You can’t disown what you don’t own

I had a blast this past weekend teaching around 30 people from a number of different churches and from all age groups about who we as believers are in Christ at a Grace Ministries International Grace Life Conference. It was a beautiful time of sharing, hearing peoples’ honest hearts, pondering their brilliant questions, and just enjoying the wonderful fellowship of being among teachable people who realize that they don’t have it all together and who are hungry to truly encounter the Truth, Christ, who’ll set them free. I’m like a fish in the ocean in that type of context. I enjoy myself, and I become the best version of myself: the honest, open, excited, caring version of myself. The one who displays the fruit of the Spirit best. In short, it was great to experience real church – not the buildings or the organizations, but the living organism of the Body of Christ!

Teaching about identity in Christ is becoming semi-popular it looks like these years. That’s obviously exciting, because we badly need more teaching about and  revelations of who we are in Christ. A number of problems, however, have been troubling me for a while when I hear a lot of the teaching that is running around in Christian circles in many countries where I know people. This blog entry will just focus on one of the problems in some of the identity in Christ-teaching.

I hear pastors, leaders, conference speakers who think that all you need to do is to tell people who they are in Christ, help them focus on appropriate Bible verses, and then almost automatically people will start to live and function in a different way, and will rest in who they are in Christ. So the method seems to be that there is little or no talk about some of these huge problems that many believers face which include:

a) we don’t know who God really is and often relate to him based on our (mis)understandings of him,

b) we know ourselves very poorly, and are often so filled with self-rejection that just hearing that I’m okay with God doesn’t really fix how I see myself,

c) most people are still taught directly or indirectly that while they have their identity in Christ, they also still have a sinful nature. This lie has incredibly strong influence deep into the lives of churches and believers!,

d) we know very little about what the Bible talks about when it teaches about flesh and indwelling sin (Romans 7:18). so we don’t know who or what our real enemies are, and we keep on trying to fix ourselves.

Three levels of knowledge

There seems to be an understanding among many that we “just have to leave our past, and our present problems at the cross and then just embrace who we are in Christ“. As a theory it sounds nice. It may even sound spiritual. But as I see day in and day out in my little counseling office, that’s just not how life works for most people. There is a principle in counseling, and in life in general that goes like this: “You can’t disown, what you don’t own

You can’t refuse to have anything more to do or be controlled by something (disown), if you don’t realize what has been controlling you (own).

While I strongly agree that all Christians need to hear more about who we are in Christ as God’s children, we certainly need to remember that factual knowledge alone will not set us free to live lives of freedom.

There are three levels of knowledge that are essential to know the difference between:

1. Factual knowledge – information, we all have tons of this stuff. It’s good. It can be helpful. But just  memorizing 100 Bible verses about your identity in Christ doesn’t necessarily change anything if it just stays in your brain.

2. Revelation knowledge – this is where God turns the light bulbs on. You see and understand something you hadn’t seen before. A Bible verse seems to jump right out of the page. Exciting stuff, but there is a third level that we need to go to, and we can only go there with Christ:

3. Experiential knowledge – I need to experience that I’m okay with God both when I sin and when I worship, when I’m in the valleys or on the mountain, when life is all as it should be or when I walk through the wilderness. These experiences will change me forever!

Not only do I need facts, revelation, and experiences of who I am in Christ, I also need the same three things about who I’m not! In order to: “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1), I first need a revelation of what it is I need to throw off! I can’t throw off something I’m unaware of. We first need a revelation of the mess we’ve created by listening to our flesh and trying to have our basic, God-given needs for love, acceptance, worth, and security met in our strength, through accomplishments, relationships, etc. Most people have no clue what their particular brand of flesh looks like. And because we have lots of blind spots when it comes to ourselves, it’s often very difficult to see on our own. That’s why we need each other in the Body of Christ. I saw people starting to see some of their blind spots during the conference I taught this past weekend. I saw lots of both revelation, and experiential knowledge happen – God was very good to his people gathered in a basement conference room in Marietta, Georgia!

I hope and pray that more people who teach about identity in Christ will also teach about and help people understand what their real problems are, and how God, in Christ, have provided solutions for those problems through our co-crucifixion (Galatians 2:20), co-burial, co-resurrection, co-ascension (Romans 6), and co-seating in Heaven (Ephesians 2:6) with Christ and in Christ!

Blessings, Torben

4 Responses to “You can’t disown what you don’t own”

  1. July 20, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I reallly like your blog and agree that many dont get “fixed” by just knowing who they are in CHrist. I was with the GMI when it first began under Tom Grady. It was an exciting time watching people get free from a lot of bondage. Later I found that many victims of abuse and wounding were divided in their minds as a result of degrees of Dissociative Identity Disorder and trying to apply who we are in Christ to their needs was not “enough.” It is still foundational to me, but I, too, have pondered and studied what else will help. Thanks for your blog. Barbara Moon, Lawrenceville, GA

  2. July 20, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Dear Barbara! Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it! That’s interesting to hear that you have been with GMI back in the day. If you came in here today, you would probably find that the central truths are the same, but lots of other things have changed over the years. You would be very welcome to come by again! Glad to hear that you’re continuing to seek God’s input in how to best guide other people to him.

    Blessings, Torben

  3. August 11, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    So amazing…we did JUST THAT last night at our confirmation class discipleship-group – listing all the ways in which we are “okay” with God. I was wondering how I can get my kids to move past levels one and two and really experience the truths about our identity in Christ. Dang, I need to experience it myself! But this does help me a lot. Will keep it in mind at our next meeting!
    I am also preaching this Sunday on brokenness…mind if I borrow from those two other posts on your blog?

    Thanks for a great read, I will be sure to follow you in future!

  4. August 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Hey Tiaan!

    Thanks for your comment and your encouraging words! You are very welcome to borrow whatever you want from me from your sermon. As long as you don’t put it in writing and publish it, you’re free to borrow stuff that I write – who knows it might be time for me to write that book some day! 🙂 If you want to talk further about experiencing Christ for yourself and others you lead, you are welcome to email me at duverden@hotmail.com

    I don’t Twitter at this point.

    Blessings, Torben

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