Most often we identify who we are by what we do, possibly our heritage or even the community that we grew up in.
Check out this video “Identity in Christ” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsDQEb-qlyM
Do you have a hard time accepting your identity in Christ?
It is often very hard to accept the identity given to us by our heavenly Father because we are so drawn to achieve it or prove that we are worthy of such titles…but everything we have and all that we are is all because of Jesus, because of His finished work when He paid for our freedom on the cross.
So, what is our identity as a church?
We believe the identity God has given us is this and “grace” is our history and our identity. Here is a quote from John Fairchild when we came to this property
Grace Community Church is a Christ centered community that celebrates God’s Grace, striving to grow in Christ, living passionately for Him and sharing the good news of freedom in Christ with each other and the people we encounter every day.
Grace is made up of all kinds of ordinary people who’ve become part of our Marden church family for different reasons. One thing we all hold in common is a desire to understand how God would have us live.
None of us do it perfectly and for that reason we have included the beautiful word “Grace” in our church’s name. Grace describes God’s free and undeserved favor and love to all of us. God’s grace is about giving us ‘fresh starts’ in our life adventures.
We want to become “People Living Everyday Grace In Our Community”
When you know your identity, it allows your purpose have crystal clear focus.
In our previous vision, we spoke specifically of “a time and a place where love abounds”
The question I want to answer this morning is, “Why is it so important for us to shift from “a time and a place” to a people in our vision?”
The answer is threefold:
1. God has created His people to belong in community.
2. God has created His people to be strong and secure in their identity.
3. God has created His people to live transformed lives by the power of the HS
1 Peter 2:9
In this passage Peter is bringing in the eternal and invisible dimension of our lives. He is describing to his readers how special they are to God. Everyone knew that the Israelites were God's chosen people, but God had just increased the dimensions to His community!
The family of God expanded beyond the nation of Israel to include all of us who are part of His family.
1. God has created His people to belong in community.
But you are a chosen people.
The Israelite community…look at Deuteronomy 7:6
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
The word chosen is spoken of the Hebrew nation as they left Egypt in Psalm 105:43. It was the word used that was spoken of Jesus prophecied in Isaiah 42:1
1“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;I will put my Spirit on him,and he will bring justice to the nations.
It was also used of the apostles for their work. Acts 10:41
Well here’s the truth about this community.
Romans 9:21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? 22What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25As he says in Hosea:
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”26and,“In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ ”
It is a community designed intentionally by God and if you have chosen Jesus as your Savior you are part of this community both in a worldwide sense and a local one
Have you ever experienced being chosen first or for that matter last as part of a schoolyard pick? It provides this lasting impression in your mind… a great sense of pride or utter humiliation and it has everything to do with people’s perception of you for that particular team.
God has a perception of you and He knows you the same way He knew His prophet Jeremiah when he said of him.
1:5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations
Let’s imagine a singing competition in our church
We ask a person new to our congregation to randomly select participants without any knowledge of their gifts and talents…they are just going by their looks!
Now enter…Kathy Lambkin who intentionally picks based on her knowledge of their gifts and abilities…no contest right! And that is what Your heavenly Father is like…
He knows everything about your design, your gifting and the people He has placed you around. It’s not random and it’s no accident. 1 Corinthians 12
He has you here for a specific reason…It isn’t a place where you will be just comfortable to warm a seat from week to week. You are here to discover your God-given purpose as part of this family, this community, this specific group of chosen people.
Now granted I understand that many of you have chosen to be part of this church, but ultimately I believe that God chose you to be part of this congregation for such a time as this. You will be part of His manifest destiny for the future success of this church in fulfilling this mandate.
Why am I so confident of this?…it is because God has chosen US by His design. It had everything to do with Him and His grace and mercy in our lives and it had nothing to do with us. The moment we forget that, the moment we start becoming people of entitlement.
We are the people that God has chosen to connect with those He has placed around us. We have a special sense of calling.
2. God has created His people to be strong and secure in their identity.
A royal priesthood - The priest was to “stand in the gap” on behalf of the people and represent them before God. He was to continually offer sacrifices on behalf of the people for the forgiveness of sins, teach the law, take care of the temple. Numbers 18
2 Corinthians 5:17-20 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
We are a new creation and we have been given a ministry of reconciliation. We have been given the mandate to help people find their way home, to their true home, their destiny to become children of God!
We are part of the universal priesthood of all believers.
The priests performed sacrifices
Romans 12:1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
A holy nation - A people have a commitment to one another…you see a Canadian in a foreign country – there is that comraderie, they are from home.
There is something special about being Canadian – doors are open for you that are not open for Americans for that matter. Canadians are especially loved in Holland.
