have worth. If anything goes wrong in our job then we will spiral and be stressed/depressed and have no peace.

Ultimately, when our identity is in our job we worship our job. It is no surprise that we sacrifice everything on this altar.

  • Do you define yourself by what you do?
  • How would you react if you had to give up your job or your ministry for obscurity?
  • Is Christ enough for you? Or do you need to get your worth through something else.

God is the great “I AM” (Ex 3:14) who is not defined by anything external to Himself. He is a self-sufficient community of Father, Son and Spirit. When we become united with Christ (1 Cor 6:17) – we become part of that eternal relationship. We are adopted into His family (Eph 1:5) become a children of God (Jn 1:12, 1 Jn 3:1). We can rest in our true identity, there is a place for us as His children.

This story had a happy ending – God provided another job (2 days before our money ran out) which had teaching as part of it but had far less pressure and no students who would attack me. In addition it has a better remuneration and flexibility that allows me to take off time to spend with the family. It is a blessing that I would never have imagined in my former life. And it is more of a blessing because as a Son of God I already have approval and so my work can flow out of that place of peace, this also means that I don’t need to fear others succeeding.

I would love to end the story (and this blog post) there and conclude with the real change that has meant that even though I could make far more money in other jobs – I’m not tempted by them because they would involve sacrificing my family. And that is something that the Father has rooted deeply into me through this experience.

However, the truth is that this was merely Chapter 1 in the story that God was writing in my life. I am still on the journey to wholeness.

Chapter 2

A couple of years into my new job I started thinking that I got it because of my ability and not because of the grace of God. I started thinking that I was better than my colleagues.

This story had a happy ending as the Father has a great sense of humour. One day I happened to find my application letter so I thought I’d look to see how excellent it was (and give myself a well-deserved pat on the back). What I discovered was that in the very first sentence I had majorly misspelt the company’s name! How I was humbled. God is good – there is no way they could have missed that glaring error – this job is most definitely a gift from Him and not due to my feeble efforts.

Again I would love to finish this post here and just talk about the real transformation that happened in my work but after the victory here my identity problem sneaked itself undercover elsewhere – which is very common to us Christians.

Chapter 3

I “baptised my brokenness” – in other words I “Christianised” my problem. Instead of finding my identity in my “secular” job and seeking approval there – I instead sought it within the church – becoming a speaker, a leader, a prophet and many other things. I was so busy doing the work of the Lord that I neglected the Lord of the work. My prayer life was for gaining words for others not listening. My bible reading was studying for preaching not letting it speak to me on its own terms.

God’s cure for this was the same as before – He needed to remove this false identity forcibly so that I could discover my true identity was in being a son.

I went to India and saw more miracles in a week than I had in my whole Christian life. My wife went to Bethel’s school of supernatural worship and tangibly encountered the Father. Normal church life was not enough any more. God also called me to speak more honestly about my struggles with pornography and to teaching children godly sexuality. Very quickly it became clear that the church was not comfortable and we had to choose between conforming or being obedient to our calling. We left the church and were told by one of the leaders that we would “never have any influence” and this curse fed my brokenness.

We started an organic church and I was desperate to make it succeed to prove them wrong but of course it couldn’t until I was made whole. The turning point was when everyone left except two people who were at that time very broken. That was the moment I had to choose.

I said to God “even if there are only ever these two people – I will pour my life into them”.

It was this obedience to Him in the midst of obscurity that changed things around – because as we are faithful with little, God will entrust us with much (Mt 25:21). It’s in the obscurity that character is truly formed.

This story also has a happy ending as the church grew and like David, we saw the misfits and broken people transformed into mighty men.

Chapter 4

However, we did our job of discipling so well that they all left to pursue their God dreams around the country.

Whilst my wife and I were proud spiritual parents, suddenly we found ourselves at the beginning again.

The pattern of transformation on this journey to wholeness had come full circle yet again.

It’s often then that Satan will whisper to us that we are back in the same place – that nothing will ever change.

The reality is that our growth into maturity is helical.

We are going round a mountain on the way to the top. When we come round the mountain and experience the “same place” again – we are actually further up. We have experienced more of the goodness of the Father, we have developed our relationship and our trust in Him and so the “same place” is an opportunity to draw on the grace that He has deposited and go even deeper with Him.

As someone once said: “God never lets us fail a test. He allows us to take it again and again until we pass”.

Each time I yield to Him and let His Spirit have His way wholeness is brought in that area.

Then my journey takes me to a new place where I repeat the process. Just like the Israelites gradually drove the nations out of the Promised Land – so we too we drive out the brokenness until our lives become the perfect image of who we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).

Chapter 5

I love the Father’s great sense of humour. This wasn’t the post I was going to write. I thought I was going to be writing on my other false identities – but I felt His prompting last night to include this area. Each time I was writing this part, He asked me to include the next chapter in my journey and in this final chapter I discover just how much He has hoodwinked me.

Tending the garden of our souls is an ongoing process. Every day we must water the good plants and pull up the weeds. However, sometimes we don’t realise that a new plant is actually a weed until it begins to flower.

At this stage in my life I am dedicated to writing blog posts and books to help others escape the traps I fell linto, so that readers will stand on my shoulders and go further than me.

As I reach this point in this post I realise that God has set me up to show that a new weed has grown up in my life whose root is still the same false identity and it’s only now that I see it for what it is.

I have chosen not to look at how many books I sell or how many people read my posts as I seek to write in obedience to Him only. But I have to confess to you now that I have started to put my identity into what I post on social media.

As a consequence I have started to base my worth on how many likes my facebook posts receive. If I don’t get (m)any then it sends me into a spiral. I confess that I often spend time thinking of the perfect post and the best time to post it in order for it to get noticed. And if I haven’t got anything worthy of notice then I don’t post – sometimes days at a time.

I knew that this was becoming an issue but it’s only as I’ve written this blog entry that I realise its root. Satan wants to tell me that I’m always going to have this same problem no matter what I do. But I am further up the mountain and I have already removed so many of the weeds in the garden of my soul.

Now I recognise it for what it is – I can crucify this part and offer it afresh to the Father to be transformed into increasing likeness of Christ in me – the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

Father, thank you for your continued work in my life. Thank you that I am being transformed daily from glory to glory. Thank you that you will complete the good work you started in my. Thank you for showing me that I have put my identity and my worth in my social media posts. I’m sorry that I’m drinking from a source other than the river of life. I’m sorry that I have sought my value in something other than being you loved child. I renounce this identity and surrender it to you in the name of Jesus. Fill me with your Spirit of sonship that cries out ‘abba Father’ and give me my daily bread to live on. I ask that you would use this post for your glory –that many of your children will be set free and find their true identity in Christ. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

I don’t have to fear this area now. God is more than able. Every time it crops up in the future I just have to confess it, surrender it to Him and receive His Spirit in return. Soon it will be nothing other than a whisper that is devoid of power. For the truth sets us free (Jn 8:32).

PS Now you know – you are most welcome to keep me accountable and ask me “how is it going?”.

The next three posts in this series will actually cover what I originally planned (unless the Father has other surprises in store for me):

  • False identity #2: My identity is in my sin
  • False identity #3: My identity is in my brokenness
  • False identity #4: My identity is in my diagnosed condition

The gift that keeps on being taken (godly children)

My boys often help me with the food shopping on a Saturday morning and as a way of saying thank you I buy them have a treat from the bread and pasties isle.

The gift that keeps on being taken

My eldest son chose a huge baguette and after getting in the car, he pulled of a tiny piece and offered it to me.

I was conflicted.

Whilst I was pleased that my son sought to share something I had bought for him with me, the amount he offered back was an insult.

“That’s how you are with me.”

The Father’s voice crashed in to my inward grumping.

“Sorry?”

“That’s how you are with the gifts I give you.”

The reality hit me right between the eyes.  It was true.

God has given me gifts of teaching and prophecy but he has given me more than just these “spiritual” gifts. The talents and abilities I see as “natural” are actually from Him.  The job that I’m currently in is a gift from Him.  The achievements that I believe are due to my efforts are actually a gift from Him.  My wife was declared infertile by the doctors and so all my children are a gift from Him too.  And my very life is a gift from Him – I only continue to be because Jesus holds all things together

Of all these many gifts He has showered on me what I give Him back is an insult.

Too often I see my gifts as mine and use them to build my kingdom, my influence, my platform, my reputation rather than honouring the One from whom it all came.

May it never be so again.

