Step 1So we have entered in to a pretty cool series here this month called Step One.  What we have done really is to look at the big picture of life.  I thought Ken did a great job in week one introducing us to this idea that there is a bigger reality unfolding all around us…and that is the God story.  It is an epic tale that has been unfolding since the beginning of time.  The reality is that you and I are invited into that greater story, which is pretty amazing and even cooler than that is that inside this great story we actually have a role that we can play!  Which is just awesome.

So hopefully our eyes and our hearts are beginning to be opened to this bigger reality.  That we were created by God to reflect his glory.  Remember the scripture that really clearly shares this incredible thought with you and I?

Genesis 9:6 God made humans in his image reflecting God’s very nature.  MSG

I find this thought amazing…you and I were created by God to reflect his very nature.  What a humbling thought!  And there is a couple of things that are really important to remember when we talk about this epic tale that’s unfolding all around.  The first thing we talked about is something that is pretty special, we are actually invited into this story.  God doesn’t force us into the story.  He actually invites us into it.  He loves us enough to want us to love Him back!  I’ve always been amazed by that.  We also took a lot of time to understand something inside this story and that is that we have a hero, His name is Jesus.  It isn’t you and it isn’t me.  Jesus is the hero in this amazing God story unfolding all around us…because we needed a hero!

You see the God story was unfolding perfectly for all of about 5 minutes…and then sin entered the scene and messed things up…big time!  What sin does is it distorts the reality of the God story and makes it very hard for us to even see the story for what it is, and even more challenging for you and I to focus on the hero of that story.

So in the first week of this series we saw that there is a God reality.  That reality is that we were created by God to reflect his glory.  We are image bearers of The King.  We also learned that sin works to distort that reality.

Last week Kim and I talked to you about perseverance and staying the course.  This was a big deal to me, to talk to you guys about a couple of really important things.  If you remember we looked at a lot of the words of Jesus and what we saw was that Jesus really tried to expose this greater reality to us.  He also exposed to us the fact that we have an enemy doing whatever he can to keep us from accepting the invitation to the God story, and if we have accepted that invitation…your enemy is doing whatever he can to knock you off course…which was why we wanted to challenge you to stay the course.

So we focused on 3 things last week…

  1. God sent Jesus to speak truth and redeem the glory of God in us.
  2. This is a world at war and we all pick a side. Remember Jesus talking to the Pharisees?  “Anyone on God’s side listens to God’s words.  This is why you’re not listening-because you’re not on God’s side.”
  3. We have an enemy. He is a killer and he is a liar.

So in the first two weeks of this series we have learned a couple really important things.  There is a greater reality…we call it the God story and it is unfolding all around us and it has been since the beginning of time.  Jesus is the hero to this story and he came to this Earth for a reason.  You also have an enemy who has a purpose as well.  This is why the key scripture for us last week was found here…

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  NIV

Jesus explains some huge concepts here!  He tells you clearly why He came to this Earth…so that you can have life and life to the full.  Which happens when we accept the invitation into the God story and reflect the Glory of God.  He also explains that you have an enemy doing anything and everything he can to keep you from the life to the full that Jesus told you he came to provide.

So that is where we have been and now today this series is going to transition a bit.  Because for the next two weeks we are going to be talking to you guys about what can happen when we lose sight of the actually reality of the God story and the enemy begins to distort things.  There are ramifications to this, and we need to see it.  Often times it happens this way, God invites us into his greater story, and while we see it, and maybe dabble into it, we kind of have our own things going on don’t we?  What’s really funny is our job seems so simple.  Our job is to simply accept the invitation into the God story…and stay focused on Him…but that can be challenging in this fallen world.  Paul told you what your job is right?

Romans 12:1 Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. MSG

When we accept the invitation to join Him in His story we are at our best.  We feel fully alive as we reflect His glory.  So many of us make the mistake of inviting him into our story rather than just simply embracing what God does and stepping into His.  The problem is that when we stand in God’s story we aren’t running the show and things often don’t look or feel like we want them to look or feel like and it’s easy to just pull out of what God wants and jump into our own story!  And you know what, there will be ramifications for this, and today we are going to look at a big one.

When we abandon God’s story to create our own, we fail to understand our identity and we can get confused and I wanted to look at three big ways this happens.

  1. Reality Distortion 1-We Decide We Are What We Do.

Boy oh boy this is a good one.  It’s amazing how many insecurities we have because of what we can’t do isn’t it?  Think about your life for a moment…what are some of the things you can’t do?  Whether you weren’t good at sports and were picked last for all the teams growing up, or whether you can’t see and had to put on glasses in school and were made fun of for it, it’s amazing how much what we can’t do shapes and molds into us!  Here’s a pretty incredible and sad thought in many ways…have you ever heard this?

