Don’t Steal Your Identity

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood, misused, and misapplied passages in the Bible is Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 7:7-8 (“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.).

That promise from Jesus is not an open invitation to get whatever we want from God. In the context of what Jesus was explaining, He was talking about seeking God in prayer and receiving from God what He wills for our lives.

The more we seek the Lord and find our hope in Him, the more we desire what He desires for us. The more we know His Word, the better we understand His will (and thus know how to pray and what to pray for). Only when we know and follow Him according to His Word can we experience the life He has for us. Only then is our identity in Him.

If you are trying to live your life with some other purpose, it is like you are stealing the identity for which you were created. When you try to find hope and meaning outside of the Lord, you will only be disappointed (sooner and/or later).

On Sunday morning for our Resurrection Sunday worship celebration, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 on our “Resurrected Identity” when we live in the light of Jesus’ resurrection glory. To experience that resurrected identity and live with a purpose and satisfaction that endures, we have to know and follow Jesus Christ and continually depend on Him. To do anything else is to steal your God-given identity.

Even good things (family, career, hobbies, etc.) can be used for evil, and if we find our identity in those things (or anything besides Jesus), then we are committing a form of idolatry. We are settling for far less than God’s best for us. We are not “asking… searching… knocking” rightly (biblically) and will thus fail to find and receive what God has for us.

Are you finding your identity in Christ, or are you stealing your identity for your own purposes? Do not give in to the temptation to think any other identity will fulfill you. It will only fail you.

If you want to experience the identity for which you were created, please recognize that identity only comes in and through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Learn more.

Hope Based on History

If we are honest with ourselves and with one another, our mood is typically based on our current circumstances. Only when we have a perspective that looks beyond our circumstances does this reality change. When things are going well, we are more likely to be happy. When things are not going well, our happiness diminishes.

Of course, this is the normal result of human emotions. If someone frustrates me, I get angry. If someone hurts me, I get sad. If someone encourages me, I get happy. If someone scares me, I get frightened.

GOOD FRIDAY

Today is Good Friday. Why do we call it “good,” though? No one except the enemies of Jesus who condemned Him to the cross would have called it good then. Of course, until we turn from our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ, we too are His enemies. It is our sin that put Him on the cross, for He died in our place.

Looking back, though, we know why the day we remember as Jesus’ crucifixion is called “Good Friday.” He took our sins upon Himself and died on the cross, and on the third day – Sunday – He rose from the dead. If He had died and not risen, then today would not be Good Friday. Today and every day would be terrible. We would have no reason for hope.

REASON FOR HOPE

Looking back at history, though, we do have a reason for hope. In fact, our hope is based on history – the historical fact that Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose again. Now, all who turn from sin and place their faith in Jesus Christ will be forgiven and made right with God. What an incredible promise (Romans 10:9-13)!

So, as followers of Jesus, we can have hope, joy, and contentment that is based on something far greater than our circumstances. We have hope based on history because history has secured our future.

PROPER PERSPECTIVE

If I lost everything I had today, I am sure I would lose my joy. To say my day would be ruined would be a drastic understatement. What if I somehow knew the future, though, and knew that I would have it all back (and much more) tomorrow? Well, then my day would obviously not be ruined. I would actually have great joy and contentment, despite my present circumstances because I would be aware of what is to come.

And, that is how hope and satisfaction are for followers of Jesus. When we have the proper perspective (knowing of the eternal inheritance for all who follow Jesus), then we can be hopeful and satisfied even when things are not going well. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we can find joy and contentment. Even when faced with great loss in this life, we can find joy. That is the present and eternal reality of the gospel.

EXPERIENCING LIFE

On Resurrection Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from 1 Peter 1:1-9 on the great truth of our journey “From Death to Life,” sharing three realities for those who have new life in Christ. If you have yet to experience that new life, would you consider clicking the picture below to learn how? If you have experienced that new life, are you finding your hope and satisfaction in the gospel?

To learn the simple message of the gospel and how to have a right relationship with God, please click HERE.

How to know you have the Light…

Do you have memories of how excited you were as a child when you were able to get together with cousins and/or friends for nothing more than fun? I sure do. And, I see that same energy and excitement with my children when they get together with their friends and cousins (like in the above picture from Easter Sunday afternoon). Pure joy is evident all over their faces.

