By Joshua Johnson. Joshua Johnson, who is an executive director of All Nations Kansas City, is a child of God, the husband of Meredith and the father of Luke. He follows Jesus with others at Navah Church KC (Kansas City); coaches and trains others to ignite movements to Jesus with the All Nations Kansas City Hub, Movement Leaders Collective, and 5Q; and has conversations about living in the Kingdom of God on the podcast Shifting Culture.
This post is part of the ‘From the Leading Edge’ series, getting to know ANKC leaders. See our Social Media from Oct 2022 to learn more about Joshua, Meredith and Dr. Mary Ho.
“Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and he turns to others in order to make up his mind. We desire what others desire because we imitate their desires.” So said Rene Girard, who originated the mimetic theory of desire.
So, what does this have to do with following Jesus, or making disciples? Well, everything. We must get our desires aligned to the right place, or our disciples, ministries, and church planting movements will be oriented to the wrong spot. Jesus must be our desire.
Let me give you an example. If the leader of a movement desires leadership above everything else, the people around him or her will also desire leadership. In-fighting then happens and people try to usurp the leader to climb into the spot of leadership. Or, people leave all together to pursue leadership elsewhere.
How do we desire Christ above all else? We must identify first and foremost as a child of God, with our identity in Christ. Because if our identity is in Christ we will more readily embody Christ, so we can be the embodiment of Christ to the world.
Let’s look at Jesus and how He formed an identity through his words, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does.” (John 5:19-20a)
At the baptism of Jesus the heavens opened up and a voice spoke, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Spirit then fell on Jesus like a dove. Because Jesus knew where He was coming from (identity found in the Father), and was empowered by the Holy Spirit, He was able to fulfill His task with a proper orientation. He was able to withstand all temptation and keep His desire pure.
God then led Jesus by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan. And Satan came to tempt Him to find his identity in three different areas:
False Identity in Production
In the first temptation the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:3-4).
Jesus was tempted to produce something by His own hand. His answer alludes to the fact that He is not to find His identity in what is being produced, but by the Word of God. He identifies with the Father more than any productivity.
We need to ask ourselves, “Am I finding my worth and identity in what I produce (in work or ministry)? Or is my identity in Christ?”
False Identity in Performance
In the second temptation “The devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7)
This time Jesus was tempted to perform a miracle. Again, He finds His identity in the Father and not in any performance that He can give. He can perform that miracle of having the angels save Him, but He doesn’t need to perform to prove His worth.
We need to ask ourselves, “Am I finding my worth and identity in how I perform? Or is my identity in Christ?”
False Identity in Popularity
In the third and final temptation, “the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4: 8-10)
This time Jesus was tempted in His popularity. Every kingdom on earth would be His. Jesus would be the most popular man on earth. It is interesting that Jesus preferred a more intimate ministry pouring into the 12 more than a more popular ministry model. Jesus again shows that His identity is found squarely in the Father and not in any popularity He can summon on earth.
We must ask ourselves, “Am I finding my worth and identity in my popularity? Or is my identity in Christ?”
Finding Our Identity in Christ
So, practically, how can we apply this to our lives?
Complete a weekly audit of your life individually, and then with a group of three to five. Do this with a group you can be completely vulnerable with and share your whole life with. The audit is simply the three questions we raised:
- Am I finding my worth and identity in what I produce (in work or ministry)? Or is my identity in Christ?
- Am I finding my worth and identity in how I perform? Or is my identity in Christ?
- Am I finding my worth and identity in my popularity? Or is my identity in Christ?
Let us align our desire on Christ. If we desire something other than Him, great troubles will come upon us. If we find our identity in Christ, fruitfulness will follow. For the sake of our lives, for the sake of our disciples, and for the sake of our movements, our identity must be fully found in Christ alone.