Monday, September 7, 2015

Identity Theft: Who are you...really?

Our true identity is a precious thing. The Bible says that if we trust in Jesus, we are God's children who are dearly loved and longed for, chosen and redeemed. We are called citizens of heaven, God's representatives on this earth, priests and kings. Satan is terrified of us finding out who we really are and what we are meant to become. He will tell us all sorts of lies to make us forget who we are and to cause unbelievers to continue rejecting God. We should not be unaware of his schemes. 2 of his main strategies for identity theft are: 

1. To tell people lies about who God really is 

2. To tell people lies about who they really are 

He uses these lies to cause people to fall short of fulfilling God's calling and purpose for their lives, or to cause them to reject Jesus and their identity in Christ entirely and to choose him instead. I invite you to read on and explore an example of how he tried to steal the identities of 4 Hebrew boys and what happened when they remembered who they really were and claimed their true identity.

In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul says: 
I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.”  

One very clear example of this scheme of Identity Theft is found in the book of 
Daniel chapter 1, verses 1-6:

In 605 B.C., after Nebuchadnezzar’s first conquest of Jerusalem, He ordered that young men from Israel of royal descent be brought to Babylon to be educated. Among them were 4 boys from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. When these boys arrived, they were given new names.

If we take a look at how these boys were renamed when they were hauled off to Babylon, we can see the lies the enemy tries to tell us and by studying their true names, we can see who they really were, what they meant to God and most importantly, we can catch a glimpse of who God really is and what he is really like. I will be including some New Testament passages to help us make an application of these Biblical truths.

Hananiah was renamed Shadrach. His new name was actually a false prophecy over his life. It meant "I am very fearful of God." His true name means "Yahweh is gracious," Jewish teachers love to use the hinting method, to quote part of a passage of scripture in order to bring the whole thing to mind. This phrase should bring to mind this often quoted passage: 

"Yahweh is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding (overflowing) in faithful lovingkindness" 

While it is true that God had punished the nation of Israel, He had supernaturally preserved all of those who trusted Him by promising through the prophets that those who did not resist the Babylonians would be spared their lives. God was already miraculously protecting these Judean boys before they ever arrived in Babylon. The judgement that had come upon Judah was an answer to the prayers of the faithful, calling out for help and God dealt graciously with those who trusted him even in the midst of judgement on the nation. This lie called "Shadrach" was an attempt to undermine his faith, trust and confidence in God. His true name told Him who God really was, that HE was reliable, the HE was faithful and that HE was compassionate.
While we respect God, as His children we do not have to be afraid of Him. In the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 16 this is written: 

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.(Hebrews 4:16)

Azariah was renamed Abednego, which means Slave of Nebo--a false God. The message contained in this name means--you are a slave and you will never be set free. Because Nebo was a moon god, and the moon goddess is Sin. This name is like saying "you are a slave to sin" and will never be set free. But his true name, Azariah means "Yahweh has helped." It means God HAS helped us, He IS helping us and He WILL help us in the future. His true name told Azariah that God was on HIS side, helping Him. Here are some Scriptures about that illustrate how this truth applies to all of our lives: 

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart...You have been set free from sin.....Romans 6:18

Helping is an essential aspect of God’s character. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” John 14:16

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. Psalm 91:15

Azariah’s true name told him that if he cried out to God, He would be faithful to help, just like Hananiah’s true name told him that God would be gracious and compassionate.

Mishael was renamed Meshach which means "I am of little account." His new name meant that he did not matter, that he was worthless. But the truth is, he was a treasure. Daniel carefully records that Nebuchadnezzer took some of the vessels, or treasures of the house of God and took them to the house of his god. But the true vessels of the house of God, Yahweh's true treasures are not gold and silver bowls or implements--those things are just symbols, a representation. PEOPLE are his true treasures and the vessels that carry His Presence as the following verses demonstrate:

For you are a holy people to Adonai your God—from all the peoples on the face of the earth, Adonai your God has chosen you to be His treasured possession. –Deuteronomy 7:6

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Matthew 13:44)

Just like these 4 boys, believers are the treasure, Jesus gave all that he had for us. That’s how much we are worth to him. 

1 Timothy 2:4 says that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 

2 Peter 3:9 says “He is being patient for your sake, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. “ 

No one is worthless to God:

Therefore, if ANYONE cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21

We are the vessels that carry God’s Presence, just like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah WERE the true vessels of the house of God.

