Know Your True Identity in Christ

BELIEVE — Know Your True Identity in Christ!

 

Started a series titled BELIEVE – looking at what do you believe?  Why do you believe it?  How are your beliefs shaping, guiding, and empowering your life?  This morning – want to dig in to the question – What do you believe about your true identity?

 

Who are you?  How do you know your true identity?  There are lots of ways to try to answer that question.  You can get one part of the answer from your DNA.  One part from your relationships.  Another part from your work.  This morning God wants to show us how He offers a foundation for our identity – that all of those other pieces of our identity are built on.  The foundation God offers us and our world – is that everyone can know that they are a child of God who is loved unconditionally – because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ Who forgives our sins completely and brings us into God’s family forever.

 

God wants to help you and everyone else to build their identity on the bedrock foundation God offers all of us – accept Jesus as your Savior and know that you are a member of God’s family forever.

 

One of the great gifts that knowing Jesus is your Savior – is being able to trust that…

 

Trust that God Will  ALWAYS  Be With  YOU

 

Last Sunday night, our nation and our world were horrified by the tragedy of the massacre in Las Vegas.  The senseless and brutal murder of 59 people – leaves all of us wrestling with the big question – where was God?  How could God let something so horrible happen?  The answer has two parts.  God gives us free will – the murderer used his freedom to commit some of the worst evil imaginable.  The second part of the answer – is that God was with every victim when they needed Him most.  God doesn’t always prevent suffering or death – but God is always with us – especially when we need God most.  God is with us to lead us through our suffering to victory – which will one day be the final victory of the resurrection to heaven for all of us.

 

Isaiah 43:1-3 (NLT)    Listen to the LORD Who created you… “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are Mine.  When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  I am God, your Savior, and I will be with you.

 

Tragedies like the massacre in Las Vegas challenge all of us in our identity.  What do I believe?  Can I really trust God?  How should I live in a dangerous world?  Should I give up and say it’s hopeless?  Or can I dare to believe that God’s power is ultimately greater than the power of evil?

 

Without faith in Jesus, there’s not a whole lot of reason for hope.  There are indeed crazy and destructive people in this world.  With faith in Jesus – I can live for a greater purpose.  Yes indeed there is evil in this world – but when I trust in Jesus – I know that I don’t have to be a victim.  I don’t have to live in fear of being overcome by evil.  I know that Jesus will give me the courage and the love that I need to live a victorious life

 

Romans 12:2-21 (NLT)    Don’t be conformed to the behavior of this world.  Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  …Never pay back evil with more evil. …Do not be overcome by evil – but overcome evil by doing good!

  

One of my favorite hymns is Martin Luther’s Ein Feste Berg – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.  I greatly appreciate his final line – The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still.  His kingdom is forever.

 

God gives us free will.  Some people misuse that free will to commit horrible evils.  When you use your freedom to choose to follow Jesus – you can build on the true identity that God wants for all people – to know that we can overcome evil with good.  And to celebrate the Good News that everyone is invited to belong to God’s family.

 

CELEBRATE!  You  BELONG  to God’s  FAMILY

 

Jesus came to make His love available to everyone.  He said the gift is free and it’s available to all people.  But Jesus never forces His love on anyone.  Each person has to decide for herself or himself – do I want the love and new life that Jesus has to offer?  Do I want to become a child of God through the new spiritual birth that Jesus came to give me?

 

John 1:12  To everyone who received Him — Jesus gave the right to become the children of God through a new birth.

 

Some parts of our identity are given to us.  We don’t get to choose who are parents are, where we are born, or where we grow up.  But we do get to choose whether or not we want to be a child of God.  The Bible uses an interesting illustration to explain the choice we make in becoming a child of God.  It’s like putting on our clothes.  Our clothes don’t jump off of their hangers.  We have to be intentional – choosing which clothes we want to wear and then putting them on our bodies. 

 

Galatians 3:26-27 (NLT)    You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  Everyone who has been united with Christ in baptism has put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes.

 

God wants to help all people to make the choice – to put on Jesus.  One tool God uses to help us make our choice – is to help us see what a great opportunity we have.  To realize what a huge privilege it is to be welcomed in to God’s family.

 

In our society – it’s assumed that fathers will automatically welcome their children into their family.  In Jesus’ day – it was not automatic.  In the time of the Bible – no one took the love of a father for granted.  When a child was born – she or he was brought to the father and laid at the father’s feet.  The father then made his choice – if he would accept or reject this child.  Maybe the father would see a birth defect he didn’t like.  Maybe the father didn’t want another boy or another girl.  The father got to decide whether or not he would allow this child to be called by his name.  And if the father rejected the child – the child was then taken to the city dump and left to die or to be taken by someone else and forced to work as a slave or a prostitute.

 

God wants to make sure that every person knows that they are loved – and that God is eager to welcome them into His family.

 

1 John 3:1 (TLB)     See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for He     allows us to be called His children.  Think of it — we are called the Children of God — and that is who we really are! 

