Read Part One of this series here.
I was sitting across the table from a sister in Christ, processing how life was going and how she was doing. During the course of our conversation, she shared a number of areas where life was hard. One of her sentences cemented instantly in my mind:
“You have got to remember I was told growing up, ‘I never wanted you and you’ll never amount to anything.’”
In that moment I felt a deep sadness for her, with her. In the past I might have sought to empathize with my sister and then I would have focused on what she should do to change the situation. You know, give her some more activity. But simply to point her back to Jesus? I’m not sure I believed that would do much.
I could see the pain in my sister’s eyes and so I had her turn to Mt. 3:16-17. She read it aloud. “…This is my son, whom I love. With him I’m well pleased…” I had her read it again. But the second time I had her personalize it with her name inserted. It was a very powerful experience. And for her, it changed things.
I could tell story after story of how important it is to know who we are and whose we are.
Knowing our Father’s pleasure in us and with us through the good news of the gospel of Jesus is essential to living for Jesus in the everyday. Without knowing this we’ll live our lives seeking God’s pleasure for us through what we do for him, rather than our lives being a continual representation of his affirmation.
Identity: The Foundation From Which We Live
In the gospel of Matthew, how much of Jesus’ three years of public ministry happened before Jesus heard his Father’s affirmation at his baptism?
None! Before Jesus does any public ministry, God declares, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This simple, yet profound identity as God’s Son was the foundation and motivation for Jesus’ calling into public ministry. As a result of knowing His identity, He was able to love and serve those who could never repay him and ultimately give up His life out of submission and obedience to His Father’s will.
Just like Jesus, we too are uniquely created by God and for God. Ephesians 2:10 even states that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. God desires our lives to be full of good work activity because, as His children, that reflects His character and love. The difference between our motivation being: we must, should or ought to, and it being: we’re allowed to, chosen to and empowered to, is great and has everything to do with knowing our identity in our Father’s love!
1 John 3:1 states ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’
God is the one who lavishes his love, and we are those his love is lavished upon. God is the one who does the calling; we are those identified by his calling as his children.
If we desire to live all of life on mission for Jesus, knowing and continually remembering our identity as his dearly loved sons and daughters is essential.
Why Identity Is Most Of What We Talk About
A couple years ago, we were in a missional community gathering and another sister in Christ commented, ‘I feel like all we’ve talked about for the last year is identity.’ Looking back, we were regularly laying a good news foundation of our gospel identity – an identity not deserved, but instead lavished and bestowed on us by our gracious God. We were moving in the right direction as a spiritual family.
I remember when God really began moving in my own heart regarding my identity as his son.
I was sitting in a makeshift classroom. We were talking about what it meant to be and live as authentic men. I had made it through many weeks of good information regarding being a man, what God’s intent for us as men was, and even some wounds we may have suffered growing up. Next came the week of the ‘father wound.’ My relationship with my father was definitely rocky. This led to me finding my identity in sports, relationships, popularity and all that goes with that.
I vividly remember sitting in my chair, surrounded by a bunch of other men, and I couldn’t hold it together any more. I just began to weep. Our teacher had read a letter that a father had sent to his son. The letter was in response to the son asking for his father’s blessing. The words from that letter felt so good to hear. The father affirmed his love for his son. He affirmed how proud he was of his son. He affirmed he was pleased with his son.
I longed to hear those words from my father.
What if it were possible to hear those words…from our Father?
What if God the Father wrote you a letter in response to you asking to be blessed by Him?
What might that letter contain?
What hurts might it address from the past?
What hope might it convey for the future?
How might God bless you and affirm your identity in it?
In his book, Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning states “Define yourself radically as one beloved of God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”
Today and each day, may our hearts hear that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters, he has lavished his love on us in Jesus, and through our faith in Jesus, He is well pleased with us!
In our next post we will look at what began happening as people were affirmed in their gospel identity as God’s sons and daughters:
- Our family began more and more following the Spirit’s leading in living for Jesus versus a leader’s leading in how they were to live for Jesus.
- Our family began having a greater sensitivity and desire to see others becoming sons and daughters in God’s family.
- Our family began listening more and asking better questions in order to get to the lies we were believing about God and ourselves that were holding us back from living for Jesus in the everyday.
- Our family began seeking to point each other back regularly to the truth of who we are in Christ.
When you encounter those struggling, do you point them to more activity? How might things change if you pointed them, not to what they should do, but what God has done for them?
From our experience, though this shift seems small, it’s paradigm breaking. Though transitioning your church culture will eventually involve on-paper plans, ultimately, it’s about a shift in paradigms.
Want to hear more of stories from leaders who are transitioning churches from Sunday to everyday? Register for the Transitions Conference
Which do you lead your church from: more activity, or a new identity?
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