Dr. Bill Gillham: Are You a Turkey or an Eagle?
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It's been some years ago now when I first heard Peter Lord preach his classic sermon, "Turkeys and Eagles." In it he describes an eaglet which is hatched from an eagle's egg placed in a clutch of turkey eggs. This baby eagle is taught by its turkey-parents and peers to scratch in the dirt, emit a screeching attempt at a gobble, and otherwise act like a turkey.
As he matures though, while scavenging the soil for his daily food, he looks up at the eagles soaring high above and his heart longs to be one of them. He dreams of what it must be to live above the circumstances rather than living under them: If only God had created me as an eagle instead of as a turkey.
This eagle longed to experience the very identity that God had created him with. But because he received daily feedback from peers that he was a turkey, because he believed that he was a turkey, he continued to scratch in the dirt, daydreaming of a better life. God says, “For as a person thinks [within himself], so he is.”1 What you believe about your identity will determine the way you live.
In wartime an agent—posing as a loyal citizen in order to gather information for his masters or commit acts of sabotage—is often smuggled into the country of his enemy. He is driven by two things: his identity and his patriotism for his homeland. Because he knows who he is and is passionate about his patriotism, he is highly motivated to resist being swayed from his purpose. His passion enables him to justify even violent acts which he would never commit in peacetime. What you believe about your identity will determine the way you live.
Had we asked Saul of Tarsus to describe his identity, we have a written record of how he would have responded. It was recorded by the person who knew him best—Paul: “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” 2
Believing that this was his identity produced Saul’s behavior. He was proud to be from the “right” race, family lineage, geographic area; proud to fight for God against the Jesus-lovers and that he’d never, ever sinned in the way others had. Hey he never inhaled!
However, when Sinner Saul was crucified and reborn as a new spirit creation in Christ, God gave him a new identity: righteous saint (holy one). 3 Believing this and that Jesus longs to express His life through the body of Christ, he began to act like Saint Paul. 4 What you believe about your identity will determine the way you live.
“God is Spirit,”5 and since He created you in His image6 your identity is spirit. You are a spirit critter who indwells an earthsuit, not a physical critter with a spirit. The real you is invisible inside a dying earthsuit. You are not a mammal; you temporarily inhabit a mammalian vessel.
God says the real you indwells an “earthly tent” (earthsuit). “For we know that if the earthly tent which is merely our house…”7 Your temporal earthsuit is not your identity, gang, your spirit/soul (personality) form your identity, and these are everlasting.
Since God gets to make the rules, your spirit identity is your true identity—now and forever. But the fact of your new identity in Christ will be manifested only one way: What you believe about your identity will determine the way you live.
Now as you marvel over this miraculous new identity that has been bestowed upon you by the unmerited favor of God, how are you motivated to live? As this “saint,” safely tucked away in heaven 8, blessed with every spiritual blessing there 9, glorying in the presence of God, enjoying an unprecedented intimate, love relationship with Him, how are you acting on Earth? Do you live like the eagle you are or like the “turkey” you are not? Are these incredible truths no more than rows of black ink on white paper to you?
If, on the other hand, you are appropriating your true identity, do you selfishly envelop yourself in this truth like a sailor whose ship has sunk might cling to his life jacket while indifferently watching his shipmates drown? Such a life is not Christ in you! Other “swimmers” inhabit your sea—some laboriously tread water without life jackets, others laboriously tread water with jackets, but don’t know how to inflate them. Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden light, but these Christians are sinking.
As God provides the opportunity, are you a living sacrifice10 through whom Christ can share with those without life jackets the miracle of how He will change their identity? In addition, many of your Christian friends are clueless about their identity. Do you share the words or materials which will equip them to cast their burden on the Lord11? What is your passion? Is Jesus serving others through you beginning with your family? What you believe about your identity will determine the way you live.
Your heart, what you are passionate about, is the dynamic that motivates you. All who are born again have a desire, a longing, to please Christ by their actions. Those who are of Christ have been given a Christ-like heart12. Ask God to reveal to you the transplanted heart He has given you13. An inner yearning to obey Christ is His sonogram of your heart, your proof. If you have such passion then step out on faith and begin acting like Christ is living through you.
You’re an eagle, not a turkey. What you believe about your identity will determine the way you live.
One of the reasons you exist is to glorify God on Earth This means living to enhance His reputation among those around you, especially at home. You can accomplish this only by allowing Christ to do it through you, by faith. You are to act like a marvelously, godly, new person, an extremity of Christ’s body through whom He expresses His life. To do otherwise is to deny your identity.
1 Prov. 23:7
2 Phil. 3:5-6
3 1 Cor. 1:30
4 Romans 15:18
5 Jn. 4:24
7 2 Cor. 5:1-2
8 Eph. 2:6
9 Eph. 1:3
12 Heb. 10:16
13 Ezek. 36:26-27