Father, forgive me that I take all that you give me and then selfishly use it for my own ends.  Let my life become a fragrant offering back to you.  May I like David say:

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” (1 Chron 29:14)

This theme is explored in my allegorical tale “The Donkey and the King”.

This is the third post in a series called “godly children” – looking at how our children’s behaviour opens our eyes to how we behave as children of God.  My introductory post was as a guest on this blog and the second (CEO or Father) can be found here.

How to stop looking at a woman lustfully (godly desire)

*Content warning*
This post discusses desires in a frank but godly way.
desire

All Christian men know the passage:

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28)

The problem is we don’t know is how to stop this.

Sometimes it feels like we are wired to notice the bodies of others. In fact we can often be shocked at how much we can be aroused by just looking someone. But as a Christian man, we think “I’m a new creation – I’m not meant to feel this way!”

A brief internet search shows that we are not alone when looking for help to stop lusting after women:

looking-lustfully
looking-lustfully-2

However, the advice given seems to fall into one of three camps:

  • Condemnation/shame/works – you shouldn’t do this, it doesn’t honour God or the woman. Try harder, chop off everything that causes you to sin, etc.
  • Triumphalistic – you’re a new creation, you’re free from this, shake it off as it’s the old you, repeat “I am the righteousness of Christ”, etc.
  • Liberal/humanistic – it’s natural, men are designed the polygamous, there’s nothing you can do about it, accept it as part of who you are, etc.

As well meaning as all of these are, all of them are lacking:

  • Using internet filters to cut things off is helpful but ultimately it’s external and doesn’t change our heart.  And you can’t avoid going out in summer, nor filter the first accidental glance.  Besides self-effort will ultimately fail as apart from Jesus we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).  And so the cycle of shame will begin again and the more rubbish you feel the more you will act out of that identity.
  • Realising your new identity is important – it helps renew our mind (Rom 12:2), and how we act flows out of our new identity. But it’s too easy to treat this as a formula: “I’m saying the right words but it’s not working!” and miss intimacy with the father that changes our heart.  It’s also to easy to become inward rather than outward looking.
  • Whilst we do need to recognise how God has made us as men, we are not animals subject to our biological urges. We’re made in the image of God and our sexuality means something.

So what can we do? How can we take the good in each of these approaches?

First we recognise that God has made us men and has wired us to notice beauty – so when you notice this happening don’t try and suppress it or pretend it’s not there. That won’t solve anything.  Acknowledge it, however realise that the woman is not the goal, but merely the shadow of who our hearts are really looking for.

Second we realise that we are made in the image of God and men are meant to love women sacrificially like Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). We have a higher calling: we are meant to give (love) not take (lust).

Thirdly, we men are made to act not just acknowledge our godly calling to give.  After all we are meant to be co-workers with Christ (1 Cor 3:9). I have found the best way to do this is to pray for the woman we see.  Something like:

“Father, I thank you for this beautiful woman.  I thank you that you created her and that you love her.  I thank you that you have made her to be loved and cherished.  Father I ask that you would pour out your blessing on her, that she would become aware of your presence, that she would find her value in your love and not how she looks….” 

This prayer is not a formula – it’s from the heart.  It’s not a inward prayer “father help me to stop lusting!” which assumes we are still bound by our old identity as a sinner.  It’s a prayer from our new identity in Christ and in line with what we are meant to do as men.

The Kingdom is advancing – and seeing a beautiful woman is an opportunity for it to forcefully advance in our lives as we step into our destiny as men.  Amen.

Wired for intimacy part 1 (godly sexuality)

wired for intimacy 1

Before we had our first miracle baby we read the book “The Social Baby” which shows that even from birth babies are wired to seek faces over other images:

“Within minutes of birth, the baby will turn her head to the sound of someone’s voice, when another sound, even if of the same pitch and intensity, will not attract her attention…the baby is also attracted to faces…Given a choice between looking at a face-shaped pattern, and one with the arrangement of eyes nose and mouth scrambled up, the newborn baby will spend longer looking at the face”

wired for intimacy

Recent research has now identified that the part of the brain used for recognising faces is far more developed in babies and is almost equal to that of adults by even 4 months.

As Christians we don’t believe that this design is merely for survival, we believe that the things made reveal God’s divine nature (Rom 1:20a) for “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1).

