Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
My credit card just got hacked. Again. The second time in a month. Someone got my number and was pretending to be me. They shipped a few packages from FedEx, did a little grocery shopping at Target and attempted a $500 purchase from Ross. I think the tip off was that I never shop at Ross.I’m not the only victim here. Identity theft has swept the globe. From pickpockets to dumpster divers to internet hackers, peoples’ identities are being stolen. The result is over $100 billion a year in fraudulent purchases in the United States alone. It’s the fastest growing crime of the century. And it seems to be getting worse. At the core of identity theft is somebody pretending to be you.
Do you realize that there’s not only identity theft in the financial realm, it’s in the spiritual realm too? There is a movement to take away our true spiritual identity—to steal our clear understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. There’s a lot more at risk here than money. Our joy, sense of purpose and influence in the world are at stake. Are you at risk?
Knowing who you are makes all the difference in the world in how you live your life.
If we don’t know who we are, we spend our life trying to be somebody else, somebody we were never intended to be. For some, this is a distraction for a short season. For others, it’s a distortion of many years of their life. When our identity is stolen from us, we end up on a road where we are constantly searching for meaning, seeking approval from others, and proving to ourselves that we are valuable. I bet many of us are traveling that road today. If you are, I would have to imagine you’re confused, weary, and even disillusioned.
We are not alone. It’s been happening for almost 2000 years. About 50 years after the start of Christianity, there were identity thieves lurking about—false teachers who were spreading lies about what it meant to be a follower of Christ. In response, the Apostle John wrote a letter that we have come to know as 1 John.
Throughout his letter the Apostle John had been clarifying for his readers the difference between the true followers of Christ and the false. He had talked a lot about the outward signs and behaviors but then he wanted to remind his readers of the inner reality of their lives—their true identity. When he got to chapter 3 he made this great declaration:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
I’m not sure the English translation captures the wonder that John is writing about here. So bear with me as I give a brief Greek lesson because it’s a nugget a worth seeing, plus I spent a lot of money on a Bachelors in Greek at Bryan College and a 4 year graduate degree at Dallas Theological Seminary so I need to use this stuff every once in a while. 🙂
Look back at the phrase “how great is.” It’s a translation of the Greek word potapos. It’s the same word used in Matthew 8:27 when the disciples thought they were going to drown and Jesus calmed the storm. Matthew wrote:
- The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this (potapon estin outon)? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
- Now back to 1 John. John writes, ”What kind of love” (potapon agapyn) has been lavished on us?”
What kind of otherworldly, outrageous, unimaginable love have we been given to be called God’s children?
When we are clear about our true spiritual identity we can say, “I am God’s beloved child!”
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are God’s beloved son or daughter. I know that some of you don’t see yourselves that way. Your identity has been stolen from you. Maybe as a child your parents told you, you weren’t good enough, as a teen you weren’t a part of the “in crowd”, as a woman you sought approval from men, as a man you masked your pain with control. But you can say, “I am God’s beloved child.”
- Would you look at those words?
- Would you silently mouth them?
- Would you say them out loud?
The DNA of the Father has been encoded into you. God has given you a new nature that is created to be like him (Ephesians 4:24). You are predestined to be conformed to his image (Romans 8:29) and every day the Holy Spirit has been transforming you into his likeness with ever increasing glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Donald Miller, in his book Searching for God Knows What weighs in: “When you really think about it, these wants we have, like wanting to be right, wanting to be good, wanting to be important to people and wanting to be loved, feel perilous, as though by not getting them something terrible is going to happen. For instance, there was a guy the other day standing in line and somebody cut in front of him and he got very upset, rolled his eyes and all, and stood there with his hands in his pockets nearly staring a hole through the back of the guy’s head who had cut in front of him. And the thing I was thinking was, ‘who cares, you know? It’s only going to cost you about two minutes for that guy’s coffee to get made, then you can get yours.’ But then I thought how if somebody cuts in front of you in line, it feels like a terrible thing is happening to you, because you feel that he was costing you something, that there is a kind of penalty for not being important. In this way, we are comparing ourselves to one another and if somebody says they are better than you, it makes you very frustrated inside and you get sad or angry or bitter about it. What we really need is somebody who loves us so much we don’t worry about death, about other drivers pulling in front of us on the road, about whether people are poor or rich, good looking or ugly. We need this so we can love other people purely and not for selfish gain, we need this so we can see everybody as equals, we need this so our human relationships can be sincere, we need this so we can stop kicking ourselves around, we need this so we can lose all self-awareness and find ourselves for the first time, not by realizing some dream, but by being told who we are by the only Being who has the authority to know.”
- When someone cuts in front of you….“I am God’s beloved child.”
- When your spouse hurts you…..……..“I am God’s beloved child.”
- When you get rejected……………………“I am God’s beloved child.”
- When faced with temptation…………..“I am God’s beloved child.”
- When you don’t make the team…..….“I am God’s beloved child.”
- When you lose your job……………….…“I am God’s beloved child.”
- When you lose your hair………………….“I am God’s beloved child.”
- When hair grows where it shouldn’t….“I am God’s beloved child.”
What God says about you matters most and ultimately is the only voice that matters at all. We should go to him often to hear him say, “You are my beloved.” And when you listen long enough, no one will be able to steal your identity.