Journey Toward Identity IV
Turn to Ephesians 3. Today is Dec. 1, which means we have 20 days until … the Winter Solstice. This is the astronomical first day of winter - it is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight - which means … the long days of darkness are coming to an end! More daylight!
This is episode 4 of our Journey Toward Identity. Ed asked how long this series will last. I said, I don’t know - it’s kind of like the impeachment hearings - I’m making this up as I go.
We are on this journey of discovery. From the response I’m receiving, we’ve hit a nerve, so to speak. Many, it seems are in the process of either discovering or rediscovering who they are, who they were designed to be. Truthfully,
The journey toward identity never ends.
- with each new trial, challenge, stage of life -
we are constantly in a mode of discovering who we are and what we’re made of and why are we here.
Nonetheless, and regardless of where we are in life,
without a solid foundation built upon Jesus Christ and His Word, our true identities will elude us.
Without Christ as a solid foundation, we are left with either creating our own identity or allowing others to create it for us, or some combination - both of which are unstable. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 7 - we can build our lives (identity) on a solid rock - His Word, or upon sand. If our identities are built upon sand, upon someone or something that can be ripped out from under us - and it will get ripped out sooner or later - who are we?
Again, this is sermon 4 of my journey toward identity. I’m simply letting you in on that journey of how God revealed to me that being a godly man who serves as a pastor is more important than trying to be a pastor. The priority is to be who God created me to be - not to fill a long list of roles. God revealed that over a series of revelations through consistent alone-time with Him. And as I have been saying, it is imperative that each of us do the same - engage God and His Word in relationship through consistent alone-time with Him. (Same with spouses … God wants to be alone with you)
We left off with me wrestling with the question that if my identity is not about performance and meeting expectations, then why do I still struggle with performance and expectations? Why did I feel like I was failing in certain areas of ministry? God let me wrestle - wanted me to wrestle. During that time, I made my way through Ephesians 3 and 4.
Remember, I’m using the P.P.R.O.A.P.T method (pray, preview, read, observe, apply, pray and tell). Let’s look at Eph. 3, and as we read this, please notice a few things: Paul’s situation, what was given to Paul and what was the reason it given.
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
What was Paul’s situation? He was prisoner. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, but he was in prison because of his faith in Jesus Christ and his proclamation of the gospel.
What was given to Paul? Grace. Gifts. The ability to preach.
For what reason? Paul said, “I’m in this situation and I’ve been given this grace from God for you - on your behalf.” Paul knew that his situation and who God created him to be was connected to God’s bigger plans for saving others - for advancing the good news of Jesus Christ.
It was like God said, “Paul, I have a gift for you. But here’s the thing, Paul, even though I’m giving you this gift - it’s not really for you, it’s for others. I’m going to pour into you, but what I pour in can’t stay there - it needs to be poured out for others.” [Like a pitcher …. Worthless.]
Remember, I’m reading this 2, 3 times - I’m lingering and observing. My mind is focused on what Paul was given and why. What does God want me to see here? There are a lot of things in this passage - but I’m focused on this one thing. Why?
So I start asking how this applies to me. What’s my situation? What has been given to me and why? See, my relationship with Jesus, my situation, what I’ve been given, and who I am is not only for Chad, but for others.
What God pours into me is to be poured out into others.
What about you? What’s your situation? Where do you live … work? What’s going on? What have you been given? Who is it for? What is God pouring into you so He can pour into others?
Think on that for a moment.
Then I thought about Paul and all that Scripture says about him. I realized -
God didn’t change Paul’s entire personality. God redirected it.
God got rid of the junk, but who Paul really was did not change. Before Christ, Paul was a high energy, zealous, eager, bold man … none of that changed after meeting Jesus - it was just redirected for God’s purposes.
I would suggest that in many ways, God doesn’t want to change us into an entirely different person. He wants to clean off the junk to uncover the real us, and then
God builds upon and empowers who we really are - so we can live the way we were designed - to bear (carry) the image of God in our unique way.
If that’s the case, I began to wonder, in my effort to perform in certain areas and meet unmeetable expectations, have I inadvertently covered up or pushed aside parts of my identity that should not have been covered up or pushed aside. And so, I made a list of ME - who I am and things I enjoy … wrote down whatever came to mind. When I did that, I noticed something - there were parts of ME that were indeed pushed aside - forgotten.
And then I said, “God, you made me, you crafted me in a certain way. I’m wired with certain strengths and weaknesses. I have a certain calling and gifts from You. I’m here in Happy Valley, OR - so how can I use ME for others. How can You use me for others? How can WE bring hope, love, order, peace, salvation …?”
That’s the question isn’t it -
How can God and I (partnership) use ME for others!
It’s not about becoming someone else - someone “better” so God can use us. It’s about knowing and accepting who we are, who God made us to be and offering who we are to Christ.
One tool that I used to discover ME and accept Me was the CliftonStrengths assessment. You’ll hear more about that later, but this assessment helps reveal the way we’re wired regarding our strengths and weaknesses. There’s a total of 34. When I first took the assessment, I only wanted to know my top five strengths. It was good and exciting - it explained a lot, but it didn’t reveal a lot that I didn’t already know. So I expanded the assessment to reveal all 34 strengths in order from top to bottom. What are my top 5 strengths? What are my bottom 5 weaknesses? What I discovered was eye-opening.
For who knows how long, especially over the last 5 years, I have spent an enormous amount of energy and time, not on my strengths, but on my weaknesses - trying to become someone God did not design to be. It left me tired, frustrated and constantly questioning - and making very little progress.
I wonder how many others are experiencing the same thing - trying to be someone God never meant for you to be or meet expectations God never meant for you to meet. And you’re tired, and frustrated and constantly questioning ….
Knowing who I am in Christ (knowing strengths and weaknesses) has given me freedom, energy, joy - it explains so much - but I’ll talk about that later. But for now, let’s end with this:
What do you believe God is saying to you this morning?
My challenge is this - Get alone with God this week and answer - what’s my situation, who has God made me to be and why. Just write down what comes to mind - no need to analyze and fret over it - just enjoy your time with God. You can refine it later. And then ask, what has God poured into me that needs to be poured into others? How can God and I partner together to share me?