Identity and Worship

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I want to start off by asking the question, who do you think you are? All right. Not like that. But who are you? Right. Who are you? That’s the question I really want us to start considering. And I don’t mean just your name. And you don’t have to tell me your name out loud, but I want us all to start considering who we are. Let’s say if you had to write a description of yourself. Not a fake one, right? Not one that’s edited and curated for social media. So I’m not asking for your Instagram bio or your description on Christian Mingle or, right? I don’t want that. I want a sincere description of how you perceive yourself. What would it say? Now, my guess is that it would be molded by many different things. One of those things would be your interests, right? I love coffee, I drink a little too much every day. That’s my confession as well as I love playing games, board games, card games, it doesn’t really matter. I love stories and I’m fascinated by history and whether we know it or not. Our interests determine a lot about ourselves, whether it’s a certain genre of music we listen to, what our habits or hobbies are, or the sports we watch. Our interests influence who our friends are. What we have in common with others determines what our community is that we surround ourselves with, which influences how we talk, what we talk about, how we dress, and much more.

Right? People who primarily listen to heavy metal music usually dress a little differently and talk a little differently than people who listen to country music, right? You have observed this with me, right? As well as well. We are shaped by our titles, right? What we do like, you know, for instance, if you are a mom or a dad, a grandfather or a grandmother, a child or our occupation, you know, whatever it is, I’m in ministry. I’m a minister. So that’s what I’m doing right here, right now. Right. That’s influencing what I do. And we are also a part of things. For example, I am a husb. That’s my last name. And I’m guessing you guys have last names too. And as a husb that might not mean much to you, but to me that means a lot because I have a mom and dad and grandparents who, you know, influenced me. My brothers are a big determiner of who I am today. We are Americans, most of us, which means that we are shaped in, at least in part by American culture and values. And we are Christians. We belong to a church, more than likely Alpine Bible Church, and that church will influence you. It will impact who you are right now, as well as the process of who you are becoming. Right? Hopefully I, I what I want to do is get us to start thinking about those things, who we are, because that’s exactly what we’re talking about this morning.

Identity. Right. And when we talk about identity, we’re not necessarily talking about everything. You are everything you do, everything you say because you are. When we talk about identity, we’re not talking about the superfluous things in life. You could take or leave, right? I eat cereal and sometimes a bagel for breakfast. I fold laundry and I watch jazz basketball games. And if I would rather not give any of those up other than maybe folding laundry. But if that was taken away from me, I would still understand who I was and I would go on with life, because those things really aren’t my identity and what I’ve built my life around because I our identity. Is fundamentally what we base our life on. That which you believe gives you your life meaning and purpose and ultimately worth that which you say makes me who I am and without which I wouldn’t know who I was. That’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about identity. And our identities can really be rooted or based on anything. For instance, you may eat meat and vegetables, but I’m guessing you wouldn’t label yourself as an omnivore, right? And you wouldn’t go around telling people that, you know what? I’m an omnivore. It’s pretty cool, right? You probably don’t do that, but I’m sure at some point in your life you have met someone who is a vegan or vegetarian, and they might see that as a huge part of what makes them them.

They view it as something which gives them worth, and because of that, it becomes fundamental to who they are, an identity that they wear. Right? I’m guessing, and I hope that all of us here have attended school at some point in our lives. But my guess is that only some of us ever wore the identity of a student, or maybe a good student, because a student, a person who’s found their identity in being a student. For them, getting a B plus or an A minus is not just a lower grade, right? Because in their mind, it’s what they’ve based their life on. And so a lower grade is not just a reflection on how well they did on their test. It’s a reflection on what they’re worth as an individual. Instead of seeing an A minus as a passing but lower grade, they perceive it as failing or falling short on what they based their life on. They haven’t measured up failing on what makes them them. And I’m sure you’ve seen people get A minuses or B pluses in spiral. And I’m sharing those examples not for not to judge or belittle the people who have found their identity in what they eat or how well they do in school.

