Identity Theft Prevention
This morning I want to talk with you about “Identity Theft”. According to the Federal Trade Commission, last year alone, approximately 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft. The cost was nearly $ 50 billion. There are a number of government web sites on the internet training people on how to protect themselves from this kind of assault. As we speak thousands of people are being harassed and robbed because they did not know how to protect themselves from this terrible crime.
Do you know how to protect yourself from identity theft? I want to talk about an identity theft that can cost you more than money and reputation. There is thief who works night and day trying to rob Christians of their identity in Christ. The robbery takes place in the believer’s mind and the damage not only affects that Christian but it also affects a whole lot of other people. When we are confused about who we are our families suffer, our church suffers, unbelievers suffer because of what they don’t receive from us. Most of all we suffer all kinds of turmoil, anxiety, and loss of joy. Has the Devil tried to rob you of your identity in Christ? Has he tried to convince you that you are not what God has said you are?
I want us to see from our text this morning just how prominent the issue of identity was for our great forerunner, Jesus Christ.
I. Identity Confirmed Let’s begin at His water baptism back in Luke 3:21-22, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”
Focus with me for a moment upon what the Father said, “You are my Son...” What is the Father doing? He is confirming identity! “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus is unique in that He is the only divine Son of God. There is no other to compare with Him and there never will be. We are partakers of the divine nature but we are not divine and never will be. But having said that let me also say this: every born again believer needs to hear something like this in his spirit from the Father. “You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” The Father is pleased with us because we are “in Christ”, covered by His precious blood and sanctified by His Spirit. I can think of no better therapy for the human soul than to hear from God, “You are my child, whom I love; with you am well pleased.”
Those words from heaven prepared Jesus for the fierce battle he was about to fight concerning his identity. Nothing will equip you better for spiritual warfare like a word from heaven reminding you of who you are in Christ, reminding you of the Father’s love and acceptance toward you. That’s the kind of thing Paul was reminding believers of in the first chapter of Ephesians. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Eph 1:3-6 NKJV)
For our own good, for our own emotional health and spiritual well being, we need time in our heavenly Father’s lap hearing His words of love and assurance. When we neglect intimacy with God we deprive ourselves of much needed identity affirmation. It’s tragic when we try to get it somewhere else because that is always insufficient. Only God has the ultimate right to tell you who you are. He will connect your identity with family, with local church, with the Body of Christ. But our identity is defined by the Father and by our relationship with Him.
Why is water baptism so important? It is important because it is our public identification with Christ. When we go down into the water we are declaring that our old life is over, our old man is dead, we will no longer live according to that old identification. We will now live according to our identity in Christ. Your water baptism gives you a specific point in time to look at in your history and be reminded that the life you know live is defined by your new relationship in Christ. Old things have passed away. You now have an identity which you have been born into. It’s not a status you earned it was feely given to you in Christ. For any of you who have not been baptized in water I encourage you to do so as soon as possible and do so with an understanding of how important it is in confirming your identity in Christ.
There are many things we could say about Jesus’ baptism. But what we want to see here right now is the prominence of those words declaring His identity, “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”
What follows the story of this water baptism? The genealogy of Jesus. We are still talking about His identity. Genealogy is important throughout the Bible because it communicates identity. We do that when we use a person’s last name. I am not just Richard. I am Richard, the son of Wiley Tow. There are many Richard’s. But there are not many Richard Tows. Somebody say, “Praise God.” At his water baptism Jesus is identified as the Son of God. In his genealogy Jesus is identified as the Son of David. He is in the Messianic linage through both Joseph and Mary’s family line.
II. Identity Challenged: Now his identity is about to be challenged. And you can probably guess who will challenge it. The Accuser not only challenges Christ’s identity here in our text but he also challenges our identity in Christ. Luke 4:1-2 “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” Let me tell you where the Devil will challenge your identity. He will do it when you are “in the desert.” He will do it when you feel spiritually dry and emotionally depleted. He will whisper in a Christian’s ear, “You’re not even saved. You don’t feel saved, do you?” And if we’re not careful we find ourselves saying, “As a matter of fact, I don’t feel saved at all.” He will question your experiences with God. He will tell you that it was just you. He will tell you there was not enough emotion in it. You were not sorry enough for your sins or you can’t remember the day and hour so it must not be real. He has a thousand and one lines to use while questioning your identity.