Our son Silas said Sunday evening, “This was the best day of my life.” Hard to match that kind of excitement, right?

Light’s Impact on Longings

Naturally, we get excited about things we enjoy. We express excitement when getting to do the things we love doing. Kids love to play and have fun. Most of us adults do, too.

I would argue – and I believe the Apostle John made this argument – that genuine followers of Jesus Christ love spending time with other believers. Fellowship and participation with the local church excite us. This is the result of the light of Jesus consuming our hearts, impacting our lives and affecting our desires.

Light impacts longings, and darkness does, too. John argues (1 John 1) that people who know Jesus walk in the light and thus have and long for fellowship with God and with His church. Those who walk in the darkness, though, no matter what they claim to believe or desire, will only long for God and His church for what they can get out of them.

Signs of Light

Do you long for closer fellowship with God and His church? This past Sunday I started a new sermon series – Prove It – in 1 John, and this letter makes clear that fellowship with God and fellowship with His church are clear signs of the light of Christ in the life of a believer. Those who love and follow Jesus not only have that fellowship; they desire that fellowship.

Do you have a born-again relationship with Jesus? If so, fellowship with God and His church are signs of His light in your life. A longing for that fellowship and a commitment to that fellowship are essential. You cannot want one apart from the other, and you cannot claim one is genuine without the other.

Is there proof of Light in your life? Shine brightly in and for Christ and in and for the world.

Getting pictures taken is NOT something our kids tend to enjoy, but they do a decent job faking it at times. This one was taken before family groups and worship with our church Sunday morning. Certainly easier to smile when an exciting day lies ahead of you.

What’s more fresh than a haircut?

Oh, the joy!

Earlier this week, I gave all four of our boys haircuts, and Marsha gave me a haircut. Are haircuts not one of the simple, great pleasures in life that we take for granted? While I do not particularly enjoy giving my boys their haircuts, I certainly do love getting a haircut and enjoy the feeling of having a clean cut.

Does not everyone enjoy the feeling of a haircut (unless it is just a bad haircut)? Naturally, we like things that are fresh and new. We like, for the most part, cleanness and crispness. We like a revival, and a haircut is like a revival on your head.

Here’s why…

The reason we like revival and freshness and newness is because we were created that way by God. He put within us a desire to experience these things. Is it because, deep down, we all need these things?

When God made the heavens and the earth and all that exists, everything was not only fresh and new but also perfect. Even more perfect than your ideal haircut, God’s creation did not need freshness and newness and revival. But, sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the one tree from which they were forbidden to eat. From that point forward, we have always longed for revival and freshness and newness.

We long for what we can’t have.

Conceived, born and living in sin as fallen human beings, we long for the day, whether we realize it or not, when everything will be perfect. Because of sin, though, we are unable to obtain that perfection, but an answer, only One answer, exists. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can begin to realize that newness now, and more importantly, experience the perfection for all of eternity. This is only possible, though, in and through a right relationship with Jesus Christ.

How can one know if he has that right relationship, though? Simply put, you must repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for your salvation. When people ask me about the assurance of salvation, however, I encourage them to read 1 John.

Proof of Resurrection Life…

Easter morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series through 1-3 John called Prove It. A Christian’s life should be living proof of a right relationship with God, a right relationship that is only possible in and through Jesus. So, as we begin the series Sunday morning, I want to challenge you to consider if your life is living proof of resurrection life – a life that is fresh, new and everlasting.

Of all four boys, Micah is most like me when getting his hair cut. He loves it!

Happy Resurrection Day!

This morning during worship with our church family, I began a new sermon series through Ecclesiastes called Finding Meaning. Wait! Ecclesiastes on Easter morning? Isn’t that the book that says in the second verse of the very first chapter, “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”?

Yes, I know, it sounds like a strange series to start on Easter. But, I did so for a reason – truly, everything is futile without Jesus. Without the Easter story, life is absolute futility.

In 1 Corinthians 15:17 and 19, Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. If we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.”

Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation, the Christian faith would be worthless, as would life itself.

Hopefully, I did a sufficient job explaining this to our church family and guests this morning, connecting the reality of futility with the powerful message of hope found only in the Lord. If you are interested, you can listen to this sermon (and others) by going HERE.

Happy Resurrection Day! We pray you are finding hope, meaning and purpose in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ.