John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
What are you basing your identity on?
Note: Many of the ideas in this entry can be attributed to a sermon I heard preached by my Pastor last Sunday….I take notes, and so from the notes I’ve written this blog entry and added some thoughts, explanations and examples of my own. Sometimes, I tell him that I am going to use what I heard him preach on in my blog. I really enjoy Pastor Jerry’s sermons, and learn a lot from him. I hope you will enjoy this glimpse also.
Read Matthew 23:1-12
23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
- Matthew 23:5That is, boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm
Jesus is pretty clear that his disciples should not be doing things that glorify themselves. Funny thing is that he tells them to be careful to do what the Pharisees and the teachers of the law say to do, but not to actually do the same things they themselves do.
We all know folks who do this, and at any time we are all guilty of being “hypocrites” or “actors”. Sometimes, it is unintentional, we simply get new information or change our minds about something that we felt/believed deeply in the past. Jesus is not talking about the unintentional hypocrisy that happens in those cases. For example, We have all used the phrase: “I would never do……(fill in the blank)” and then we have proceeded to condemn someone else for doing that very thing….a few years go by and maybe we have done the thing we said we would never do. Perhaps…we would “never stay out after midnight because nothing good comes of that….” then we find that we have a job which requires us to stay out after midnight. This is a very mild example, but this kind of hypocrisy happens all the time. The problem comes with the self-righteousness that comes along with those kinds of statements. The unloving and condemning/judgmental attitude that comes with the hypocrisy.
That is the very thing that Jesus was warning his disciples against…the “do what I say, but not what I do” attitude that the Pharisees and the Scribes were filled with. They were largely filled with their own righteousness, and filled with the need for gratification and glorification by mankind. They were not focused on serving God, but they were serving themselves in the pretense of “doing it all for God.”
A very unfunny joke I heard last Sunday goes like this: Hypocrites in the church? No, our church is not full of hypocrites….it is a long way from being full yet.
Yet this unfunny joke does describe many churches and the view of many people about Christian churches and the people who go to them.
Another way of saying this is said by Paul the Apostle in Titus 1:16
16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
So Jesus realized that people want to be known as something – he knew that this is a need that people have..so he laid out clear instructions to his disciples about this..because if you are known for something then you can be known for the wrong thing….even something harmless can become harmful if it goes to your head. The Old Testament is full of people who let their own ego take over and it ended up causing harm to themselves and others. The thing is that some of those people such as King Saul and King David, were actually people who believed in God and attempted to follow God, but because of their self centered nature they failed to be obedient to God…they made the choice to glorify themselves instead of being true to God.
In God’s eyes we are called to be loving servants to others, instead of lifting ourselves up, we should be lowering ourselves down.
Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, he emptied himself out and became obedient to the death.
So back to the question at hand…How do you identify yourself?
-by relationship? -by Education? – by position? -by skills? -by bank balance? -by residence?
The truth is that we spend a lot of time trying to figure out who we are in relation to others – “What do they think of me?” We all do this to some extent. Everyone gets a vote in who we are – even strangers – we give them smiles and politeness…or scowl at them if we are having a bad day…even the driver in the next lane forms an opinion of who we are to them….”I saw that really rude driver when I was coming home…”
People through out our lives will sometimes give us nicknames…some are very nice and some are really rude. I remember that an office I worked in had a woman with really gigantic hair…so she (rudely) became known as “the hair lady”…we have almost all of us come across a person or two known as the “snob or the grouch”…then there are more affectionate nicknames such as “shorty, or cuteness, or pet names we call our kids or spouses.” Nicknames also can come as short versions of your real name: Vicky (Victoria), Lexis (Alexis or Alexandra). Sometimes, nicknames can reveal something about us that we don’t wish to have the world know…such as “stinky” (some unthinking Mom who said that at the wrong moment and the kid was tagged with it for life!) I know that when we were going to have our first child I had a sequence of names that I really liked and it was a very nice boy’s name…however, my husband was more on the ball than I was…he said, “No we cannot name him that, if it is a boy, because the initials form the word “GAS”…that kid would be teased unmercifully for life!” I was shocked to hear the initials. (You are laughing now for sure, but this is a true tale!)
Every day we come to this path choice and our choice is determined by our core longings…do we reveal the false self, the small self or the true self?
Core Longings (Dr. Robert B. Shaw) – Belonging, Purpose, Love, Understanding, Significance and Security.
If we don’t have our core longings satisfied, then we can get into trouble by searching for ways to have these longings be satisfied. This leads to creating a “false self.”
There is also the “small self” identity which comes from living below your privilege, living without prayer, living with false humility.
We, who are believers, need to understand that in order to continue to become mature in Christ and stay on the mark as Christians…we need to understand that God is the only “legitimate” source for the satisfaction of our core longings.
We should never get our identity from something that can be taken away from us!
Have you ever met someone who spent their lives so wrapped up in their job that they did nothing else…then they retired..or lost the job..that person is usually very lost emotionally. They just don’t know what to do with themselves…it is like they lost their entire identity when they lost the job. The same thing can happen if you use your relationship to identify yourself…what happens if your only identity is “Mom” or “Dad” and the kids do what you have raised them to do…grow up and move out and get independent…again…you can become very depressed… it is hard to see this happen to a person from the outside too. It is hard to help them. It is hard to redefine yourself.
Here are some things to remember:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(This tells us that God has a plan for our lives, the plan was prepared before we were created!)
Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–
(This tells us that part of God’s plan was for us to be adopted into his family through Jesus Christ…that it is his pleasure and his will that we be added to his family of children.)
1Thessalonians 1:4-5 4 Brothers who are beloved by God, we know that He has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with great conviction—just as you know we lived among you for your sake.
(This tells us that God loves us and chose us, and he chose people to share the gospel with us, and that the Holy Spirit acts in accordance with the gospel to draw us to God.)
Philippians 4:19-20 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)
So again…I ask…who are you? Where do you get your identity from?
I am hoping that your answer will be that you are a “child of God”…that is the best and most valid identity any of us can have…and it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything…not even by death!