Your life is going somewhere; it is on a trajectory. This is true whether you’re living with intention or if you’re aimlessly living your life. If you would like to live with a clear vision for your life, join us this Tuesday night. I’m going to teach us how to create a basic life plan that will serve us well in the life God has designed us to live. There are right at 80 people who have signed up for this and there’s still plenty of room for you.
One of the constant questions every human being carries with them throughout their lives is this one:
Who am I…really?
What is it that defines me? Does my identity mostly come from my work? Or my relationships? Or who I appear to be to everyone else? Am I really the person who’s done those terrible things in my past? Or am I the one who’s done some really remarkable things in my life? Who am I, really?
We need someone outside of us to tell us who we really are. But isn’t this how we’ve ended up with all of our identity confusion? We let our parents tell us who we were, whether it was accurate or not. We let our society tell us who we were. We allowed our bosses or companies to tell us who we were.
And we finally said, “Enough of that! I’m not going to let anyone else determine my identity.” So where did we turn to find out who we were? We turned to ourselves and decided that we alone would determine our identity. We will choose who we’re going to be known as and what’s going to define us. And we’ve encouraged everyone else to do the same. It’s why you see parents encouraging their children to literally be whoever they choose to be. It’s why self-expression is often seen as the highest form of good in our world.
I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t healthy when we allowed everyone else to define who we are. But can we also point out that a self-determined identity hasn’t brought deep peace to most individuals or made our world a better place to live?
We need someone outside of us to tell us who we really are, but they must have all the facts about us in order to do so.
What ultimate identity are you living out of? Who gave you that identity?
Here are the four movements of my message for today:
-I want to help us understand who we really are.
-I want to show us how we can live into that reality.
-I want to point out what often gets in the way of this.
-I want to give us practices to help us embody our true identity.
I’m calling this message, “Practice Being Who You Are”. Our text for today is Colossians 3:1-4.
Colossians 3:1-4 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
From God’s perspective, the core of our identity is that we are either in Christ or we are not in Christ. What does it mean to be in Christ? It means that you have placed your faith in the death of Jesus for your sins and his resurrection that has given you new life. In the same way, you have died to your sins, and you have been raised with Christ. This is what is positionally true for every genuine Christian.
Your life is hidden with Christ in God. What is most true about you is not something that others can see fully. Yes, they can see the fruit of your life in Christ. Yes, you can and should tell them about your faith in Jesus. Christ is your life. This is who you are. Has there ever been a time when you genuinely placed your faith in Jesus and He became your life?
1 John 5:12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Jesus has done everything necessary to give us our God-given identity. I’m going to spend the rest of my time talking about how we live into the reality of our identity. But if you’ve never received the identity that Jesus wants to give you, I want to invite you right now to place your faith in Him. If you do have life in Christ, I want you to know this:
It is possible to live a life that is contrary to your identity.
God will help us live into our identity, but we are the ones who choose where we set our hearts and where we set our minds. The heart has to do with our desires and affections. The mind has to do with our attention. Set your hearts on things above. Another translation says, “Seek the things that are above.”
What gets your affection?
What do you love and value most? Whatever it is for you and me, there’s a word for this: TREASURE.
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What is your treasure – wealth, accomplishment, being well thought of, having successful children, or a million other possibilities that I haven’t mentioned? It probably won’t surprise you to hear me say that Jesus should be our treasure. But you might not think this for the right reason. You might think that I mean, “To be a good Christian, you have to choose Jesus over everything else.” But what I mean is this: Treasure Jesus because He’s the most valuable being in the universe. He’s over everything, including the thing that you think is ultimate. If we treasure anything or anyone other than Jesus, we’ve turned it into an idol.
“Idolatry is not just failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God.” Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods
So what do we do? The temptation is to think that we have to dial back our desires so we don’t want or long for more than we should. That won’t help us. We are people of desire. C.S. Lewis says we actually need to up our desire game.
“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
What gets your attention?
If you’re around a person long enough, you will have some idea of where they’ve been setting their heart and their mind.
What does your use of time say about what you value most?
What does your use of money say about what your heart treasures most?
What do you wake up focusing on and go to sleep thinking about?
“Our attention is the ignition key that turns on the engine of the mind. Everything I do, consciously or not, begins with a shifting of my attention toward the desired target.” Curt Thompson, The Soul of Desire
What gets in the way of us living into the reality of our identity in Christ?
The better question would be, “What doesn’t get in the way?” There is so much coming after our affection and our attention. And the assault on our affection and attention comes right through this small portal.
Our phones have hijacked our attention, which means they have also affected our affections.
What is your phone usage doing to your attention and your affection?
It’s so hard, right? Jesus told a parable about a farmer who scattered seed. He was speaking into what happens when the word of God is sown into our lives. And he gives four types of responses. But I think this is the one we should be most careful about.
Mark 4:18-19 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for others things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
What’s keeping us from fully living into the reality of our identity in Christ? I’m willing to bet it’s something in one of these categories for you. I know it is for me.
-The Worries of this Life
-The Deceitfulness of Wealth
-The Desires for Other Things
It doesn’t mean these are bad things; they might be very good things. Your marriage. Your children. Our church. Our God-given work.
Your spiritual formation will come from whatever gets your affection and your attention.
What are the practices that will help us live into our reality in Christ?
James Clear, who isn’t a Christian as far as I know, wrote this in his bestselling book, Atomic Habits:
“More precisely, your habits are how you embody your identity. When you make your bed each day, you embody the identity of an organized person. When you write each day, you embody the identity of a creative person. When you train each day, you embody the identity of an athletic person.” James Clear, Atomic Habits
“Your habits are how you embody your identity.” Our habits, or what we call spiritual practices or disciplines, are how we too embody our identity as disciples of Jesus.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
“The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.” Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Silence – too much noise affecting our affections and our attention
Solitude – space/time to be with God
Meditation – detachment and attachment (verse/phrase about God)
Worship – Exalting God over all things
Here’s a Scripture I want us to meditate on every day this week; it’s all about our attention and our affection.
Psalm 27:4 One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
See we think we have to become something we’re not. But spiritual formation is us actually becoming something we already are.
What could you start shifting more of your attention away from?
What could you start shifting more of your attention to?