ep. 18 | The Theology of Identity with Matt Lantz
On this episode of the Journeywomen podcast I had the privilege of chatting with my friend and former mentor, Matt Lantz.
Matt is a husband, father, and pastor who lives in Fort Worth, Texas with his wife and three children. He’s a graduate of TCU and Dallas Theological Seminary and has been working in full-time ministry since 2000 preparing the way for the Lord Jesus in the lives of men and women. Matt was the founding director of a discipleship program called the Forge at Pine Cove where he spent 12 years helping young men and women learn their identity and steward it well. He has recently moved on from the Forge and is now serving as the Recruitment and Development Pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth.
This conversation reminded me of the things I learned during my time in the Forge program about identity and how we live out our God-given design. This podcast will be a semesterly, if not monthly listen for me as I continue to learn more of what it looks like to live in light of who I am in Christ.
You've played a huge role in helping me develop my understanding of who I am and how God uniquely designed me. I'd love to just start there. What is identity? Do you have a basic definition?
What influences our identity? What should influence our identity?
Is identity something that is shaped and developed over time? If so, how can we continue developing our identity?
How do you detect when you’re not functioning within your God-given design?
What can we do when we realize that our foundation isn't very stable? For example, if we've built our identity around someone or something that will never be able to withstand that the pressure of supporting it, like our spouse, or our job, online presence, etc, how can we move forward from there towards building a stronger, more stable, Biblical foundation?
We're familiar with the passages that communicate identity. But how do we really live those out in a practical sense? How do we move them from our heads to our hearts to our hands?
What does it look like to have an immature view of who you are? How about mature?
What role does community play in developing our identity? How has community influenced your own identity?
What role do we have as disciple-makers/parents in helping our disciples develop their identity?
So often our generation falls into the camp of knowing and understanding ourselves and our strengthens so well that we can be caught up in only pursuing things that fit within our "calling". What's your encouragement to someone who has a good grasp of who they are, but who feels paralyzed or stuck because they don't have facets to exercise who they are in the exact way in which they'd hoped?
A couple of our Journeywomen followers have heard me talk about my identity statement and asked if you offer some guidance on creating their own. Do you have any tips for them?
3 Questions I Ask Every Guest
What are your top 3 resources for someone who desires to develop their identity?
What are 3 of your simple joys?
Who has had the biggest influence on your own journey with Jesus?
Note Worthy Quotes
“Identity is declaration that defines being that indicates design and direction.”
“A hammer has a specific design, a way that it is shaped and made. It is made out of different materials, you don’t make a hammer out of a sponge. It also has a direction because of it’s design. That’s something that the designer has made a declaration as to what that thing is. For humanity, that’s what being is.”
“What influences our identity depends on what you believe about humanity… what it is, where it comes from, it depends on your anthropology. But it really doesn’t matter what I believe a human is or not. I’m a human whether I believe I’m a human or not. There are some things that are matters of fact that we have a hard time believing. In fact, we’d often rather believe the lie than the fact. Identity isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of fact. It’s a declaration that defines being. The big question becomes ‘Who gets to make the declaration? Who has the authority to declare identity?’ I think everybody agrees that identity is a matter of fact. The disagreement begins to emerge when we ask the question, ‘Who has the authority?’ There are two choices we have on who has the authority. Either we are hand made creations of God himself, the God of the Bible, or we are whatever we say we are.”
“The world we live in right now is a world that rejects authority… it really is coming to the surface that the only trustworthy authority in life is me—my opinion, my declaration—and so I can declare that I am a tree and you can’t argue with me about it. I’m just going to branch out and leaf my own life.”
“We often take a facet of identity and elevate it to the ultimate defining characteristic of our identity and it was never designed to do that in the first place.”
“There’s a verse in the Scriptures that says, ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which he prepared beforehand for us that we should walk in them’ (Eph 2:10). In that verse you get identity as something that is received, not something that is achieved or decided upon. Once I receive this identity I live it out by faith. The identity is received because I as a human have been acted upon by a Creator God that designed me for unique things. As we come together under the name of Jesus Christ together, each of our designs and giftings compliment each other, and so together as the Body of Christ we end up functioning as if Jesus was still on the earth. We actually become his body. It’s almost like Jesus has never left.”
“If God designed you to be like a saw and he designed me to be like a hammer I don’t have to compete with your identity. You saw the boards apart and I nail them together.”
“I have already been defined by a Creator God who knows way more about life and identity than I do. Being a follower of Jesus isn’t just about going to heaven and doing what the Bible says. It’s also understanding that God didn’t run me through a machine, crank me out and mass produce us. We are his handcrafted, unique creations, each of us. As a result, if we are handcrafted and unique, then we have a function. Do you know what your function is?”
“Identity is more of an issue of humility and trust than it is an issue of method or technique. Are you willing to trust that God is a better designer of you than you are of yourself?”
