Refresh: Identity in Christ

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey and it is a pleasure to worship with you today.  We started Journey Church almost ten years ago with the sole purpose of helping people discover the authentic Jesus.  Because we believe that when you discover the real Jesus you will find him irresistible.

And we started Journey specifically to help people who are just starting their spiritual journey, or perhaps restarting it after a hiatus.  We started it as well for people who are skeptical or cynical about the church.  And we started it for long time followers of Jesus who like to be around those kinds of people.  And so if that describes you in any way – then you should know this church was started for you.

We are in our third week of a series we are simply calling, “Refresh”.  With the start of a new year it’s a good time to remind ourselves of the basics.  And so two weeks ago we reminded ourselves that we have a soul, and that the soul likes to go slow and savor things, and so we challenged ourselves to slow down and stop and rest.  To ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives.  And I hope that has been helpful.

Last week Jim reminded us about some time tested, ancients spiritual habits that will bring health to our souls.  And I was very challenged by it – and have been thinking quite a bit about his statement that it takes 21 days to develop a healthy habit, and about 2 days to adopt unhealthy habits.  And I find that to be uncomfortably true in my own life.  To test his theory I started smoking on Tuesday and – he’s right.

This bring us to today.  And I have to admit that I’ve struggled all week long with this message.  Because I feel that God wants me to deliver to you a very important message – from his heart.  It’s less of a teaching time and more of a time today to say, if I may be so bold as to say this – that God has something he wants you to hear from him today.

If you are here this morning, it’s no coincidence.  And I will deliver to you this word and I want you to receive it as God’s message to you, especially you, today.

See- this week I was planning to preach about a wonderful little portion of scripture that is in the Old Testament – recorded by a prophet named Micah – and it’s one of those passages that is made for preachers.

Because it begins with a question and then gives a three part answer.  It’s like Preaching 101.  The question that Micah 6:8 asks is, “What does the Lord want from you?”  The answer, The act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

So I began to prepare a sermon to answer the question, “What does God want from me?”  And then I began to sense that this isn’t the question God wants me to answer today.

It’s weird guys, because I’m not a super spiritual feelings kind of person.  But I felt as though God was saying to me – the question to that will refresh our souls is NOT what God wants from me, but what God wants for me.

So this morning I want to answer the question, What does God want for you?

I typed this question into Google and these were the responses I got.  You can see that Google assumed that I asked the wrong question.  Because usually people are preoccupied with asking – What exactly do you want from me?  What are the terms and conditions of the contract?

Religion of all forms tries to answer this question.  What is required of me?  But Christianity is incredibly unique in that much of what we read in the Bible is God explaining to us what he wants for us.

Most religions are about what God wants from us.  The five pillars of Islam – for instance – are what?  The terms and conditions – you have to pray daily, take a trip to mecca, and say a certain prayer, and give a certain percentage to the poor, and celebrate Ramadan.  It’s very clear.

Now in the bible there are certainly plenty of places that describe the kind of person that God wants us to become – like Micah 6:8.  And there are times, like the ten commandments, where God establishes a contract with his people, so to speak.  Here’s the ten commandments – do you agree to keep them?

But even then – back in Exodus 3 – when God first shows himself to Moses.  Listen to how God introduces himself to Moses…  The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land…”

From the very first introduction of God to Moses – God announces – I want to do something for you.  Abraham was the same way – I will make you a great nation…

Jesus was the same way – he announces that he came to do what?  To seek and save the lost.  He is on a rescue mission.  He came to do something for us – not to reiterate what he wants from us.  Mark 10:45  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Christianity is incredibly unique in that the real message of the bible is not what we do for God but what God wants for us.

So the question this morning is…  What does God want for you? 

And the answer the Lord gave me is one word.  He wants rest for you.

And the one word I have for you is rest.  Not to rest.  Just rest.  He wants you to rest in Him.

Jesus told a crowd one time, and it’s recorded in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

What is it?  What does the Bible mean when it says that God has rest for our soul?  Well, it can be a little confusing because the bible talks about rest at least three different ways.