But I instead share those examples for all of us to understand what we’re talking about. Because the reality is, is that every single one of us here, whether we know it or not, has our identity in something. All of us have something in our lives that we identify with, and thus find our worth in something that we wouldn’t understand ourselves without. And it can be just about anything. Being an athlete, how much money we have, our social status, by what car we drive, or where our house is, or what our house looks like. Our careers, right? Who we are dating, how much we do for other people, our children, or how many likes or followers that we have on social media. The list can go on and on and to infinity. And because that’s what we do as human beings, we find something in our lives that gives us value or makes us feel valuable, that makes us whole, and we build our world around it. And I want us to consider in our own minds what our identity is. What is that thing that you could not go without? What do you see as essential for you being you? All right, next question. Significantly easier than the other question. Who is the apostle Peter? All right. I’m I’m hoping you guys have heard of the apostle Peter.

He’s a very important figure when it comes to the Bible and church history. But do you know, and maybe probably most of you know, is that Peter was not always his name, right? His name was Simon. That’s what his parents named him. But we see in John 141 through 42 how he gets the name Peter. And it says this. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, we have found the Messiah, that is the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looked at him and said, you are Simon, son of John. You will be called Peter. Now some of your versions might have Cephas. They’re Peter, Cephas, same word. One of them is Greek, one of them is Aramaic, right? But right here Jesus renames Simon to Peter. And do you guys know what Peter means? It means rock. And what Jesus did was just call Simon. You’re no longer Simon. You are the rock. And I tell you guys right now, if Jesus said that to me, I would feel like the coolest dude that ever existed in the world, right? Because Jesus just called me. Tough, strong, unmovable, you know, weighty, tough, unbreakable. Jesus, the Messiah, God in the flesh just called me the Rock. And we will see. And we see later on in the story is that that is how Peter sees himself as the rock and that becomes his identity.

The story he tells himself is that he is immovable, steadfast, and that nothing can break him. Later in math. In Matthew 2631 through 35, Jesus says this to Peter, you will all fall. He says this to all the disciples. He says, you will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee. And Peter answered him, though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away. Jesus said to him, truly I tell you this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. And Peter said to him, even if I must die, I will not deny you. All right. What does Peter say to Jesus? Jesus. You don’t know who you’re talking to. Remember, I’m the rock. You said it yourself. I am strong, even if everyone abandons you. I’m not going to break. I’m not going to crumble. Even if I have to die, I’m going to remain with you. And it makes a lot of sense why Peter is so quick and adamant to disagree with Jesus, because Peter’s sense of self is wrapped in this idea that he is indeed the rock. And my guess is from reading is that he sees himself as the Rock of Jesus and the rock that Jesus needs.

And if you’re familiar with the story, you know that it doesn’t turn out the way that Peter wants it to turn out, right? Matthew 2673 through 75 says this. After a little while, the bystanders came up and said to Peter, certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you. Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and swear I do not know the man. Jesus denying, Peter denying Jesus. And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the sayings of Jesus before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times. And he went out, and he wept bitterly. Right. Of course, Peter denied Jesus three times, just as Jesus told him he would. Shocker. Peter denied that he would ever do such a thing. And you can understand why Peter disagreed with Jesus and why he wept so bitterly. Not only did he deny that he knew his best friend and teacher, who you’d been following his the past three years and giving his life towards, but the understanding of himself was over. The thing he had placed his worth in came crashing down, and because he had spectacularly failed to live up to his identity as the Rock. Write the story he had told himself over and over again. Being immovable fell apart in an instant. And our history, what has happened in the past, serves as the context for the present.

In our minds can cling to names and identities that were given decades ago to us by classmates or teachers or coaches or parents or friends, which include our failures and triumphs. When I was in second grade, I remember sitting down with my mom, my teacher, and for the first time, my special education teacher, and she told me that I was diagnosed with something called dyslexia and dysgraphia. And as a second grader, all I heard was, I’m stupid, I’m different. That’s how I interpreted it, that I was different from everybody else and that I would never amount to anything in school. And for the next decade of my life, I was haunted by that conversation. I wouldn’t do homework. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to write. I hated school, and I didn’t want to do because I didn’t want to do anything that made me feel different. I would do the bare minimum amount of work to pass. Why? Because I did not want to feel worthless. I was terrified of seeing the reflection of failure, looking back at me that I knew that I would see if I tried and failed. And if I didn’t try and I didn’t fail, I would be no different. But if I tried and still got B’s and C’s my psyche, or in reality my ego would have been crushed. Of course, being in second grade, I didn’t have that all worked out.

