SURGE of Identity
Pastor Don Prewitt
I am honored to start out our Summer SURGE series. Each week the pastors will be sharing what they feel are their life messages and to prepare you ahead of time…You’ve heard my life message before. Usually what you are passionate about comes out in a lot of things you do and say. This is true with me, almost every sermon that I have preached here I have touched on the love of God and our identity in Him.
In our modern American culture technology and ingenuity are at an all time high. Access to the entire world through the Internet is almost unfathomable. We possess the opportunities to at least try to make a living at anything that we desire. Civil rights and the fight for equality have never been more prevalent as it is in our age. And, at least in the Bay Area, we find ourselves in a very privileged place, full of things and phones and stuff and recreation and food and stuff and stuff and stuff…
And yet we have never been more aware of our lost state, teens are growing up with orphaned hearts. Post-modern prophets like Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra are preaching their popular sermons of self-realization and inner power while our society continues trying to find significance and identity. Many in the church today have everything, or so it seems, but still feel like they are wandering in a desert alone and without purpose.
We take on the titles given to us by others, both good and bad. We like collecting titles like: Gifted, Beautiful, Jock, Employee of the year
What are some titles that you might have fought to collect in your life?
There are other titles that have been hung over our heads, some not of our choosing and others our own fault: Abused/Abandoned, Failure, Unfaithful, Dyslexic
And if that isn’t enough, sometimes in our human state of dissatisfaction, we lust after some good-looking titles that others might possess. Titles like: Wealthy, Handsome, Outgoing, Anointed.
This summer we are asking God for a surge, which in definition, is a sudden, powerful, forward and upward motion-like a wave. We long for a swelling of the love and glory and power of God but we very well could miss riding that wave if we are so weighed down by all these things that try to define us but end up sinking us to the oceans floor.
I propose that what we need before any other surge is a surge of true identity given from Christ Himself.
Without knowing and living out who we are in Christ, we very well could miss all that God has for us as we desperately exhaust ourselves trying to hold together a false identity.
So let’s drop any false identity that we might have outside of Christ and explore who we really are as a result of Christ dying on the cross and rising again.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Let me quickly say that I will be referencing our identity as followers of Jesus today. If you would not consider yourself a follower of Jesus as of yet, just know that I am not preaching an “us and them” sermon, proclaiming that we have it all and you have nothing. You also were created in Gods image and I believe that God is chasing you down for one reason: to love you.
- FOR IT IS BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED
GRACE: leaning towards someone to share a benefit.
If this verse in the Bible is accurate, what it is saying is that we NEED to be saved! Some people cannot get past this one point. They cannot and will not admit that they cannot do life on their own. If we are being saved then it must mean that we are drowning in some way.
What are we being saved from?
Lets look at what the New Testament sets forth as the opposite of salvation.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
God’s grace has saved us from condemnation.
- the condemnation from the curse of the Old Testament laws
- the condemnation from others
- the condemnation from ourselves
Jesus came to set free, not to condemn us.
- FOR IT IS BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED, BY FAITH AND THIS NOT FROM YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT BY WORKS SO NO ONE CAN BOAST.
Oh, the free gift of God. Its so easy to speak of but so difficult to embrace. Some of us just cannot accept the fact that the work needed to make us right with God was done by Jesus when He died on the cross. It was finished when Jesus cried out “It is finished!”
We can be like the wealthy that lost everything in the Great Depression. They were reduced to becoming needy and hungry. But when some tried to help out the phrase that has become so popular shot out, “we don’t take charity”, (which actually means love.) At the time it looked commendable that a person wouldn’t take something that they didn’t work for or deserve. But the real motive was pride. No matter how commendable it looked, their pride still kept them hungry.
Well friends, charity IS what we have received and we can be proud and say we cannot accept a free gift if we have not worked for it. Or we can get in line and become equal with everyone else that stands at the foot of the cross in need, and say “yes, I accept your gift of grace and love”. The choice is ours to make.
When we accept this free, and I mean, free gift from God, what we get to say is “I am known and loved by God…and I didn’t make it happen”. Is there anything greater than being known, really known? And not just from a person, but from God Himself? Wouldn’t it be nice today if we could drop all the exhausting ways we try to prove that we are worth loving, dropping all the titles given to us and we just sat before God, in all of our honest humanity and embraced our true identity? Wouldn’t it be the most amazing moment if we could actually say with all of our hearts:
“I KNOW WHO I AM: I AM LOVED AND KNOWN BY GOD!!”
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Let me just remind you of the meaning of one of the most important words in all of Ephesians:
WORKMANSHIP: Masterpiece, Beautiful Poem
This word picture is so important for us when we are searching for true Christ Identity. We are God’s masterpiece; His very best work. We are what He considers His Magnum Opus.