“If you want to see a fearless crowd of people, talk to kids before they attend school”

So true isn’t it?  At that point in life there are no labels.  There are no failures.  Ask a child what they think they can do, no matter what you ask them they believe they can do it because they haven’t been boxed, labelled, and well…wounded yet.  Passionate innocence with no one pointing out what they can’t do!  Boy when you think that way, Jesus words really take on a new meaning…

Matthew 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. NIV

Can you imagine being able to read the Bible from that stance…with an unwounded heart, with that childlike innocence of “I could do that!”  So when God says “Love your enemy.” Or “Proclaim the Gospel.”  You would read that and think…I can do that!

Do you remember what it is that you were created to do?  You were created by God to reflect His very image.  You are an Image Bearer…that is an incredible title that you get to wear and I think one of the biggest things you and I need to hear, and need to understand is one of the simplest things I could ever say to you.  GOD IS PLEASED WITH YOU.  GOD LOVES YOU!  Here’s the reality…most of us think that God will be pleased with us when we do something for Him or when we stop doing something for Him…but that isn’t the case!   God is pleased with you because you reflect His image…and because of our hero…you are restored as an image bearer!  We can really start to understand this special message when we see what God says about Jesus at the time of His baptism by cousin John…

Matthew 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  NIV

What an awesome moment, and do you notice that God is pleased with His son…and His Son hasn’t done anything yet…it’s not because of anything Jesus could do for Him.  He’s pleased with Him because He reflects God’s image…and while Jesus did it better than you and I do it, guess what…you please God, because you reflect God’s image too and because of Jesus God sees it as perfectly as He saw it in His son.

Many of us think, “I am what I do.”  That is a very dangerous thing because you and I aren’t perfect, we will mess up and then our identity crumbles.  Can you see the work of the enemy here?  Our hope is finding our identity in Jesus.  If our identity is so fragile that we are depending on any other source other than Jesus for it…we will live our lives in insecurity, with anger, and feeling like complete failures.  Which I don’t know about you doesn’t sound like life and life to the full that Jesus told you he came to give you!

It’s funny how many Christian’s or just people in general feel unworthy or hypocritical at church.  Did you ever pick up on that?  Why can’t we just be ok not being ok, realizing that Christianity isn’t saying we are perfect it’s actually saying we aren’t but Jesus is!?!?!?  Well we do have an enemy.

Have you ever had that person tell you that they don’t like church because it’s full of hypocrites?  I love when people drop that on me…like I’m going to be so incredibly offended, and I respond the same way, every time.  I agree with you, there sure is a lot of hypocrites there.  Which leads me into the explanation that we all fall short, and the beauty of being a Christian is that we recognize our desperate need of a savior…and GOD LOVED US ENOUGH TO GIVE US ONE!  Which really isn’t the fight someone was looking for but that is ok…the Gospel message is more fun.

Here is something really interesting though, many Christians DO feel like hypocrites.  The problem is they don’t understand their identity in Jesus!  They also don’t understand their own hypocrisy!  There are a lot of hypocrites in Christianity but it’s not because they go to church.  It’s not because they are living a life of God worship and it’s not because they pray.  Although we can feel that way at times…walking in here knowing how badly we have screwed things up.  For a Christian hypocrisy happens when we sin!  Our true identity as a child of God begins to come out of us as we act like Jesus.  We are not hypocrites for trying to act like Jesus…we are actually being authentic!  The issue is we aren’t Him!  It’s actually in the moments that we sin, when we focus on our selves.  When we worship idols or can’t get out of some sin we do over and over and over again…that is actually when we are being hypocritical!  I think where we get into trouble and come into our church communities and can’t be ourselves is because we forget our identity!  Just because it feels natural to sin doesn’t mean it’s who you are!  Who you are is an image bearer of God.  You please Him.  He loves you.  The reality is that you have an enemy trying to steal, kill, and destroy…he never wants you to understand that reality…that you are loved as you are.

Paul really challenges us to refocus on our new identity in Christ…

  • We are to put on a new self. Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  NIV
  • We need to understand that our old life is dead. Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. NIV
  • We are to renew our minds. Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. NIV
  1. Reality Distortion 2- I am What Has Been Done To Me.

Last week we touched on this idea that there will be hurts.  There will be wounds.  We live in a world full of hurt people, and as we know…hurt people, hurt people.  I think one of the big set ups for a lot of people is that we walk through life expecting life to be pain free.  This is a scheme of your enemy…it is not God telling you that life will be pain free on this Earth.  Remember Jesus exposes your enemy as a liar.  He has no power over you so he tries to deceive you.  Listen to me, your hurts…the injustices done to you…all the wounds of your life…they have no power or authority to identify you!

The problem is that when you decide that these things do have the power to identify you, your identity will always be way, way too small.  You know scripture actually tells us how we can understand just how incredible the love of Christ is and how you can really harness your own wounds.  It’s through sharing in Christ’s suffering.  I like to think of this as Paul saying flip the script!  Use those moments to grow closer to Jesus!

