Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.
I just watched a great sermon a good friend of mine sent me. It is by John Lynch (not the football player) and you can check it out here. He makes a statement in this sermon that articulates well something I have been working through over the last couple of months.
In my life it has only been in the last year or so that I have come to understand (i mean really understand) what it means to have an identity in Christ. How is that possible? How can someone who grew up in the church, served on church staffs, graduated from a Christian College NOT understand that their identity is found in Christ and not in themselves?
As with anything, I think that the language we use as leaders and teachers can drastically affect people’s ability to own truth. It is one thing to know the right answer. I prided myself on knowing all the right answers (i was the least popular kid in Sunday school because I would correct everyone – even the teachers (sorry about that)). But I had no clue what it meant to die to myself and allow Christ to have full control of my life. There are several factors that go into owning a truth as profound as this one. The foundational element is being taught about it and exposed to it, that is the element I want to look closely at in this post. Another huge factor in getting to a place where you can own this truth is life experience. Some things we will never understand (like really understand) until we have been through some of those “life changing experiences”.
So going back to the language thing . . . as church leaders we are given the honor and responsibility and permission to speak to people about their relationship with God, AND some of them listen to us. Reread that last sentence. Think about that. We are speaking into people’s lives and whether we like it or not, shaping the way that they relate to and understand God. That is HUGE. The words we use in those moments are important. The bumper sticker slogan “not perfect, just forgiven” or any variation of that idea has damaged our ability to understand identity in Christ. The more correct bumper sticker would read “not perfect, but being perfected”. Guarantee no one is putting that on their car. But that is the truth. Our identity in Christ is not limited to this felt-board image of a black heart that is replaced by a white heart. Yes, we are forgiven. Yes, that is a paramount truth of the gospel and should cause us to fall to out knees and worship God daily. But what God has made possible through Christ and through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit is more than forgiveness – God’s plan also provides transformation. Hebrews 10:14 says that Jesus has made available forgiveness and holiness. Jesus’ blood has made us perfect forever (forgiveness of sins ), but it has also ushered us into the process of being made holy (claiming a new identity, dying to self, being set apart for God).
In his sermon John Lynch asked it this way, “Are you a saved sinner, or a saint who sometimes sins?” If you have surrendered your life to God and received the forgiveness of sins, you are the later. Begin to own your new identity, understand that you are being perfected. There is an expectation that you will be more like Jesus a year from today than you are right now. Not because you will try hard enough, but because that is the evidence of surrendering to and submitting to the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is not only big enough to change your eternal zip code from heaven to hell, it’s also big enough to change your name from sinner to saint. Trust in His grace and obediently act out your faith.
This is the message I am trying to communicate to the Exodus Youth Ministry at Christ Community Church – Radical is the tool we are currently using and I can’t recommend it enough.