August 8, 2016
Gospel Identity – Week 2 – Our Identity Crisis
Gospel Identity – Week 2 – Our Identity Crisis
What is the Gospel?
When Christians refer to the “Gospel” they are referring to the “good news” that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might become the children of God through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus Did it all, is doing it all and will not stop until it is complete.
Last week we talked about the fact that we all are Idol Factories. We all create something else (other than God) to worship. And when we do that that begins to shape our identity. When we let our idol choose our identity we get really messed up.
remember in Rom 1 it said.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (IDOLATRY)
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.Amen.
Today I want us to look at our Identity Crisis. I want us to see when it began and I want us to learn how we deal with this identity crisis in our own lives. Now let me say this up front, it is easy to spot and idol in someone else’s life. We look at others around us and we can readily identify what THEY are making first in THEIR life. But it can be extremely difficult to spot it in our own lives. Our temptation today will be to start thinking about others and easily think… They need to hear this. Please don’t fall into that trap. Know that this is about you! You are an idol factory. So am I! If we are to discover our identity issue we must come face to face with what we make an idol in our lives. In order to discover what we worship we must discover what defines us.
(As a note: I want to give credit to Jeff Vanderstelt for much of the thoughts in rest of this series. He is a pastor in Washington state that has had a great influence in my life in regards to identity and mission. I have seen him teach the very things I will be teaching to you many times in various videos and books)
We are what we do?
I need a volunteer just for a second. Imagine we are meeting for the very first time. What would that introduction look like?
“Hi, I’m Rod” …
“Hi Rod, I’m ___________”
What is the next natural question that comes to your mind?
“So __________, what do you do?”
Do you see that? The way we think about each other in often in respect to what do we do.
What would it be like if the next time you introduced yourself to someone and you asked “who are you? not what do you do?
The way we think about people and ourselves is in relation to what we do. In fact, I would say that your opinion of me would radically change almost instantly based on the answer I would give you.
For example…. A Drug Dealer, The owner of a fortune 500 company. An serial murderer, A pastor.
The word is upside down to the way of God. There was a song years ago called “Living Life Upside Down” by a group called Truth. And the sentiment of that some is that we live in a world where everything is backwards and upside down to the way of God. Our identity is is no different. We define ourselves and others by what we do. The mantra of the world is “you are what you do” But that is not the way God see things.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Your identity is not defined by what you do. Your identity is defined by who God says you are. In fact, it is really actually defined by who God is.
We do who we are!
We do what we do because of who we are (or who we see ourselves as).
You do who you are. Being proceeds doing.
God is and God does. And He does who He is. His activity reveals the truth about who He is.
We are Human Beings… not Human Doings.
Think about how unstable your life is when you define yourself by what you do. This is where idolatry slips in. When we define ourselves by what we do what happens when we loose what we do? or worse yet, When we are not good at what we do? We loose our identity or we are a failure.
If you are going to school you might define yourself as a student.
Or maybe you are a Mom. (move out, or die)
Maybe you are a husband. (divorce)
We loose Jobs, our place in life, and even relationships. And if they define who we are, we lose our identity as well. So who are you when all that you can do, produce, or manage is gone?
The root of the problem
So where does this problem come from? It began in the Garden of Eden. Turn to Genesis Chapter 1.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Look at that. Do you see the progression? In order to understand the truth of the gospel we have 4 simple questions we must ask. And we have to understand the order is important. If we get the order backwards we will mess the whole thing up.
The 4 questions
Who is God?
What did He do?
Who are we?
What do we do?
Who is God? He is Creator.
What did He do? He created!
Who are we? His creation!
What do we do? We display God and Co-create more image bearers.
First, we come to know what God is like by what he does. That is how he reveals his identity to us. And what he does to us makes us who we are, because, as God, he made us and defines us. He created us, and therefore his work defines who we are. Then, whenever God does something to you, he also intends to do something through you. Our work in the world is an extension and expression of God’s very identity.
God is ruler: he rules, and he gave humanity power to rule so that we might rule over the earth.
God is lover: he loves us through Jesus so that we might love one another.
God is judge: he judges us and justifies us in Jesus so that we might exercise justice.
Do you see how God works in and through us? This is how God intends to fill the world with the knowledge of his glory through his image bearers. We only need to believe, that is, to trust in (1) what God has revealed about himself (his Word), (2) what he has done (his work), and (3) who he has made us to be (his workmanship). If we believe in his Word and work, we will do what God would have us do (our work).
This is how it always works. Everything you or I do comes out of what we believe about God, God’s Word, and God’s work. Our behaviors reveal what we believe about these things.
God also told Adam and Eve to show their faith in him by not doing something: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
This seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Everything was great. There was delicious food all around, the entire created world was in submission to humanity, and man and woman were perfectly united in love. And the only restriction was going elsewhere for the definition of what made them good.
God was saying: “Trust me. Believe my word and show you believe by obeying me—don’t go outside of me and my word to find your significance.” Turn to Gen 3
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals theLord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Notice what the Tempter did. He questioned God’s word—“You will not surely die”—and he questioned God’s work—“You will be like God.” In essence, he was saying, “God is a liar and God’s work was insufficient.” And he promised that through their work (eating the fruit) they could become like God. This was the origin of our tendency to find our identity outside of God and in our own works. But they already were like God!
Do you see what the Tempter was saying? “Don’t look to God to define you, to declare you good! Look elsewhere. Look to what I say will make you great. Look to yourself. Look to what you do!” Pause here for a moment.
Who or what is defining you? Are you letting someone or something other than God’s Word and work define you? Are you defining yourself? Are you looking to your own abilities and actions to make you who you are? Are you looking to what has been done to you or what you hope will be done to you to define you?
Eve was deceived. She believed the Serpent and saw the tree as something to be desired to make one wise. Wisdom in the Bible offers everyday direction for how to live the best life possible, but Eve saw the Deceiver, the tree, and herself as more effective than God at this point. She exchanged the Creator for creation as the guide for wisdom. She ate the fruit and gave some to her husband, who also ate.
Then their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Adam and Eve had been created in God’s likeness, but instead of trusting in God’s word and work, they trusted in another’s word and in their own works to give them their identity. The result, however, was not better, but worse.
The Tempter’s words were a lie, the opposite of the truth of God. Their own works were nothing compared to God’s work. So in their rebellious unbelief, they felt shame and inadequacy.
Next, they covered themselves with more of their own work, sewing fig leaves together to make loincloths. This wasn’t sufficient, so they hid from the Lord when he came walking through the garden.
This rebellion shattered their identity and tore apart their relationships with God, each other, and the created world in which they lived. And it didn’t end with them.
Their rebelliousness was passed on from generation to generation. To this day, people are working for an identity, trying to cover up their shame with more hard work, and then hiding when their work doesn’t measure up or cover them adequately. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. And we continue to do it.
What are you trying to cover your life with? What kinds of things are you doing in an effort to hide your sense of inadequacy or shame? What are your “fig leaves”—the works you are trusting instead of God’s Word and work?
But the story does not end there. God asks Adam, “who told you you were naked?” In essence God asked Adam… what did you trust in to show you who you are?
After that God kills an innocent animal and clothes Adam and Eve with it’s skin. Gen 3:21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
This is a picture of the Gospel. The perfect sinless man was killed for us, and we put on His skin, We are clothed in His righteousness.
If we fast forward several chapters we see God interact with a man named Abram. (Gen 12) Abram is not a follower of God, but God revealed Himself to Him and said if you will follow me I will make you something you are not. I will bless you and I will make you the father of many nations. In fact God changes his name. He gives Him a new identity. He changes His name to Abraham. Which means “father of many nations” God does this before Abraham ever has a son. I love that! God says we are something before we ever do anything! He calls us something, He gives us a new identity and changes our name He changes our identity.
This is how God works! He says something is and it is. This is how he created the world, He spoke and it happened.
This is what he does in us as well. He doesn’t ask you to make yourself into somebody. He makes you into somebody. He speaks over your life through Jesus, the Word made flesh, the better Word and the better work of God. And he makes you new. He gives you a new identity with a new name.
After Jesus died and rose again, just before he ascended back to the right hand of the Father, he commissioned his disciples, saying: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18–20).
Jesus had claimed back the authority that Adam and Eve had given away, and he was bringing about a new beginning—a new creation. This new creation has a new people—people who were dead in their sins and defined by the works of sinful humanity, but who are now alive in Christ and defined by Jesus, the better Word and the better work.
Paul says to the church in Corinth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Our new-creation identity is expressed in our baptism. God changes us. This is very important, because God wants us to know that we are new creations with new identities in him before he calls us to live new lives. This is why Jesus commands that we baptize disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Our baptism is a physical display of our old life of sin and death being buried with Jesus Christ in his death. It is also a sign of our new life of faith, hope, and love, as we have been raised with Christ into new life. We have a new life, a new identity, and a new name. Just as Abram was given a new name that represented what God had done and would do through him, our new name represents what God has done and will do through us.
Whatever God does to you, he also plans to do through you.
In the next 3 weeks we will discuss our identity in regards to our baptism in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. and we will learn that these three part of our new identity show us who we are, and what we are called to do in light of our new identity.
Questions to reflect on:
Where have you been looking to your own behavior or doing to define you?
In what ways have you had a hard time trusting God’s word and work through Jesus Christ is sufficient enough to define you? And why?
How would trusting in God’s better word through Jesus and better work through Jesus’ life, death ad resurrection change how you live today?
For more from this series you can CLICK HERE.
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