FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Spiritual Identity

with John Majors, Michelle Hill | April 20, 2016
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What are the key issues facing our teens today? John Majors and Michelle Hill, staff members with FamilyLife, talk about a new resource for teens, Passport2Indentity™, which was designed to help parents dive into important conversations around key issues with their son or daughter. John and Michelle coach parents on helping their teens embrace the Christian faith as their own.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What are the key issues facing our teens today? John Majors and Michelle Hill, staff members with FamilyLife, talk about a new resource for teens, Passport2Indentity™, which was designed to help parents dive into important conversations around key issues with their son or daughter. John and Michelle coach parents on helping their teens embrace the Christian faith as their own.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

John Majors and Michelle Hill coach parents on helping their teens embrace the Christian faith as their own.

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Spiritual Identity

With John Majors, Michelle Hill
April 20, 2016
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Bob:  There is a fundamental issue that all of us are dealing with every day in every aspect of our lives.  When you’re in your middle teens, this issue is defining just about every choice you’re making.  Here’s John Majors. 

John:  What are you going to follow?  Everybody follows something.  Everybody obeys something—it could be yourself, it could be a movie star that you admire, it could be just what you heard from a pastor or your friends—but the only thing that’s going to give you a solid foundation for your life is God’s Word. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 20th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  As parents of teenagers, how can you influence your children to be looking regularly to what God’s Word has to say on the issues they face throughout their lives?  We’re going to explore that today.  Stay tuned. 


And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  I think for young people—not just in our day but probably in every generation—there is a critical spiritual transition point during the teen years that, even if they’ve grown up in a home, going to Sunday school, going to Bible camp in the summer / whatever their spiritual trajectory has been—there are still some key issues they’ve got to grapple with in their teen years; don’t you think? 

Dennis:  Oh my goodness—especially today, Bob.  I mean, you think of what is swirling around teenagers today—the whole issue of not just merely, “Am I going to sleep with the opposite sex?” but the whole idea and concept of sexual fluidity and trying to hammer out who they are if they attempt to follow Jesus Christ in a culture that punishes those who do. 

Bob:  Well, then, so many young people, who stay connected to church all the way through high school, head off to college and that connection is quickly and easily broken.



I think part of the reason it is—is because they never really firmly grappled with “What is their spiritual identity?” For you, you had grown up in a home where you went to Sunday school but it took college before you wrestled with that; right? 

Dennis:  It took two years of college, and I—if you’d taken a snapshot of my life in my freshman or sophomore year, you’d have said: “Who is he?  Where’d he come from?”  I basically was lost, confused, and frankly, had to come back to the faith of my childhood. 

I think that’s the key that parents need to hear—is that parents must be faithful in continuing to teach what the Scripture teaches about these major issues that kids are facing today and not back away from it, even if they don’t know all the answers. That’s what we’re trying to do in this new resource that FamilyLife has created called Passport2Identity


It’s actually two different resources—one, for young men, ages 14 to 16 / and another for young ladies, the same age—14 to 16. It, really, is an extension of a highly-successful series called Passport2Purity® that we’ve had—now, for 15 years—over a half-million young people have been through that with their parents.  We’re just trying to replicate that around some of the major issues of identity that young people are facing today. 

Bob:  Our team has created five different audio sessions. This is designed for a father and a son or a mother and a daughter to get away together.  You listen together to the audio sessions that we’ve created. The audio sessions are to set you up, as a parent, to be able to have some deep conversations with your son or your daughter around critical issues that they’re going to be going through during their middle adolescence—14/15 years of age. 


And we’ve got Michelle Hill with us, along with John Majors.  These are colleagues, here at FamilyLife.  You guys have both been here more than a decade, serving alongside the rest of the team. You’ve broken this down into, really, five major areas that young people are going through during this middle adolescent period that a mom and a dad should interact over.  John, what are those five areas? 

John:  Well, the big theme of identity we’re going to keep hitting over and over again: “Who am I? What makes up my life?” Independence: “How do I become my own person?” Gender identity—a lot of the idea of this kit really flowed out of: “How do you help your child know what it means to be a man or a woman?  What does the Bible say about that?” 

Then, you have spiritual identity: “How do I make my faith my own?”  Relational identity—the people around you make up so much of who you are / your friends, your peers, your mentors in life, and then, your relationships with the opposite sex—that’s always a topic that young people like to hear about.



