Today, identity is a topic that is found everywhere. The lack of knowledge about identity and the identity crisis that many people experience lead them to fall into the trap of a false identity, pretending to be something that we are not. Satan wants you to pretend to be what you are not. He knows that your identity in Christ will make you someone he cannot defeat and that is why he tries his best to make you develop a false identity.
In the book “The Emotionally Healthy Leader,” author Peter Scazzero talks about the three temptations that Satan offered Jesus after He was baptized and while He was on his 40 days of fasting. These are the same three temptations or false identities we experience today, and they can lead us to experience an identity crisis.
- I am what I do (Achievements). In Luke 4:1-4 Satan told Jesus to turn stones into bread so that he could prove He was in fact God’s son. Those who minister from a broken identity find their identity in what they do. They find their identity and dignity at work, in what they accomplish, and how they perform. “Our culture will ask you: What goals have you achieved in life? How has your usefulness been proved? What is your job? Many consider themselves as valuable if they have achieved significant success in family, work, school, church, and relationships.”
For example, the pastor who does not have a well-defined identity and thinks that his pastoral identity is defined by his performance will question his identity when he does not reach the number of parishioners attending on Saturdays, the number of people he believes he needs to have in order to be a successful pastor. Or, if he does not reach the amount of tithes or baptisms, or the administrative position in the conference he has been longing for so long, he will question his identity because, for him, it is focused on his performance and not on the call that God has given him.
2) I am what I have (Possessions). In Luke 4:5-8, Satan told Jesus that he would give Him all he showed to Him if He worshiped him. “I am what I possess” is part of the predominance of a personal identity. We define ourselves by what we possess, whether they are things we own or the earthly things with which we fill our lives.
“Marketing specialists now spend more than fifteen billion dollars per year seducing children and teenagers into believing that they must have certain toys, clothes, iPods, etc. Their own identity depends on it. As adults, we measure ourselves through comparisons” (Peter Scazzero). I am a good pastor if I have a big church, I am a good pastor if I work in the conference offices because I got to the place where I wanted to be. I am a good pastor if I have a doctorate, if I have a good car, a good house, if my children have gotten a good university degree.
3) I am what others think I am (Popularity). In Luke 4:9-13, Satan told Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, inviting Him to define His pastoral ministry based on His popularity. When we get carried away by popularity, we let other people’s opinions define who we are. Our self-image is elevated with a compliment and is devastated by criticism. These are primary markers that the world, influenced by Satan, uses to measure success. Hence why humanity uses these same things to define itself and its self-esteem. This does not mean that what we do, or what we minister, or what our testimony is to others is not important. But, in the center of our being, these things are not part of the identity God has given us.
Many of us give more value to what others think rather than what Jesus thinks of us. We live with a broken identity. We are characterized by fear, manipulation, possessiveness, self-promotion, and self-destruction.
We remain trapped in a pretend life out of an unhealthy concern for what other people think. We define our identity based on the “likes” or followers we have on social networks. We define the success of our worship service based on the number of people who are watching our programs online. In other words, you believe that if you are popular in church and are followed by many people, then you are a good pastor.
What do you think about this issue? What other ways can we fall into the trap of trying to lead with a false identity? Share your experience with us.