Watch this clip from The Jesus Film and then we’ll look at the temptation more closely.
Jesus Film (00:09:56 to 00:14:19)
In Luke 4:3 what are the first words that come out of the Devil’s mouth at Jesus’ temptation? “If you are the Son of God...” Well, of course Jesus is the Son of God. The Father has just declared that at his water baptism. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” I have ministered a number of times on the temptation of Jesus. At this point I usually focus on the issue of fulfilling a legitimate hunger in an illegitimate way, which is characteristic of many of Satan’s temptations. Adultery, homosexuality, pornography are illegitimate ways to fulfill a natural, and legitimate desire. Thievery and extortion are illegitimate ways to meet our material needs. But this morning I want to point out the prominence of identity issues in this spiritual battle, “If you are the Son of God...”
Verse 5, “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours."
It is the destiny of Christ that He would rule the kingdoms of this world. Even this has to do with His identity for He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Adam had forfeited the rulership of this world in the Garden of Eden. At this point prior to the cross Satan, the god of this world, was wielding a certain power over the world. The offer is a shortcut to the fulfillment of destiny. The Devil says all you have to do is bow to me. But the legitimate way is the way of the cross. And Jesus will be the Ruler of this world God’s way, not the Devil’s. God has designed every human being with a desire for honor and glory. Nobody in his right mind wants shame and dishonor. But the issue is—will I take the route of the cross or will I try to climb up some other way? Will I take the Devil’s shortcut? Or will I do the Father’s will? God has destined us for glory. But there is some work He needs to do on our character before we get there. Amen?
The third temptation is in verses 9-11. The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: "’He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. There’s an idea as to how to get accepted as the Messiah. Imagine yourself as a worshipper in Jerusalem. Someone points to the pinnacle of the temple and when you look up you see someone standing there 150 feet in the air. There is this gasp of horror in the crowd as the individual dives off that highest point plunging toward the ground. But just in time you see a band of angels suddenly appear and catch him in their hands. How could you not believe He is the Messiah seeing something like that? How could you not affirm His true identity? It would be a sure way to gain immediate acceptance as the Messiah.
“If you are the Son of God...” do this? What’s the Devil implying? If you don’t do it, you must not really be the Son of God. This whole battle revolves around the issue of identity. And all the way up to Jesus’ death this issue of identity will loom large. Luke 4:13 “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”
He left him until an opportune time. The battle was won but the war was not yet over.
III. Identity Confessed: When Jesus returns from the temptation what does He do? Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit He declares His true identity in His home town.
Luke 4:14-21 14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Everyone knew that Isaiah 61 passage was a prediction of the Messiah. Jesus was identifying Himself as the promised Messiah.
I’m not going to read about the crowd’s reactions to the confession of his true identity (verses 22-28). But this issue of identity was central to the conflict that ensued. You tell the world that you are a child of God and they are a child of the Devil and see what kind of reaction you get. But the hard truth is this. Those who are in Christ are children of light and those who are not in Christ are children of darkness. It may not be politically correct to say that—people may get visibly upset if you do—but that is exactly what the Bible declares.
Wishing it were not so will not keep people out of hell. Keeping silent about that reality may in fact result in people ending up there.
Since Jesus was and is the Son of God why did he refuse to allow demons to testify to that fact? Look with me at Luke 4:33-35, “In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God! 35 ‘Be quiet!’ Jesus said sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.
Again in Luke 4:41, “Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.”
Aside from issues of timing concerning Jesus ministry and death, I believe there is a very important reason Jesus silenced these demons on the issue of His identity. He was not about to let them have any part in defining who He is. The Father had already defined it at his baptism. It is God’s right and God’s right alone to define who we are.
