The Feminine Domain

When I was 16 my parent’s bought me a car- a 1994 Nissan Sentra, manual, white, zippy. It might not have been the coolest car in my high school parking lot (and certainly not the newest), but I was delighted to have my own wheels, my own CD player, my own vehicle to take me wherever I wanted to go. My very generous parents entrusted me with that machine- they owned it, but I was a steward of the car. They charged me to make wise decisions, take care of the vehicle, obey the traffic laws, and go at least 10 under the speed limit at all times (well, maybe not 10 under;).

Have you ever thought of being a steward of your life? That God created us for a purpose, gave us roles and responsibilities and asks us to be faithful stewards with his resources? Let’s go a little further, have you ever thought about being a steward of womanhood and all that goes into the blessedness of being a woman?

 In the Beginning

There once was a beautiful paradise, a garden named Eden, filled with beauty, plants, and animals. It was also home to the first human beings- man and woman. They were created by God in his image, communed with God as they walked about, and were given purpose for their lives on earth.

God tells both man and woman, “Be fruitful, and multiple and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living creature that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28

When the man and woman were created, God gave them the command to rule, subdue, and to produce- we refer to this as the Cultural Mandate. It was God’s commission and authoritative instruction to humans to be purposeful with their lives on earth. God created man and woman with intention and deliberately designed them with specific roles and responsibilities to rule, subdue, and produce in God appointed domains.

The feminine domains include, but are not limited to our words, time, possessions, attitudes, body, relationships, talents, money, home etc. Within each of these domains, God wants us to rule, subdue, and produce.

Ruling, Subduing, and Producing in the Feminine Domain

We rule by making authoritative decisions regarding a course or destiny. In the kitchen domain I look that slimy raw bird in the eye, wait, um, chest, and decide on it's destiny. . . to be dinner for the family. In the time domain, I decide where I will spend the hours of my day.

We subdue by bringing under control by conquering, and keeping under control by diligent maintenance. In the attitude domain I bring under control my complaining by being thankful, and lets be honest, keep the complaints to a minimum by VERY diligent maintenance. In the home domain, I have to control the laundry by conquering the mountain every few days (and without diligent maintenance our house would turn into a giant pile of cloths and diapers).

We produce by having children, both spiritual and physical, by being productive in everything we do, and creating value all around us. In the word's domain, I am able to give life by speaking words of encouragement and truth to people around me, including my husband and baby girl. In the relationship domain, I sow the Word to hopefully produce other disciples of Jesus.

The feminine domain is a place of great freedom and beauty. It's a place where God has given women the charge of being good stewards, making wise decisions, growing in discernment, elevating our surroundings, mastering our gifts, and teaching our talents.

We have been given this trust. Let us prove faithful.

Identity in Christ: The Old, New, and False Self

I have this really old long sleeve shirt; it’s from my earlier years when I ran cross country for Chamberlain High School. I was an eighth grader and placed 19th at the State Meet. Our team actually won the State Title that year because I was one of many stud runners on the team (insert wink face).

My teammates and I bought a state XC long sleeve shirt with the year written on the front, 2003. I ran in that t-shirt for years. I wore it so much that it had holes in the armpits, and the wrists were dirty and stained from all the sweat it had endured. I concealed the holes pretty well, but that didn’t make them go away. My mom kept telling me to retire the old shirt, but I would not relent. In college, my friends teased me about it, so I finally gave in and left it at home in my bedroom dresser.

My old shirt reminds me of my spiritual journey, specifically my identity in Christ. Often times, I want to hold onto my old ways, my sin, my old self. That old shirt was comfortable. My old self and my sin can feel comfortable. But comfort isn't always the goal.

Paul instructs us to put off the old self and live in the new self, which is life with Christ.

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-44 (ESV)

Identity: The Old, The False, The NEW

The Old Self

You see, the old self is what we create apart from God. It is the self that existed before Christ came into our lives. The old self is what we hold onto because it’s all we’ve ever known, and it is a result of the Fall.

In Colossians 3:5-7, Paul tells us to put off the old self. He is calling us to do away with all our idolatries, the practices and attitudes of our old life.  Put simply, the old self is the sinful nature.  Sin, no matter if it is an outward manifestation or an inner idolatry, is the driving force of the old self. Before we knew God, we lived for the pleasures and enticements of the world; we were imprisoned to sin, Satan, and death. In the old self, we fought and rebelled against His character and His love.

This business of "putting off" that Paul commands implies that we no longer are in need of it. We can toss it.

The False Self

What’s important to note is that the very nature of the old self has no claim on us like it used to because it is regarded as dead. Romans 6:11 says that in Christ, we are dead to sin and alive to righteousness. The old self is gone. However, the false self is the posture we take when we fall back into our old ways and when we find new ways of sinning.

