Each year it is estimated that about 9 to 15 million people in the US become victims of identity theft. A true number of victims is not known since many cases of identity theft end up not being reported. Identity theft leaves victims helpless and sometimes even bankrupt. If having our identity stolen in the physical world is dangerous, having our spiritual identity stolen is exponentially more dangerous.
Our True Identity
God always intended his people, the ones who call on His Name to be a special people. This is true of the Old Testament Saints – Israel, and of us, the Church of the Living God. We say this with all humility but we are not like the world at all. Listen to how the Holy Spirit describes us through Peter the apostle in 1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This is our true identity, who we are at the core of our being. We have been called out of the darkness and for what purpose – to proclaim the excellencies of the one who called us out. We are worshippers more than anything else. Our thoughts, our goals and our way of life should be diametrically opposed to that of the World. If it is not, we have become friends with the world and are on the way to becoming like the world.
You adulterous people![a] Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
We should make every effort to see that we are not unequally yoked to anyone or anything in the world that will lead to compromising our spiritual life. This is definitely not to say that we should abstain from talking or dealing with people in the world and that we should all just become ascetics and go live in the desert. Jesus spent his time dealing with tax collectors and others of ill repute, gaining for himself the moniker – the friend of sinners. This should be our example, but note that Jesus never became like sinners, but rather the sinners became more like him after hanging around him enough.
Our mortal enemy - his agents and strategy
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
If the most precious thing about our life is then our newfound identity in Christ, it is also true that this identity is what the Devil will be coming after the most in our lives.
The Devil who is our mortal enemy employs a strategy of identity theft to destroy our spiritual life. The Bible says that he prowls around seeking who he may devour. The picture is of a hungry lion who will not hesitate to pounce given even the slightest chance. The only reason we are not devoured by the enemy is because of God's protection over our life.
One thing we have to understand about the devil is that unlike God he is not omnipresent. He can only be in one place at one time, and as such he needs agents to operate efficiently. For this, he uses the world system which is wholly under his control, our fallen unredeemed flesh (by enticing it) and lastly demonic powers. Of all the weapons that he has at his disposal, the world system is often his weapon of choice as he tries to spiritually wreck us and this is where spiritual identity theft happens.
We live surrounded by the influence of the world, a world that rejects the true God and puts up in its place false ideologies and philosophies that are against Christ. The way the world gets to us is through our thinking. Thoughts always govern our actions.
The Devil knows that if he can change the way we think, he can make us ineffective and weak as Christians. For this purpose, he inundates the Christian with worldly philosophies and ideologies. When we start to think like the world we will begin to act like the world and spiritually succumb to the enemy. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:13
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (Matt 5:13)
Therefore, it is crucial that we learn to drown out the noise of the enemy with the Word of God.
Our Offensive Strategy
In the Old Testament, God forbade Israel from intermarrying with the neighboring nations to keep them from losing their unique national identity. God knew that intermarriage would lead to the worshipping of idols and that Israel would be at danger of being reduced to just one of the nations. The sad reality of the OT is that despite repeated warnings against idol worship, Israel was bent on conforming to the world around them. The only way Israel could stay separate from the nations that surrounded them was to go on the offensive and wage war against the nations and constantly keep their borders secure.
For the New Testament saints, we are only given one weapon which is the word of God. This is because unlike OT Israel our enemies are not flesh and blood but spiritual in nature. With this weapon we “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). We must weigh every thought and idea that is before us using the scale of scripture before we let it into our minds. In his wilderness temptation, Jesus gave us the ultimate example of how to use the Word to combat the attacks of the enemy.
Thy Kingdom Come
In the OT, Israel waged war against its neighboring nations in a bid to remain separate from them but they could never hope to influence the neighboring nations. However, when it comes to the church we can use the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit to widen the boundaries of the Kingdom. So instead of the world influencing us, we can end up influencing the World. We have been freed so we can set others free. Like someone said, Free people, free people. Consider what a great privilege the Lord has given us to carry his name throughout the World. When we study Paul’s epistles it becomes apparent that the apostle always establishes the identity of believers and only then tells them how to behave. Take for example, the book of Romans. Paul spends 11 chapters explaining what God has done for us and only then pivots to how we must live in Romans 12. This is a great example for us, to always remember who we are, not to sell ourselves short to anyone or anything and then act according to the truth that we believe. Let us then aim to live exemplary not ordinary lives, lives that exalt Christ not ourselves and when we do so God will draw unto himself all that would come.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)
Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:1)