Finding Our Identity in Christ

As with any movie that has been made and remade…there is always the debate of the original vs the remake/re-imagined version.

So which is it for you? The Original cartoon Grinch movie…or the Jim Carrey Grinch movie?

I Hate Christmas Video Clip

Everyone of us have events…both positive and negative…that define who we are, how we see ourselves…what we think about ourselves.

The Grinch…he was already a bit devious, but he didn’t start out hating Christmas or the Who’s down in Whoville. He love Martha May, and he wanted to give her a present she would appreciate. Unfortunately, the whole thing backfired and the teacher and the rest of the students made fun of all his efforts…creating this anger that drove His understanding of who he was…He was the Grinch who hated Christmas and Hated the Whos of Whoville.

The Grinch allowed other people, and their misguided thoughts about him, to determine his identity. He saw himself as unwanted, despised, and feared because they saw him that way. And the hurt and the pain of this rejection means he allowed his hurts to determine his identity.

One of the Grinches that can steal our joy is when we, like the Grinch, find our identity in anything other than what God says and thinks about us.

You have a host of experiences that define you and work form your identity…how you see yourself

Our Positive Experiences define how we see ourselves…

Every Marine I have ever met says, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” The experiences they had at boot camp and in the Corp molded and shaped the way they think and react and live their lives. Be a Marine becomes their identity.

People gain their identity by the country they live in, I’m an American! God Bless America!

Maybe the state they were born in and the fact that we have beat Michigan for the last 6 years and 15 of the last 17 meetings,

Maybe the family you come from, the heritage you posses…All of which are usually positive things in most ways.

But our negative experiences also define how we see ourselves…

Maybe somewhere along the way you had a series of failures. In school, you struggled to “get it” so to this day, you say things like “I’m not much of a book learner!” “I’m not very smart!” “I don’t get math!”

Maybe you owned a business that didn’t become the amazing success you believe it would…and you began to think of yourself as a failure.

Some of you might have had an experience, much like the Grinch, where some people did and said some hurtful things to you, maybe even your parents, and those words still ring in your ears…Or you were involved in a relationship breakup that hurt you deeply…

Sometimes it is just the struggles of life that push us into believing some pretty horrible things about ourselves.

I’m just stupid!

See! Another failure! What did I expect!

I’m never going to be anything other this.

These Experiences can and do disrupt our growth

Both positive and negative experience…affect and form our Identity…And whether the experiences are positive and negative their affect on our lives often go unrecognized. We fail to see how they form us…and if we want to grow in our faith, they have to be dealt with and surrendered and rethought. We have to be willing to dive deeply into who we really and what we really think about ourselves…and make some the required changes.

But we don’t just look inside…I mean we need to know what experiences have formed us, but we also have to know God, deeply, and understand what God says about us.

John Calvin, in the beginning of his theological work Institutes of the Christian Religion, says,
Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.

He then goes on to say,
…it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God…

Blaise Pascal, in Pensees, says it this way
The man who knows God but does not know his own misery, becomes proud.
The man who knows his own misery but does not know God, ends in despair.

Far too often, when addressing our identity…we start by looking inward. And while, not a meaningless exercise…maybe the better place to start is with God. We need both. We need a deep knowledge of ourselves, and we need a deep knowledge of God…but we have to make sure that our view of ourselves is correct.

Have you ever been in a Carnival Fun House? They have those crazy mirrors that warp and how we look. You can be take a tall thin person and put them in from of one of the mirrors and they look short and fat. Or my favorite the mirror that makes you look tall and thin.

It can be like that for us as we look at ourselves…we have this capacity to see ourselves as simultaneously better than we are and worse than we are.

I want to spend a few minutes looking at Colossians 3:1-17 because we need to grasp what our Identity as followers of Jesus Christ should look like…

We don’t have time to cover everything in this passage this morning…there is a lot here, but I want to put this out there for you, and encourage you to spend some time reading and meditating on it this week. I will put a link on our Facebook page with some guidelines for meditating on this passage. But spend time with it a couple times this week.

Colossians 3:1-17
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Having a Healthy Identity Starts with our Relationship with God.

Paul starts this section by saying, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…”

He is writing to people who believe in Jesus Christ. He isn’t speaking to everyone in general. He isn’t speaking to a mixed group of believers and non-believers…Paul is saying…you are in a committed, faith relationship with Jesus Christ…and whether you realize it or not, you are now different. Just as Jesus was crucified and buried, so we, through our conversion and baptism, have been crucified and buried with Christ…And just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so we have been raised as though from the dead.