Bob:  Their interest is peaked; yes. 

John:  And then, mission: “What’s your mission in life?  What has God called you uniquely to do as a person?”  In the midst of that, we talk about “There are some things that can derail you, that can take you off course, that keep you from pursuing that mission.” We want to address those and just make them wise about it. 

Bob:  We talk about one of these components being the issue of spiritual identity.  And again, in the middle teenage years, that’s a key transition time for a child to go from kind of a faith that they’ve been imitating to a faith that they own. 

And Michelle, I love how you spell this out in the Passport2Identity resource for young women.  You share your own story. 

Michelle:  Yes, I did. 

Bob:  And I was riveted.  We’re going to let our listeners hear your transitional journey and what we hope will be a model for young people, listening, to say: “Oh; am I here or am I there?  



“Have I made my faith my own, or am I still just kind of imitating my parents’ faith?” 

[Excerpt from Passport2Identity

Narrator:  Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in Iowa.  One day, in Vacation Bible School, somebody told her to give her heart to Jesus.  So, she did because that’s what good little, obedient girls do. Years later, when she went off to university—where, of course, she went to a Christian university because that, too, is what good little religious girls do— 

Michelle:  So, off I went to university.  I was 18.  I was pure.  I was religious, and I was proud of it until I met Diana.  Diana was my roommate. Diana was different because it was obvious that she would go anywhere and do anything for Jesus.  She wasn’t just some good little religious girl.  She seemed to own her faith. 


Preacher:  How many of you are just playing at being Christians? 

Michelle:  I remember one day we were sitting in chapel—

Preacher:  How many of you will give up everything—your life, your fortune—

Michelle:  —and the speaker was really challenging us. 

Preacher:  How many of you believe in Jesus Christ enough that you would come up front, right here, right now? 

Michelle:  Well, Diana—she sprinted to the front before the preacher could even finish repeating himself.  And me—“It ain’t happening.”  See, I knew where I was going—I was on my way to a career in broadcasting. I didn’t need any help from Jesus to figure that out!  Besides, I keep all those religious rules; remember?—well, most of them. 

Anyway, I sort of drifted out of the room at probably the first polite moment and promptly ran into Diana.  She was disappointed, “How could you not come up?!”



She was mystified because Jesus was everything to her.  She really loved Him. 

Now, fast-forward three years—well, go-anywhere-do-anything-for-Jesus Diana was stuck in nowhere Tennessee.  I had fulfilled my dream to be in radio.  Well, it was not exactly a dream job; but I was working in missionary radio in Alaska.  My broadcast day started off at 4:30 each morning when I’d roll out of bed in my little garage apartment and head for the station in my four-wheel drive truck, arrive at the last possible second, push some buttons, and read the weather.


I didn’t think much about Jesus; but when I did, I generally felt pretty good about my missionary life: “Look, Mom! Look, Dad!  I’m a religious missionary!”  It was a great life until about 11:15 every day when she would show up. 

Elisabeth:  “If anyone wants to follow in My footsteps, he must give up his right to himself.” 

Michelle:  And her voice was so annoying

Elisabeth:  “Take up the cross and follow Me.” 

Michelle:  Day after day—

Elisabeth:  “Take up the cross.” 

Michelle:  —broadcast after broadcast—

Elisabeth:  “If anyone wants to follow in My footsteps, he must give up his right to himself.” 


Michelle:  Since I was busy with this important religious work, I usually tried to tune her program out; but one day, she said something like this. 

Elisabeth:  Once upon a time, before you were born, there were in Ecuador a tribe of so-called savages—they were naked, they used stone tools, and they killed strangers.  Nobody had ever gone into their territory and come out alive.  Missionaries had been praying— 

Michelle:  What?!  Go out and not come back?  Is she crazy?  I confess that I felt the earth shift—maybe, a little.  Anyway, something weird did happen.  My boxy little religious world—“Look, Mom! Look, Dad!  I’m a religious missionary!”—got pounded by a series of storms. 

Ever so carefully, Elisabeth Elliot put the mortar of real faith in between the bricks of my walls.



Where my bricks were stacked right, she cemented them together with Scripture.  Where they were stacked wrong, she set them right.  Sometimes, she was blunt; but she was always faithful to the Jesus she loved. 

At this point, I feel like I need to give you a little of Elisabeth’s college backstory.  That’s where she met Jim Elliot.  Yes, he was all-in for Jesus; and yes, he was the best-looking guy on her college campus. 

Elisabeth:  I remember Memorial Day 1948, just before I was to graduate. Jim asked me to go for a walk with him—“Jim Elliot asking me to go for a walk?!”—I nearly died.  One night, we wandered into a cemetery and found ourselves sitting on a convenient marble slab.



“What were we to make of this tornado of passion we suddenly felt for each other?  Did it mean that God wanted us to forget all the agonies we’d gone through over our singleness struggles and just fall into each other arms?”  I said that it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. We sat there in silence; and finally, he said: “You’re right.  It doesn’t make sense.”  There was another long silence.  Then, suddenly, we realized that the moon had risen behind us and was casting the shadow of a stone cross between us on that slab. 

Michelle:  And that shadow of a cross foretold her future, but not like she first imagined.  You see Elisabeth eventually did marry Jim Elliot.  It started out like a beautiful storybook; but within a couple of years, Jim laid dead on a riverbank in remote Ecuador.  



He was pierced with spears from the Auca people that he had gone to serve. 

With her missionary husband dead and a new baby on her hip, Elisabeth had a choice to make: “Would she go home, or would she stay and serve?”  What would you do?!  Elisabeth—she took the gospel to them—hardships, and suffering, and all / no matter the cost!  What about you?  Do you love God enough to surrender everything to Him?—  your plans / your dreams?  Do you love Him with more passion than your latest tweet, or is Jesus just a list of rules and right answers in youth group? 

For this good little girl from Iowa, it has been a long spiritual journey—from a rule-keeping little girl to a prideful missionary in Alaska—to where I sit today, talking with you.



Along the way, I learned how to own my faith in little steps—from my college roommate Diana, from my radio mentor Elisabeth Elliot, and from some other significant people in my life whose identity—well, might surprise you. 

A few years ago, I flew into the very same jungle landing strip that the Elliots used to first reach the Auca in 1955.  There, I met the Auca.  We call them by the proper name now—the Huaorani.  These people were—they were amazing—and they showed me again what it really meant to truly love Jesus, just like Elisabeth and just like Diana. 

Oh, and Diana—Diana married her college sweetheart.  She and Donald have three beautiful girls.  Somehow, she never made it to the so-called mission field; but it turns out that they were her mission field right up until the day that she went home to be with Jesus.



She was just 31. The brain cancer that killed Diana’s body—it never robbed her soul of her passion for Him.  Her face radiated Jesus until the day she died, and she left this earth still totally in love with Him.  Diana left behind three daughters, and they’re about your age right now.  And you guessed it—they deeply love Jesus, just like their mom. 


Bob:  What a journey.  We’ve been listening to Michelle Hill from Passport2Identity share what was really transitional in your life / a transition from—



—well, you described it as a good church girl to somebody who was sold out for Jesus.  Those were the two points on the compass for you? 

Michelle:  Well, and I would have thought that, at 22 years old, I had it all figured out; and I really thought that, since I was a missionary, my life was in Him—I thought: “I’ve got this.  I’m a Christian.” 

Bob:  That’s your identity. 

Michelle:  “That’s my identity.  I’m a missionary.  I am doing great things for God.” 

Bob:  But what was missing? 

Michelle:  It was His heart / it was humility to understand that I needed to be sold out.  What was missing was a love for Christ and knowing God—knowing who He was—and walking in that and having my identity firmly rooted in Him. 

Dennis:  In Passport2Identity, the travel journal that is created for the young woman, who is going through this with her mom—



—you quote Elisabeth Elliot with a great quote about surrendering your heart to Christ. 

Michelle:  “One does not surrender a life in an instant.  That, which is life-long, can only be surrendered in a lifetime.” That’s what I was missing. 

Dennis:  And I think, for parents—again, who are entrusted as the guardian of their children’s souls for, at least, the first 18 years of life as they shape these arrows before they let them go and fly into adulthood—this handoff that we’re talking about here, as much as is possible—needs to be nurtured, and cared for, and guided, and directed by a mom and a dad with their son / their daughter and direct them in the right way and have these conversations and not be afraid to discuss doubt,—

Michelle:  Right. 

Dennis:  —fear, questions that cannot be answered on this side of heaven, and be honest about it.



