(Photo: David C. Cook)
A San Francisco pastor wants to relay the message that a person's identity isn't found in their successes or failures, their career, or even their sexual orientation. A person's true identity is found in who God says they are.
"We subtly believe we can make an identity ... so we try and try and never succeed," Pastor Dave Lomas told The Christian Post. "We don't find an identity, we receive one from God, our Creator."
Lomas makes his point in his newly released book, The Truest Thing About You: Identity, Desire, and Why It All Matters.
"Here's the problem: you're clinging to true things about yourself that simply aren't that true. You're elevating things that are merely true - or half-true, or true some days but not others - to the level of 'truest.' I know you're doing this because I do it too," the Bakersfield, Calif., pastor writes.
His book, he says, "is about the truer things" that "have the power to change everything else, including the merely true things."
Lomas turned to the Bible and became a youth pastor after struggling with drug and alcohol problems through his teenage years. Lomas and his wife, Ashley, moved to San Francisco and founded Reality in 2010. His new book was released in February.
Below is an email interview The Christian Post conducted with Lomas on Friday about his new book.
CP: Is exposure to the overwhelming amount of information made available by technological progress a reason for people's identity crisis? Was it easier for people in the past to find and live out a concrete identity?
Lomas: Yes, it is definitely reason for our perpetual identity crisis. Our endless amount of information we get through social media and 24 hour news cycles bombard us with information that never translates to formation. Formation is what God is after in our identity. To form us (or conform) us into the image of his son. And the information that we receive is often about people we want to be or the best portrayal of people we admire.
One philosopher I heard recently says that this idea of we can become anything we want to be ruins us to ever be satisfied where we are. Thus: perpetual identity crisis. We can never find a permanent sense of self. We are subtly told there is more out there and to be unsatisfied with what we have now. We subtly believe we can make an identity ... so we try and try and never succeed. We don't find an identity, we receive one from God, our creator.
CP: You write that "you are hidden with Christ, and you are the beloved of God" is a person's truest identity. What is your advice for people who try to hold on to that idea, but find it hard to do in the face of life's distressing situations, such as facing joblessness, serious illnesses, and other problems?
Lomas: I have found that my advice never works as well as God's training, discipline and trials. I have suffered all of those daily problems, sometimes at the same time! And these are lessons God uses to teach me that I cannot find my identity in a job or a state of health or ... I'm not saying God caused all our distress. But I am saying He will use it. He will use it if we let Him teach us that our identity and thus our peace can be found only in God who loves us.
I've been jobless at 30 years old and had to get a job a Starbucks to pay the bills. That was hard for me. Then I hurt my back really bad and could barely walk. Then depression set in. There was never a time in my life that I realized more profoundly that I am not my job or my state of health or my state of mind. I am beloved of God, not because of what I do but what's been done for me in Christ. Not for what I have but what has been lavished on me. We have to push the truth of our identity to the core, the fundamental layer of who we are and base everything on that. God has a good way of using difficult circumstances in our life to do just that.
CP: How well do you believe churches in America manage to convey the message that people are made in the image of God and that they matter to God no matter their past or present?
Lomas: I think the Gospel movement in recent years has helped a lot towards this. I'd like to see it done more in the area of sexuality. I think there is still a stigma on that one. "You can rest assured you are made in the image of God and your identity is in Christ as long as you have the right sexual desires." That's the message out there. Said or unsaid. But everyone has disordered sexual desires. That's Genesis 3 onward. Does that mean we're not all made in the image of God? Does that mean that if we're in Christ the truest thing about us is we're "in Christ" ... yes, for everyone.
No matter who you're attracted to. I think the label we need to take down are sexual identity labels and put up the label: Beloved.
CP: Is there a conflict between giving one's life, or identity, to Jesus, and living in contemporary society?
Lomas: I think this has been a conflict for the people of God in every situation in every society. If you recall the 10 Commandments, these were given to people who were delivered from a society opposed to God and who were now entering into the Promised Land, which was occupied by a society that had set itself up against God. So the commandments start with "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out the land of slavery." That is identity. "This is who you were, slaves, but I freed you. Therefore live like this."
The 10 Commandments were ways of living into God's society while living in the midst of a contemporary society. We get the same thing happening in the New Testament. 1 Peter 2 says "we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation ... once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God ... therefore I urge you, as foreigners and exiles to abstain from sinful desires."
This has been a conflict always and will always be one. So the how is the same how that the people of God have always been given: Know who you are. Know whose you are. John Stott has beautifully said: "It is my conviction that our Heavenly Father says the same thing every day: My dear child, you must always remember who you are."
CP: You write about the difference between believing in Jesus' message, and trusting in Jesus' message. What role does doubt play in this, and what are the obstacles people need to overcome to truly develop this trust?
Lomas: Believing as I was talking about it at the end of the book has a way of being mere information. We can all believe what ends up on our twitter feed or our Facebook timeline but does that translate into action? Rarely. Trust is what God is after. Trust demands obedience. Trust will even require sacrifice.
I deal with doubt all the time. That doesn't mean I don't trust. Trust is not the absence of doubt. Trust is taking my doubt and believing truer things. Trusting God in the midst of my doubt. Putting more trust in sovereign God and less in sovereign self. The life of a follower of Jesus must always start with a cross, a denial of self ... and we must be willing to place our doubts right up there on the cross as well.