Philippians 3:8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. NIV

Here’s the deal suffering as Jesus did isn’t just any type of hurt or suffering.  No it’s suffering because of someone else’s choice or sin…not your own!  Until we experience being sinned against.  We can’t fully understand just how incredible, and undeserved the forgiveness of Jesus is.  Check out what Peter says here…I find this so beautiful in the MSG version…

1 Peter 2:20 There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God. 21 This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. 22 He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. 23 They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. 24 He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. 25 You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls. (MSG)

WOW!  You know what’s funny though…some of us are wounded…we are hurting and we have been hurt badly and it wasn’t are fault.  The last thing you would ever want to hear right now is that those hurts and forgiving and moving through them can lead you to a deeper understanding of Jesus and his love for you.  I get it.  I want you to hear me say something to you right now.  What happened to you is not ok.  You have been hurt.  You have been sinned against and that is not ok!  What we must do is protect ourselves in this moment because if we aren’t careful those wounds can become our identity.  We must remember that we are children of the king, redeemed and restored through Jesus to reflect God’s glory.  We are royalty and our identity is found in Jesus.  What was done to me doesn’t define me.

  1. Reality Distortion 3-I Am My Relationships, Roles, and Responsibilities.

Let’s think of some of these items real quick.  I am a father.  I am a husband.  I am a Pastor.  I am a soccer coach.  Some may be listing I am single and in my 30’s, or I am a teenage mom, or I am an empty nester…the list is endless really.  Here’s the beauty of having an identity that is wrapped up in a Creator God who exists outside of Creation…OUR TRUE IDENTITY IS LIFE PROOF!

No matter what the circumstances, or roles, or responsibilities are that are added or subtracted to your life, they do not add or subtract from you identity!  This is huge.  Jesus shows us how to get this life proof identity and where it’s found here…

Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  NIV

Jesus says that if you want your life to be life proof…you build your home on the right foundation.  This is not saying that life will not have problems or moments of crisis.  What this is saying that a life in Jesus is crisis proof.  Life will happen and difficult moments will hit.  But when your foundation is found on the rock.  When your identity is found in God, nothing can take that away.  Do you see it?

Our identity is not formed by our roles, responsibilities or relationships.  Our identity is formed in Jesus.  This is what Paul understood so well that drove all his oppressors crazy!  They couldn’t do anything to him to mess with him because he was focused and gaining strength and finding his identity on something outside of Creation…on God!

Philippians 4:11 Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. 12 I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. 13 Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.  (MSG)

How beautiful is that!?!?!?  We can make it through anything in the One who makes us who we are.  We have it all in Jesus, and because of that our lives become life proof regardless of what is thrown our way!  And a lot will be thrown your way.

When we find our identity in Jesus we become image bearers of God.  Isn’t that awesome?  Listen, we live in a world at war and we do have an enemy and he is doing whatever he can to distort the reality of the God story.  He is doing whatever he can to get our focus off of Jesus and the further and further we get into this series the more you can see why our enemy is so terrified of our focus being on the hero of the story!

Today we wanted to look at three ways the enemy distorts reality.  The first way is that he tries to make us believe that ‘we are what we do.’  Which is a lie.  It is not what I do…it’s actually what Jesus has done for me that defines me!  I am redeemed through Jesus to reflect the very image of God!  The second deception was to convince me that ‘I am what has been done to me.’  Which is also a lie!  I am not what has been done to me…what I am is free because of what Jesus has done for me!  The last deception that I tried to expose today is that he will try to convince us that ‘I am my relationships, roles, or responsibilities.’  Also a lie!  The reality is that I am not my relationships but through my relationship with Jesus I can now find my identity in Him!

It is so easy for us lose our identity in this broken world.  We have got to stay focused on this bigger reality.  No person, no thing, and no experience have the power to be your identity or take your identity.  This is why Jesus would expose your enemy to you as a liar, and a thief, and a killer.  All he can do is try to distort God’s greater reality and trick you to give up on your true identity.  We really must focus on the truth, which is found in Jesus.  Remember why he told you he came…so that we can have life, and have it to the full.  This happens when we accept the invitation into the God story, and stand as who we were created to be doing what we were created to do…reflecting the very glory of God himself!

If you are out there and you are thinking…man, I’m so far from being that person…that image bearer.  Then you have made a huge step forward today!  You realize the enemy has tricked you, and the beauty of the God story is that you can have it all restored to you today…by simply asking Jesus into your life, to do for you, what you can’t.  Restore you, redeem you, and make you whole again.  You simply say the word and believe it to be so, and Jesus takes care of the rest.  Now that is what I call a hero.  Stand in this truth today…You are an image bearer of the King.