Now two weeks ago we talked about building time into our schedule to get rest…  But that’s not what Jesus is talking about and it’s not the kind of rest I’m talking about today.

Sometimes the bible talks about rest as being something that is either historical or futuristic.  Historically, the Bible refers to the promised land as entering God’s rest….

And futuristically, we will enter a land of rest when we die and go to heaven.  But that’s not the rest that God wants for us today either.

So in what sense does God have rest for us?  The kind of rest that God has for us today is the promise of a place where our soul can finally rest.  It’s the place that our soul has always longed for.  It’s the place where our soul can say – it’s okay – it’s finished. I’m home.  I no longer need to strive or perform, or prove anything to the world.  I’m at peace.

It’s the kind of rest that we read about all the way back in Genesis – where we read that God created the world in six days and on the seventh day – he rested.

Why does God rest on the seventh day.  Was he worn out?  Was he weary from his labors?  Of course not.  So what does it mean that he rested?  It means that it was finished.  It is settled.  It is good.  He was satisfied.

See, your soul is built to search – it is searching for meaning and it’s searching for significance and to prove to the world that you are important and valuable, and it’s searching for an identity.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the idea of sleeping until you aren’t tired any longer – but the fact is that many people could sleep 12 hours and wake up and their soul is not yet rested.  Because it has not found what it’s looking for.

And for some they think their soul will be satisfied when they have enough money only to discover that it’s an illusion – they wonder – I make 25% more than I did 10 years ago but still feel like I’m just another 25% away from feeling satisfied.  Nope – because money can’t reach the deep places of your soul – not in a way that brings health.

Some people think their soul will find meaning and significance if only I get a boyfriend or girlfriend – or a spouse – or that person’s spouse – and it’s a mirage – because your soul will never be truly at rest – and I’ll tell you why.

Your soul can only rest when it has found the one thing that cannot be lost, stolen or taken away.   When it finds the one thing that cannot be lost – your soul will rest, assured. 

That’s why the soul will not rest if it’s depending on money.  Because it knows it’s one black Monday away from wanting to jump off a building.  It cannot rest on a spouse or a child or anything that can walk away.  It will not rest on prestige or a career or success or respect- it knows that all of that can be swept away in a moment.

It is Jesus who says – come to me.  I’m the one your soul has been looking for.

See, really – the issue of rest comes back around to the issue of being able to answer the question, “Who am I?”  It’s an identity issue.  The soul will not be able to rest until it can answer the question, “Who am I?”

Who are you?   I remember one time when I was in youth ministry I took a group of students to a conference in Boulder Colorado and we flew out there and we got checked into our rooms and we told the students that we will be meeting in the lobby at 8:30am to head over to the conference together.

And the only thing I remember about the trip is what happened to Andy Cloyd.  when we got on the plane to fly to this conference Andy was a typical soon to be freshman in High school.  Kind of a bit nerdy – really into band – you know what I mean.

Well that next morning, down the hall comes Andy Cloyd  and he is wearing this denim overalls and this really flashy shirt and he was walking kind of funny.  And he looked like the fresh prince of Bel-Air. 

Now let me tell you how, my life got flipped upside down, when I saw Andy Cloyd strutting down the hallway.  I was like who is this guy?  Is he up to no good?  Trying to cause trouble in the neighborhood?  Then I thought, Nah.

No – what was going on?  Andy was trying to figure out his identity.  He was trying it on for size to see if this was the real Andy.  He didn’t know who the real Andy was – and you might even now have an embarrassing story to tell of a time you were trying to figure out your identity.  You were trying to find your identity – to figure out who you are.

I’m telling you that until you come to the place where you enter God’s rest through faith in Jesus, you will never have rest.  Because everything else we might base our identity upon can be lost.  Never base your identity upon something you can lose.

If you base your identity on having money – what happens when you lose it all?  If you base your identity on being a great spouse?  What happens to you if they leave you.  If you base your identity on being an athlete, what happens when you break a leg.  If you base your identity on your appearance, what happens when you age, and gain weight?  If I base my identity on being a pastor of a growing church, what happens when it stops growing?  Or shrinks?