When we live in the false self rather than the new nature given to us in Christ, we miss out on life with God. We can become performance-driven, constantly seek people’s approval, and live in fear. The false self is how we seek to find worth on our own after Christ has redeemed us. Positioning our identity in anything other than the Trinity is a deed of the false self.  However, God wants us to find our value and worth in Him.

The New Self

If we continue reading in Colossians chapter 3, we find that Paul is calling us to put on the new self. So what is the new self? It is our truest self, made in His image before the creation of the world.  Our new self is the love of God.  He is what gives us value, worth, meaning, and purpose.

Most importantly, He gives us His love.  We see His love for us in Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension.

In the new self, we are becoming more and more of who we were created to be and more and more like Christ. This is not a paradox. The more we become like Christ, the more we are becoming our true, most authentic selves.

Putting Off the Old and Putting on the New

This is important, friends. I could easily go into a performance-driven mindset, where I want to achieve this. But is this what it’s about? Do we simply just stop sinning and adopt new sets of behaviors? Do I make sure I have everything on the "new self list" down?! Do we simply do all these “good” things until Jesus comes back?

I think not.

In Colossians 3:5, Paul says “put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” Put to death is an imperative statement, meaning it is done and complete. We are not called to “put off” because it has already been done by our Savior Jesus Christ. Paul invites us to respond and cooperate with the transformative power that is working within us, the Holy Spirit. This is a matter of us acknowledging the old self’s deadness, abandoning it, and replacing it with the truth. We have been given a new nature through Christ!

Just as we are not the ones who are in charge of putting off the old self, we cannot be the ones who put on the new self. This is God’s doing and not our own.

The growth and sanctification in our lives is Holy Spirit work and rooted in God's love for us. Colossians 3:10 says we put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its Creator. We live into the new self by spending time with God and receiving His grace. The Holy Spirit transforms our hearts when we orient our lives towards Him. It comes about by spending time with God in His Word, conversing and listening to Him in prayer, growing in awareness of His presence, and loving and serving others.

Rooted in Christ & Becoming Like Christ

We put off the old self because Christ has done it, and He has invited us into new life with Him. We were once not a people, but now we are God’s people (1 Peter 2:10). We are the Beloved.

For us as believers, our identity is in Christ. That is never going to change or go away. We are rooted. The frustrating thing is that we still sin. However, that doesn't mean God is not at work in our lives.  The Holy Spirit continues to redeem and restore us back to the image of God, and we participate in that by seeking the Lord. We are still becoming who He made us to be, and it will come to completion when Christ returns.

Rooted and becoming. What a beautiful thing.

About the Author

Jackie grew up along the banks of the Missouri River in South Dakota.  In college, Jesus changed Jackie’s heart and reoriented her life for His glory. She met her handsome husband at school, and they moved to Denver after graduating and getting married.  She is pursuing her master’s degree in Christian Formation & Soul Care at Denver Seminary and expects to graduate in December 2015.

Identity Crisis: I am Fat

I remember sitting in a room full of college students intently listening to the speaker talk about spiritual warfare. It was very interesting, but I had a burning question. At the end of the speaker's presentation my hand shot up - "What does spiritual warfare look like in the everyday?"

Though I was eager for an answer, my mind began to double task as I thought about all the junk I'd eaten that day and needed to go for a run. The words, "I'm fat" played in the background as I tried to tune into the answer.

"That's a great question. Sometimes the attacks of the enemy are subtle. He did come to steal, kill, and destroy. He is known in Revelation 12:10 as the Accuser. So when you are hearing things in your heart that sound accusing, like "You're stupid" or "You're ugly" or "You're alone" or "You're fat" . . .

Wait, what?

The background hum of my thoughts stopped in their tracks.

Wait, "I'm fat" - that counts as warfare?

Holy cow.

Here I was at a Christian function surrounded by friends who were excited about Jesus and His Kingdom and here I'm succumbing to the lies of the Enemy.

Right there I realized there was a war going on and there were so many tactics to produce misery even in a person who has tasted the goodness of the Gospel. The tactic I discovered that night was a subtle yet painfully deep attack on my identity.

Identity Crisis: Robbed

Our identity is who we are. Using the world's terms it's how we perceive ourselves, but using God's terms in His Word, it's who we actually are. For a person who is alive in Christ it's very important we believe who we actually are verses how we perceive ourselves. One is rooted in the authoritative truth of God, and the other is a slippery slope comprised of what we see in the mirror, magazines, social media "news" articles and posts, and worldly definitions.

