Christian identity theft

Pastor Tom Jeske

All who have been transfigured by sin are now transfigured by righteousness.

Staci received an official-looking e-mail from an online seller. Very familiar with the company, she complied with a request to update its file of information—including her credit card number. Her statement one month later showed $2,200 in charges at a Home Depot six states away.

Kim took her little boy to the matinee. When they came out into the parking lot, the afternoon sunlight revealed the window on their SUV shattered and her purse gone. Since she had her mother’s name on her cell-phone directory, the thief used it to get access to Kim’s bank account.

Identity theft is a big problem. Victims must phone the bank, replace all the cards in their wallet, get a new driver’s license. Then the bogus charges have to be picked up by somebody.

To have one’s identity seized is also an experience that shakes a person. Will somebody pluck my restaurant receipt out of the trash? Did somebody see me use my PIN number at the checkout? After a year’s time, what lingers is the sense of having been violated, the sense of not being able to trust another person completely. Meanwhile, the identity thief is out there looking for another victim.

In Eden life was good. Adam and Eve knew who they were, singly and together. Their life involved daily conversation with their Creator and Father. This open relationship involved brilliant knowledge of his will as well as clear self-awareness. Fellowship with God lives and breathes trust.

Somebody, however, was watching and plotting. Some bold thief set them up and took them down. Call it identity theft classic. Adam and Eve lost the image of God. Led to abandon their trust in their Father, their unbelief transfigured each of them singly and collectively. Something inside of them died. And as God totaled the damages, he recounted grim news: their broken trust in him consigned them to pain, bitterness, and a return to dust.

Transfigured by sin is how each of us enters life on earth. Changed from what God designed for our first parents, this is devolution. Human life fell from something lovely into something revolting, something spiritually hideous. My identity at birth was not the image of God, for I was born in the image of faithless Adam, whose identity had been stolen.

To all who have experienced this satanic seizure and loss, it is a surprise and a relief that God sent his Son to trade identities with people like us.

Six months before his appointment at the cross, Jesus halted on a mountainside. His Father transfigured him briefly. Jesus and his eyewitnesses were strengthened for the terrific life-and-death-and-life struggles that lay just down the road.

All who have been transfigured by sin are now transfigured by righteousness (Romans 5:18). We who have experienced a kind of identity theft now learn that we are the beneficiaries of identity restoration. Christ made us to be kings and priests before his Father. Martin Luther reflected that to be a king with Jesus does not mean that we wear gold, live in palaces, and issue commands. For us, however, shame becomes honor, hell becomes heaven, death becomes life, the devil becomes a straw man, sin becomes righteousness, misfortune becomes happiness, poverty becomes riches. Christians find in everything a reversal.

No matter what damage Satan brought to you in the past through a stolen identity, know today that there has been a metamorphosis: the Son of God became the Son of Man, so that children of Adam might become children of God. That is, transfigured.

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Living Hope Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE