Understanding Who You Are
This may be a post that makes some Christians uncomfortable. I encourage you to see it through and resist the urge to click away. This time of social distancing can be difficult, but it can also be a time for deep reflection on why we exist and our purpose in life.
My years in college were some of my most memorable ones; some of the best of times, but also some of the worst of times. About a year after graduation and after my wife and I had been married for several months, God suddenly got a hold of me. Though I was raised in the church, I was finally able to receive God’s grace and forgiveness for things that I had been extremely ashamed of in years prior.
While in some ways through that experience I was immediately a changed man, it took time to learn what it looked like to truly walk with God. I find that I’m still on that journey. I had so much passion for God and wanted to be so far from what I once was, that God had to show what it looked to still be in the world, but not of it. I remember the first time he showed me that I was shutting the doors of His Kingdom in other people’s faces because I unconsciously and judgmentally didn’t deem them fit. I also remember learning not to fret about other people’s foul language or learning to minister to and pray with those who were drunk or high without judgment. I remember the first time I decided to have a beer with someone, not because it would make him stumble (like I had been trained to believe), but because it actually tore down walls between us. I had to learn what it looked like to not sin or compromise my beliefs while still being relatable and walking in the grace and love of Jesus toward others.
While I feel I’m in a much better place now, I do tend to see a Christianity that does not resemble the one that we find in the Bible. This brand seeks to accept Jesus into your heart as Savior so that you can escape hell and instead go to heaven when you die. But that’s it. That’s all there is to it.
As we look at Ephesians 5 below, allow me to encourage you with the gospel of the Bible. It declares that there is good news. Jesus is Lord! That means not only is he God incarnate, but he is King! He is taking charge and bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Why is that good news? Because that means that those who look to him as Master receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and a restored relationship with God. God says we become His children and a part of His new creation in the world that began with the resurrection of Jesus. Following Jesus as Lord brings wholeness to our lives because we were meant to be complete in God. Indeed Jesus is going to bring this completeness to the whole of the earth before it is all said and done.
So where is the discrepancy? Well, there are three types of believers.
1) The religious Pharisee. These are those standing outside the party wandering why Jesus is hanging out with sinners. I was headed that way before God began to show me another way.
2) Those who want Jesus to be their Savior but really have no plans to obey Him as Lord. He is a Christmas and Easter God. He may even be an every Sunday God. However, He is not allowed to bring about transformation in everyday life. He is only useful to get me to heaven when I die.
3) Finally, there is a follower of Jesus. In one sense they see themselves as a new creation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, in another sense they are still on the journey as God works in them to renew their minds after his. They are saved by grace through faith in God alone, yet they see Jesus as their Master. Day by day they desire to allow God to transform them from the inside out. Sometimes the surrender isn’t easy. Sometimes they may even find themselves resisting. However, at the end of the day, they refuse to celebrate their sin because they understand that only in living for King Jesus will their lives be complete.
That third one is who you are as a child of God. The Apostle Paul’s prayer for you as it was to the churches he ministered to would be that you would understand your identity. If and when we do slip and fall we have an advocate and mediator in Jesus Christ who has declared to us “there is no condemnation for those who follow me.” So as we read Ephesians 5 together I challenge you to begin to embrace who you are! We are not those who say we love Jesus while still embracing sin. That is not who you are anymore. You are a new creation if you have turned to Jesus as Lord.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”