That night I realized that every time I was willing to let myself believe "I'm fat" I was robbing myself of the joy of being in Christ. I was letting a worldly standard and feelings overtake what really mattered - what God thinks of me. The longer I ventured down the road of believing something I wasn't, Jesus became strangely dim. I willingly entered the boxing ring with the Enemy and held my hands behind my back. I might as well have hung a sign around my neck that said, "Free Punches."

Believing the phrase, "I'm fat" produced in me so much fear and bondage. I let that phrase define me and I began to lack the confidence to be me in my own skin. It was distracting and took away joy from my every day life. I became obsessive about what I ate and lived in total dread of the days I didn't get a chance to run. I needed help.

It was time to take a good look in the mirror - the ultimate truth telling mirror that would tell me everything I wanted to know about me - the real me.

Mirror Mirror

God's Word really is the most trustworthy source we can go to when it comes to understanding our identity. It clearly states who we are and we can wear it like a badge of courage.

I think to truly grasp who we are according to God, we have to first look at who we are BEFORE Christ.

  • Dead - we are dead in our transgressions - we are dead (Colossians 2:13)
  • Hard Hearts - unable to embrace the truth of our depravity (Romans 1, Ephesians 4:18-19)
  • Slaves to Sin - unable to say no to corruption and rebellion against God (Romans 6)
  • Enemies of God - because of our evil behavior and hostility toward God (Colossians 1:21, Romans 8:7)
  • Alienated - no access to God, far from him (Colossians 1:21)
  • Self Centered - consumed with ourselves, can only think of ourselves (Romans 8:8)

This is incredibly eye-opening and completely humbling. When I truly believe who I am before Jesus' saving grace in my life, it gives such power and hope to who we are IN Christ. Our identity is really linked to death, corruptness, slavery - that is who we are without Christ and that is what we live out of every day. Minds are focused on earthly pleasures, souls are tormented by corruption, hearts are tossed back and forth by the fickleness of this world.

Now to look at who we are according to God's Word when Jesus redeems our lives.

  • Alive - we are now alive with Christ with no fear of death (Ephesians 2:5)
  • Free - to obey God, we can say no to sin (Romans 6:7,16)
  • Free - from accusation, our sins are no longer held against us (Colossians 1:22)
  • Forgiven - we are forgiven of every trespass and are now blameless before God (Ephesians 1:4,7)
  • New Creation - the old way of life is done, we are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Members of a Body - connected to others, growing together in the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13)
  • Heirs - children of God privileged to his inheritance (Romans 8:16-17)

When I read over that list what comes over me is relief, joy, and gladness. These are game changing truths - these are who we really are now and when we set our hearts on them as a foundation for our identity it truly will change the way we live each day.

The War and The Victory

There is war. Ephesians 6:12 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

There is a war over our identity. The Enemy wants to steal from you the joy of being in Christ. He wants to destroy the hope that you have of being in Christ. So one way he will work is by attacking your identity - who you are - because if you don't believe you are free, alive, forgiven, he can rain down the misery making you ineffective and fruitless in your limited time on earth.

He wants you to instead live out of what he says about you - accusing words to bring you down. He wants you to believe what the world says - what CULTURE says - letting people's opinions and the next big "movement" identify you.

Know the war. Be familiar with the war. But live in the VICTORY.

There is a victory - Jesus Christ who disarmed the powers and authorities making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15). We need to look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom because Jesus won, Jesus is victorious and to submit to anything other than Him and His Words about us is utterly maddening. It's trading truth for lies. It's trading beauty for ugliness. It's trading victory for false defeat.

I'm Not Fat

I'm not fat. Actually, I'm a child of God. I'm not fat. Actually I now have access to the throne of grace to receive mercy when I'm struggling with self-image.

The message here is not about what we eat, not about weight gain, not about exercise and health or if it's ok to eat cheetos and sprite for dinner. This is about the war on identity and how Satan uses tactics to get our minds and hearts off the truth of being in Christ.

For me, the battle is in the phrase, "I'm fat." It will derail me in seconds. But armed with truth I am able to knock down brick by brick the strongholds that try and identify me. I'm done with that. After meditating on who I really am in Christ it is very difficult to want to live in the darkness of what I'm not.

May I add that this is not a one time meditation kind of deal. No no. You don't go to battle and swing the sword once. You keep swinging. So keep meditating. Keep the joy near of who you are in Christ.

You can be free too. It's time to stop living out of the perspective gleaned from Facebook posts and even, dare I say, accredited news sources like the Washington Post, and start looking at the authoritative Word of God. Only he gives victorious power over the warfare on your identity. He tells you who you really are and that will change the way you live every day of your life.