Four Obstacles to Gratitude

  When the Israelites turned to Him in their distress, God remembered His people and provided a deliverer for them. By saving them, God was claiming them as His people and extending an invitation for the Israelites to see themselves as His people. God was giving them a new identity. As they followed Moses through the desert (a place that creates thirst), here is how the Israelites responded: In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” – Exodus 16:2-3 They responded ungratefully. And this was not an isolated incident. When God provided bread, they complained of having no meat. When they wanted water, they complained about Moses. When Moses went to meet with God, they complained that he had abandoned them. God describes this as being stiff-necked. Their eyes were focused downward, on themselves, rather than being raised towards heaven, the source of their true identity. They had not surrendered their identity to God, and instead were still centered on self. The thirst that the desert revealed was for more of what they already had.  This is the source of ingratitude. And the false self throws up many obstacles to gratitude in its effort to be satisfied, including: Comparison – Looking to others for a measure of significance. Wanting what others have when that benefits you and drawing feelings of superiority when what you have is ‘better’....

Adultery – Identity and the Seventh Commandment

You shall not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14 Sex is firmly tied to our identity. How we approach sex, who we do it with, and our motivation for having sex are all products of our sense of self. In our culture, we have taken this one step further, and make sex not just a product of identity, but an identity in itself. But, that is a topic for a different post on a different day. Because his nature is faithfulness, God hates adultery. It is not a fruit of an identity centered in Christ. It is a sign of a problem. Sex is connection on a soul level and is powerful. As such, sex can be used as a source of approval, control, or security and give a perceived sense of value to the self by answering the questions of identity: What do I do? What do I have? What do people think of me? When sex is part of the basis for identity, it is used to manufacture a sense of value. Sex is self-centered. I have lots of sex. –> Which makes me better than those who don’t. I satisfy my spouse. –> Which means my performance is good. I am desirable. –> Which provides a source of positive affirmation. I give (or withhold) sex to get something I want. –> Which is a source of power. Sex makes me feel secure. –> Which is a false source of wholeness. Which brings us to adultery. Issues of identity always lead to misusing the gifts of God. Said another way, when we seek wholeness apart from God, we use the...

No Stealing – Identity and the Eighth Commandment

You shall not steal. – Exodus 20:15 All of the commandments relate back to the first. Having no other gods besides the Lord is an expectation for our identity. (for fuller discussion, see Identity and the First Commandment) Idolatry is seeking wholeness in something other than God; building an identity on the foundation of a standard of the world. Wealth is an idol. Possessing and consuming things is an idolatry. It is something we look to in order to define our self. If shame is a fear of having no value, then getting something new can quickly cover that shame up. Temporarily. Until something newer or better comes along. Driven by comparison, we can know how we measure up (or don’t) by what we have or by how much we have. That’s the definition of ‘the good life’. And when we don’t have what we want, or what others have, or we’re longing for that ‘one more’ item to make the pain and emptiness go away, we steal. Taking what is not ours to even out the comparison. “I deserve this more” or “they have enough” can be ways to judge the fairness of stealing. Our false self becomes our value lens. Taking what is not ours because we cannot get what is needed to cover or deaden our shame any other way. Stealing is how an idol enslaves. In Luke 12, just before telling the parable of a foolish man who founded his life and security on gathering MORE, Jesus said “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” We may seek life in wealth, we may attempt to define our value and sense of...

No Lies – Identity and the Ninth Commandment

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. – Exodus 20:16 Throughout the Bible, God has been fighting for our identity. Beginning in the garden, to the nation Israel, and now in Christ, God’s desire has been for us – the jewel in the crown of his creation – to see our selves as his people. How we define our self matters. It is our identity. Hence our worth, our significance, our value, our purpose, should all be questions that are answered by being his. This is made clear with the first commandment. After the first, the commandments are not simply a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather a list of symptoms of the identity that is misplaced. Sin that results when we seek wholeness apart from God. Giving false testimony is a strategy basic to the false self – the self defined apart from Christ. A false testimony is saying that something is true about someone when it is not. This can take the form of slander or flattery. Or, the false testimony can be denying something is true that is. It is an effort to tear down another. Thus, by comparison, the one giving the testimony is elevated. Our life’s values are determined by what is good for our identity. Thus, giving false testimony is deemed acceptable because it benefits the one who lies. The cost to you is a price the one giving false testimony is willing to let you pay. Notice that? The cost is not paid by the liar. What comes out of our mouth indicates where our heart, the seat of identity, rests. See Jesus words on...

Be Content – Identity and the Tenth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. – Exodus 20:17 The Ten Commandments, given to the Israelites so they would remember their identity as the people of God, are related to us twice in the Old Testament. First in Exodus 20 and then again in Deuteronomy 5. They are identical with one curious exception. When giving justification for keeping the Sabbath, in the Exodus passage God refers back to the creation and in the Deuteronomy passage God reminds then of the source of their newly experienced freedom. This gives us two important reminders about our identity. First, we were created to see our self as God’s. Our sense of self being defined in that way. Our lives have meaning in communion with our Creator. No other source of value will fit or satisfy. Second, our identity as God’s is the source of freedom. Security for our self is found in God’s unchanging nature. We do not have to produce or consume to be valuable, that is an intrinsic part of who we are. I mention that here because the last commandment is one that consumes our culture. Our entire economy is based on breaking the commandment. Advertising targets this part of our false self. Remember the three questions of identity? (see Why Do We Adopt an Identity?) The answers to these questions are where we get our false sense of value from: What do I do? – What do I have? – What do people think...

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