I’m sure you were asked as a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As I did, you most likely had a ready answer. I wanted to be a Navy Chaplain like my father. Many of my friends gave answers such as: a policeman, fireman, doctor, race car driver, a movie star, and so forth. In the 1970s, two other common answers were: a rock singer or an astronaut.
Why do kids respond like that? The simple is: identification. Identifying with something or someone we admire gives us a sense of belonging, a sense of importance.
As a Californian, I liked the San Francisco 49er football team. When the 49ers won a game, “I” won. When they succeeded, I succeeded. When they lost, I lost. I’ll never forget when WE won OUR 5th Super Bowl Ring! Had I ever met any of them? No, but what difference did that make? I liked Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Jerry Rice.
But I truly admired my father, and I strongly identified with him. I always liked dad better than the 9ers, anyway.
I also learned to admire other men who talked and sung about Jesus, and in high school a southern gospel quartet from Mississippi became my focus: The Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Not having met them, I referred to them by their first names, and sung along with the records I bought. I learned all four parts of all their songs and learned to sound like them – somewhat. When I finally met them near Boston, Massachusetts, my spirits soared!
A few others whom I admired and wanted to emulate were the Apostle Paul, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Graham, Paul Harvey, and Dr. J. C. Holsinger (Carol’s and my history professor in the university).
Identification with a person, group, or event generates change. Why? We mentally gravitate toward the object of our focus.
I tend to think like dad. I’m for a unified nation as was Lincoln. I focus on the Bible like Billy Graham. I learned to sing like several of the Blackwoods. Fifty years ago, I could sing tenor similar to Bill Shaw; but as the years passed, I began singing bass similar to J.D. Sumner – but not nearly as low as he did. I learned to study like Dr. Holsinger. I learned to tell stories similar to Paul Harvey. I learned to think theologically and philosophically like Paul.
Since identification generates change, identifying with these men gave me direction in life.
Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines identification, in part, as: “A largely unconscious process whereby an individual models thoughts, feelings, and actions after those attributed to an object that has been incorporated as a mental image.” The person changes as the thoughts and feelings become a part of his life and his worldview.
An extreme form of emulation is idolatry and leads us away from God. But admiration, properly applied, is beneficial if it leads us toward God, maturity, and wholesome living.
But there is one more person with whom I have identified, and who has changed my life more than any other: Jesus Christ.
My favorite quote from Billy Graham is: “The Bible Says!” So, let’s go there.
John 14:23 says – “If people love me, they will obey my teaching” (NCV).
Romans 6:4 says – “When we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and shared his death. So, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the wonderful power of the Father, we also can live a new life” (NCV).
So, obedience is another way of identifying with the Lord. Obedience includes actions, lifestyle, and manner of speaking. And we find that water baptism is our statement to the world that we have totally identified with Jesus: in his life, death, and resurrection.
Remembering that we mentally gravitate toward the object of our focus, I have learned to focus my life on Jesus Christ. I know who I am, and to whom I belong.
Some who call themselves Christian but who do not live according to Jesus’ teachings, have not identified with Him. If your life – words, actions, lifestyle, attitudes – does not openly verify identification with the Lord, there is a question as to the sincerity of your faith.
Identification with Christ grants strength, security, belonging, power. Not power to rule people, but power to overcome evil and spiritual darkness. Those who identify with Christ receive authority to become adopted children of God. Identification with Jesus will help us throughout eternity.
Who do you admire or look up to? With whom do you identify? As you contemplate your eternal existence, will your role-models help you or hinder you? Think about it. Pray about it. Jesus is ready and willing to help you.