Right. I didn’t I didn’t consciously think that all the way through. It was years later when I was in college where I figured that out. And that saving myself from feeling worthless, that kept me from experiencing the things that I wish now I would have done. And that identity kept me imprisoned in lots of ways. Right. Our pasts, the stories we tell ourselves, whether it is we are the rock or we are dumb, plays a huge role in who we are and how we live and the course that we set for our lives. And they have the ability to imprison us, whether it’s sacrificing our family to advance our career or being in high school, not wanting to talk to them because they’re uncool and you find your worth in being popular. And whether we admit it or not, we can be just like Peter disagreeing with Jesus because Jesus says something that goes against what our identity is founded on. You know what Peter did after this? Right after Jesus died. After. After he denied Jesus is that he went back to his old identity. What he was used to, what he did. He went back to fishing. Right? Christ had called him to be a fisher of man, but he went back to fishing. John 21 two through three tells us this Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and the two other disciples were together.

I’m going out to fish, Simon Peter told them, and they said, we’ll go with you. So they went out and got into the boat. But that night they caught nothing. Right. They went out to fish Jesus. Then the up. In the following verses it says that Jesus appears to them on the shore. Although they can’t tell it’s him. He tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, and when they do, there are so many fish in the net that they cannot bring the net up. And in that moment, Peter realizes that it’s Jesus, and he screams out and he says, it is the Lord, and he Enrobes is, you know, top cloak. And he gets into what is essentially a first century Jewish bathing suit, and he dives into the water and he swims right up to Jesus because he’s so wants to be near him and with him. And the other disciples eventually gather the fish, go to Jesus, and they have breakfast together. And John 2115 through 17 details for us. The conversation that Peter and Jesus have on the shore eating breakfast. And it says in verse 15, when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? And when Jesus is saying that he’s pointing to the fish, do you love me more than these fish? And he said to him, yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

He said to him, feed my lambs. He said to him a second time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? And he said to him, yes, Lord, you know that I love you. He said to him, tend my sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, do you love me? And he said to him, Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you. Jesus said to him, feed my sheep. Now it isn’t lost on Peter that Jesus asked him three times. It’s a clear reference to Peter’s betrayal, and because of that, Peter is reminded of his inadequacy, his failing, his worthlessness. But I want us to understand what Jesus is saying here because it is so important. Jesus says to Peter, do you love me? If you love me, Peter, you have a place. If you love me, Peter, you have a calling to accomplish. I called you to be a fisher of man to feed my sheep. If you love me, Peter, you have worth. Worth to the King of Kings and Lord of lords. Peter thought that being the rock for Jesus, if he wasn’t that rock, he didn’t have worth because he thought that Jesus needed him to be that rock.

Jesus didn’t need Peter to be that rock. Jesus doesn’t need us to do anything. We need him and we get it backwards. All too often, even in ministry, it can happen where instead of finding our identity in Christ and His love for us, we find our worth in how many people show up to our ministry events, or how many people tell us how good of a job we did. And it’s at that point where we miss the same thing that Peter missed. It’s not about us proving to God that we deserve his love. By whatever identity we try to prove to God that we are worth worthy to him. We are worthy. We are worth to him and ourselves solely because he loves us. First John 419 says this. Oh oh, going to far. Shoot. All right. It says this we love because he first loved us. Romans five says, while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly, meaning before we could prove our worth to Christ, before we could do anything to earn his affection or merit, his love or anything. He loved us. He died for us. And it’s because of his love and his grace on us that the good results from John 15 four through five says this abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. It’s not about us. We cannot prove to ourselves or to God that we are worthy of his love. The Bible is very clear that apart from Christ, we are dead in our sins. We are spiritually dead, meaning we are separated from God, and no identity apart from Christ can give us spiritual life. That can give us worth. The worth that we long for inside of our hearts. Because God is not impressed and nor does he invite us into his kingdom because we were the high school football captain or the valedictorian. He doesn’t do that. If we become the president of our fortune 500 company, or have a PhD, or become the world’s most famous YouTuber. The only thing that makes you and I worthy of God’s love is the grace that God freely gives through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But I don’t want you guys to take my word for it. Let’s read Ephesians two one through nine, which says, when you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, and of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience among them, we too, all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

But God, being rich in mercy because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, transgress, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not as the result of works, so that no 1st May boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Righteousness with God meaning right relationship with him, freedom from the imprisonment of justifying our existence by our identity, victory over sin, complete peace, real love. True joy only comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He offers that gift to every single one of us. And as acts 16 says, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Because. There is no neutrality. Every human being will worship or identify with something or someone.

