We are considering is the question of gender identity. This is a hot topic that is is fairly new in our day. I want to state, from the very start, that in the realm of psychology it is still considered to be a disorder called gender dysphoria and is a mismatch between experienced and defined genders. Gender dysphoria can be experienced from a young age all the way into adulthood, but basically, it means that I feel like I am something that I do not look like. The American Psychological Association recommends anyone who suffers from gender dysphoria or a gender identity crisis to seek counseling immediately. Counseling is the most effective help that somebody could seek. The association, being a more liberal group, also states that having a reassignment operation might help, but in most cases after a reassignment operation, people still struggle with gender dysphoria. It is a deep psychological problem and is an effect of sin.
I am under the firm belief that people were created in the image of God and in perfection. In Genesis chapter 3 we see the greatest horror story of all when humanity decided to rebel against the God of the universe. When humanity rebelled against the God of the universe, this sin impacted the being of the person deeply, even to the soul of the person; separating us from God and causing the things within us, even on a psychological level, that are completely unnatural. I think that people can legitimately
suffer from gender dysphoria but we don’t do ourselves any favors calling it something that it is not. There does seem to be a clear disorder, and those suffering from gender dysphoria need to seek help in the form of a counselor, specifically a Christian counselor that can guide them through this in a God-honoring way.
This being stated, we are going to take this issue and push it to the side; we are going to talk about the issue on a broader level. We all will identify ourselves as something other than a Christ-follower, if not with our speech then certainly by our action and certainly by our mentality. We will define ourselves as students or as employees, according to our job. I can become even be guilty. It is a danger for me to identify myself as a pastor rather than a follower of Christ, and let my identity just be found in that pastoral position; dedicating my whole self to the pastoral position rather than to Christ. We can all do this. We can define ourselves according to our circumstances in this life, to positions that we want, or authority that we want to have. We remember that we can all get addicted to authority and autonomy, being in control. We can be addicted to those things, and we can find our identity and those things. We can find our identity in the church that we go to or the company that we associate with. We can find our identity according to the sports team that we root for. There are a whole lot of ways that we can define our being, and we see people do this every day. What does it mean in light of our tendency to define our being in our existence and in any of these ways? What does it mean for us to actually follow Christ? What does it take for us to be a good Christ follower?
Luke 9:21-27 HCSB
But He strictly warned and instructed them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.”
Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and that of the Father and the holy angels. I tell you the truth: There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
Way of suffering
Here, considering something broader than gender identity, Christ is so honest with his disciples. We keep in mind: the path of Jesus Christ, himself, in this world was a path of suffering. He said as much in this passage of Scripture and, just as it is a path filled with much suffering, it is a path filled even with death. Jesus was going to carry his own cross! He was going to carry this heavy cross about a mile before being crucified on this cross. Already, Jesus is saying that those who are saved in this world will endure much suffering and may even endure death for Him. From the very start, we have to answer the question, to be a good follower of Christ am I willing to suffer and give up my own life? This can be a very difficult question for us too, especially as when we think about it in hypotheticals.
In American society today we don’t really have to worry about people taking our lives because we follow Jesus. Yet that is the very kind of life that Jesus is calling us to. I remember a story when this rich young man comes to Jesus and he says, “Teacher, what must I what must I do to be saved?” Jesus looks at him and answers, “You know, you can keep the commandments.” The rich young man replies, “I keep the commandments! I’ve kept all the commandments since I was a young child.” Jesus didn’t respond by telling him what he was doing wrong He, instead, just said, “All right, well, there is one thing that you haven’t done. Go and sell all of your possessions and then you can have eternal life.” The rich young man, sadly in this story and the text of Scripture, didn’t go and sell all he had and start to follow Jesus. He went away sad because he just had a lot of stuff.
Jesus, talking to his disciples, first says, “Look. I am going to suffer and I am going to die, and if anyone if anyone is going to come after me he must deny himself, he must take up his cross (his way of suffering), and he must follow me. He must follow me down this road of suffering into death. If we are to follow Jesus, we first have to be willing to lose ourselves. In fact, Jesus even declares that whoever seeks to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for Jesus’ name’s sake will gain it. Jesus calls us very clearly, and very abruptly, to absolutely deny ourselves.
