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What do you do? This is the question that's asked of you right after someone learns your name. It helps people figure out who you are. Our identity is tied to so many things, but our job often defines us. In the book, Emotional Survival in Law Enforcement, the author actually gives sound advice for officers to make a conscious decision to make friends with people outside their profession. Why? Because it is unhealthy to define one's life by what you do. If your job goes south, so does your identity. If you are passed up for a promotion, you will automatically suffer emotional turmoil. You will begin to doubt and question your place in the world. The only way to help us overcome this common trap is to place our Identity in Christ, and Christ alone. The last stanza of the popular hymn shows us how important it is to place our identity in Christ and the peace that comes when we do. We are no longer threatened from any outside influence. We no longer have to compete to keep our significance in the world. Christ offers a peace that puts our fears and insecurities to rest for good. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us we are new creations. As new creations we are free to live as Christ intended us to live.
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the pow'r of Christ in me
From Life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell,
No scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.
On my run the other day, I noticed my neighbor's tree. The tree’s roots had grown so much that it cracked the surrounding planter. At first thought, I was bummed for the planter and the person who installed it. I imagined the hard work it took to carefully place each brick and the time it took to mix the cement. I imagined what it must have felt like to have completed a job well done that beautified the front yard. Then, to see all your hard work go to waste because of roots. It must have been discouraging to say the least. But, then a deeper spiritual principal hit me. The roots did what they were designed to do. The bricks were an attempt to hinder the roots growth. The planter was like a prison wall trying to siphon off the potential ways the roots could grow. The planter was very much like the lies of the enemy. The purpose of the lie is to limit growth. When we believe the lie that God does not love us because of something we did, it stunts our growth. When we believe the lie that we are not as valuable as our neighbor, our roots dry up. But, the image that stood out to me was the root cracking and breaking through the planter. The roots grew so big and sunk so deep that the planter could no longer hold the roots. That is what it is like when we begin to believe our identity is solely in Christ and Christ alone. When we believe the truth that Jesus loves you, you will no longer be imprisoned by the enemy’s lies. When you believe the truth that you are saved by grace, hand crafted and have been given an eternal purpose, then no bricks will be strong enough to hold you in. Neil T. Anderson has a helpful list of helping people find out who they are in Christ. Neil breaks our identity down into three categories: 1) We are accepted. 2) We are secure. And 3) We are significant. We experience acceptance. We live a life free from the fear of being rejected. When we are secure in our relationships, jealousy and insecurity evaporate. And when we recognize our eternal inherent value and worth, we no longer build our identity on what other people tell us. When we believe what God’s word says about us, our roots grow so deep that it will break any barrier trying to limit our growth. I pray your identity is rooted in Christ and continues to break through the lies of the enemy.
I remember purchasing my first cell phone. I was stunned to find out it came with a two year contract. All the “What if” questions came to my mind. What if there is some terrible tragedy that would happen and I can’t pay? Do they repossess my phone like they would my car? Does a big scary guy come and take my phone right out of my pocket? What if a better phone came out while I was still in my contract? Two years is long time. To be honest with you, I think every time I mention about getting involved in a ministry all the “What ifs” run through your mind as well. What if I am not good enough? What if I say something wrong? What if I don’t like serving in that ministry? Will I get kicked out if I am not good at it? How long do I have to serve? Is this a life sentence? All valid questions. But, we forget Jesus gave us the freedom of a Costco return policy. In John 1, Andrew asked Jesus where he was staying and Jesus replied, “Come and See.” Jesus did not ask for a two year commitment from Andrew. Just a willingness to see what it was all about. Andrew would later follow Jesus’ invitation to a life long apprenticeship, but the first thing he had to do was to see what it was all about. I ask that you follow in Andrew’s footsteps. Be willing to see what serving is all about. You will not be asked to sign a two year commitment. You will not get kicked out of church. All I ask is that you be willing to “Come and See.” It will be like the free samples at Costco. Just try one. If you don’t like, great. If you do, great. Just be willing to see. When Jesus answered Andrew, he wanted to know if Andrew wanted to see. And the only way to find out was to follow Jesus. I pray that you are willing to see what Jesus is doing. All you have to do is show up one time. If you like, great. If you don’t, great.
Just be willing.
There is a powerful scene in the movie "Saving Private Ryan". Tom Hanks' character, Captain Miller, last words to Private Ryan were "Earn This." Can you imagine the amount of pressure and guilt Private Ryan must have had as he witnessed men give up their lives for him? How could you possibly know if you ever measured up? How could you ever know if you ever lived a life worthy of such a sacrifice? But, if you think about it, we are all like Private Ryan. Jesus said there is no greater love for someone than to lay down his life for his friends. Jesus, like Captain Miller's men, laid down their lives. But, Jesus did not tell you to earn it. Why? Because Jesus knew love is not about obligation but volition. He did not die to bring to life a guilt based system. He died for the exact opposite. He died to free you from the shackles of guilt and works. That system is spiritually dead that leads to an internal hamster wheel. Always striving but never arriving. Jesus' death frees you from such a bleak existence. His life and death lead to everlasting joy and purpose. His last words were about what we are supposed to do and how He will be by our side while we do it. He said show others how to live out my life lessons; and, I will be with when you do. Have you ever taken an open book test with the teacher there to answer questions? A test like that would hardly be a test at all. A test like that passes itself. If you can see, Jesus wants you to pass this test! He makes Himself available and gives you the answers. He requires us to take Him at His Word. Will you? Will you show others how live out His life lesson? Or will you take another lap on the hamster wheel of works and guilt?