Never base your identity on what can be taken from you.  From what you can lose.

So what is our identity in God John 1:12 NLT But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

Through faith in Jesus – we become children of God.  You are a cherished child of God.

Our soul can only be truly at rest, when it has found the one thing it can be assured cannot be lost, or stolen, or taken from them.  And that is God’s love for you, his cherished daughter and you, his cherished son.

What does God want for you?  He wants to give you rest.  In Jesus, your soul has found what it has been searching for.  You belong to Him and no power on earth or in the heavenlies can separate you from His love for you.  You are God’s child.  You are his daughter, his son, in whom he is well pleased.  He deeply loves you.

Do you know that God’s heart is occupied with you?  He thinks about you all the time.  You are God’s cherished child.  Will you receive that as God’s word to you today?

Hebrews 4:1-3 NLT God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.For only we who believe can enter his rest. 

Christianity is built upon the stunning claim that – what matters is not what we can do for God, but rather what God did for us.   He has made a way for us to be able to enter into a place where our soul can rest.  Where we need not be consumed with trying to prove ourselves to anyone.

Who are you?  Through faith in Jesus and his work on our behalf, we are a cherished daughter; a cherished son of God.  It is finished.  Your soul can rest now.  You have nothing to prove to anyone.

Enter God’s rest.  Believe and receive your new identity as a cherished child of God.  And experience freedom.  How?

  1. Our soul is freed from the lies we tell ourselves. There’s something inside all of us that wants to condemn ourselves as unworthy or fraudulent.  There’s something inside us that feels it necessary to show the world our mettle.  Because deep inside we aren’t sure we measure up.

Through faith we come to see that – we might be unworthy of God’s tremendous love, the fact that God went to such great lengths to adopt us as his children means I’m anything but worthless.  I’m worth everything to him.  And my soul is freed from feelings of insignificance.

  1. Our soul is freed from feeling it needs to perform to be accepted.

Many people have never known anything other than performance based acceptance.  If you behave, you can belong.  In fact – it might be true that many of you have endured the sour taste of performance based Christianity.  You were accepted and loved in your previous church until you or your mom or dad did something that was deemed unacceptable and you found yourself ostracized – marginalized – even outright pushed out of the community of Jesus.

No wonder people say the church is full of hypocrites.  If in our church, the only way you can be acceptable is based on your behavior, then we are guaranteeing ourselves a church filled with actors.  A church filled with people who say, Everything is okay”  I’m good.  And inside they are hiding and hoping the real you never show itself at an inopportune time.  And meanwhile our should shrivel for lack of honesty, no one gets healthy, and no one grows.

Only when our soul rests in our identity as God’s child, can we be the kind f people who can admit when they are struggling.  They can reach out for help when they need it.  They can be accepted and love as they are and where they are.

  1. Our soul is freed from the grip of the opinion of others.

When our identity is found as God’s cherished child.  When our soul enters God’s rest – well then and only then are we freed from the opinion of others.

We no longer are wrapped up in Image Management.

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the mount that there are two great dangers – two impediments to a life lived in God.  One of them is the danger of money – and the other is the danger of image management.

Jesus presses us to ask which is more important to us.  What other people think about us?  Or what He thinks about us.  Which audience will we live for?

And it makes all the difference in the world.  If we are living for the approval of the people around us we will never ever ever ever find rest.  There is no rest for the person who is living to please people.  You will be weary even when you are resting.

Because there is always another audience.  And every audience wants to see something a little different.  You will never stop the act.  You will never get rest.

Instead, what Jesus offers is this.  Instead of living FOR the approval of other people.  Jesus says, how about you become the kind of person who lives BECAUSE you have already received the approval of God your father.

The Person who lives BECAUSE they have received the approval of God – well that person is at rest, even when they are weary.

The one person is always weary even when resting.  The other person is always at rest even if they are bone tired.  Which will you be?