Our Identity in Christ
I felt the Lord say these words to me last week as I was asking Him to clarify our identity as a Church and my identity as a pastor: “My Church has an identity – ME! You can identify My people by the wounds they bare; not just the Name they claim…”
In Jesus, we are a new creation. In baptism, we put on Christ Jesus. In HIM we live, and move and have our being… Scripture is clear – “Christians” are thus called by being first and foremost identified IN and BY and THRU Jesus! HE is the point of our being; HE is the center of our existence; HE is the Alpha and Omega—the beginning and end of all life, meaning, purpose and destiny!
Though wounded (and finally executed) for following Jesus, the great leaders of the faith like Peter, Paul, James, and so forth were and are known for being IN CHRIST, not for what they did or whose family they were from or how much money they made or what school they graduated from or…
Paul is NOT known as the tent maker who taught about Jesus; Paul will forever be known as the Apostle who gave his life for the Good News of Jesus—and happened to make tents to allow him to do so more freely….
Peter is NOT known as the fisherman who “worked Jesus in” around tilapia season; Peter will eternally be known as the Rock who preached and taught Jesus until the day they crucified Peter upside down…
James is NOT known as the slow-to-come-around half-brother of Jesus; James will perpetually be known as the mighty prophetic leader of the Jerusalem Church who left his former life and hometown behind to live—and die—for the Truth who is Jesus Messiah!
I could go on all day, but you get the point. Or maybe, we don’t…
We sometimes forget the social sacrifices and changes that are required of us if Jesus is truly going to be first in our life—truly LORD of our lives.
Peter struggled mightily with the Lord before he could even associate with Gentiles—much less enter their homes or eat their meals. His world was turned upside down as Jesus lowered the sheet—and the gantlet—to no longer call what God calls clean, unclean; those who God calls neighbor, enemy.
Paul struggled mightily as God called this well-educated man from a well-known (read that affluent) family to hang out with the most impoverished and least-educated folks in the entire Empire.
James struggled mightily as a country-boy relocated to an urban center leading an incredibly diverse congregation of new believers “from every nation.” Think of the social adjustment—not just for James but for the whole church! Social adjustment can be a painful wound—one that identifies us as Christ’s!!!
You see, the Church of Jesus is built upon the rock of HIS IDENITY, with social structures and constructs adjusting accordingly. Yet, the American Church is often—even usually—built upon the sands of people’s social comfort first, with faith in Christ adjusted—or relegated—to a lower place.
People segregate along educational, social, economic, and racial lines in this country with horrifying consistency—failing to recognize that this segregation comes at the expense of Jesus being FIRST…
As I look at what Father has done in our congregation, I am deeply amazed by the diversity God has brought us to. We are as diverse on every level as you can get in Livingston Tennessee! We have become a congregation that is built on our JESUS IDENTITY before our Social Identity…! It takes the Holy Spirit to pull something like this off—just as it did in Jerusalem.
When Jesus is truly our identity, we are willing to sacrifice our social status and even the friends we hang out with (Paul certainly did!) for the sake of something far higher—Jesus as truly the LORD and CENTER of our lives!