Worship being what you ascribe worth to. That’s where the word worship comes from. Worth ship. You find your worth. What you find your worth in. Giving your life. What you find as worth giving your life for in two. That’s what worship is. Don’t be fooled, because the reality is that there are only two options. There is idolatry and true worship. The worship of God or a created thing. And as I said in this, my last sermon, you don’t want to worship a God that can be stolen, and the only God that can’t be stolen is the one true God. I shared that personal story of me struggling earlier today with my own worthlessness, and I the past two times I’ve cried a little. This time I’ve kept it pretty, pretty level. So. But, uh, I believe the only time, the only way that I’m able to share that. Is because I am free of that identity. How? Only because of Jesus. It was towards the end of my first year at Bible school when I started reading and really understanding who Jesus was and what the Bible said, and I read Colossians, and in Colossians things clicked. Colossians 323 through 24 says this whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord, and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. What I realized in that moment when I was reading Colossians three is that it didn’t matter if I tried and failed, because whatever I was able to do was that which God had gifted me to do in the first place.

My work was not a reflection of my worth as a person, for my worth as a person was already secured by what Jesus Christ did on the cross and by the redemption that he gave to me. And because of that, my work then became a reflection not of myself. But I was serving the Lord and it became a reflection of his goodness and the worthiness of my Savior. And because of that, I was free. My work was no longer about my worth, but about his, and it became worship because it was an expression of the worthiness of Jesus. I went from getting passing grades barely to my senior year of missing out on a 4.0 because of two classes, one teacher and two percentage points. You know, it still gets me sometimes, but I went from. Failing freshman English, they told me. They told me I was going to have to retake it, I never did. I still got a diploma. So, you know, they can’t take it back. I got a I got a zero on my writing portion of the act. Now I usually tell people that and they go, I didn’t think that was possible.

Let me tell you, it’s possible, I know. I went from doing that to writing every single lesson and sermon that I’ve given in the past 12 years. And if you would have told me that I would be reading and writing as much as I am now and what I was doing now, I would have thought you were crazy. And my my dad still reminds me of that. I can’t believe you’re doing this. And he. And he reminds me a little. But it’s good. It’s good. Because the only reason why I am able to do any of it, why I’m able to do anything that I’m able to do, is because of the grace of God and His spirit working within me, nothing else. I am a jar of clay, and therefore God deserves all of the glory. And I can take none of it, because I know that without God and His power, for I would not be able to do any of this, and perhaps the best. Passage of Scripture that sums up these ideas that we have been talking about is in Philippians three three through eight, which says this for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh, the flesh being that which you can accomplish apart from Christ, that which you are able to do on your own. Although I myself might have confidence, even in the flesh, if anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more circumcised the eighth day of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness which is found in the law blameless.

And you know what Paul is saying there is he’s saying, is anyone who has an identity that they could boast in or impress God with, it’s me. All right. If anyone has a case to make that God should accept him into his kingdom because of what he has done, it’s Paul. But he continues and he says, but whatever things were gain to me. Those things I have counted as loss for the sake of knowing of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be lost in the view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know him in the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, in order that I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Right. All those things that Paul had originally lived for put his worth in and valued. He sees now as utter garbage, not because they are in and of themselves or in comparison with others, but in comparison to knowing Christ and finding his worth in Christ. They’re nothing. They’re worthless. And because of that, Paul lives his life in true worship to God. Giving all that he is to know him and for others to know him. And we are called as believers to also live in worship, true worship, ascribing worth to what God has done for us on the cross. All right. I don’t have that. My bad. But take my word for it. If you turn open your Bibles to Romans 12 one through two, it says this. Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship. Do not be conformed 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.