Big Idea: Remember who you are because of the gospel, and let that lead you to love others.
As far as I’m concerned, September is really the beginning of a new year. January 1 is okay, but I find that Labour Day is the big reset in my life.
So it’s a good time as we hit reset to focus on what really matters most for us as a church. In two weeks, we’re celebrating our third anniversary as a church. Every year around this time, I want to loop back and refocus so that we remember what matters most.
I’m keeping this short today. Here are the two things I want you to emphasize.
Remember who you are.
If I could do anything this morning, it would be to remind you who you are. Look at who Paul says you are in verse 12: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…”
In a few minutes we’re going to look at what Paul says we should do. But before he tells us what to do, he begins by telling us who we are. This is a general principle: what we do flows out of who we are. We always have to begin with our identity.
This summer I read a fascinating book called Hellhound on His Trail. It’s about James Earl Ray, the man who killed Dr. Martin Luther King. I don’t know if you knew this, but Ray fled to Toronto after he killed King. He lived at 102 Ossington, just across from Bang Bang, and then moved to Dundas Street West, just north of Trinity Bellwoods Park.
While he was in Toronto, he decided he needed a new identity. He found out that, at that time, you didn’t need ID or a guarantor to get a Canadian passport. He found a name, signed a form in the presence of a notary saying that he was that person, and sent the form to Ottawa. “Welcome to Canada, the expression went, we believe you.”
It was just that easy to steal someone’s identity back then. Thankfully, it’s harder now, but it’s still relatively easy. According to one source, identity theft affects 8-11 million people a year. and costs $38-54 billion annually.
According to Paul, Christians are people who have taken on someone else’s identity, and it’s okay with God. You’ve been given an identity that you weren’t born with, and that you didn’t earn the right to use. It’s been given to you as a gift. But you’re welcome to use this identity. “You’re invited to empty the checking account and use all the benefits this identity brings! This is so much better than identity theft—it’s an identity gift!” (Elyse Fitzpatrick)
For those who are followers of Jesus Christ, this is our identity:
- We are chosen.
- We are holy.
- We are loved.
You are three things.
First, you’re chosen. Think about this for a moment. You probably think you chose God. Paul is saying that if you are a Christian, it’s not at all because you chose God. God chose you. The God of the universe called your name and has set you apart for himself.
Second, you’re holy. You are probably thinking, “Whoa. Hold on a second. Do you even know me? I’m anything but holy. I wish I was, but I’m simply not.” Well, Paul says you are. Because you are in Jesus Christ, when God looks at you, he sees Jesus. He already sees you as holy. Because he sees you as holy, you have permission to begin living as a holy person.
Third, you’re loved. Henri Nouwen says:
We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, “You are my Beloved.”
This is our identity, because it’s Jesus’ identity, and he’s given it to us. We are chosen, holy, and loved, because Jesus is chosen, holy, and loved, and we’re in him.
We exist as a church to remind ourselves what Jesus has done for us. Every week that you come here, you’re going to hear about what Jesus has done for people like us.
Last week Apple had an event. They announced a new iPhone and a new version of their Watch. It’s all pretty exciting if you’re an Apple fan, and pretty off-putting for everyone else. Every year, they have to come up with something better and better than the year before. As good as this year’s iPhone 7 is, next year they’re going to tell you that you should probably upgrade because there’s something even better now.
With the gospel, it’s the exact opposite. There will never be a new release or an improvement to what we’ve already been given. The greatest thing that ever happened to us happened two thousand years ago in Jerusalem. What Jesus did there changed everything. Because of Jesus, we have a new identity: chosen, holy, and loved. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Let that change how you love others.
What Jesus did changes everything. Paul says:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)
Let me make it simple. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are called to be the most compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, and loving people that anybody encounters anywhere. Why? Because it’s how Jesus treated us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived in and opposed Nazi Germany, wrote one of the most compelling books on Christian community. He said:
Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it’s a brief single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this, we belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.
What he means is this: We relate to each other through Christ. I have Christ in me; you have Christ in you. We relate to each other through Christ, and for Christ’s sake. Our entire relationship is permeated by Christ.
we relate to each other through Christ that between you and me, I have Christ in me, you have Christ in you, we relate to each other through Christ for the sake of Christ. Our entire relationship is permeated by Christ. When we relate to each other based on Christ, we’ll become the most gracious, loving, and forgiving people anywhere.
Who wouldn’t want to be part of a church like this? This is the culture that we want to see characterize Liberty Grace Church. We’re going to nourish this and protect this. It’s why we want you to join a small group this Fall. We want to cultivate and foster the kinds of relationships.
If I met someone, and they asked about our church, here’s what I would say. We want to be a church that’s all about Jesus, and the fact that anyone can take on his identity, and be called, holy, and loved. And because we have his identity, we also have his love, and we get to love and be loved in community in a way you won’t experience anywhere else.
So welcome to our Fall kickoff. That’s what we’re all about. More Jesus, more community, and then more mission as we spread the news about Jesus to everyone that we meet.