The enemy wanted Mishael to feel worthless because he knew what God these boys represented. Satan wanted to undermine his trust by making him feel unworthy of God's time, attention and efforts--like He wasn't worth saving. But His true name means "Who is what God is?" Put that another way--There is NO ONE like MY GOD!!! Mishael clung to the truth. His name also points us to another passage of scripture by use of the hinting method

“Who is a God like You pardoning iniquity, overlooking transgression, for the remnant of His heritage? He will not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us. He will subdue our iniquities, and You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will extend truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, that You swore to our ancestors from the days of old.” –Micah 7:18-20

In Daniel chapter 3, the boys are faced with a decision. They were told to either bow down and worship an idol, or be thrown into a blazing fiery furnace. They took a stand: 

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 

How could they show such amazing chudzpah? When we're facing tough situations, it's good to know what God's word says about it. Perhaps words like these gave them courage and strength: 

"I will be with you...When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flame burn you." -Isaiah 43:2 

"You will come as far as Babylon. There you will be rescued. There will Adonai redeem you from the hand of your enemies." -Micah 4:10  

These young men knew that they were really worshippers of the one true God and God showed up to save them out of the fiery furnace, giving us a picture of the extraordinary measures He will take to show us what we are worth to Him: 

“So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out from the middle of the fire…not a hair of their head was singed, nor were their robes scorched, nor was there a smell of fire on them” 

Not only did they come through their fiery trial unharmed, these men were promoted. They had already been appointed as administrators over the province of Babylon, after they won their first trial by refusing to eat unclean foods and now, because their identity was firmly grounded as Israelites, God’s chosen people, they refused to be stripped of their true identity and were promoted even higher.

Daniel's new name, Belteshazzar, meant "Lady protect the king," it is also translated as the treasurer of Bel. It meant that he was owned by Bel, that He served Bel, that he was supposed to protect this false god and perhaps, worst of all, it meant that he was less than a man. His name meant that he was a slave who was less than a man, bound to a false god, But Daniel's true identity showed who he really was. Daniel means "God is my Judge" and I am all that He says I am. Only God could judge him. In Daniel 10:11 he was addressed as one dearly loved or highly esteemed. God’s favor was so strong on Daniel that he was made ruler over the province of Babylon and chief among the wise men under King Nebuchaddnezzar. Ultimately, it was Daniel’s influence and position of authority that allowed him to turn over Babylon to the armies of Cyrus, who would be the one to issue an edict allowing the Jews to return home and to begin rebuilding the temple. You see, Cyrus had 2 names as well, he was also called Darius. This is the king who loved Daniel so much—this Daniel whose careful oversight had allowed his people to prosper, even in exile. Daniel’s wisdom, influence and willingness to be used by God was instrumental in bringing down one of Satan’s most powerful strongholds on earth—Babylon--and in allowing his people to return to the promised land. Daniel’s identity was so undeniable that even pagan kings and rulers recognized that he had “an extraordinary spirit in Him” and proclaimed the greatness of God. Dani-EL knew who he really was. He survived wicked bosses/ kings, awful circumstances, life in a pagan stronghold and difficult trials and prospered and overcame them all. He is one of the greatest overseers of God’s people and all because he knew who he really was.

These 4 boys refused to compromise their IDENTITIES. They were shown to be 10 times wiser than the most educated men in the world. They became important and influential leaders and were delivered in miraculous ways. They remembered who they really were--forming their identity based on who God really is—and were blessed and fruitful because of it. God used them in mighty ways to lead, govern, and watch over His people. 

Just like these 4 Hebrew men, We can overcome any circumstance, bringing God’s kingdom into the middle of any situation, when we know who we really are. 1 Peter 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:20, Galatians 4:7 begin to give us a clear picture of who we really are in Christ:

“So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir …You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light …Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God is making his appeal through us…”

Application: Who are you, Really?:
If someone asks who you really are, do you know the answer now? Are you a believer who has invited Jesus to come into your life? Do you know that God loves you? Are there areas of your life where you need to take spiritual authority? Pray more? Be a more humble and grateful servant? Be light to the world? Help others? How does knowing your true identity affect your daily thoughts and actions?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

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