The Journey Toward Identity
Brief idea of our direction for Sunday mornings. My plan is to spend a few weeks talking about identity and how the Word of God shapes who we are. Not so sure about December, but in January, I want to make our way through the first 11 chapters of Genesis. That’s the idea.
Last week, I shared some of what the Lord revealed to me while on Sabbatical - particularly, in the area of identity. I discovered that I am not a pastor. I am called to be a godly man who serves as a pastor. There is a subtle difference between being a pastor and serving as a pastor - but it has huge implications. (Lots of freedom)
I'm going to challenge you to begin thinking about that in your context. So, take a moment and fill in the blank:
I am called to be a godly __________ who serves as a _________.
You may not know what that is right now or you may change that later, and that’s fine - this is just to get us thinking Biblically about identity - about who we are and who we are called to be and what we’re called to do. Again, for me, I am called to be a godly man who serves as a pastor.
How did I come to that conclusion?
Listen closely because the answer I’m about to give you is the is really what this message is about. How did come to that conclusion? God told me. It wasn’t audible. It wasn’t through someone else, or a devotional, or a sermon ….
God spoke using His primary means of speaking to His people - His written Word.
If I were not engaged in His Word, I would not have heard God speak.
If I am not engaged in His Word, I am missing His primary means of speaking to me.
(This is like being married and having someone else tell you what your spouse wants to say.)
As I mentioned last week, I’ve been struggling for years with having a personal private time with God - just me and the Lord. I was committed to the time, but something wasn’t connecting because somewhere back there I transformed my quiet time to a sermon prep time. I became frustrated. I would read this devotional and try that method - but nothing changed.
One of my goals going into sabbatical was to reconnect with God. One day while trying to find something that would help, I read from one of my favorite devotionals, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. The passage that day was -
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Jesus didn’t say you can’t be saved. This is not about salvation - the work of salvation is entirely Christ’s - we believe and receive His work on the cross. But Luke 14 is about being a disciple. And Jesus said, unless we love Him more than anyone or anything, we cannot be His disciple - we cannot be entirely His.
Just a side note -
When we love Jesus the most, we can love others the best.
Would love to get into that this morning, but that’s not where we’re heading. Interestingly at this time, nearly every else I was reading mentioned the same thing - that
There is a clear distinction between being saved and being a disciple.
This got me thinking and pondering. I wrote in my journal that
Discipleship is not so much about doing the right thing (i.e. performance) as it is about being the right person - being one who belongs entirely to Jesus.
And I started asking questions: Am I entirely His? Am I truly a disciple? Honestly, who am I?
This is important!
What was God doing at this point?
God was planting the seed for revelation.
God wanted to tell me something, but I wasn’t ready for it. Therefore, He had to prepare me. Plant the seed of revelation. If God would have said at the beginning of sabbatical, “You’re called to be a godly man who serves as a pastor.” I would have been like, “What are you talking about?” God knows what He’s doing, and He also knows me (and you.) God was planting the seed for what He wanted to tell me later at the right time.
I’ll say it again - if I were not engaged in His Word, I would not have heard God speak. I would not have followed the trail, the breadcrumbs ….
So, one morning while looking for something to help me reconnect with God, I remembered Pastor Chip Ingram. He’s an excellent preacher / teacher. I got on his website and found a Bible study called How to Hear God’s Voice in Scripture. I went through the lessons. In one of the lessons, he shared how he conducts his quiet time. There are many methods - most of them are good. Some methods are good for different seasons of life. Sometimes we just need something new and fresh.
Two things to remember when using a Bible study method:
1) Use one!
Get into the Word - it will eventually pay off. Didn’t quit riding a bike because you fell off the first time. You kept at until you could ride! Same principle!
2) Doesn’t matter how well the method is, if our hearts are not right, we’re going to struggle.
And my heart wasn’t right. I convinced myself that I could use my personal time with the Lord as sermon preparation.
Chip’s method is simple - he learned from a missionary. Not going to go into great detail, but it’s called the
Pray. Preview. Read. Observe. Apply. Pray. Tell.
If you say it fast … (Briefly explain).
So, that’s the 2PPROAPT.
What we need to know - Merely reading the Bible is not synonymous spending time alone with God.
Quickly reading Scripture rarely gives God an opportunity to speak.
If we don’t give God an opportunity to speak, how are we going to hear Him (like talking with someone with fingers in your ear)? Mature in Christ? Trust in His promises? Find encouragement or strength for life? How are we going to know how to have a godly marriage, live godly lives …? We need to give God an opportunity to speak.
So, I began to use this PPROAPT method. Just like anything - the more you do it, the better it gets. One morning, I was reading Ephesians 1.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
The first preview is good, but nothing has infiltrated my mind or heart. I read it again. Then the third time through, I changed us to me.
Ephesians 1:3–4 Blessed be the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose me in him before the foundation of the world, that I should be holy and blameless before him.
Very different. Very personal. I was drawn to the word holy. Holy means entirely separated - entirely set aside - for a purpose. Not a little. Not some. All. This began to connect with what Jesus said about being a disciple. I began to think of holiness in terms of being - in terms of relationship, commitment, fidelity.
Maybe holiness is less about being some super spiritual sinless ultra-righteous Christian, and more about being entirely His.
Holiness is more about belonging entirely to God. Why? Because God chose me before the foundation of the world to be all His. Before I did anything wrong or anything right, God said, “I love you and I want you to be all mine.”
I asked, Lord, is there anything between me and you (Susan and I …). Am I entirely yours? The answer was, “No. You’re meeting with Me but you’re thinking about the congregation.”
What was God doing? God was planting the seed of revelation. There was more to come, but it wasn’t the time.
This is part one of the Journey Toward Identity. Let’s take a moment and listen to the Holy Spirit.
What is your primary take-away this morning?
What might the Lord be saying to you?
Admit Believe Confess