Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mistaken Identity by Morris E. Ruddick

"When the king came in, he saw one without a wedding garment. He said, 'friend, how did you happen to come without a wedding garment?' He was speechless. So the king commanded, 'Bind him and cast him into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called but few are chosen.'"  Matt 22:11-14

To understand the path of wisdom you first need to grasp the characteristics of a fool. Solomon approached his proverbs in this way, as there are almost as many proverbs describing a fool, as there are those outlining the way of wisdom.

The mark of a fool is one who is stuck; trapped by their own devices and limited view of things; unable to move forward. Not everyone stuck is a fool. However, those in some way out of touch with reality, whose myopia has formed a distorted identity, have crossed this threshold. Wisdom goes beyond. It opens the gates to maturity.

As the Body ascends into maturity, with it are challenges and responsibilities. As we navigate these transitions, one of the areas creating misfires and wheel-spinning is that of confusing the "human" factor with the God factor. It determines the identity issue. It bears on our callings: our attitudes and the way we operate in our gifts and the very way we apply our faith to step into the higher levels of our callings.

The Gap
In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus illustrates the Kingdom by pointing to the gap between opportunity extended and the responsible response. There came an abrupt reality check for the ones who neglected adapting; who failed to ascend to the standard of the calling. Blind to the significance, they came as they were. Jesus summarized with the admonishment of not taking lightly the cost.

This parable follows Jesus' point that bearing fruit in the Kingdom has requirements beyond the superficial and the limitations of our own persona. The religious rulers who quibbled with Jesus assumed their position to be enough. Their identities were in their positions. They were stuck. Mistaken identities hinder not just the individual calling; but others by marring the pathway to Body maturity.

Examples of Mistaken Identities
The misplaced identities of the religious elite challenging Jesus parallel others in the Bible who misapplied and misused their talents and positions. Each in their foolishness was blinded by short-sided, distorted passions cleverly reshaped by the way of the world. Each went beyond a threshold and faced deadly consequences.

Shebna was the treasurer for King Hezekiah (Isaiah 22:15-25). He presumptuously exalted his own importance, while failing to serve his proper role in caring for the people. He not only was removed from office, but suffered a severe consequence for his mistaken identity, of confusing the responsibility of his position as being more than that a servant, of thinking of himself more highly than he ought.

Absalom was one of the sons of David. His mother was the daughter of the king of Geshur. Absalom was groomed in his royal Syrian heritage. However, he not only took justice in his own hands after the abuse of his sister Tamar, but actively sought to unseat his father from his throne and replace him. His mistaken identity led to his demise (2 Samuel 15-18). Aside from all his other transgressions, like Shebna, Absalom had erected a memorial to himself.

Ananias and Sapphira were members of the early church. They misrepresented a gift they gave to the apostles; seeking to curry favor and buy recognition for themselves within the church's leadership (Acts 5:1-10). Their double-mindedness and deceit brought down judgment and they were struck dead on the spot.

Simon the sorcerer became a believer as the revival of the early Church spread into Samaria. His prior exploits in the occult had brought him great fame. After seeing the reality of God operating through Peter, he sought to purchase the power of God. Peter addressed his worldly quest with a deadly rebuke: "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money." Simon's immediate repentance from mistaking that the power of God could come through human effort and money no doubt saved his life. (Acts 8:5-24)

In common, each reflected a love of the world and a lust for power and prestige. Manipulation with sorcery at its root was the means by which the Kingdom path was mistaken for one achieved by human effort. Each was self-absorbed to the point of a spiritual blindness to what they were doing. Each either was in or sought a fast-track into the inner-circle of what God was doing. Each, in their presumptuous mistaken identities, was drawn up short. Each was a fool.
"He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered." Proverbs 28:26

Jesus warned about the days we are entering: "False prophets will arise and deceive many." As the Body reassumes the mantle of the early church the prophetic has become a key factor to facilitating the way. Hearing God from the stance of the diversity of gifts from within the community of believers serves to strengthen the impact made not just by individuals, but by the community.

Many are called into the prophetic, but those who emerge as true prophets are far less. It is a factor of maturity and one reflecting those who embrace the cost. Yet, seduced by the same spirit as impacted Shebna, Absalom, Ananias, Sapphira and Simon; the increase of ones lured to mantles without being chosen is a sign of the times.

