It was a moment of sunlight burning through, penetrating her heart. She was a leftist lesbian professor, loathing Christianity and fiercely protective of her LGBT community. She was the most unlikely of converts. But when the question came, she paused . . . haunted, wanting to know the truth, no matter what it was.
When [she] looked in the mirror, [she] looked the same; but when [she] looked into [her] heart through the lens of the Bible, [she] wondered, “Am I a lesbian, or has this all been a case of mistaken identity? If Jesus could split the world asunder, divide marrow from soul, could he make my true identity prevail? Who am I? Who will God have me to be? [i]
She wanted to realize her true identity, to be who God meant her to be; and she wanted to know the truth, no matter how painful it proved to be.
Some would say that Rosaria was not yet His, but was slowly becoming His. Others might say she was already His–that she had always been His–but was just beginning to come to terms with what it meant to be His. One or both of these statements may be true, but what becomes abundantly clear as one reads her story is that this young woman was practicing what would eventually prove her to be His.
Rosaria Champagne’s Train Wreck of a Conversion moved me deeply, but it has also haunted me. The Lord keeps taking me to that moment in her mirror, prodding me to consider how widespread mistaken self-identity is, and how it keeps our true identity in God from prevailing. I have come to the conclusion that
The most dangerous of all mistaken identities is to
think that we are His, when we are not . . .
believe that we are saved, when we are not . . .
assume that we belong to Him, when we do not.
For a very long time Israel walked in this danger of a mistaken identity. She swore by the name of the LORD, she knew WHO God was, she invoked Him in prayer, she claimed His promises, she leaned on Him–but not in truth or righteousness.
Therefore, the prophet Isaiah cried out to her in warning
1“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel And who came forth from the loins of Judah, Who swear by the name of the LORD And invoke the God of Israel, But not in truth nor in righteousness. 2“For they call themselves after the holy city And lean on the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is His name…
Isaiah was warning Israel that even though she claimed His promises, leaned on His covenant, and counted on His betrothal to her . . . it was not in truth and righteousness . . . meaning that she had her checklist of all the reasons why God could not let anything terrible happen to her, but it wasn’t true. Her assumptions were in error, her view was contrived, and her understanding of how God worked was not according to truth.
Everything God wanted to be to Israel and to do through her was predicated upon the mutuality of a relationship between them. He wanted to make His presence and power real to her (and to all those watching her) through her faith, through her trust, through her union with and her uncompromised love for Him.
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9
Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. Psalm 34:9-10
Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? John 11:40
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight… Proverbs 3:5,6
There is nothing we can do that binds God to do something for us in return. That is not how God works.
But God is always looking for the opportunity to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose being is conducive to His power and presence coming through.
Faith is a state of being. Believing is a state of being. God makes His power evident through that being He creates in us. It is not what we dutifully do, or intellectually believe that is going to bring God’s power down into our circumstances . . . it is our being that is going to determine if we are able to receive it.
Notice in each of the scriptures above how God makes Himself evident where holy being, right being is present: loyalty of heart to Him, fearing Him, seeking Him, believing Him, trusting Him with all one’s heart, not leaning to one’s own understanding, and in all our ways acknowledging Him. These are not things we can make ourselves do, they are each a description of that state of being He creates in us.
Everything God wanted to be to Israel and to do through her was predicated upon the mutuality of a relationship between them, in which she would demonstrate the same faith, the same aliveness of being that was created by God in her father, Abraham. God wanted to make His presence, promises and power real to her through her trust, and through her union with and her uncompromised love for Him.
But Israel missed the point, thinking that she fell into a special category of human beings chosen for great things, failing to understand God’s way of doing things through an interactive relationship, a love that cannot be humanly manufactured.
Israel identified herself as His betrothed, when in fact, she was a whore who’d betrayed Him. She had become the opposite of everything He’d intended her to be. And far from bringing glory to His name, she brought contempt among the nations. And yet, she was so out of touch with reality, that even when God sent prophets to warn her, she scoffed, having no idea of her peril.
Hardship was about to descend on Israel, suffering and humiliation beyond her farthest imagination. It was not cruelty for God to bring judgment. Like a good father, He had determined that severe discipline was necessary to turn his child from her destructive ways. When we love someone, we suffer with them; so her judgment was also agony for Him. But it was the extreme measure deemed necessary to save her from what would otherwise destroy all she was meant to be.
The Lord prods me with increasing, sometimes agonizing urgency to pray for the church in America. Many in the church are making the same mistake in their identity as Israel did… thinking they are His, when they are not. Jesus warned us that this would come to pass.
Matthew 7: 22-23
22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
Luke 13: 26-27
26“Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; 27and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’…
…10“And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11“Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12“But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’…
I met with a group of women this week and found myself praying with tears, passionately imploring God to awaken the church in America to our true state.
That evening, one of those women sent me an article by John Piper, You Can Believe the Promises of God and Be Lost. He writes, “It is possible to believe the promises of God, and have the assurance of salvation, and yet be lost forever.” [ii]
I tell you, despite all of the “God stories” I can tell, despite all of the small miracles and orchestrated circumstances that have demonstrated His presence and power in my life, despite all the things He has spoken in my heart, all the things He has told me would come to pass that have, and all the changes He has made in me . . . as I read Piper’s article, my heart stopped, and I was haunted by the question, “Could this be me? Could I be one of those who has the assurance of salvation and yet am lost?”
That strong moment of fear was like the way they drop babies into swimming pools these days to teach them how to swim. They let the baby flounder on its own for a minute, and then come gently alongside, calmly supporting the baby from underneath, coaxing it through the alien medium to the waiting arms of the parent.
As fear closed over my head, I began to churn. But then, this inexplicable grief, this love… this “I cannot bare to be separated from You” emotion began to well up in me and I felt the support from underneath moving me to safe ground.
It was not a checklist of things God has said that I hold Him accountable for; it was not my intellectual assent to the facts of salvation that assured me I am His. It is the relationship I cannot live without that marks me as belonging to Him.
Even among those who truly do belong to Him, the church in America today suffers from mistaken identity. We identify with the bride who has made herself ready without spot or wrinkle, but I fear we are more like the Church in Laodicea.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
May the sun rise in the vault of our sky, burning through the cloud of our obscurity to reveal our true condition to us.
It is a moment of sunlight penetrating the heart, when we recognize He is asking us to listen to things that are hard to bear, when He shows us how opposite we are from what we thought we were, when we realize that His silence means He is waiting for us to stop arguing, when we hear the emptiness of our own rationalizations . . . as if there was ever a good reason for being wrong.
In the moment of conviction, we are nearer to the truth and nearer to Him, than we were in our blissful ignorance. It is a good place to be, for those practicing being His.
He counsels the church of Laodicea to buy gold from Him refined in the fire . . . when we suffer with humility and patience, struggling to remain true despite painful circumstances that seem to never let up and are patently unfair, we are buying gold refined in fire, and white clothes to cover our nakedness. We are practicing being His.
He tells us we are in desperate need of salve to put on our eyes so we can see. Continuing blindness is a haven of having things your own way, of not having to change, of shaping reality to your own liking. It is only when life brings you to the place that you want to know the truth–no matter how painful it proves to be–that you gain the salve that cures your blindness. When we apply that salve to see as he sees, we practice being His.
It is an unbroken principle in how God works — that the more we practice being His, the more He makes Himself ours.
[i] My Train Wreck Conversion | Christianity Today
www.christianitytoday.com › … › January/February Feb 7, 2013 – My Train Wreck Conversion. As a leftist lesbian professor, I despised Christians. Then I somehow became one. Rosaria Champagne