John:  And we really try to drive that home in addressing: “What are you going to look to for your direction in life?  It’s not just the habits you picked up at church or what your parents believe.  That gives you a foundation; but ultimately, it’s got to be God’s Word, and you’ve got to know it and believe it.  That is, ultimately, going to be your authority in life.  That’s how you know Christ.  That’s how you believe in Him and love Him.” We keep pushing back to the authority of Scripture. 

Bob:  Yes, I can hear in my head as you’re talking about that [singing]: “The Word of God is living and active and sharper—

Michelle:  Go, Bob! 

Bob:  —“than any two-edged sword.”  That’s the verse that is—

John:  Close; yes.  [Laughter]

Bob:  —that’s the verse.  [Laughter] That may not be the melody, but that’s the verse that is put to music as a memory verse as a part of Session 3 in Passport2Identity.  There are memory verses all the way through this. 

But what you want a young person to do is recognize:



“This is where I go / this is the anchor point for my soul.  And if I’m going to have my identity rooted in Christ, I’m going to have to know the Christ who is revealed in Scripture. I’m going to have to, not just believe the Bible, but obey the Bible and walk according to the Scriptures.” 

John:  Yes; “What are you going to follow?  Everybody follows something / everybody obeys something—it could be yourself, it could be a movie star that you admire, it could be just what you heard from a pastor or your friends—but the only thing that’s going to give you a solid foundation for your life is God’s Word.” 

Dennis:  Anchor your kids—your young men and your young ladies—in the Book.  Train them to think from the Scripture, not to the Scripture. 

Bob:  And again, the whole focus here is to get a young person to transition from, what I would say is, imitative Christianity to independent Christianity. 

Dennis:  And it’s living a life of surrender and picking up your cross and following Christ for a lifetime.



Bob:  There’s nobody better than a mom or a dad to be in that conversation with their 15-year-old.  We’re hoping that this spring and summer there would be thousands of young people and their parents heading off for a two-day adventure somewhere—maybe, you’re going hiking somewhere; maybe, you’re going to a sporting event; maybe, you’re going on a shopping trip—I don’t know what it is that your son or daughter would get excited about, but plan a two-day getaway where you’re going to drive to do something special. Along the way, listen to the content that is in the Passport2Identity resource; and go through this material with your son or your daughter this summer. 

You can go to to get more information about the resource.  You can order it from us online, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to place your order. 



So, again, the website,; or call 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Then, let us know how the event goes after you’ve had a getaway with your son or daughter.  Send us a note and let us know what it was like, listening to this material and some of the conversations you had; okay? 

Now, “Happy anniversary!” today to Silvan and Rebecca Larson, who live in Gilberts, Illinois—they are celebrating 20 years of marriage today! Along the way, they have been to three Weekend to Remember® getaways, which just shows how really smart they are; right?  They do regular preventative maintenance on their marriage relationship—probably, one of the reasons they got to 20 years. 

And that’s really what FamilyLife is all about—helping people get to 20, and 30, and 40, and 50 years of marriage by providing you, along the way, practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and for your family.



We’re here to offer you coaching from God’s Word about the most important relationships you have in your life—your relationship with God, your relationship as husband and wife, your relationship with your children. 

And we are very grateful for those of you who, not only listen to FamilyLife Today, but who make FamilyLife Today possible.  We’re listener-supported. Some of you will occasionally get in touch with us and make a donation, either online, or by calling, or you’ll send a donation in the mail.  When you do, that helps us cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. 

In fact, right now, if you can help with a donation, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you Barbara Rainey’s brand-new book, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife.  You can make your donation, online, at; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone; or you can mail your donation to us and request your copy of Barbara’s book.



Send your check to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; the zip code is 72223. 

And tomorrow, we want to talk about the importance of relationships—especially for a teenager—how important it is for a teenager to have mentors, to have healthy peer relationships, and then, to know how to navigate relationships with members of the opposite sex.  We’ll explore all of that tomorrow.  Hope you can be here for that. 


I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. 

We want to wrap up today by letting you hear just a portion of one of the songs in the Passport2Identity resource.  This is Hebrews, Chapter 4, verse 12, put to music by our friends at Seeds Family Worship.  It’s all about how important God’s Word is in each one of our lives. 

[Word of God]


FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.  Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

Song:   Word of God 

Artist/Album: Seeds Family Worship for Passport2Identity


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