"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Identify yourself

I had a revelation the other day. I realized that my "about me" in my profile was very negative. This is what it said:

I am a 19 year old Christian guy, and I am a failure. I am ok with that. I screw up all the time, but Jesus loves me anyway and chooses to use me...

Now I guess most of the stuff I wrote was pretty good stuff to say, but I introduced myself as a failure. That was wrong of me.

I did a Sunday school class at the church I was asked to be youth pastor at (and yes, I did say yes to the position) and the lesson I did was on False identity. We discussed the things we often Identify ourselves with such as the things we are good at, or not so good at, the way we look, the people we hang out with, what we have or don't have, and what other people say about us. For example, we may identify ourselves as jocks, nerds, geeks, skaters, preps, goths,...You get the picture, because those are the things we do, and who we hang out with. We may think of ourselves as ugly or beautiful, funny or stupid, beaus that is what people call us. We may think of ourselves as rich or poor, or someone else as rich or poor, and because we are on different financial levels, we can't be friends. Now I got to give credit where credit is do, I found an article in Youth Worker Journal that helped me out tons. I examined the story of the Temptation of Christ as an attack on Jesus' Identity. The more I looked at the passage, I would have to agree. The first temptation Jesus faced was turning stone to bread. My New testament Prof once pointed out how much turning stone into bread could be a huge bonus for the messiah. He could approach starving people, desperate for food, pick up a couple of stones and feed them bread compliments from God. Just think of the following. He would be accepted by these people instantly. But Jesus didn't want to be acknowledged as Messiah for what he could do. He didn't want people to follow him so they could have full stomachs.

Second, Jesus was tempted to throw himself off of the highest point of the temple. After all, Satan said, if he truly was whom he claimed to be, the angels would catch him before he struck a toe to the ground. The temple was the place to be. This was where the Jewish people were at. If you casually glanced up and saw a man jumping off the temple, you probably wouldn't say..."gee, I hope he packed his parachute..." You would probably flip out and then flip out even more when he pulls his heavenly e-brake with the angels. That would prove he was the Messiah. News would spread like cream cheese on a bagel. But that's not what Jesus wanted to be identified for. He didn't have to prove anything.

Third, Satan offered Jesus all the nations of the world if he would just bow before him. This temptation is so huge because this is what the Jewish people were looking for; a king. If Jesus controlled all the nations of the world, he would be the leader, the Messiah, they desired. He would be able to conquer the Romans who were lording it over them. But this was not where Jesus found his Identity.

He did not find it in what he could do, turning a couple of stones into bread didn't do it for him. He did not find it in jumping off of a temple, he didn't really care what the people at the temple would say about him, that was quite obvious in his later ministry. He did not find it in what he could have. Being the earthly king of all the nations, ruling in power, and defeating the Romans wasn't his desire.

So what did Jesus find his Identity in? Simply who he knew was, who his Father said he was. He knew he was the Messiah, and that he didn't have to prove it. He didn't want people to follow him out of convenience, or popularity, or simply because they had to. He wanted people to follow him then, just as he does now, out of commitment.

So where do we find our identity? In Christ. If we have asked Christ into our lives we are Christians, and that is our Identity. We aren't sinners, we are saints. Our Identity has very little to do with us, but everything to do with Christ.

I did this lesson again a couple of times for some other youth groups. One day at lunch the kitchen staff put a bunch of really lame toys all over the tables. I love it when they do that, only I eat a lot slower on those days. Anyway, they had all these little plastic compasses laying on the table, and I thought to myself, how lame, they are all pointing in different directions. I decided to collect them because I was bored, so I got about thirty of them off of other tables. Later I discovered that they make a very good illustration for false identity. I handed them out to the youth in the group I was teaching and told them that the compass was thier false identity. Sure they looked like compasses, and a compass is supposed to point you in the right direction. But these compasses were crap. They didn't point in the right direction, they were misleading, they didn't even have magnets in them. Make Christ your compass, and he will always point straight.

my false compass was failure. This is why I had to change my "about me". I identified myself as a failure, but I'm not. I am a Christian, God's tool. It is a dangerous thing when a Christian thinks he or she is a failure. God has called me to a task. I am to be a youth pastor this summer, and I know that I am not ready for this. Luckily, Christ is, and my identity is in him.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.--Romans 8:37

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