In the same way the physical tabernacle was “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Heb 8:5), this physical realm is a shadow of the spiritual realm.  A baby seeking the face of his/her parents is a shadow of the reality that we as children of God (1 Jn 3:1) are designed to seek the face of our Creator.

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18)

In the Father’s face we are going to find the love, affirmation and protection that we need.

A baby know this – they take delight in looking at faces.  Children know this as any parent who hears a their child say “look at me!”.  This is why God instructed Aaron to bless the Israelites with the phrase “the LORD make His face shine upon you” (Num 6:23-25).

To have God’s face turn from us is to be cursed and cut off from our hearts desire (eg Ps 27:9; 2 Chr 30:9).  Babies know this – they become distressed if there is no response from a parent’s face (you can see an example in this YouTube video).

We are wired to seek the Father’s face, to have His face shine upon us and to have Him respond to us.  But not just a father’s face but the mother’s face too:

“A babies vision is a little blurry at birth but within a week a baby can focus on objects about 8 to 12 inches from his face which is the distance between a mother and baby’s face during feeding.”

One of the names for God used in the Old Testament is “El Shaddai” which is translated as “God Almighty” in places like Gen 17:1 and Gen 49:25.  Now shaddai could be come from the root “shadad” which means powerful (hence Almighty) or “shad” which means breast.  If it is the latter root then “El Shaddai” could be translated as “many breasted one” (sources: here and here).  Implying that God, like a mother, is our comfort, our sufficiency, our nourisher.

Given the current environment there are parties that sit firmly on both sides, each fiercely arguing that their version is correct translation.  The complementarians will argue that it’s a powerful, strong masculine God, the egalitarians will argue it’s a nurturing, tender, feminine God.

I believe that both are incorrect.  Each side only sees one part when both parts are needed*.  You see we are made male and female in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and only both together represent the fullness of God”†:

“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam” (Gen 5:2 KJV).

Adam was created in the image of God as one being – both male and female (Gen 2:7).  This is a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Father and the Son being intimately one (Jn 10:30) and indeed his nature of Oneness despite many opposing characteristics (eg grace/mercy vs truth/judgement).

Adam was then separated into two: male and female (Gen 2:22-23 the word rib is literally “side”) as a shadow of the plurality of the nature of God (both in the Trinity and His nature).  But designed to become one again (Gen 2:24).   Hence the fullness of the image of God on earth is male and female together as one.

So babies are wired to look into the face of their parents and receive all the love, affirmation, protection, comfort, nourishment from them.  This is the shadow of the spiritual reality of us as God’s children looking to Him (whose nature includes both masculine and feminine aspects) and receive all that we need from Him, our all-in-all:

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22:3-4)

* Why then does Jesus say we should call Him father and why is Jesus the Bridegroom if God is both masculine and feminine?  This requires us to understand how sexuality reflects the relationships in the Godhead and between God and man, which will be covered in a later post.

† So does that mean that only married people image God?  Not entirely, because ultimately the one flesh union of a husband and wife is also a shadow of the union of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32).  Perhaps this post might help.  And so if you’re single, you image God by being one with the Body of Christ becoming one with Christ.

Calling out your child’s true identity (godly parenting)

calling out (big)
In a previous post on godly parenting we briefly mentioned prophetic calling out of our children.  I want to look at this topic in a little more detail here.The classic example of this is the story of Gideon.  When the angel of the LORD appears to Gideon he speaks out his identity:

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judg 6:12)

But hold on a second!  Where is Gideon when the angel of the LORD speaks to him?  He’s hiding from the Midianites by threshing wheat in a winepress!  The angel calls him a mighty warrior when he is anything but.  Then the angel of the LORD (=Jesus) commands him to rescue His people but Gideon makes excuses:

“How can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judg 6:15)

We can see that Gideon sees himself as small, weak, insignificant and doesn’t see what God sees at all.  So God promises to be with him, but he needs a sign and brings an offering which is burnt up.