The Liberation of Holland was completed on May 5, 1945 by the First Canadian Army. It had been a long and difficult campaign. Following the initial Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, and the breakout from the bridgehead which saw the Canadians engaged in bitter fighting at Caen and Falaise, the First Canadian Army was assigned the task of clearing the coastal areas and opening the channel ports for vital supplies.
Some wonder how the story of the heroic Canadians lives on in Holland almost 70 years later. The story of what the Canadians did during the War is passed down through each generation and is taught to children in public schools in Holland. There are a variety of war cemeteries devoted to the 7600 Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for the liberation of Holland. The Dutch lovingly tend to each cemetery. When the Canadians visit Holland they are treated with much respect and admiration. The people of Holland are not quick to forget that it was the Canadians who freed them from the Germans so many years ago.
The bond is even experienced in a stronger way when we connect with other believers across the nations. Being part of a holy nation means we have a passport to places where others have limited or no access….the throne room! Hebrews 4:15,16
15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Where else does your passport as a believer give you access to???
We are “A people belonging to God” - We have the power of God, we are agents of change. We are carriers of grace and we have the Holy Spirit
Now, certain cultures and ethnic groups are known for specific things.
The French – wine and cheese.. Sharon and I had French friends in BC, Martin and Annie of all places who let’s just say educated our palette.
Latin cultures are known for great salsa and salsa dancing…we learned both, well Sharon learned the dancing thanks to our friends from Mexico.
The Sherpa people in Eastern Nepal elite mountaineers and experts in their local terrain – those who guide explorers to climb Mt. Everest. My passport as a Christian gave me access to the high mountain villages of Nepal where from out of a mud hut a man walks out and gives me an ice cold coca cola….However, more miraculous for me was to hear the story of a community of believers who shared with me about a person in their community had died and during the funeral that went on all night and that was more a celebration of worship and prayer. At some point during that time of worship, she came back to life!
What will we be known for? First and foremost – a people belonging to God! Never forget that.
3. God has created His people to live transformed lives by the power of the Holy Spirit
That you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.
That HS communicates with your spirit, you have a spirit in which the HS resides
The HS wants to reveal the significance of the fact that God chose you…when you were dead, when you had no options, you were brought into a family with eternal difference. We are heirs of God
Creation groans…Christ groans…the HS groans so that we can understand the significance of our identity. God is birthing something in you! Romans 8
Syria is a very dark place right now…with the UN reporting now over 90 000 people have died in this civil war that has lasted more than 2 years.
It was just the other day that I heard about Canada is going to sponsor 1300 Syrian refugees… It may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the 1.6 million displaced by the unrest in their country. However, these 1300 have been chosen to live in a new country, with new opportunities…
Who is God calling you to sponsor? Bring them out of darkness and into His glorious light.
This means sharing our story.
Brynley had a random text from a neighbour the other night and he asked if they could just read the Bible…what ensued was a chapter by chapter reading…5 of them and Bryn had the beautiful opportunity to share her faith.
Live your life in such a way that it demands an explanation.
Remember we work from our identity not for our identity.
If I know God loves me, I don’t have to manipulate other to receive their love.
The whole world lives for their identity…
Only a Christian can live from their identity
When you pursue your own identity… I want to be healthy, I want to have kids, nice car, great career etc… and if you labour for that and accomplish that, you feel proud… you say look what I have accomplished, you become self righteous, you have contempt for other people. I did it why can’t you.
If you try and fail, you feel depressed…nobody asked me out, we can’t have kids, I thought they would never leave me and I got served divorce papers…despairing
So, remember, today live from your identity, not for your identity.
I was cycling last week and Matt Ward was following me, pushing me to go faster and man, I was just pounding it out as hard as I could….want to impress the man who went to Kona for the Ironman…Anyways, he comes up beside me and says Jack you don’t have to grip your aerobars so hard… you were moving all over on your bike. He said you need to let your bike work for you, don’t fight your bike…
What’s the point…you don’t have to fight for your identity, Jesus already did. He fought for you to become a child of God. Rest in that confidence.
When you do this you don’t have to hold or grip as tightly to your performance, your status, your things, your position etc…
When you know who you are as a child of God, you can hold loosely to all of it.
1. God has created His people to belong in community. You are chosen.
2. God has created His people to be strong and secure in their identity. You are secure.
3. God has created His people to live transformed lives by the power of the HS… so live a transformed life by the grace of God!
An action plan for this summer! KEEP AT IT
· Open your homes and backyards and be hospitable - It can be really simple.
The power of invitation is an amazing thing.
· Open your hearts and make new friends (name some new ones by end of summer)
· Open your hands and do good to people around you
· Open your mouth (when the opportunity arises) and speak of your faith in Christ