The truth of being Gods masterpiece SHOULD shape our own identities. But often the titles given to us from others and ourselves tell us who we are. Let me remind you that being Gods masterpiece has nothing to do with:
- Our lives before Christ
- Our church activity and attendance
- Our failures and successes
- Our feelings about ourselves when no one is around
- The titles hanging over our heads that others have placed on us
THIS is our true identity: We are known and loved by God. It was HIS work that made us beautiful. He is the one who has crafted us and made us into His children!
So lets go back to the beginning of this verse and tear it apart
A. For WE are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
WE: Not THEM
-not those who look like their lives are all together
-not those that abide by the law without flaw
-not those who have no sins on their record
WE, broken and in process as some of us may be, are Gods masterpiece, all of us together, good looking, bad looking. We as His children make a pretty beautiful piece of art to God…
And if you have a problem with that then take it up with God himself!!
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
“Yet to ALL who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…”
“He (God) predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with HIS PLEASURE AND WILL…”
Martin Luther said that if he could understand the first two words of the Lords Prayer as Christ did, the rest of his life in Christ would fall into place.
Its easy for us to use the word of God when we need it, but its not as easy to grasp the reality of the word of God. OUR FATHER…
OUR FATHER…Can we get that? God is our father; he is our friend.
What kind of father makes us prove to him that we love him by how many chores we do. And what father would decide that he didn’t love his child simply because his child messed up? God is our father and that wont change no matter how hard we work to get close to God or work to get away from God. WE are His workmanship…his best work.
B. For we ARE God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The writer of Ephesians didn’t say that we were Gods workmanship, but we ARE his workmanship.
We ARE. Some of you are in dire need of hearing this one thing:
What God saw in you when he called you His own didn’t go away when you sinned or messed up or questioned him or took a break from him. You and I ARE still his masterpiece and though you are in process do NOT let shame or fear or discouragement tear at your true identity today!
Even though our sins and wrong choice have consequences attached to them, our sins will NEVER change the truth of who we are in Christ.
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
All of the titles and false identities we hold on to (both good and bad) fall at the feet of Gods word! You are Gods best work and that will not change. You are his child, hidden with Christ. Do you know it? Do you really know who you are today? Loved, known, forgiven, His best work, not being a WERE but being an ARE part of Gods plan!
We are NOT our titles!
We are NOT our failures!
We are not our successes!
We are not our accomplishments!
We will not bow at the fools gold altar of the worlds identity today, but instead let us cry out to a living God, saying “Here I am, show me my true identity, show me who I am in you, let my false identity die today!”
Henri Nowen says it this way:
“Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity and power is a false identity-an illusion! Loudly and clearly he says ‘you are not what the world makes you/ but you are children of God!”
Let me stop here and tell you I am NOT encouraging wrong choices or disobedience. But I AM saying that God loves you in spite of your wrong choices and disobedience.
The German theologian Detrick Bonheoffer said that “Guilt is an idol”. If we spend too much time embracing guilt for our past choices or shame or fear or insecurities about our shortcomings we might as well just bow down to those things and worship them. When we give guilt and shame more room in our lives than God…we are serving it!
Hear me, we DO need to acknowledge our sins before God and repent, but we should never remember our sins or short comings without also acknowledging Gods grace. Paul often did this:
“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called and apostle…BUT by the GRACE of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
In 1 Timothy 1:16 Paul calls himself the foremost of sinners but also notes “YET FOR THIS REASON I FOUND MERCY…THAT IN ME, CHRIST JESUS MIGHT DISPLAY HIS IMMENSE PATIENCE…”
Certainly is is right to take time for self examination, confession and repentance. But we should eventually come back to Gods grace and our own dignity that comes from being made right by the Cross of Christ.
Say it: “I know who I am, I KNOW who I am…I am loved by God!!”
C. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
When we started out today we read that it was through grace that we were saved and it wasn’t because of our works that God looked our way. That is correct. We cannot do enough good works to be saved by God, but one proof of being saved by God is good works (or holy living)
If today, we could grasp our true identities of being loved and known by God our lives would look completely different:
No longer are we trying to live holy lives because we are afraid of hell, but because we are trying to honor the God who honored us with his mercy.
No longer are we reading the Bible to check it off our guilt list, but because we delight in knowing the God that knew us…and STILL invited us to be His children.
No longer will we hope that God will hear us if we pray, but we will KNOW that God hears us.
No longer do we tell others about Jesus so that we can feel like we have done our duty during the 40 days of love and light, but because we honestly want them to know the God who “leaned towards us” to share the benefits of His great love
THIS my friends is the message that we need to hear. Because if we actually know who we are in Christ, if our identity is lost in his deep love, we will be free enough to ride the surge of Gods power and love and mercy, letting that identity touch every corner of our lives transforming us into a beacon of hope for all the world to see and experience the love of Jesus.
Do YOU know who you are today?