So Gideon now knows God, the creator of the universe, is with him and so everything’s going to be OK, right? Wrong!  His first task: tear down his father’s altar to Baal and Asherah pole

“But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime” (Judg 6:27)

So still scared.  Next task: raise an army.  But this is where he asks for two more signs with the fleece (Judg 6:36-40).  OK, so personal visitation by Jesus and three signs.  Surely he’s not scared now!  Wrong!  And God knows this which is why he says:

“If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with you servant Purah and listen to what they are saying.  Afterwards you will be encouraged to attack the camp” (Judg 7:10-11a)

He does and hears one of the Midianites speaking of a nightmare and the other explaining that it was about the sword of Gideon…God has given the Midiantes and the whole camp into his hands” (Judg 7:13-14).  Only then does Gideon step into his destiny that God knew all along: the mighty warrior.  He routs the Midianites and slaughters them in an act that is recorded forever.

God saw who Gideon truly was and spoke it over him – he affirmed and called out who he was going to be rather than who he currently was.  This is the Spirit of prophecy – calling forth things which are not yet to become true.

Prophetic calling out is not merely encouragement nor the power of positive thinking but speaking the truth of their identity. 

I’ve had well meaning Christians who confuse prophecy with encouragement and thinking by saying something encouraging and adding “God says” on the beginning will make it more than that.  For example, my wife has a degenerative condition that means she is becoming more and more disabled both physically and mentally.  A Christian brother gave me a word that “God says you’re going to have the best Christmas ever.”  It wasn’t – it was one of the hardest ones as my wife’s pain level was so high that she couldn’t celebrate much and my stress level was high trying to care for her and organise Christmas.  This word left a bitter taste.  Why would God say something like that which wasn’t true?

Prophetic calling out is speaking the truth of our child’s identity.  Since Jesus is the truth (Jn 14:6) and the Spirit of prophecy bears testimony to Jesus (Rev 19:10) – ie it speaks truth.  So prophecy will speak of the truth of our children’s identity – it will require us as parents to get on our knees and ask for God to open our eyes to the truth about our children.

Just like when the army of Aram surrounded the city where Elisha was and his servant panicked.  Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to the truth – and then he saw the army of God encamped around and outnumbering the enemy (1 Kings 6:17).  Once they saw this truth then how he approached the situation changed as they knew that victory would be theirs.

Once Jesus reveals our children’s true identities we can then affirm and call out who they will become in Christ and keep our eyes on the prize, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2) who will finish the good work he starts in our children (Phil 1:6).

An example is my eldest son Josiah William.  My wife and I prayed over the nine months about the right name: Josiah means “YHWH is my healer” and William means “protector”.  Given that my wife and I were infertile and despite treatments had no children until the church prayed for us, Josiah was the right name for our second child.  But whilst we saw a glimpse of truth, God opened our eyes to even more.  God became our healer through Josiah in two other ways: The hospital was clinically negligent with the delivery of our first child and the trauma of that was still fresh in my wife’s mind.  But God brought healing of that trauma through the fact that Josiah slept almost solidly for a week.  There was no crying, just a baby that you could put down in any position and have him sleep.  The second way was that God brought healing to our marriage through Josiah.  As I mentioned in a previous post my wife had clinical postnatal depression and was put in a psychiatric ward and I had a nervous breakdown.  Our marriage never really recovered and we were sleeping in separate beds for some time before my wife packed the car and our little girl and drove to the office to tell me she was leaving me.  I so grateful to God that He helped me make one of the best choices of my marriage – I said I would do what it takes to fix this – I would even go on a marriage course.  And we did and it was the beginning of the turnaround in our lives.  And Josiah’s conception was week 5’s homework.

God gave us a glimpse of who Josiah’s identity was – it was natural that we would sow into this and call out the healer and protector that God had made him to be.  One day I found myself saying “You know Josiah, God has made your someone who will protect other people’s lives – and I believe that one day you will save your brother’s life”.  And it came to pass that he did when he pulled his brother out of the way of a car that was going to hit him.  God through Jesus revealed the truth about Josiah and I have the privilege to speak that truth and see the Spirit make it reality.

This is so much easier said than done as it’s all too easy to limit our view to the present actions of our children rather than the future man/woman that they will become.  That’s why we need the Spirit to help us see who they truly are going to be in Christ.  God didn’t lose patience with Gideon and say “For goodness sake!  How much more confirmation do you need that I am with you?”  Why?  Because He could see who Gideon was going to be and knew it would come about.

May the Father speak to you now as you think about your own children.  May He reveal their true identity to you and may you have the persistence to keep on blessing the Spirit’s work in your children by calling out this identity no matter how outlandish it may seem.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.