“If God has designed me this way, for the church and for others, how can I best do this for other people? You have to begin with giving away your design as a place to start.”
“Identities aren’t built. I really do believe they are something that we receive.”
“Identity is received, believed, and then lived out. In that order. If you’ve built an identity around anything, whether that’s your job, your spouse, your popularity, your grades, your accomplishment, or any of that stuff. If you’ve built an identity, you haven't built an identity. You’ve built an idol.”
“Every single one of us already—right now—has a strong, stable, Biblical foundation in spades! God went to great lengths to provide that for us. That feeling of instability that you’re referencing isn’t really instability, it’s insecurity.”
“I can’t unmake what God has made, even if I go off trying to do my own thing. He will teach me. He loves me. He’s going to train and disciple me into the design that He’s made me to be. It’s very much His grace not just to save me, but to do the good works that He has designed for me to do.”
“When you understand that the Bible teaches that identity is something that’s bestowed, that God gives, and that it’s not attached to our activity, it gives you so much freedom.”
“God is faithful. He can continue to restore and establish us. Not because we’re so great, but because of the blood of Jesus. He’s already paved that road for us so that it’s not a minefield that we have to walk hoping that the next step doesn’t end things for us.”
“The issue in the garden was Adam and Eve, not having the humility to receive what God gave them. Instead, they put themselves in a position where they were enticed by the fact that they could know what God knows. As a result, that separation from God, where I’m going to trust my intuition before I ever trust God’s word, that’s what sin is in me, where I am the judge of what’s right and wrong. I am the judge of good and evil… Sin at its very core is me being the very judge of everything: God, other people, things, life itself, when I can’t be that. I’ve elevated myself to a position that I have no idea and am in no position to steward.”
“When we have the humility and we say, ‘God, you know more about life than I do. You are the Author of everything, I have some strong feelings about the way that life should be lived, but I am going to have some humility, submission and trust here, and I am going to trust that your way is better than mine.’ That is how you live out the Biblical passages (on identity) in a practical sense. It’s not, ‘I’m going to work harder, do this more, or be this more,’ though there is a place for some disciplines to help you be in a position to believe and trust, but the ultimate goal is to be, ‘Do I trust that God did his best with me? Do I believe that he didn't make a mistake?’ That’s hard for us. Especially for those of us that have really tough stuff in our lives.”
“If we really want to live out these passages on identity, they have to be believed first before they can ever be lived out.”
“Identity is not an achievement. It’s bestowed to us, declared over us by God, then we trust and believe that what he says is true, even in spite of all the silly things we’ve done… and then because we believe him, we live it out.”
“A mature identity is one who has received and is grateful for who I am—who I be.”
“If it’s a declaration that determines being then I receive that and I am grateful for it. That’s a mature identity. An immature identity is still striving and working to try and build whereas the mature identity is one that has believed.”
“The world around us is going to distort the gospel. Even within our churches, para-church ministries, and our groups. It’s so hard not to be distracted by the world around us. So much of the New Testament exhorts us to be wary of that and so we have to be mindful that it can affect our identities as well.”
“Sin wants to isolate us. When we think that we’re the only authority on things we will isolate ourselves from everyone else and we’ll think we are right, or that we’re the best, and that won’t lead you to a right understanding nor a right understanding of God’s design of you. Community helps to confirm and reinforce our identity.”
“The difficulties in life are great litmus tests for our faith, not just our faith in God, but also that God’s design of us is right.”
“When it comes to your calling, you will always persevere.”
“80% of people in the world don’t get to have jobs that are their passion. In my experience, most people don’t like their jobs. But what you do for your job isn’t where your fulfillment is or where you get your sense of identity. It should transcend and supercede your job. It should be something that you do outside your job. You should be doing what you're designed to do outside of your job anyway.”
“A vocation is a way to earn money and provide for my family. It’s a way for me to exercise my gifts and my abilities to God’s glory, but it’s not all of who I am and what my identity is. That really sets us free to take risks. If our identity isn’t going to be well used in my vocation that’s fine, I can find somewhere else to put my gifts to use. I am going to do whatever God’s called me to do whether I’m getting paid to do it or not.”
Being in the Scriptures
The Body of Christ
Remembering: “Who am I and what am I doing here?”
Matt's Simple Joys
A well placed golf shot
Bluebell Ice Cream
Exhaustion after a hard day’s work
Connect with Matt
Diana Carter founded Because I'm His in 2016 in the midst of a paralyzing season of anxiety and panic. What started as means of survival in her journal eventually turned into an Instagram account she used to process a season of hopelessness. The only way to silence the lies attacking her identity was to speak back to them with the truth of who she was in Christ.
And so, Because I'm His was born.
Because I’m His is a community of women rooted in their Biblical identities and walking in the fullness of that reality. Through daily devotions, vulnerable storytelling and biblical truths, Because I’m His exists to equip women to know their true identities and walk in the fullness of that reality.
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