Now let me say something loud and clear. The Devil and his demons will try to define your identity. They may speak a certain amount of truth to get your ear. But in the end their definition of your identity will be a false identity and it will be contrary to who the Father has called you to be. The world has an identity for you and will try to mold you into that identity. That’s why Romans 12 tells us not to allow ourselves to be conformed to the world’s mold but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
IV. How the Devil Challenges our Identity in Christ: He begins by pointing out your past. For some he will zero in on what would seem to be defining moments—major blunders, failed marriages, dishonorable acts, regrettable decisions. And even though those sins are under the blood he will try to use the memory of them to define who you are. He will try to use abuse, rejection, whatever he can find in your past as a basis for his definition. He will use those things like a wicked club to beat you down into despondency. And if we don’t know in our spirit that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin” we can easily get ensnared by the Devil’s accusations. I want to declare with all boldness that the blood of Jesus is just as effectual in cleansing sin for the believer as it is for the person receiving Christ for the first time. In fact, 1 John 1:7 is specifically addressed to believers. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” NKJV
Somewhere along the way somebody got a theology that says God forgives the sinner but doesn’t forgive His own children—that He forgives His enemies but not His friends. I think Rom 5:8-10 is very clear on that matter. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. NKJV
Don’t let Satan define you by your past failures. Let God define you by your current relationship with Him.
The Accuser of the Brethern will also use your current struggles to define you. You don’t pray enough. You could be a better wife or husband or father or mother, etc. When the Devil is talking it is never good enough. Not only is it never good enough but there’s no hope of it ever changing. When God addresses sin in our lives He does not leave us under a cloud of despondency. He calls us to Himself. He calls us to confess specific sin and forsake it. He offers His cleansing and love and full acceptance. God has the perfect solution to all our troubles and all our shortcomings.
I am not just speaking from the scripture but also from my own experience. I know personally how disheartening it is when the Devil is calling you a failure and has a whole list of things with which to prove his point. I know how hard it is to press forward when the Devil has convinced you that you are one of those people who will never go forward.
But the Devil is not authorized to define our identity. God has marked you by the Holy Spirit as His own. He has not destined you to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate you from His love (Rom 8).
Listen to your identity according to the word of the Lord. 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
In those two short verses God says some awesome things about you and me. We are “chosen” by God. Jesus told the disciples in John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last.” One reason this thing is going to work is that it is God’s idea. He initiated the relationship, not us. He was not a reluctant participant but the author and finisher of the whole thing. Ultimately you are not defined by your struggles but by the Father’s destiny for you.
We are a “royal priesthood”. We have access to the Father by His own design. We can ask and receive—not only for ourselves but for others.
We are “a holy nation”. Anytime we are not behaving in holiness we are being inconsistent with who we are. The basis of God’s call on your life and mine to holiness is our identity in Christ. Since we are in Christ, since we are a holy people, since we are children of light, since we are not of the world but our citizenship is in heaven, we don’t do live like the world.
Peter goes on to make the application in verse 11 “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” It is God’s way to first tell us who we are and then tell us to behave accordingly. You see that in Paul’s epistles. You see it in God’s dealings with people in the Old Testament as well. In Genesis 17:5 God told Abram that his name would no longer be Abram but Abraham, the father of many nations. At that time Abraham did not have one child. God gave him that identity and then led him into the full expression of it. God has wonderful faith in what He can make out of you and me. God has awesome faith in His own ability to make us into what He says we are.
We all behave out of our self-perception. That’s why God is careful to tell us who we are. That’s why the Devil is busy trying to confuse us about who we are. The battle is primarily something that goes on in our own minds even though there are a lot of other things involved. The bottom line comes down to this. Will you believe God or will you believe the Accuser? Will you allow God to define your identity or will you allow the Devil to do it?
I close with three important steps to take.
1) Know what the battle is about and don’t let yourself buy into the suggestions of your adversary.
2) Know what God has said about your identity. Be able to reply, “It is written” when the enemy challenges you identity. We have only touched on a few amongst many verses on this subject. Find all the places in the Bible where God changed people’s names and gave them their identity. Look into the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, and Peter.
Find out why Nebuchadnezzar gave Daniel and the three Hebrew children new names. It was all about identity and the behavior that would follow. Let the word dwell in you richly so that you know who you are in Christ.
3) Spend time on the Father’s lap in prayer—precious time for Him to affirm your identity. In the natural a child looks to his parents to define himself—especially in the early years. That understanding doesn’t come just because Dad said once, “You’re my child and I love you.” It comes through spending much time interacting with mom and dad. Over and over that child needs the affirmation of his or her identity. Over and over you and I need to hear our heavenly Father speaking into our hearts and saying, “You are my child, whom I love; I am well pleased with you because when I see you I see Jesus.”
