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Summary: A message about loosing our idenity in Christ to the pursuiet of success.

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Continuing in our series entitled Identity Theft. As you may recall … the fastest growing crime in America is Identity Theft… a means by where who we are is taken by another. But of course our identity is far more than our credit card number or bank account. And in truth… the greatest danger of identity theft is losing who God created us to be. So we are looking at what can steal our ultimate identity… and how to reclaim it.

I want to begin this final part of our time this morning by asking you a question:

Are you successful? And perhaps more importantly…How would you know if you are successful?

As we consider what can steal our ultimate identity… and how to reclaim it… perhaps the most common but complicated of thieves… is SUCCESS.

It’s complicated because it can imply something that is very positive. The problem is that success bears no inherent definition. It is often whatever validates us… whatever offers a sense of significance.

It’s common because there is always plenty of means that we can mine. There are plenty of ways that outward socially notable success can become the definer of identity.

We have diplomas on walls that say I’m smart… trophies that say champion… school polls that declare who is most likely to succeed… whose the king and queen… workplace titles that declare our position. We will fill out forms that place us in income levels, marital status, and work history.

Cars have luxury models. Airlines have first class.

And of course there are plenty of gadgets like phones and PDAs that we might find significance in. Of course none of these things themselves are wrong… they aren’t really anything… which I suppose is the great reality for us to discover… but they represent something that is out there says, “Here it is. Have you reached it?”

Most of us certainly try to do a good job trying to live above it… but deep down it’s hard.

• Parents… just when we seem mature… have kids begin to play on sports teams…(Ex. in Book Identity Theft p. 106 – parents talking to coach calls their child ‘her franchise.’)

• Countercultural… may be the right idea… but often has it’s own cultural symbols of success.

• And while some may seem above or below the fray… often inside one feels the loss of success.

As has often been said…

We end up spending money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know or even like.

> God wants us to be successful but He wants us to understand discover what true success is… which will free us from the deceptive pursuits of this world.

The critical issue in life is not that of succeeding but that of knowing what is truly successful.

“Failure is to succeed at something that doesn’t really matter.”

I’ve long recognized the vital truth that

We can work hard to climb ladders only to reach the top and realize they were leaning on the wrong wall.

And I might add that I see the even wider phenomena of so many looking up and assuming that such high climbers are the one’s to follow. After all, those at the top may realize far sooner what is and isn’t there than those below.

How many stories like Howard Hughes and Heath Hedger do we need?

Can we learn from someone at the top before we go climbing the wall?

God has provided one who asked for wisdom… has become a voice calling out from the tops of ladders. Solomon… You may recall that Solomon was a man of massive wealth and power.. who asked God for the gift of wisdom. Along with writing much of the Proverbs… his journal about life’s meaning is The Book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 4:4 (NLT)

“Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.”

We are looking for validation… meaning… and can’t come up with anything more than having more than others. We end up worshipping whatever appears to be the goal. That becomes what we allow to validate us.

It can help us appreciate that when God made known the top ten most important boundaries for our human life,,, he put these two commandments at the very top:

Exodus 20:3-5 (TEV)

3 "Worship no god but me. 4 "Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.

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