2.14.2016 - First Sunday in Lent
Knowing Our Identity
It’s a story we’ve heard over and over again! Most have heard it in sermons or Sunday school or bible study throughout our lives. Of course, I’m talking about the story of John the Baptist… and how he lived in the wilderness, preaching about repentance and baptizing people in the Jordan River. John’s message of repentance (which is very much the message of the Lenten Season), included the promise that One more powerful than John was coming, to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire… and John recognized that “One” in Jesus! As John baptized Jesus, the words, “You are my son, my beloved, whom I love” echoed from the Heavens! It was a powerful moment, as God revealed Jesus’ identity to those who listened.
Of course, right after Jesus heard those words of affirmation… still soaking wet from his baptism… we’re told that God’s Spirit led Jesus into a time of testing… of proving… of temptation… in the wilderness. The same wilderness from which John the Baptist emerged, wearing camel hair and eating locusts.
For 40 days, Jesus fasted, and prayed, and listened to God’s voice. For 40 days Jesus sought clarity… he longed for spiritual direction. Of course, three times during that 40 days, the Adversary, the Devil, came tempting Jesus to forget his identity… to forget Who and Whose he was! And three times Jesus fought through – turning back the scheme of Satan – and embracing the calling of God on his life.
Jesus… the Jesus we know and love and serve… was shaped, molded and revealed during that 40 day time of trial. We tend to think that if God really loves us that He’d insulate us from trial... he’d “hedge us in” and protect us from temptation. But that’s not the way it works... We grow by being stretched and challenged... the “valleys” of life are just as important as the mountaintops!
Of course, Jesus resisted Satan’s faux offers of comfort and temporary satisfaction... He overcame the temptation of taking the easy path to power and influence and glory. And you and I can do the same!
Jesus had nothing to prove. God had already proven who Jesus was! His spiritual formation and faithful devotion to his calling was made evident and boldly asserted during his time in the wilderness. His identity was set… founded… established... unmovable... and certain. Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus is pleasing to God. Jesus is loved by God.
And you and I, as followers of Christ… as baptized believers in the Way, the Truth and the Life… are no different. Our identity is set... WE are God’s Sons and Daughters. We are pleasing to God. We are loved by God.
Yet time and time again… we deny our identity. Of course, I don’t know if it’s denial or forgetfulness... but regardless we tend to wander from the reality of Who and Whose we are! We thoughtlessly allow the Adversary to throw us off course… allowing confusion and fear and uncertainty overshadow the promises of God and the faithful assurances of Christ!
We sacrifice love for profit, the eternal for the temporal. More and more “Christians” want a church and religion that’s more conforming than transforming. A religion that chooses personal comfort over faithful living! That promises prosperity and rejects sacrifice.
And our refusal to see ourselves for who we really are – brings anxiety and disorientation, we’re blown to as fro by the wind and waves of popular thought and worldly desires! And we find ourselves seeking a God of personal gain and instant gratification RATHER than a God of wholeness and holiness.
We, in the church, begin to seek success, counting numbers and dollars, rather than lives and mission… falling for the lie that worldly wealth and popularity are the measure of worth… instead of seeing God’s Grace as truly sufficient!
And despite all that… and so much more… Christ reminds us over and over and over again… to hear his Words of light and life. He gave his very life so that you and I - and others like us - could be called the children of God. Those who please God… those who are loved by God.
Why do we run from God’s presence? Why do we choose darkness rather than light? Why do we deny our true identities in Christ?
God’s Spirit… God’s Word… offers us Good News! God actively engages our lives, sending us wake up calls, reminding us of Who and Whose we are! You know… once we truly accept that God in Christ dwells within our very souls… we’ll begin to listen for God’s voice more and more… and the transformational love of Christ will fill us with grace, upon grace…
The Season of Lent offers us opportunities to awaken to God’s love. Choose to be God’s child over the next weeks, as we march towards Easter. Dare to trust that you have God in your heart! Dare to risk praying and wresting with God over all the things that want you to believe you’re anything less than God’s child. Dare to ask… to seek… to find God’s presence within you!