Whether you realize it or not, as a follower of Jesus, you have access to a whole new reality of living.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Paul says it like this
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ

You are a new creation. You are resurrected with Jesus Christ, and have access to that same power. And it is such a revolutionary shift, whether you realize it or not, that you are now living in a new reality…

All those positive and negative experiences you think define you…actually define the old you. They no longer have to define you…but you have to use it.

Set your heart and mind on things above

I have become more and more convinced of the reality…that how we think and what we think about affects the life we live…I don’t mean in some “Think good thoughts and the universe will give good things bask” sort of way.

I mean that what we dwell on…what we think about most often has a way of working itself into our psyche. I mentioned this last week…

So many times we watch, we engage, we read angry things…and then wonder why we wrestle with anger all the time.

We isolate ourselves, think about how lonely we are, rehearse all our failures and then wonder why we wrestle with depression.

And Paul reminds us that the a major part of this process is where we focus. Set your heart…this is your passions, desires, goals…those things you really want in life…set you heart on the things of heaven. Set your mind…change the patterns of your thoughts…spend time meditating and thinking about the good things…

I think this is probably the most important part. In its essence, setting our hearts and minds on the things above is the heart of prayer…and without this…we will never be able to do the next two things…

Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.

Paul gives us a pretty intense list of things to put to death. And he uses pretty strong language to talk about how we should deal with these desires and sinful behaviors…we should put them to death.

As with everything in life, there is always a list of things we should be doing and a list of things we should not be doing…this is the list of things to stop doing. And you will notice that most of them are internal issues…and they are so detrimental that Paul says we need to execute them.

I mean look at this list: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry, anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips, do not lie.

So often, at least in my church experience, we have gone to great lengths to call out sinful behavior. The problem is the list I was given didn’t look anything like this. Rock music, drinking alcohol, using curse words, smoking, playing games with dice, dancing…

Maybe there are/were sinful aspects to those things, but sometimes we get so caught up in naming certain things sinful we fail to actually call out evil in the world around us. This list Paul gives us…speaks to that evil in the world around us, but more importantly the evil that we harbor in hearts.

Luckily, Paul doesn’t leave us with just a list of bad things…

Clothe yourselves with virtues.

Clothe yourselves…put them on…Notice Paul doesn’t say, “Do these when you feel like it.” He doesn’t say, “You are always going to feel like responding in this way.” No! He says, “Clothe yourselves…” Put them on.

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, forgiveness, and above all put on love.

We have to put these on, sometimes, like putting on a jacket…we just pick it up and wear it even when we don’t want to do it; even when our “natural” first reaction is something else…even when the other person doesn’t deserve it.

The other day, I’m walking through Kohl’s and I over hear this dad with his son. The son is about 10 or so. The dad says, “You can’t act that way. You are going to have to control yourself!” To which the son replies through gritted teeth, “But dad, I can’t control myself!”

And really, we can. Have you ever had to control yourself at work. You would rather yell at or strangle a coworker, but you didn’t want to get fired so you controlled it…only to come home and let your guard down and take it out on your spouse for simply asking what you want for dinner?

Putting on, clothing ourselves sometimes means we have to to put these virtues on even when we don’t feel like it. And what I’ve found is when we don’t feel like putting them on and we do…eventually they work.

A few years ago, I was at a conference and Rich Nathan said, “Whenever we take our identity from anything other than what God says about us and who God says we are…we are sinning.”

Too often we take our identity from our past experiences. The good and the bad things that have happened to us. We take our identity from what we do in life, or what country we live in, what leader we follow, or what political party we support. We take it from out heritage…we take our identity from a lot of things.

If your identity is negative, you beat yourself up, you have low self-esteem, then you need to know that God loves you…you need to really know that deep in your deepest parts. And not only does he love you…he has made you a new creation and you are not worthless. You are a son, a daughter, of God.

If your identity is negative, you might actually have a harder time hearing this message. When we are beat up and down…it is encouraging to hear that God loves us and we are valuable. But when we take our identity from positive things…it is harder because they seem so God. I feel good. But God reminds us that our identity should be found only in Him…in His Kingdom…in His ways and methods of living life…and that will conflict with some of the things seen as positive in our world.

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