Saturday, April 18, 2015

Who I Am

     


     There are two crucial matters that every church needs to understand and grapple with; they are:  1) Christians are children of God, loved by God – that is their status and identity; and, 2) Christians are to abide and live into this identity as children of God, loved by God.  In other words, we must, first, know who we are; and, second, know how we are to live (1 John 3:1-7).

Who We Are

When Jesus was on this earth he was misunderstood by nearly everyone around him, and Christians must learn to expect the same.  If we are true children loved by God, we will neither fit in with the world, nor will we seek the world’s affirmation and accolades.  The practical difference between Christianity and the world is that Christians locate their primary identity, allegiance, and purpose in Christ, whereas the world finds their identity in things other than Jesus.

Being loved by God brings assurance, peace, security, and hope.  These qualities cannot be manufactured by us because they are results of being loved.  The world cannot give us these characteristics because it does not have the love of God to give.  This does not mean that Christians always have it all together.  In fact, we are continually in a process of discovering our true identity and growing more and more into that uniqueness.  The reason Jesus could live his life without needing the world’s recognition is that he was firmly and securely assured of the Father’s love and care for him. 

As Christians, we will keep learning what it means to be loved by God in Christ.  And this will help fortify our faith so that we will not find our identities in worldly roles, however intrinsically good those roles might be.  A woman whose primary identity is a mother will live for her family to such a degree that her salvation comes through it.   A person whose primary identity is a teacher will live for the job because saving the world for him will come through education.  But when the Christian has his/her primary identity as a child of God, loved by him, then that person will view deliverance from sin as coming through Jesus.  When the church, living and serving together is secure in its identity as children of God and loved by him, then we are able to withstand any adulterous flirtations from the world to woo us away from the centrality of Jesus and onto something else.

How We Are To Live.

            Jesus said all the law could be summed up in two commands:  love God; and love others (Matthew 22:37-40).  For Jesus, breaking the law means hating instead of loving; working to undermine someone instead of seeking their best interests; excluding others instead of including others; dividing instead of cooperating.  No one who abides or remains in Christ keeps on sinning by continuing on the same trajectory that they had before knowing Christ (John 15:1-17).  Jesus came to take care of the sin issue once for all through the cross.  Therefore, Christians, loved by God, cannot be sinning if they are abiding; the two cannot co-exist with each other.

            Identity and life are to work together.  For example, I am a citizen of Wisconsin.  It is both a status and a life.  I not only live in this state geographically, but I am to abide in it as a responsible person.  What does it mean to be a Wisconsinite?  How is it different from the rest of the world?  Being a relatively new resident, two words come to mind about living in Wisconsin: sports and food.  Wisconsinites readily identify themselves as Packer fans and forsake any identification with the god-forsaken pagan Vikings.  We like our prep and collegiate sports; and, our outdoor sports of hunting and fishing.  When it comes to food, there is nothing to compare to the Friday night fish fry; the cheese curds; the venison; the mustard; and, wash it all down with a “Spotted Cow,” or maybe a trip to the “bubbler” will do just fine.

            We are to become more and more like Christ.  Our identity as loved by God means we will seek to live in Christ by living a life of love.  The people of Wisconsin have a general reputation of being polite and helpful, not rude and unhelpful.  They should live into this identity and behavior.  And as Christians whose primary identity is in being children of God, we should keep living and abiding in Christ through love and obedience. If our primary identity is secure in being a loved child of God, then what comes out of us will be loving words and actions, even to those in the world who might not believe or understand.


            Knowing our true identity is necessary.  Without it, the church is only a random collection of individuals doing their own thing, however good it is.  But knowing who we are brings focus, purpose, and value in a way the world cannot provide because the greatest need we all have is for Jesus.

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