As I was reading through some of my older posts from years gone by, I happened to stumble across one that I felt compelled to post. This was written and posted on my old blog (Suckmywake/Written For Our Instruction) back on August 27th, 2014. I must caution you, it is quite long, but well worth the read. Some of you may enjoy it, some of you may not, either way…here it is.
Identity Crisis – It’s Just Human Nature (part 3)
“Accepting yourself for who you are is not easy when the whole world seems to be telling you that who you are is not okay.” – Insanitybytes22
Alice In Wonderland is an entertaining story about a little girl who ends up in a weird world filled with crazy characters and endless mazes. There’s the Queen of Hearts, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Cheshire Cat and of course, my favorite character of all – The Mad Hatter. However, there is one character in the story that always makes me nervous and in my humble opinion is the creepiest character in the whole story of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. That character is known to us as The Caterpillar.
I’ll spare you the details of the scene and instead jump right into the topic at hand where Alice meets The Caterpillar and they begin their exchange of dialogue that appears to be rather ominous and yet perplexing all the same. At the tip of the conversation The Caterpillar, in a rather haunting tone, asks Alice a simple yet profound question, “Who — Are — You?”
Strangely enough, Alice ponders this question and in a shy, yet perplexing reply states, “I — I, hardly know…” To which she elaborates by following up with a quizzical and profound statement that she “…knew who she was when she woke up that morning but has changed several times since then.”
The Caterpillar, in all his solipsism, can’t bring himself to understand why Alice wouldn’t know who she was or why she would reply in such strange fashion and therefore seeks clarification for her answer; but without hesitation Alice offers up a profound statement in regards to her being self-unaware, “…for I can’t understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.”
In that simple exchange there is deep meaning behind the words of both characters. They both have a need to know who Alice is, but in the end neither The Caterpillar nor Alice ever come to any conclusions or provide any answers to the underlying question being asked. A question that many of us ask ourselves every day and struggle to find an answer for. That question is this: What is your identity?
The whole of humanity has struggled to find an identity since the fall of mankind into a sinful state, furthermore, identity (or the lack thereof) is a difficult thing to grasp for most humans. It’s a relative obscurity at best and trying to find an identity has led many people into an eternal abyss that few have ever been able to escape.
Believe it or not, before the world collapsed into a sinful decay, God was the perfect identity of all humanity. He was (and still is) their purpose for living. Their reason for breathing. Their provider, protection and safety. Their best friend. Yet, when humanity sinned, they were separated from the identity that God provided them, the identity of holiness, perfection and righteousness. Which, rather unhappily I might add, is the exact identity humankind has been searching for since their fall into sin.
Throughout history humans have sought to find an identity through fleshly desires such as drugs, alcohol, sex, careers, education, families, money, cars, homes, public figures, professional athletes, religion, social groups, selfish labels, ideologies, and many others we don’t have time to mention.
Quite sadly, none of those things will ever give humans a true identity. Therefore, history has revealed how mankind has attempted to emulate something or someone they were never supposed to be…material, worldly possessions that eventually led to decay of the mind, soul and body.
Sorrowfully, each century passes with the deaths of so many who failed to realize that who they are, as well as who they want to be, can never be found in the things of this world; and that no human or worldly good can provide the true identity that each of us lost because of the fall from freedom with God into bondage apart from God.
Consequently, our feeble, little human minds try to tell us that our identity is who we are at a specific moment in time, or who we wish to be in the future, who we think we are now or who others perceive us to be at any particular moment. In actuality, the underlying truth behind what our identity is can only be found in the nature, conduct and manners of who or what each of us attempts to emulate.
There’s no better example of this than in the history of Jesus with His disciples. Twelve chosen men. Chosen by God, by Jesus, for the specific task of spreading the message of truth to the rest of the world.
These men, each with individual traits and strengths, had identities in worldly things. Fishermen, tax collectors, carpenters, tent makers, bakers, soldiers, husbands, fathers or sailors. Whatever their identity, it made no difference to Jesus…He called them; and as each was obedient to their calling, each received a new identity. They were no longer labeled by their career choices or their earthly family structures. Instead, it was by a new name, a new foundation. A name given to them by God Himself. They became children of God, disciples of Jesus. Heirs to a heavenly kingdom. They became Christians. The first true followers of Jesus.
Being a follower of Jesus was not popular back in early days of the church. It meant you gave up all your property, your status in society. You were put out of the Synagogues, ridiculed, persecuted, jailed, tortured, banished from your family and in many cases put to death.
You lost everything because of your faith in Jesus as the savior of the world, as the messiah, as the Son of the living God. And those who obediently followed the calling of Jesus learned rather quickly that following and professing Jesus as savior, Lord and King was no picnic.
Each person who heard the message of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, of how He obeyed God the Father even unto death and that the Love of God towards the whole world was so great that He would send and sacrifice His only Son to be the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, all the while reconciling the world back unto Himself through Christ while He hung on that cross, also heard that they could have a new identity in God through Jesus if they would only believe on Jesus as the savior and redeemer of their souls; and when they believed in Jesus, they no longer had a worldly identity but a Godly identity.
One of the best messages on this very issue is recorded in John 3:1-21. The dialogue between Jesus and a Pharisee named, Nicodemus.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”” – John 3:2
Interesting that Nicodemus uses the pronoun “we” and not “I” in his statement about knowing where Jesus was from, and it makes me wonder if he came to Jesus on behalf of the Pharisees or if he came representing another group.
I know that there are many biblical scholars who believe that Nicodemus was a believer in Jesus very early on, but I’m not so sure. And it’s widely taught in churches all over the world that Nicodemus came by night only to avoid any who might see him and eventually turn him into the high priest and get him kicked out of the synagogue; but in my opinion, there really isn’t enough information to support or refute this and after reading and studying this passage and seeing how the Pharisee’s really didn’t believe in Jesus as being from God, I find it hard to discern that Nicodemus came to be a believer this early in the ministry of Jesus.
Also, I’d like to add that in John 3:12 Jesus says to Nicodemus, “…you do not accept our testimony.” Which leads me to believe that Nicodemus had his doubts about Jesus and was trying to ascertain and cull as much information from Jesus as he could to find out if Jesus really, truly was from God or just another nobody trying to be somebody.
Never forget, Jesus knew the hearts and motives of men, so more than likely He knew the motives of Nicodemus that evening and wasn’t fooled by his secret encounter.
So, in all honesty there are more questions raised than answered here. To bad the answers aren’t as easy to come by as the questions. All we know from the text is that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and wanted to talk with him, if we try to presume anything else it will only get us in trouble, so looking at the response that he received from Jesus we find out that it probably wasn’t exactly what he was expecting, but Jesus did answer some questions that were never asked…like this:
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3
That’s an odd response to the initial statement from Nicodemus. I mean, Nicodemus didn’t ask any questions to warrant this response from Jesus; all he said was, “we know you must be from God because no one can teach the way you do or perform the miracles you do unless they come from God.” So why did Jesus respond this way?
Well, it’s because Jesus knew the true motives of Nicodemus; therefore, Jesus didn’t mince words or waste any time getting to the heart of the matter. He got straight to the point. And we can see from the reply of Nicodemus that Jesus wasn’t off base at all:
“How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” – John 3:4
This is a great response, but notice that he doesn’t try to change the subject and he doesn’t seem to be taken back by the statement of Jesus.
Nicodemus didn’t come for some minor chit-chat with Jesus, he came to get answers and Jesus was aware of this, after all Nicodemus was a ruler of Israel and a Pharisee who knew the Law and the scriptures. He, along with many others before him, had been waiting for the Messiah based on what he knew from the Torah and the prophets. Jesus understood this and wasn’t afraid to challenge Nicodemus’ way of thinking, of which, Jesus gives him an even greater response to his questions:
5) “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7) Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
8) The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:5-8
These words are quite puzzling for many who read them, just as they might have been to Nicodemus when he first heard them, but if you read them slowly and ask God to give you clear vision as to what Jesus is conveying here, you can see that Jesus is telling Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of God a person needs to have a much greater identity than a human identity.
To be candid, to get into the kingdom of God, humans need a Godly identity or they cannot enter His kingdom at all.
Consider verses 5 & 6, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
To paraphrase: “Nicodemus, if you are born into a life filled with fleshly lusts and desires your identity is worldly, corrupt, sinful and your desires are for the things that please yourself; but if you are born into a life filled with the desires of the Holy Spirit, you have an identity in God and live for and desire the things that please God.”
You can’t have it both ways. It’s got to be one or the other, identity in the flesh or identity in God…take your pick.
Humanity and the World want to have it both ways, but Jesus is clear, you can’t. And if you choose identity in God, you MUST be born again. There’s no negotiating. No leveraging. No deals. God’s way or it doesn’t work. The ways of flesh don’t agree with the ways of God.
Looking a little deeper into verse five the original Greek text for the word “water” is: “Hudor” (pronounced: hoo’-dore). Meaning exactly as it’s translated: “Water”. But another meaning is this: “of water as the primary element, out of and through which the world that was before the deluge, arose and was compacted.”
The Greek word for “Spirit” (capital ‘S’) is: “Pneuma” (pronounced: pnyoo’-mah) and means: “The spiritual nature of Christ, higher than the highest angels and equal to God, the divine nature of Christ or the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son.”
And the Greek word for “born” is: Gennao (pronounced: ghen-nah’-o) and it is translated correctly with the word “born”. But there’s also a Jewish sense of the word which gives us a better understanding of what Jesus is conveying in the text: “of one who brings others over to his way of life, to convert someone.” Isn’t that exactly what God the Father is doing through Jesus? Of course it is!
Confused? That’s understandable, but let’s put it all together…
Jesus is telling Nicodemus that “Unless one is born (converted to God’s way of life) of water (the primary element that the world was created from) and the Spirit (spiritual nature of Christ, higher than the highest angels and equal to God) he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Therefore, no human can ever enter God’s kingdom unless they are a new person, completely clean, inside and out, spiritually, mentally and physically!! As well as being of God’s kindred offspring or His nature: Righteous, Set apart (sanctified), Holy (perfect/sinless), undefiled (clean/not in bondage). This is only completed through the work of God the Father through Jesus on the cross.
So to put it simple terms: Having a new identity in God requires a death to your old self, the old life, the sinful ways of the world.
It’s a complete turning away from the old you and looking at the new you. You can’t live in smut, sin, disgust, lawlessness, hate, bitterness and self-loathing anymore if you identify with God the Father and Jesus His Son.
No more sexual sins, drunkenness, getting high, lying, greed, theft, murder, strife, ridicule or complaining. No more living for your own pleasures that feed your flesh. It means that you are outwardly cleansed by water and inwardly cleansed by the Holy Spirit. In other words…you’re renewed. Free to start fresh. Free of the bondage of Sin. Free from judgment for all your wrong doings. Free from guilt and shame. You’re…as Jesus puts it….born again.
Knowing this makes verses 7 and 8 all that clearer. “The wind blows where it wishes…” basically Jesus is stating that you can’t control, tame or catch the wind. It comes and goes and no one really knows where it came from or where it’s going. So it is with people who are born of the Spirit. They are free to come and go and no one understands where they came from or where they are going because they are led by God.
The world doesn’t understand people who are like this and they try to tame them or silence them because the world hates the Light that they bring into the world from God. But it’s impossible to tame them because God is working through them and no one can tame God.
However, this DOES NOT mean that people born of the Spirit are free to continue living in sin. Far be it!
Once a person has been born again and turned from the old life, they are a new creation in Jesus Christ and they are no longer in bondage to sin. They should live a life free from sin, never condoning it or approving of it, but instead leading people to reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ and freedom from sinful behavior and disobedient actions, words and thoughts.
But even after hearing these words, Nicodemus can’t understand what he’s just heard and replies in like manner by stating: “How can these things be?” – John 3:9
After researching it and looking at the three original Greek words of John 3:9 I don’t think this is the proper translation of the original Greek text.
You have to remember that Nicodemus is a Pharisee. A Ruler of Israel. A religious ruler. He knows the Law of God (Torah) that was given to them through Moses. He studies it every day. It’s his identity, and he’s not afraid to research it and use it at his disposal to make sure that people are living for God and that includes Jesus. But now here’s Jesus, the Son of God, telling Nicodemus something that he can’t research and can’t refute using the Mosaic Law. All he can do is sit there in bewilderment listening to Jesus tell him exactly why God sent Him, what God’s purpose is and has been since the beginning of time and how all these years of living under rules, ordinances and commands through the following of the Law of Moses won’t get him or anyone else into God’s kingdom.
Hearing the words that Jesus spoke to him I imagine that Nicodemus was puzzled and a bit frustrated. His thoughts must have been searching the scriptures for anything that would challenge Jesus’ words, but the only response he has is a three word question: “Pos Dunamai Houtos?” — Roughly translated: “How, or in what way, is there a law for this?”
Which then gives a clearer picture of why Jesus responded with:
“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” – John 3:10
I can just imagine Jesus and Nicodemus sitting back in their chairs. Jesus with a look of quiet confidence and Nicodemus with his head back and his hands covering his face in bewilderment and exasperation. These words from Jesus had to be a slap in the face to Nicodemus. Not a slap of offense, but rather an attention getter that made Nicodemus begin to reconsider everything he’d been taught all these years.
After all, he’s a ruler of Israel. A teacher of the Law of God. He studies the Law and the prophets inside and out. And here’s Jesus, putting him on the spot. I can’t imagine how Nicodemus felt at that very minute, but from this point forward Nicodemus doesn’t have anymore to say. He’s rendered speechless. So, Jesus continues…
“Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” – John 3:10-12
These words had to cut to the heart of who or what or where Nicodemus found his identity. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus thought he was righteous, clean, set apart from the fleshly sinners of his day, and he wasn’t alone. All of the Pharisees thought the same thing, but what they didn’t realize was that God didn’t see them the same way and Jesus made it clear that no amount of work, self-righteousness or pious activity on their part could ever get them into God’s kingdom. Nicodemus had to change. He needed a new Identity and to achieve this new identity he and everyone else in the world would have to look to Jesus.
13) “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.
14) “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
15) so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
16) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
17) For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” – John 3:13-17
In these verses Jesus answers every question that we have ever wanted to know about God and Jesus.
First, by telling Nicodemus exactly Where He came from (verse 13).
Second, by telling Nicodemus How God will save the world through Jesus (verse 14-15), And lastly, by telling Nicodemus Who God the Father is and Why God is doing this (verse 16-17).
In relating this information Jesus gives Nicodemus a clear picture of the Love of God and His eternal plan of redemption and saving grace. And Jesus continues by saying:
18) “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19) This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
20) For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
21) But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” – John 3:18-21
In verse eighteen the Greek word for “judged” is: “Krino” (pronounced: kree’-no) and it has various definitions but the same meaning:
– to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one’s case may be examined and judgment passed upon it.
– to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong.
– to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions.
In verse 19 the word “judgment” is the Greek word: “Krisis” which is translated correctly as “judgment”. But there’s a couple other meanings as well that give us a much harder implication.
1) A separating, sundering or separation from
2) Sentence of condemnation, damnatory judgment, condemnation and punishment.
These people who don’t believe in the name of Jesus, who refuse to look at Jesus by faith and turn from their wicked, sinful ways have been given their “sentence of condemnation.”
They are separated from having a relationship with Jesus and God the Father because they loved the darkness rather than the light and therefore they are left in their evil deeds.
Understand this…These people were not rejected by Jesus or God the Father. Instead, these people refused the Light that came into the world, and they would rather live in the deeds of darkness refusing God’s love, God’s free gift, God’s eternal plan of salvation.
God NEVER rejects anyone.
All who come to Him by faith in Jesus will not be cast out! That’s a promise. God’s promise, and for this reason, they who refused the Light of life, refused to believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, refused their new identity will never be allowed to enter God’s kingdom. All because they were afraid that their deeds would be exposed as evil and they loved the deeds of darkness rather than the Light.
Conversely, in verse 21 we see that “…he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
Jesus makes it clear to Nicodemus that identity is either in the love of the flesh (darkness) or the love of God (light), and humans have the right to decide which they would prefer, but if they choose darkness they will remain in darkness forever, forbidden from entering God’s kingdom. If they choose the Light (Jesus), they must be born again and in so doing they will be cleansed from all unrighteousness both inwardly through the Holy Spirit and outwardly through water baptism, which will give them a new identity in God the Father with Jesus being the key to their salvation.
So, it’s pretty clear what Jesus is saying when He talks about those who have been judged and those who aren’t. If you believe in Jesus as the Son of God and the perfect sacrifice for your sins, you’ll be free from judgment of your sins…why? Because Jesus took the punishment that was meant for you by dying in your place.
However, if you decide not to look to Jesus and believe that He can’t save you from your sinful state, then you’ve been judged already. “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil.”
“For the wages of sin is death…” – Romans 6:23a. If you sin, you die. Death is the wage for sinning. And since ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) everyone who sins will receive a fair and equal wage as long as they remain separated from Jesus. Because of that separation they will die in their sins and be separated from God the Father for all eternity.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. They can be free from the judgment and wrath of God. “…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23b.
Christ died for us…both you and me. Once we look to Him and believe on Him, His light will shine on us and expose our deeds as having been evil. He will wash you and clothe you with new festival robes and even put new sandals on your feet to give you a new identity in God the Father. A perfect distinctiveness. Separate from the deeds of evil. Free from the bondage of sin. A new life
So where are you today? Have you refused to come to the Light for fear that your deeds will be exposed? Or have you by faith looked upon Jesus and confessed your sins to God the Father seeking to be reconciled with Him through the death of His Son on the cross, and by faith believed in your heart that God the Father rose Jesus from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven?
I must warn you.
If you’ve chosen the path of darkness, your identity is of the world and you will forever be separated from God if you die in your sins. I urge you to reconsider and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and by faith confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Son of God and Lord of all creation. Also, believe in your heart that God the Father raised Him from the dead and you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
You don’t have to remain in darkness forever…you can be free from your bondage of sin. I urge you to seek God, come into the Light of Jesus and let Him cleanse you of your filthy wretched state. God is a God of love and He cares for you. He will help you if you just come to Him by faith.
I urge you…no…I’m begging you, Please…be reconciled back to God, you have the wrong identity without Him.
“Give me your heart my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.” — Proverbs 23:26