Like Jesus, we only have one battle to fight in this life--the battle of identity. All other battles revolve around this battle. Your identity will be the primary area where Satan will attack you. It will be a lifetime battle. Satan knows that to the degree we can be undermined in this area, we can be conquered.
When Satan came to tempt Jesus, it is significant to point out that the entire basis of the temptations revolved around Jesus' identity. "If thou be..." (Mt. 4:3). "If thous be..." (Mt. 4:6). "If thou will..." (Mt. 4:9).
Satan will always attempt to undermine our confidence before offering an alternative to the Promises of God. If you know the Promise is for you, if you know you are qualified, Satan has no basis in which to tempt you.
Temptation does not begin with the devil. Temptation begins in our own heart.
"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:14)
We must have lust before we can be tempted. However, please understand, temptation does not come exclusively through the lust for sinful things. It can also come through the desire for good things.
Beloved friends, when we do not believe we are qualified to receive the things we desire. Satan offers us an alternative route to fulfillment.
"By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Pt. 1:4)
Because we have Promises we should not be drawn to the world or other resources to fulfill our desires. Instead we must know the Promises and that we are qualified through Christ Jesus to receive these Promises.
If we lose our confidence in our qualification to receive something from the Lord by faith, we will be drawn to an alternative plan. Satan always attempts to get us to question "if though be" before he tempts to consider "if thou will."
This was Satan's same ploy in the Garden of Eden. Satan challenged Adam and Eve's identity. God created man in His Own Image and Likeness (Gen. 1:26). Man did not lack anything. Yet it was the issue of identity that provided the framework for the fall of man.
Satan offer to make them like God. But they were already like God. The just didn't believe it. They did not trust God and therefore, they did not assume the identity that God had already given them.
We are no different. Over 300 times in the New Testament, God tells us who we are in Christ. We do not believe God about our identity. We do not really believe we are whom He says we are in Christ. We don't really believe in the power of the cross. We may say all of the right Christian cliches.
But do we really accept and live in the identity we received from the finished work of Jesus?
Or do we doubt His Word, and attempt to become what God says we are through religion?
When Adam sinned, there was a new dimension added to man's problem. Man now had the knowledge of good and evil. In other words, man would in a sense be a god unto himself and determine good and evil from his own standard. Man entered into the era of works. Man began to determine good and evil on the basis of performance. Regardless of what Jesus accomplished at His birth, death, burial and resurrection. Regardless of the Gospel of Christ that reveals our righteous identity in Him (Rom 1:16-17).
We refuse to believe we are righteous unless we are able to perform certain righteous deeds. We refuse to believe we are anointed unless we see certain signs. We refuse to believe we are accepted in the Beloved unless we have certain experiences. We refuse to believe by His stripes we were healed unless we see the manifestation in our bodies. We refuse to believe His Word unless we can confirm with our 5 senses, feelings and/or our emotions.
Satan used the same ploy with the first Adam as He did the second Adam. The first Adam fell on the basis, whereas the second Adam conquered because He knew His identity.
"Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'” (Mt. 4:3)
There is nothing sinful about turning stones into bread. Nor is there anything evil about trusting the angels of God to protect you (Mt. 4:6). But there is something very wrong with determining your identity by your performance or any other predetermined criteria.
Every leader faces these same identity challenges in his/her own particular way. Every leader has some standard of success in mind. The way many of us feel about ourselves is determined by whether or not they fulfill these particular results.
In most cases, the course of success for most ministry leaders is actually a course of a self-fulfilling ministry. A self-fulfilling ministry is ministry that is designed to meet the emotional needs of the leader instead of the needs of the people they lead.
Jesus was told by Satan, to work a miracle to prove His identity. For some ministers it is the size of their congregation, or how many people were healed or slain in the spirit. Whatever criteria it is that happens to make a leader feel successful and prove their identity is the very thing that is destroying them.
Seldom is there inherently evil with our standard of success. As a matter of fact, it is usually very scriptural. But to base our identity, our anointing, our calling or our holiness on a certain outcome is a clear sign of our unbelief concerning the finished work of the cross.