Way of relationship
I want to take this concept and I want I want to apply it right now in our lives. Is our identity in work, a position that we might have, or a place of service in the in the church? There are people who, if it weren’t for their position as a Sunday School teacher or as a volunteer in some ministry, they wouldn’t even be a Christian. There really are some people who define Christianity by being able to volunteer or to lead in some capacity, but we take that away and they don’t know how to follow Christ. They don’t know how to rest in Christ. This is a trap that we could all really fall into isn’t it? We all have our places of service and, somehow, it becomes so easy for us to see our faith as the place of service that we are in. While we are all called to a place of service, if we take away this place of service and we don’t have any faith left apart from this place of service, there is something fundamentally wrong with the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. He tells us to deny ourselves unapologetically. If all the sudden I was not the pastor of a church, would I still have faith that was not associated with me being a pastor? If not, there is a fundamental problem with the relationship I have with Christ. This is something we have to think about. Do we have a relationship with Christ first and then a place of service, or are we using our place of service as a substitute in place of a relationship with Christ? If this is the case, we do not really know Jesus, and we do not really have a relationship with Jesus.
Some other ways that we define our own existence include:
- Family: Do we define ourselves as fathers, husbands, mothers, daughters, sons, wives, etc… If I make that my entire existence, I am committing idolatry against God. We must never forget that God is sovereign. Reading through First Peter we see clearly that God is entirely sovereign and when we define our existence according to these positions that we have or these roles that we feel, all of the sudden we’re committing idolatry because we are worshiping ourselves in these positions rather than worshiping the God of the universe. As devastating as it may seem, I know that if something happened to my wife would I still love Jesus. She knew before we got married that she could not be my all in all. It had to be Christ. She made it known that the same went for her. This increased my love for her more than I ever could have willed myself to love. All of a sudden we’re just able to love people more and we don’t have to find our identity in those relationships, specifically. We get to have those relationships as part of our following Christ, which is pretty awesome too to think about.
- Feelings: When it comes to gender dysphoria, people define their existence according to the way that they feel. Many times we also define our existence according to the way that we feel.
Way of life
This applies to every arena of life. We deny self and we follow Christ. In school, there’s the temptation that we have to just not do the school work to be lazy and to not do so well in classes, just getting by. If we deny ourselves, we can apply ourselves and we can do well! The same concept rings true in the faith. We can either say, “Jesus saved me and I’m just going keep going this way.” Maybe we feel good about saying Jesus saved us, but that doesn’t mean it actually happened. it only means we feel good about saying it. Then, we go on and feel good about our lives. We try to remain comfortable. All is good, and we can remain happy skimming through life. We’ll never grow more mature in the faith. We will never grow stronger. We will never bear the fruit that Christ promises in John chapter 15.
In every arena of life, at work and at home, we deny ourselves and take up our way of suffering. There are many who will read this who are just not happy, not joyful, tired, and life is hitting them hard. The comfort I find in this passage of Scripture is that it is okay not to be happy. It’s okay not to experience this abundant joy. It is okay to have life hitting us hard or to feel like we’re just existing in suspension up here in the air somewhere. We are never promised in Scripture to have this happiness on this earth, and we are not promised that we’ll always be exuberant. We can, though, find peace in Christ through all situations and all circumstances. Christ does give us the strength to persevere through all of the circumstances that we will encounter on this earth, but never are we promised this exuberant happiness. Instead, we are challenged to follow Christ in the way of suffering and in the way of death, which means we are always giving up of ourselves. Yes, it is tiring, but this earth is not our home. We have eternity to look forward to, which is pretty awesome!
As we live, we must ask where our identity is. Is it in work, school, a position, authority, marriage, parenthood, or crisis? Am I willing to give up the things that I do have for Christ? Christ doesn’t call us all to get rid of everything, but He does call us to give up everything.