Knowing Who We Are (5th Sunday Combined Worship @ First Baptist Church) 1 Peter 2:1-12 John 8:12-19
For those of you who listen to sermons from me often, you know that I stress knowing “who and Whose’s we are” - frequently. I simply cannot over-stress the importance of understanding our calling and our standing, as followers of Christ... as Children of God. We MUST understand who and Whose we are, if we ever hope to have a meaningful, lasting impact on our community for Christ.
When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” he was actually “defining the who.” He was defining himself. In other words, Jesus was saying, “I know who I am.” Jesus even said, “I KNOW where I came from and I KNOW where I’m going!”
In fact, Jesus said, “I am” no less than 7 times... concerning himself (in the Gospel of John, alone).
• Again, in our scripture today, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) To a world lost in darkness, Christ offers Himself (not a cheap substitute) as our guide, our illumination. • Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51) As bread sustains physical life, so Christ offers and sustains spiritual life. • “I am the door.” (John 10:7,9) Jesus protects His followers as shepherds protect their flocks from predators. • “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Death is not the final word for those in Christ. • “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14) Jesus is committed to caring for and watching over those who are His. • “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus is the source of all truth and knowledge about God. • “I am the true vine.” (John 15:1, 5) WHICH is one of my favorites... because by being attached to Christ, His life flows in and through us... meaning we cannot help but to bear fruit that will bring honor and glory to God.
And so over and over, Jesus defined himself as “I am...” - using the very same phrase God the Father used in describing himself to Moses in the OT. Which would not have gone unnoticed by John’s First Century readers... nor should it pass our attention, today.
Jesus knew who he was (and still is) and, as a result, he understood his calling, his purpose, his mission.
That’s why knowing who and Whose we are, is such a powerful and important principle of identity for Christians. If we’re not sure... if we can’t say for certain, “who and Whose we are” - we’ll find ourselves being pressured to fit into molds that this world creates for us.
This world will try to manipulate you. It will try to make you into what it thinks you ought to be, rather than what God made us to be. That’s why God’s Word emphatically tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2).
Of course, one of the major causes of dissatisfaction in life comes when you and I try to live our lives AS IF WE DON’T KNOW who and Whose we are - and we find ourselves constantly trying to prove ourselves in some way, form or fashion... or we keep trying to BECOME someone, or something we’re not - and that we were never intended to be! It frustrating... and stressful... trying to keep up such a false façade.
And the only way around that frustration - is to have an internal sense of satisfaction about who you are - and who God created you to be.
In other words, you and I discover who we are, by knowing Whose we are.
The Bible says that God “chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4). He. chose. us. You and I are deeply loved by God. You and I have been accepted... and set-apart by God. He has a plan and purpose for our lives.
And until you and I settle this issue of identity, until you and I come to terms with who and Whose we are... we’ll be insecure and easily manipulated: “tossed back and forth... and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14).
In other words, we will never be the people God has called us to be... until we affirm who and Whose we are.
Have you ever noticed how Jesus constantly did things that surprised everyone around him? From his earthly parents... to the Pharisees... his neighbors... his disciples. He spoke with wisdom beyond his years - he conveyed authority and spoke with purpose and power. He took on the nature of a servant... putting himself below others, in other words, to serve. None of Jesus’ disciples (and certainly none of Pharisees) would have ever thought about stooping down to wash someone’s feet... like Jesus did. And that’s because Jesus was secure in the knowledge of who he was (and is). Jesus always served from a position of strength. He was confident of WHO he was... so it didn’t matter that he lowered himself to serve others.
Our ability to serve God in Christ comes from knowing who we are. Until you & I overcome our insecurities and excuses as to why we can’t do the things God has called us to do... we’ll never truly serve anyone.
Listen to me: take God’s Word to heart. Accept the truth about who God has called you to be; and live in the assurance that you and I belong to Christ. We are his. Be secure in who you are, and Whose you are, so that you can effectively serve others, for Christ’s sake.
I know it’s shocking; and we American/Protestant types can’t quite wrap our minds around it at times... but God says that you & I are “priests” - as followers of Christ we comprise a Priesthood of Believers. For the most part we buck at that idea... we sometimes outright reject that thought... because we certainly don’t consider ourselves to be priests.
The point is... you and I, as followers of Christ, have gained the benefits and responsibilities of Priests... it’s WHO we are in Christ.
In the Old Testament, priests did two basic things:
They had the right, privilege, and responsibility to go directly to God. They could pray and talk to God, worship, and fellowship with God. Everybody else had to go through a priest in order to commune with God.
And, the priest also had the privilege and responsibility of representing God to the people and ministering to the needs of the people (or serving the people).
In others words, the Priests stood before God on behalf of the people and stood before the people on behalf of God.
And those two things are true of you and me, as followers of Christ. As believers.
You & I have direct access to God. No excuses. We can only blame our lack of a relationship with God... on us. You don’t have to pray through anybody else. You don’t have to confess through anybody else. We can go straight to God.
And - you and I have also been gifted for ministry to God. Every Christian is a minister - not a pastor, but a minister. Any time you use your talents and gifts to help others, in the name of Christ, you are ministering.
This is all part of knowing who and Whose we are!
2 Timothy 1:9 tells us, “[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus.”
Why did God send Christ to save us? Christ came to remove the barrier between us and God, so we could be his priesthood of believers... serving him... ministering to others... meeting their needs (spiritually and physically)... literally bringing the Kingdom of God into every situation and circumstance and place we go.
Christ... empowers us to know who, and Whose we are. As followers of Christ we are priest in the Kingdom of God... ministers, servants... called to bless others from power of Christ that’s within us. We are God’s chosen people... empowered by the Spirit of God, and set apart for God’s will.
We’re not handicapped nor hamstrung... by anything... save our own unwillingness to step into our calling.