I recently heard Don Miller speak about how this God journey we are on is kinda like a story. I love reading Dons books and hearing him speak, he not only makes me giggle, he also has some wonderful things to say - about life, about God. I too think this journey we are on is like a story. I think all of us want to live a good story, one filled with love, wonder and promise; a story that is inspired, a story that one-day our kids will read to their kids.
I am convinced of two things; first, the best stories end happily ever after. And second, before they end “happily ever after” they are filled with conflict and risk and sometimes even death...
Jesus lived the best story. His was full of wonder and mercy and love and friendship. It was also a story with conflict and risk, even unto death. And if there was a crisis in his story, it was a crisis of identity. Not with Jesus, he never doubted who he was, but those around him. If you think about it, the question of His identity followed him everywhere he went.
I would like to suggest that the question of identity is not only the theme of Jesus’ story but it’s ours as well. The good news is, Jesus was sure in his identity and because of this, we can also become sure in ours…
Jesus was actually born into a crisis of identity. As far as public perception was concerned, his birth was a little sketchy. His inception was miraculous. He was born of a virgin. My Bible refers to Him as “God with us” (Matt 1:18) and as “The Son of God” (Luke 1:31). However, that part of my Bible was unavailable at the time of Jesus, as it hadn’t been written yet.
Most likely, Jesus grew up with the stigma of “bastard.” Outside of a few shepherds and some Wise Men who knew the whole story, his birth appeared scandalous. He was born out of wedlock as Joseph waited until after his birth to “tie the knot.” But Jesus was not insecure. He knew who he was. He was sure in his identity.
We know this because of the one story of Jesus in his youth. When he was twelve, his family journeyed to Jerusalem. As they were heading home, his parents lost track of him and for three days they searched the streets of Jerusalem. They finally found him at the temple. When his mother asked him where he had been he replied, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house" (Luke 2:49). Jesus was sure in his identity.
We don’t hear about Him again until he turns 30. The story is picked back up with Jesus baptism. The Bible says that when He came up out of the water, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. A dove descended and God spoke in a thunderous voice. And in case anyone was unsure, God made it perfectly clear saying, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.” At that moment it went public; Jesus was the Son of God. We heard it from an angel, we heard it from the child and now we’ve heard from the mouth of God.
I would have expected Jesus to start his public ministry upon this proclamation, but instead, he is led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matt 4:1)
Forty days Jesus went without food or water. Three times Satan tempted him and each time he went after Jesus’ identity. “If you are the son of God,” he challenged. But Jesus was sure in his identity.
If you keep reading the rest of His story you will find that everywhere he went his identity was questioned and challenged; by the religious teachers, by entire towns, by government officials and even by his closest friends. And while all this is happening, Jesus is living a story of beauty and wonder. He is healing blind and def, lame and mute. He’s raising the dead and making lots of food out of little food. He’s walking on water and calming storms. He is releasing life to anyone who receives him as he is - the Son of God. In fact, everything he did confirmed he was Gods Son.
If the story of Jesus life had a battle, it was a daily fight for identity. If his story had an antagonist it was doubt, better known as unbelief. And each time Jesus was confronted with the crisis of identity he chose to believe what God had said about him from the very beginning. Jesus was sure in his identity.
Three years after Jesus baptism we read about how he rides into Jerusalem being worshiped. Finally, He is received by the people as He truly is – the Son of God, the King of Kings, love in human form. And for a moment we take a breath… and then…
Jesus is betrayed.
Only three days after his triumphant arrival to Jerusalem he finds himself bound and standing in front of the religious rulers. His identity is officially and for a last time questioned. "Are you then the Son of God?" (Luke 22:70a) he is asked.
And Jesus, knowing what lay ahead, knowing he faced a brutal beating and then a cross… And Jesus, sure in his identity, said, "You are right in saying I am" (Luke 22:70b).
To be honest, my entire life has been a search for identity. And I am becoming sure. Daily I come into a greater understanding regarding the fact that this faith journey I am on is a battle for who I am in Christ. I am at war with an antagonist known as unbelief.
God has invited me and you as well, to believe - to believe that he is love, that he works on our behalf toward good and that we are his sons and daughters with a profound heritage. I am confidant that our faith journey is about daily deciding to be sure in our identity.
I would like to suggest that though we were born into a crisis of identity, the moment we asked God to join us on the journey, that crisis was resolved. The moment we surrendered our life to Jesus, the moment he became Lord and Savior, the moment we received his love, is the moment we stepped into a new identity. Through believing, Jesus not only confirmed and revealed his identity but ultimately he won our identity for us as well. Jesus rose from the grave and forever answered that question for those who choose to believe. We are sons and daughters of God. We are loved and becoming love.
Our Identity is found in believing in the absolute goodness of Gods love. This journey we are on will have its breath in that revelation. To the extent we know this truth is to the extent we can engage this life giving adventure story. Like all good stories there will be mountains and valleys, there will be scary moments and wonder. And always it ends happily ever after. And that’s what I’m getting at. Following God is risky, absolutely. It might even lead to death on a cross. But because Jesus went first, we can be sure in our identity and therefore know that our story, like the best stories, always ends well – always.