You may recall my last post, which focused on two questions asked by a young Roman sentry standing guard at his garrison. The sentry asked the Rabbi, ‘Who are you, and why are you here?‘
It’s surprising how easy it is to slip into measuring our relationship with God based on how well we perform in His name. Does the Church have an identity crisis? Has mediocrity replaced excellence as the new normal? Performance Christianity tries so hard to live by standards unattainable and often results in burnout and disillusionment. The Church of Jesus is the habitation of God with Jesus Christ firmly at the helm. He is the Head of the Church. Jesus wants to see a grace-flooded expression of His life in every stratum of society. To follow Him is a call to be sold out to Jesus.
And we can be sold out through something much more fulfilling – grace. That divine energy that we have been called to live in but find almost elusive to explain. A gift with no strings attached given to us by God Himself who shows us who we are and why we are here. We are here to reflect the God in whose image we have been created. Paul reminds us, “For it is by grace you are saved, through faith. This does not depend on anything you have achieved, it is the free gift of God, and because it is not earned no man can boast about it.”
The Roman sentry did not ask who are you and what are you doing! But, who are you, and why are you here? If we lose sight of why we are here we can so easily slip into the routine of performance that only leads us away from “the unforced rhythms of grace” and once there our thoughts have a way of manipulating us to work harder at trying to do for God what He never intended for us to do. It is all grace!
Rabbi Akiva knew the importance of identity and purpose and offered to pay the sentry double what he earned if he were to come and stand in front of his home and ask him those same questions every morning. It is pivotal for each of us as followers of Jesus to clearly understand who we are and why we are here. Paul writes that we have become a new creation free from condemnation, we are God’s workmanship, no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens and members of God’s household.
Peter declares that those ‘in Christ’ are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people belonging to God. How exhilarating, breathtaking, and liberating, to be given such life-giving Good News that pole vaults way beyond our comprehension. The question for each of us is of course, do we actually believe what God says about us? Have we once and for all embraced Jesus’ valuation of our lives or have we been distracted by the seductions of this world system by bowing to mediocrity?
John reminds us, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!” He later tells us, “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.” To live within the good of these promises will evoke wholehearted worship of the living God who has done for us what we could never do for ourselves.
Eugene Peterson in his book, ‘Practice Resurrection’ observes, “Having been introduced to God, we soon lose interest in God and become preoccupied with ourselves. Self expands and soul atrophies.” Over the last thirty years much community singing we call worship has been distracted from singing to the Lord in loving adoration and appreciation for who God is to our becoming preoccupied with ourselves and singing about the Lord. A relationship flourishes when there is intimacy. There is a vast difference.
The Spirit says, Come!
We have contact with Christians who have developed a fascination with online videos of preachers who proclaim a fear-filled end-time message. They focus on world events and happenings. They indulge our distraction with information that promises to dampen our desire to experience the living, loving and victorious work of Jesus. There will of course be challenging times in following Jesus but let us not forget the overwhelming victory that Jesus has accomplished on our behalf. Let us rather hear the sound of the Spirit, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires to drink freely from the water of life.” Come! He is our now and He is our future!
Once we know
Once we know who we are in Christ we naturally grow in stature and become purposeful in life. We are set free from the obligation to do things for God and people as we hear and obey Him in loving, sacrificial responsiveness. He calls us to drink from the fresh springs of salvation life so that we might have living water to share with the thirsty. He pours His grace into our lives so that in turn we become grace containers and attract others to Him. Jesus has declared that we are a habitation of God. Clay containers filled with treasure so that Jesus will receive the glory says Paul. Being a natural home for Jesus will impact all those people who rub shoulders with us. God is with us and fills us.
Our identity is in Jesus and our purpose is to follow Him where He leads.