Focus for May, 2021

Faith Avenue: What Is Your Reality?

One of the most important things for a Christian to know is about identity. Who is Jesus?  And who am I in Jesus?

For most of my life, I referred to myself as a sinner in need of a savior. I would often focus on my challenges, my shortcomings, my sins, and I always knew I fell short of the man I believed God wanted me to be. I spent hours and hours praying, days fasting, constantly studying, continually trying to prove myself to God—trying to prove my worth to God. It was never enough. There were times I wondered if trying to be a Christian was worth all the effort. But fear of failure kept me going. Knowing God wasn’t pleased with me kept me trying. I just wanted to be forgiven, be included, be loved.

At this point some of you are saying, “But you are forgiven, you are included, you are loved.” And that’s the point. I was trying hard to get what I already had because I was living under a false reality. I was living under a plethora of lies that told me “You are not…” I was so focused on myself and trying to be a disciple, that the idea of discipling someone else scared the daylights out of me. Why would anyone want to go through the constant angst I was putting myself through? (Actually, it wasn’t so much me putting myself through the angst, as the enemy constantly lying to me, and me believing those lies.)

We often use a tool in leadership called Know Yourself to Lead Yourself. Let me use this tool to talk about our true identity and the reality Christ wants us to live under. First, let’s start with the false reality, because this is where many believers and nonbelievers live.

If you see yourself as a sinner…

For the many years I lived under the lie that my identity was that of a sinner, it affected the way I lived. My tendency was to try hard to live according to what I believed God wanted me to be. Sometimes I would do well, other times not so well. I developed patterns of behavior based on those tendencies. When I was doing well the patterns were more positive. When I failed, the pattern went into a spiral that simply convinced me further that all God saw in me was my sin and failure. This affected my actions—more prayer, more Bible study, a day or two of fasting, withdrawing so that I could focus more on God, etc., etc. Those actions reinforced the fact that I did not measure up, that my sins controlled my life, that God couldn’t possibly love me the way I am. Those consequential thoughts affected my reality—they further re-enforced the lies about who I am in Christ. And it kept me focused on myself. I can’t make disciples when I am such a poor excuse of a disciple. As a pastor, writer, and regional director, I see so many living in the lies of that false reality.

If you see yourself as a beloved child of God…

Let’s start with this truth—and there are many, many scriptures that speak this truth. (You can see a brief list at the end of this article.) When you begin in the reality that you are chosen, forgiven, included, and loved, it affects your tendencies, your patterns, and your actions in a positive way. The consequences will then reinforce the reality. Let me lay this out in a practical way.

Knowing I am loved, included, and forgiven, I am soon spending a lot less time focused on the self, and much more time focused on how I can share this good news with those who are living under the lies that they don’t matter, or they don’t matter until… My tendencies are focused on others: how can I help this person understand, how can I be a light to that person, how can the love of Christ flow through me to this group, how can I join in what Jesus is doing in that person’s life? These tendencies become patterns of outflowing love. I develop—or better said, Christ develops in me—a pattern of sharing God’s love and life with others. My actions flow out of my desire to bring others into a new reality. The consequences are joy, experiencing the abundant life Jesus talked about, peace that surpasses understanding, kindness and gentleness displayed to others. In other words, the consequences are congruent with the fruits of the Spirit being lived in and through me and displayed to others.

When I know God loves me just the way I am, I confidently walk with him. I am more confident he won’t leave me the way I am, and he will change me and even discipline me because he loves me and wants the best for me. I am more confident about participating with him in reaching out to others. I make it my goal to please him because I love that he loves me. In fact, I start loving him more as I realize how much he loves me and what he has gone through and is willing to go through to help me become more like Christ. I start to experience the love of Christ compelling me to love others because I am convinced that Christ died for them just as much as he died for me. I am convinced they are forgiven, included, and loved. Then I start to see them as God sees them—as beloved children—and no longer view them from a worldly point of view. What am I doing? I am participating in the ministry of reconciliation; I am helping others see the reality that they are in Christ—they are becoming the righteousness of God. (See 2 Corinthians 5)

May I leave you with a challenge? For the next two weeks start your prayers by praising God for the truth of your reality. Ask him to help you see yourself as he sees you. I believe it will change your life. It will change your tendencies, your patterns, your actions and bring you to the true reality he wants you to see. Then ask God to help you see others the way he sees them. This will change your mission and your ministry; you will see more opportunities to participate with Christ; you will be a disciple dedicated to making disciples. But it starts with you living in the truth of who Jesus is, and who you are in him.


May you live in the truth and reality of who you are in Christ,

Rick Shallenberger

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