Let us Pray
Epic Service: 1-09-05
Table Leader Discussion Questions
I. In the video clip from “The Jesus Film” the temptation of Jesus is depicted.
1. The temptation of Jesus follows a wonderful spiritual experience at His water baptism (Luke 3:21-22) in which the heavens open and the Father spoke of His pleasure in Jesus.
Luke 4:1 tells us that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit”. Yet we are also told that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the dessert to be tempted.
Have you ever found yourself in a spiritual struggle with temptation after a positive spiritual experience? Why would God allow this? Were you surprised by the chain of events? How did you deal with it and what did you learn?
Often after we take spiritual ground, the enemy will counter with his temptations to try to rob us of what God has given. God allows such battles to take place so that instead of losing spiritual ground we can take even more spiritual ground. Jesus was prepared for the battle by being “full of the Holy Spirit” and this is a key factor in our victories over temptation.
2. In Luke 4:3-13 the devil confronted Jesus with three specific temptation.
a. What do these temptations suggest about the way the enemy will tempt us? The temptations appealed to illegitimate satisfaction of (1) natural needs of the body (turning stone to bread),(2) personal expression through authority and power (authority & splendor gained by bowing to wrong thing), (3) personal recognition and affirmation (throw yourself from temple and be publicly rescued by angels).
b. What personal battles have you fought in one of these areas and how did you find victory?
c. What parallels do you see in the temptations Adam and Eve experienced in Genesis 3?
II. In the Bible
1. In what ways do you see the theme of “identity” dealt with in Luke 4?
a. Why does the devil focus so much on this during the temptation by saying “If you are the Son of God...”?(Verses 3, 9)
b. Why did the Father focus so much on it during the baptism by saying “You are My Son Whom I love; with You I am well pleased (Luke 3:22)?
c. What is Jesus publicly declaring in Luke 4:16-21when He reads the Isaiah passage and then says it is being fulfilled? Since the Isaiah passage was concerning the Messiah, He was declaring His identity as the Messiah.
d. Why does Jesus shut the demons up when they acknowledge His identity in Luke 4:33-35 and 4:41? The announcement of His identity was not the privilege of demons but of the Father, the Son Himself, and the holy angels. Today the Holy Spirit continues to declare His identity through the testimony of redeemed believers.
2. What battles have you had concerning your identity in Christ?
Where has the devil attacked you and how have you found victory?
Why is this such a crucial area of battle?
As the Accuser of the Brethern the Devil will often belittle believers in order to cow them down and keep them from fulfilling their calling in Christ. If he can keep us confused about our identity and the basis of our authority we will not be able to function effectively in ministry. Victory in this area is usually found in embracing scripture that declares who we are in Christ and in maintaining a fellowship with God so that He can continually affirm us in the Spirit.
3. Before Jesus’ temptation Luke 4:1 tells us that He was “full of the Holy Spirit”; yet we do not see the miracles happening in ministry until after the temptation when in Luke 4:14 he returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit”. What might this imply concerning the necessary preparation for a ministry of power deliverance and miracles?
The spiritual battle Jesus won in private was manifested in His public authority over demons and disease. There is a connection between faithfulness in the hour of temptation and ability to operate in ministry power. The real battle does not come when we are praying over somebody in a public setting like at church. It comes when our personal commitment to the Lord’s authority is being tested in our private hour of temptation.
4. In what ways have you seen the Lord’s authority exercised over demons and disease? What did you learn in your experience?
 All quotes are from New International Version unless otherwise indicated.
 Paul deals with these identity issues in the first half of Ephesians before he talks about spiritual warfare in the last chapter.
 Romans 6:1-14
 Revelation 12:10
 Revelation 19:11-16
 2 Corinthians 4:4 KJV
 1 Thess. 5:9; 1 Peter 5:1-4,10
 TEMPLE (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)
 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30
 Nehemiah 6:11 is a good example.
 In John 1:15-27 we see how essential it was for John the Baptist to have a clear sense of his identity.