Identity theft, also known as ID Theft, is a crime in which a criminal obtains key pieces of someone else’s personal information, such as Social Security or driver’s license numbers, in order to pose as that person. The information can be used to obtain credit, merchandise, and services, all using the victims’ name. The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for housing, education, or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. Many victims of ID theft tell stories of how their lives were turned completelyupside–down and how long it took to get right-side up again.
I am writing about another kind of identity theft in today’s blog,however, and the consequences are far greater than lost job opportunities or denied loans. Genesis 1:27 reveals that we aremade in the image of God. Therefore, we are not only to love and worship Him, we are to find our identity in Him. Our whole existence is to be rooted in our relationship to him.
For in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
The verse tells us where we are to find our identity: IN HIM! The problem of ID theft shows up when we seek to find our identity in anything smaller than God. St. Augustine made it clear that this would never work with his unforgettablestatement: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Any identity not rooted in God leads to living a life of unimaginable insecurity and instability. It often leads to a variety of forms of serious and debilitating addictions. Think about the following scenarios and see if any of them resonate with you.
• If you are looking for your identity in your parenting and your children struggle . . . your identity is threatened.
• If you are looking for your identity in your profession and you are laid off . . . your identity is threatened.
• If you are looking for your identity in a dating relationship and you break up . . . your identity is threatened.
• If you are looking for your identity in the applause of man and the applause dies out . . . your identity is threatened.
• If you are looking for your identity in your physical appearance and you get old . . . your identity is threatened.
Our need for an identity is woven into the fabric of our lives. God made us to find our identity in Him and in Him alone. If we attempt to build our identity on something smaller than God, we will eventually “deify” whatever that is and make it into our god. We will worship it. We will praise it. We will sacrifice for it. We become enslaved to it. In the end, seeking an identity in anything smaller than God is seeking to build our identity on shifting sand rather than solid rock . . . and we all remember what happened to the house that was built on shifting sand: it fell with a great crash!
Adam and Eve sought to build their identity on something other than God, and sent all of creation into a death spiral. In so doing, they denied their own humanity, a humanity that was to be realized through their intimate and personal relationship with the One who had created them. Theologian Thomas Oden puts it this way:
Suppose my god is sex or my physical health or the Democratic Party. If I experience any of these under genuine threat, then I feel myself shaken to the depths. Guilt becomes neurotically intensified to the degree that I have idolized finite values. Bitterness becomes neurotically intensified when someone or something stands between me and something that is my ultimate value.
Even if we seek our identity in what is considered to be “good things” (family, service to God, etc.), as soon as they become ultimate things they become bad things. No matter how “good”something might be, if it is smaller than God, it is what I call a “God-substitute,” and in the end it will inevitably return void. Only when we find and fix our identity in the Almighty are we able to withstand the winds of change in our lives. Regardless of what is happening around us, we can look to the One who never changes, never leaves, and never forsakes us.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!