I’m preaching on Philippians 3 this weekend, am thinking about this character known as the apostle Paul (yes, he would be a little ‘a’ apostle), and am pondering what it means to have an identity wholly found in Christ (no, I don’t know for sure what’s going on in the picture, but am thinking it was possibly taken in San Francisco).
Paul’s conversion experience was a frightening, dramatic thing. I’ve spoken several times before about how he saw the world differently when the scales fell from his eyes. He no longer saw the people of the world as he once did – he no longer saw Christians as he once did. His view of God changed, his values changed, his mission in life changed, and his motives for action changed (from being self-centered to being Christ-centered).
In addition to seeing all those things in a different light, he also saw himself differently. His view of self underwent a complete overhaul after Jesus was revealed to him.
In fact, according to Paul, a Jesus follower should only worry with self enough to crucify it with Jesus. He taught that those who commit to following Jesus make a conscious decision to die to their old way of life and to allowing Christ to live through them by imitating Him. Paul modeled what these teachings looked like by applying them in his own life.
When Paul decided to follow Jesus, his core identity – the markers that defined who he was as a person – completely changed. No longer was he the same man!
His reason for existence changed, and that change occurred because his view of Jesus changed. No longer was Jesus a backwoods, simpleton heretic in Paul’s mind. He was the Lord of the Universe and the Savior of Mankind! When Paul came to grips with that reality, he was never the same again, and God used him to turn the world upside down.
Philippians 3 highlights what Paul thought about Jesus after his conversion, and how his view of Christ played into shaping his new identity.
Much in Paul’s life story parallels my own. Before my conversion, I can honestly say that my identity was found in things other than Christ (and most of those things were in opposition to Christ), but after … well, things changed.
They didn’t change all at once. I continued to struggle with sin, and I still sometimes struggle with worrying what other people think more than I ought to (rather than simply worrying about what Jesus thinks without considering the rest), but I can honestly say my life looks a lot different now than it did before I decided to follow Jesus. That’s because, in addition to seeing the world differently, I see myself a lot differently now too.
I’ve come to realize that I’m not the most important thing in the universe, and have even come to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around my selfish wants and desires (shocking, yes). When a person is living in a sinful state, it is natural to put self at the center of all.
But seeing things through the spectacles of Christ changes everything. The message of Philippians 3 is one that I grasp because its one that I closely relate to.
What about you? Any conversion stories you’d like to share? Ever pondered what it means to truly find your identity in Christ?
While we’re on the topic of conversion, my dad (a.k.a. Jim Woodell) referred me to a new blog you need to check out.
The author of that new blog is Falesha – a recently baptized believer who is blogging about her new life in Christ. Check out her inagural post, and add this blog to your reading list: I once was lost … through Christ I’m found!
That’s a great example of a healthy identity change right there!