 

I want to take one more look at how important it is to know that everyone is invited to receive Jesus’ gift of a new birth and be welcomed in to God’s family.  Consider for a moment – if your identity isn’t based on Jesus and God’s unconditional love for you… Then what will your identity be based on?

 

It is obvious that our society has moved away from Jesus quite a bit in the last 50 years.  So, as people have stopped seeing Jesus as the foundation for their identity, what have they replaced as their foundation?  For some people – it’s sports.  My value is based on how well I do in sports.  For other people, it’s academics.  My value is based on how good my grades are.  Other foundations people use are jobs, wealth, popularity…

 

The biggest problem with trying to build your identity on any foundation other than Jesus, is that you are left with never ending insecurity.  What happens if I was a star athlete in High School or College – but I don’t make it to the Pros?  What happens if I’m not the valedictorian of my class or I don’t get in to Harvard or Yale?  Can I ever be sure that I am rich enough or popular enough?

 

Any other foundation than building your identity on Jesus’ love – leaves you on a roller coaster of uncertainty.  Jesus wants to help you build your identity on the solid rock of knowing you are a child of God.  God welcomes you into His family.  God wants to help you live every day of your life with the certainty – I am a beloved child of God – that’s who I really am.

 

God wants to help you to hold on to that foundation of building your identity on the unconditional love of Jesus – even when you make mistakes.  Jesus wants to reassure you – that even when you struggle – He won’t give up on you.  Instead, Jesus will help you to overcome all of your struggles.

  

You Can  OVERCOME  Your  STRUGGLES

 

God is with us in a tough world.  God welcomes us into His family.  We appreciate God’s great gifts to us – but we also know that just becoming a child of God – doesn’t mean that all of our problems are over.

 

It would be great if we could say, I’ve accepted Jesus is my Savior.  I’ve been born again.  I’m God’s beloved child.  And never have another problem.  Reality – we all continue to struggle.  We have indeed been given a new life – but that doesn’t mean our journey is over.  It means that we’re going to need a lot of help to grow into our full potential.

 

 I remember when Penny was pregnant with our oldest son.  We went to all of the Childbirth classes.  We thought we were fully prepared for the new life we were about to receive.  The classes did help us a lot – but there was one problem.  They put so much emphasis on the pregnancy and delivery – that they kind of diminished the challenges of being prepared to help your new baby grow up.

 

5 seconds after our son was born – it dawned on us.  Well, it was great to have help with the pregnancy and the delivery – but after the new birth is when we really needed the most help of all.

 

I think it’s similar in our new birth as Christians.  It is wonderful to receive a new life – but we still need a lot of help to grow into that new life.  Fortunately – God understands and is a loving Father Who doesn’t give up on us when we make mistakes.  Instead – He sent Jesus to pick us up from our lower nature that leads us into sin.  Jesus keeps working to lead us back to the freedom of holiness.

 

Romans 7:22-25 (TLB)     I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is                 concerned;  but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is still  at war in my mind and keeps trying to pull me back into sin.   …So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in!  Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?  Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.

 

Just as Penny and I didn’t condemn our sons when they made mistakes.  We did our best to show them the best way to live.  Jesus does the same thing for all of us.

 

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)   There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.   Because you belong to Jesus, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 

 

Jesus keeps giving us a hand up – and He keeps showing us that sin doesn’t have to define our lives.  God wants you to live in the confidence of knowing that He is with you in every difficulty.  You don’t have to be overcome by evil.  You can overcome evil with Jesus’ love.  God affirms you – and wants you to know that He welcomes you into His family.  God doesn’t give up on you when you struggle – He keeps leading you back to life.  And God is eager to help you – keep growing deeper roots in Jesus’ love for you.

Grow  DEEPER  ROOTS  to Grow to the  FULLNESS  of  LIFE!

We are on a journey of faith – and there are times that each of us will continue to wrestle with uncertainty and insecurity.  I wish the journey of faith was as easy as one bumper sticker advertised – God said it.  I believe it.  That settles it. 

 

God’s truth is indeed dependable – but our emotions have a way of going up and down all the time.  That is why God wants to help us to keep strengthening and deepening the roots of our faith.

 

Ephesians 3:16-17 (NLT)    I pray that God will empower you with inner strength through His Holy Spirit.  May Christ be more and more at home in your hearts as you grow in trusting Him.  Your roots will go down deep into God’s love and keep you strong

I am always impressed when I walk on Main Street with trees that have been there for almost 200 years.  It leaves a deep impression with me – to think about how those trees have endured – a Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression, thousands of storms.  What gives those trees the strength and power to not only survive – but to actually keep growing bigger and stronger?  The secret is obviously their roots.

As we close our worship this morning – God is eager to help you continue to develop deep roots in your Identity in Jesus Christ.  God wants to help you to keep growing to your full potential – like one of those beautiful trees on Main Street – by discovering more and more of how wonderful Jesus’ love is for you and our entire world.

Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)    May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.  May you experience more and more of the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

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