Professor Dale Kuehne, author of Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship Beyond an Age of Individualism, gave an enlightening talk that is streamed online with this description:
"Modern culture has created a vacuum of purpose and identity. This has led to colossal confusion over why we exist and where we find meaning. Our mental health epidemic, the idolatry of sexuality, gender confusion and innumerable other challenges are rooted in a wrong view of human purpose, relationships, and identity."
Many have associated today’s identity crisis with Generation Z. It makes sense. Our enemy knows that if he can confuse their identity, he can keep Gen Z from their purpose.
During the temptation in the wilderness, Lucifer first attacked Jesus’ identity. The first words he tempted Jesus with were, “If you are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:1–11)
For Generation Z, just like Jesus, identity is key to purpose. Satan tried to bring doubt even to Jesus. He does the same with each of us, first attacking our identity so he can move us away from our purpose.
Our Creator made us and knew each of us in our mother’s womb. Our identity does not come from how many friends we have nor how many “likes” we can generate. Our identity comes from knowing who our Father is and from our identity as a son or daughter of the King. Yet, a lack of earthly fathers has made a big impact on Generation Z.
David Blankenhorn, the founder of the Institute for American Values, stated that the trend of fatherlessness is “the most socially consequential family trend of our generation.” Further, he “speaks for most Americans” when he says that more than 70% agree with the notion that the “absence of fathers from the home is the most significant family or social problem facing America.”
The deterioration of the family and the breakdown of interfamily relationships have put many Gen Zers in awkward associations with their earthly fathers. Many have no connection at all. Of those who do connect with their earthly fathers, many suffer through strained relationships at best.
When people have a difficult relationship with their earthly father, they can find it difficult to identify correctly with their heavenly Father. Yet, as I wrote in 2012, their hearts cry to our heavenly Father will be heard, and He will help them find a clear identity as His children.
The Bible states that Joseph was the favorite of his earthly father: “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him” (Genesis 37:3). The King James Version reads, “a coat of many colors.” In that day, clothes represented ownership and favor, so Joseph’s coat represented the love and favor of his father.
Clothes represent a lot to Gen Z, too. They spend a lot of money on them and pay a great deal of attention to them. In an ORU Chapel, I said, “I’m a baby boomer. You guys don’t want me looking like Generation Z.”
Was I wrong.
To make a long story short, a few students took me shopping (on my credit card, of course). During the next message, I preached while wearing one of the outfits they had chosen, which the students loved.
Through all the fun, my purpose in doing this was not just to get their attention — though I certainly did. It was also to prove to the students that we are not defined by what we wear on the outside. However, what we wear on the inside means everything. We see this throughout Scripture. God tells us in Isaiah 61 that He has clothed us in the Spirit. Paul says in Galatians 3:27 that when we are in Christ, we have clothed ourselves with Him.
Joseph’s father gifted him a coat of many colors, and our heavenly Father has gifted you and me with the clothing of Jesus Christ and His righteousness. We are God’s beloved, and this is our principal identity. When Joseph wore the coat his father had given to him, everybody knew that he had his father’s favor. When we walk in Christ and stay clothed in His righteousness, the world will know that we have our Father’s favor.
Establishing identity leads to fulfilling purpose. Being a follower of Christ must become our principal identity. If we first think of ourselves in any other way, we will never accomplish what He has for us. When we awaken every morning, we can know we are God’s child first. And as a result, we are His favorite.
For Gen Z, it is our responsibility to help them understand that physical clothes are OK, but they need not get tied up in what will not endure. We must encourage them to go above the superficial. We can help them see that nothing that has happened to them speaks to their identity. They can go above their past. Wherever they come from — they can rise higher. They can proclaim that they have been washed in the blood of Jesus, set upon a rock. Therefore, their future is secure. Heaven is their home. Their righteousness is in Christ Jesus, and they will fulfill their purpose by the grace of God.
Adapted from Generation Z: Born for the Storm. Copyright © 2021 by Dr. Billy Wilson. Published by Empowered Books (an imprint of ORU Press) and Forefront Books. All rights reserved.
Dr. Billy Wilson is president of the historic, globally recognized Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is devoted to developing Holy Spirit-empowered leaders through whole person education to impact the world. With three decades of executive leadership experience, Wilson is recognized as a global influencer and dynamic speaker with unwavering ethics and an undeniable passion for equipping new generations.