Again, there is nothing evil about turning stones in bread. It only becomes evil when that is the basis for believing God's Promises in His Word in regards to our identity. Anything other than the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as our basis for our confidence will assure our failure and frustration.
The very foundation of the New Covenant is founded in the repentance from dead works:
"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God," (Heb. 6:1)
Dead works and good works are the same actions based from different motives. Therefore, it is impossible to determine one's heart by his or her performance.
Beloved friends, we who are saved and have the Spirit of the Living God working in us to produce good works (Phi. 2:13). These good works are the by-product of us believing God and allowing His grace to bring about good works. However, dead works are those things that we do to earn and merit something from God to religiously prove our righteousness or to provoke a certain response from God.
God has done a complete work in Christ: He "...has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness..." (2 Pt 1:3) He has made us complete in Him (Col. 2:10). "He who has the Son has life..." (1 Jn. 5:12) He has given us an anointing that abides in us (1 Jn. 2:27). In Christ Jesus we have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
Beloved friends please understand, These are not potential possibilities. These are present tense, in Christ realities! All of these things are already ours in Christ.
But like Adam, many of us do not believe it, so we are trying to do something to get them. When the Scriptures plainly teach us, that all of these things are ours in Christ!
If we really believe these things in our heart, grace would flow through us and make us able to live these things. However, since we do not believe we already have them, we are doing things to try and earn them, thus, denying the finished work of Christ, negating grace and laboring for that which is already ours.
I understand that experientially, we seem to have more anointing at certain times. But, experience cannot have supremacy over the written Word. When we experience what seems to be more anointing, it is actually a higher level of confidence on our part, or it could be that we are receiving the anointing with more faith and/or less unbelief. But it cannot be that we have more anointing.
It is at this point of basing our identity on our experiences that we go into of many different paths of devastation. Whatever wrong path we choose, the results are the same. The ministry becomes a burden. What had once been our dream is now our nightmare. It is not that the minister's motives necessarily changed.
All it takes is the right desire and a wrong belief system to ruin a life.
The call to the ministry is an awesome responsibility. We are dealing with the eternal destiny of people. As leaders we see the desperate needs of people and desire to meet those needs. We even feel like a failure when we don't.
Hence, our identity as a minister becomes based on the results we perceive. We no longer have fruit (good works) flowing out of a heart established in its identity in Christ. We now have dead works flowing out of a heart trying to prove its identity.
It is no wonder many ministers are plagued with physical and emotional problems such as hypertension, stress and heart disease. THIS SHOULD NOT BE! We should fulfill our calling with peace and joy. We should be living examples of abiding in His rest. But we can only do this by accepting and believing our identity in Christ.
Our Source of identity determines our self-image, the way we see ourselves. Self-worth determines our behavior, the way we treat others. We begin to take on the image of the one we are looking to for identity. We become like the God we see (1 Jn. 3:2).
If we see God as One Who demands perfect performance before giving love and acceptance, we will be transformed into the same image. If we believe in a faultfinding God, we become faultfinding people. If we believe in a God Who uses people, we will use people. If we believe in a God Who desires a personal relationship, we will become relationship oriented. If we believe in a God Who gives unconditional love and acceptance to undeserving people, we will do likewise.
The Image of God we believe in is the Image of God we will present to the people. It is often hard to realize that the very negative behavior we hate in people is the behavior that results from the image of God we present to them. We preach about love and grace. We try to encourage people to stop gossiping. We try to end discord in the ministry. Yet, we establish a false Image of God deeper into the hearts of the people who, in turn, try to be like that Image of God.
Ultimately, identity determines self-worth.
After we have changed to be like the One we look to for acceptance, we then determine our worth by the value that person places on us. Thus, our worth is determined by the degree that we feel loved.
Self-worth established in the love of God is the deepest realized need of a human being. History clearly reveals that a human being will sacrifice all for self-worth. Every moral problem an individual faces will have its roots in self-centeredness, which has its roots in self-worth.
When leaders have a strong sense of worth in Christ, they do not use, abuse manipulate, lie or hurt people --
They are free to serve people as ministers of Christ.