September 27, 2020
Becky is off in Oregon right now with Courtney and Hudson to spend time with my daughter Kayla. Today those two are throwing Kayla a baby shower. And for about the last three weeks the three of them have been face-timing and planning and talking and talking and talking. I never can figure out all they have to talk about. But often when they are talking I can hear Hudson. So then I get interested. I ‘ll get up from what I’m working on and go say hi to my grandson. And I’ve got to tell you, I totally love being Papa! That’s my title as a grandfather. I love being a grandfather. But I also love being a dad, and really love being a husband. But my identity in life is much more than just being a husband, father and grandfather. I’m also a Pastor, a golfer and a Sundin. But all these roles are not who I really am. My identity is not tied up in my being a pastor or a golfer, being a husband or even a grandfather. No, the longer I follow Jesus, the more I realize how much my identity is being changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We live in a day where there is much to do about our personal identity. If you have bank accounts, credit cards and investments, you have to be proactive about protecting your financial identity. If you are raising a young family, you have to be very proactive about protecting your children’s gender identity. And simply because you and I live in a culture that judges you on the basis of your racial, relational or economic identity, there’s a lot of identity distortion going on in our world today.
That’s why today, we’re going to look at how the gospel changes our identity. But before we dig into what God says who you really are, I first want to unpack some of the common identity distortions we all struggle with. One of those distortions is this
1.“I am what I do” Men, in particular, often identify themselves by their careers: “I’m a lawyer, “I’m a CEO.” “I’m the breadwinner.” And as long as you are successful at what you did, your identity was pretty secure. However, this is why many man struggle when they begin retirement. Because they always defined themselves by what they do.
Another area where we define ourselves by what we do, can sometime revolve around a bad habit in life that has enslaved you. We see this in the recovery movement. When a person introduces themselves by saying, “Hi I’m Bill and I’m an alcoholic.” Or “Hi, I’m Jenny and I’m a gambler.” And this addictive identity ends up being an excuse for irresponsible behavior, and becomes a label that others stick you with, and is so often difficult to shake.
Sometimes your identity is attached to failure. Like the person who’s got a short fuse. When your identify yourself this way and lose your cool, you say, “Sorry, that’s just the way God made me. Deal with it.” Or the person who worries all the time. She begins to define herself as a worrier, saying, “I’m a worry wort, what can I say. That’s who I am.” And of course there are those whose identity is linked with their athletic ability, like a Tiger Woods, or their entrepreneurial ability, like a Richard Branson or Elon Musk. But get them apart from their abilities, they are insecure and even lost. That’s one identity distortion. Here’s another one:
“I am what has been done to me.” Many people have experienced hardship, loss, or abuse in life. One example is the women who goes from relationship to relationship looking for love only to find rejection over and over again. When this kind of rejection happens over the course of many years, it doesn’t take long to believe that what has been done to you is your identity. You are now a victim. You see yourself as unworthy or unlovable. And this is such a tragedy. Because you don’t see yourself the way God sees you, as someone made in the image and likeness of God, as someone with eternal worth and value. But because you’ve never been changed by the gospel, whatever has been done to you traps you in an identity distortion. I am what has been done to me.
“I am my relationships, roles and responsibilities.” Here’s where we define ourselves by the relationships, roles or responsibilities we’ve had in life. Just listen to some of these identities we may have embraced: “I’m a teenager” “I’m a college student” “I’m a twenty something” “I’m a single mom.” “I’m an orphan” “I’m a wife” “I’m a husband” “I’m a widow.” “I’m a divorcee” “I’m a retiree” “I’m a veteran” “I’m a man” “I’m woman” “I’m a republican” “I’m a democrat.” The list can be endless. But none of these things, not one of them is your true identity. That is why the gospel changes everything for us, and especially our identity. God doesn’t want you trapped in an identity distortion. He wants you to live with the identity He gives you, when you put your trust in Jesus. And there are at least three ways then, how the gospel changes your identity. So let’s look at them now. And the first is this:
1.When you trust in Jesus you become a new creation in Christ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 The moment you trust in Jesus, God doesn’t make you a better person, He makes you a brand new person. He removes your heart of stone and gives you a heart of flesh. He puts a new nature in you – that makes you alive to God. Prior to God giving you this new nature, you were a sinner by nature –spiritually dead to God.
But once you heard the gospel and trusted in Jesus God made you new. This is now what is true about us: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 As a new creation in Christ, you are now a masterpiece of God’s grace. What God did by creating you in Christ is that He made you an amazing new spiritual person with God infused potential. You are His best work, because the new life that now resides in you – is the life of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
And now, that Christ is in you, the old you is gone. You’re no longer the center of your life. Jesus is. You no longer have to obey the cravings of your flesh. You are now free from the spirit of the age that says, “Do your own thing.” Once you were held captive to self where the only way you knew how to make life work was to embrace yourself, express yourself and exalt yourself. But now that has changed, because the life of Jesus lives in you. And when Jesus, lives in you, you find yourself has new desires. Desires to embrace Jesus, express Jesus, and exalt Jesus. Now, that’s a change! You are no longer the center of your universe. Jesus is.
You are not the same person you once were. You are now different. God sees you as a holy one, a saint. You were a sinner. But God made you a saint. That’s what it means to embrace your new identity in Christ. To see yourself as God sees you. Fully alive to Him, set-apart for Him, with unlimited potential to do the works He has prepared for you. That’s why when God talks about us as His people, he says: But you are a chosenpeople, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 This how gospel changes you. And it’s a dramatic change. This is how God sees you! You are now a saint in His eyes. But in the eyes of the world, you are different. Because when they look at you now, their seeing a life that’s been changed by the gospel of Jesus. You are a new creation in Christ – no longer a sinner, but a saint. Is this how you see yourself? It’s how God sees you now When you trust in Jesus you become a new creation in Christ. That’s the first way the gospel changes your identity.
Now the next: When you trust in Jesus you become a beloved child of God. Listen to how the gospel of grace changes your identity. In Ephesians one, Paul writes: In love, He predestined us for adoption to Sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will- to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. Ephesians 1:5-6. Sometime before there was even such a thing as time, it decided to make you His child. And this decision gave God great pleasure. His plan was to bring you to faith through the gospel of Jesus Christ so that He could adopt you as His own. In this way, you would now take on the legal status of a child in God’s family with all the rights and privileges of Jesus. That’s what happens when you trust in Jesus. You don’t just gain salvation; you gain an eternal family. You get the family name. You get all the rights and privileges. That’s why today, we get to call God our Father, and why He now sees you as His beloved child.
But His adoption went one step further then just making us legal heirs with Jesus. For when He adopted us He gave us His very nature – His DNA. He gave us His Spirit! It is God’s Spirit in us that changes everything for us. Now we are not just the legal sons and daughters of God but true Spiritual Sons and Daughters of God. He literally unites His life to ours. And this good news is recorded for us in Romans 8:15-16 saying: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
Do you see how this changes your identity? Now that you’ve received the Spirit of Sonship – Christ’s riches are your riches, His righteousness is your righteousness, His power is your power, and His relationship is your relationship! You have a Father in heaven who knows you, who has always loved you and will always be for you. You are now the apple of God’s eye. That’s your new identity. You are not what’s been done to you. You are not your failures, and you’re not what you do or don’t do. You are God’s beloved child. His treasured possession. Is this how you identity yourself? That’s how God sees you. You are His beloved Child. That’s good news! But were not done yet.
There’s one more way the gospel changes your identity and it is this: When you trust in Jesus you become a disciple of Jesus Through the gospel God made us new people – spiritual alive with a new nature empowering us to live this new life. God made us different than we were before. We are new creations in Christ. God’s Holy Ones/saints.
And through the gospel God made us His family. We have God’s ear. We have the Father’s favor. But more importantly we have this new identity as His beloved children. We are in Christ. And that means, that through Jesus, there is nothing that is in His will we cannot do.
But God didn’t make you a new creation and adopt you into His family just to have you sit back and let Jesus do all the work. He is our life, for sure, but He does not live it apart from us. The new life we received from God operates through our bodies and our personalities. That is why part of our new identity is that of being a disciple – an apprentice of Jesus whose entire identity is now wrapped up in following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and living on mission with Jesus – for that’s what a disciple does.
But today, most Christians don’t identify themselves as disciples of Jesus. Part of the reason stems from what happened all the way back in the third Century, when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the main religion in the Roman World. At that time everyone was expected to attend worship gatherings. And because of that a major shift took place in Christianity. Christianity ceased being a disciple making movement and became a religion to consume. And we still battle with this shift today. Most of us don’t identify ourselves as disciples of Jesus, but as consumers of Christianity. Our going is going to Church, not going to make disciples. And yet God calls us to reverse this shift today, so that we get back in step with what Jesus called us to do: to be part of a worldwide movement of disciples who are making disciples. That’s why it’s so imperative for us to embrace this final aspect of our new identity in Christ.
So let me give you Jesus’ description of a disciple from Mark 1:17 He said, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” From Mark 1:17, being a disciple of Jesus looks like this: A disciple is a follower of Jesus When you put your faith in Jesus you put yourself under His authority as your Lord and Teacher. As a result you begin living a new life as an apprentice of Jesus’s life. You follow HIM. Which means we no longer follow your heart, your whims, your fleshly desires, or the prevailing spirit of the age. You follow the Son of God, who died for you, was buried, and rose from the grave on the third day and is living today.
This is now your core identity: You are a Christ follower. When you put your faith in Jesus you become a follower of Jesus. Your identity is no longer that of an American, you are now a citizen of heaven here and now. Your core identity is no longer wrapped up in what you do or what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you. You have a whole new disposition. You have this new desire to learn from Jesus how to live and love like Jesus. So you go with Jesus. You submit to His authority because not only do you believe in Him for salvation, but you trust that He knows what is best for your live. So you trust Him to lead you and show you this new way of life with Him in the kingdom of God. You are now a follower of Jesus. That’s one characteristic. Here’s the next:
A disciple is being changed by Jesus In other words, as you follow Jesus He will begin to change you from the inside out. He will change your heart, your attitudes and your actions so that you will start to change and become more like Jesus… Simply put, you can’t change yourself. But Jesus can. And He promises to transform you into a person who lives and loves like Him – a person who makes disciples who make disciples.
In fact, we see this in Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus called the 12, they were ordinary people. If you look at their lives, you find they often acted in ways that were selfish, rude, clueless, and immature. They were far from spiritual giants, just regular guys with the same selfish and sinful struggles we all have. In fact, Jesus didn’t choose them to be his disciples because they were anything special. He chose them with an eye to what they could become. And He does the same for us.
That’s the beauty of God’s grace. Jesus calls us just as we are. He doesn’t ask us to clean up our acts before following him. It’s in the following of Jesus that He begins to clean up our acts. And He does so by transforming us through the Word of God. He transforms our minds so we’ll start seeing people the way He sees them. He transforms our hearts so we’ll start loving people the way He loves people. He transforms our actions so we’ll start including and investing in people the way Jesus includes and invests. And He transforms our will so we will want what He wants in all of our lives. That’s what a disciple is, it’s someone who is following Jesus, and in the following we start being changed by Jesus. And that’s good news.
But there’s one final change that comes in this new identity as a disciple and that is this” disciple of Jesus. Adisciple lives on mission with Jesus. In other words, when Jesus changes our identity, He also changes our purpose. His purpose becomes our purpose. And what was Jesus purpose? Jesus said it himself: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 Peter said it this way: The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 That’s why Jesus gave us the Great Commission. That’s why He commands us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I commanded you. Jesus calls us to live on mission with Him.
That’s why he added the promise, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
You see when Jesus came to this world; when Jesus left the glory of heaven and became one of us, Jesus came to live among us. And then Jesus initiated relationships with the least of us. Jesus included outcasts as his friends. And Jesus then invested His life in a few of those friends and both showed them and taught them what the Father is like. That was His mission. He came to make disciples who would follow Him, be changed by Him and live on mission with Him. His whole life with us: WAS AS ONE who was SENT from the Father to make disciples. And His mission is now our mission. As Jesus said in John 20:21. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.
God made you a new creation in Christ through the gospel, He made you His beloved child through the gospel, so that you would embrace your new identity as a disciple of Jesus, so that you would now follow Him, be changed by Him and live on mission with Him – so that you might live and love like Him.
This is your true God given identity. You no longer need to be defined by who the world says you should be, not by what you do, not by your failures, not by what’s been done to you – but by what Jesus has now given you through the gospel of grace:
You are a new creation in Christ with unlimited potential. You are a saint in God’s eyes. You are a beloved child of God with all the rights and privileges of Jesus. You are now the apple of God’s eye. And you are a disciple of Jesus. You now have a purpose to fulfill with Christ by following him, being changed by him and living on mission with Him. May God help you see yourself as He does. For when you do, that will change everything for you. Let’s pray!