The Trap
Claiming a mantle to gain recognition or power, rather than walking the pathway of the chosen is a trap of mistaken identity. Its strength is drawn from the stronghold that nurtures replacement theology and every other competitive activity undermining the way of the Kingdom.

Out of sync with the Kingdom dynamic, it seeks to usurp and leverage the anointing, while oblivious to navigating a subtle pathway of destruction. Driven by a mix of the love of the world, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, it employs the good to replace the best. It feeds on twisted personal needs and retards the power and maturity needed at the community level among believers. 

"A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart."
Proverbs 18:2

In Psalm 107 the Psalmist wrote that fools, because of their transgressions would be afflicted. They would come to the point of abhorring food, because their ways, of trying to be like the world around them, had brought them to the brink of death. Yet, healing would come when, as a community they cried out to the Lord.

The Cost for the Identity
The mantle of modern-day Josephs and Daniels has been assumed by many. Those genuinely called as Josephs and Daniels have had the tempter come to them, not unlike the way he did to Jesus in Matthew 4:3-11. They've been presented with variations of "command that these stones be made bread" if you are truly called in this way. For some, it has been "throw yourself down;" prove your calling. The challenges have also included "all these things you will have" when you spread your benevolence around.

Some have testified to the cost of their calling being extended financial trials. Others have pointed to disruptions relationally or other pressures or reversals.
"The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the LORD." Proverbs 19:3

Yet the mark of this high calling has been something more. The true cost distinguishing the gap between the called and the chosen is nothing short of our personal identity. It is oneness with God reflecting a focus beyond culture or heritage or denomination or any other secondary issue of identity.

"Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, having existed in the form of God, emptied Himself taking the form of a bondservant." Phil 2:5

Many called with high callings, as with the path of the Joseph-Daniel calling, are in a stage similar to the final two years of waiting that Joseph endured after prophesying to Pharaoh's wine taster. It is a time of "Golgotha," the olive press, through which Jesus went beyond the veil prior to facing Calvary. It is the time of alignment prior to God's intervention and the release from the bondage. It is where the authority and anointing for the calling will fully manifest. It is a time of birthing that "something more," that carries the power and wisdom needed for the chosen.

Maturity and the Kingdom Path
The Apostle Paul came to faith with an in-depth grasp of the scriptures. That grasp formed his identity as a persecutor of the church. After having encountered the reality of the Lord, he knew something more was required. Paul yielded to that something more and spent three years in Arabia, not consulting with flesh and blood, but allowing himself to be immersed in and groomed by the Spirit.

It was there that Paul heeded God's call to reach out to the Gentiles. It was Paul's response to the reality of God that unveiled his true identity in Him. There are no short-cuts in this essential transition, for those reaching to be chosen.

In was in his choice to wait on God, that Paul began grasping the spiritual maturity that he in turn imparted in serving not only to shape the early church, but to provide so much of the wisdom foundational to the church today. It was the Kingdom path defining his and our identity in God.

"He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
Matt 10:39

Jesus said that He could of Himself do nothing (John 5:19). Yet in doing what He saw the Father doing, He provided the example and pointed to the Kingdom pathway. It's the path in which we live by dying, we lead by serving, honor comes from humility, we gain by giving, we advance by yielding, wisdom is found in simplicity, we pray for those who persecute us. It is that oneness in Him, without which Body maturity will fall short.

"He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him." John 7:18-19

The Light of Community
The unity spoken of by Paul in Ephesians 4 will be seen by those around us in our identity, as a community. The maturity factor manifests when the roots of our identity are rightly aligned with the community of God's people. It is in that context that the Kingdom path wields its influence to the world around it, rather than the other way around.

Community as designed by God takes a maturity that is beyond the natural. At its foundation will be a people whose identities reflect the mantle of Abraham: to be blessed to be a blessing.

Jesus said we would be in the world, but not of the world. As the light of the world, we are called to set; more aptly, to reset the standard. It pivots on the issue of identity.

The world is looking for a people who will demonstrate the reality of God.

The calling of God is a holy thing, not to be taken lightly. Just like the king at his son's wedding feast who rejected the unprepared, it bears a cost that cannot be sidestepped. The times reflect an increase in the evil around us; but with that is a deeper penetration to be made by those who are carriers of His presence, of His identity.

 "No man takes this honor to himself, but he that is chosen by God." Hebrews 5:4

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