Header image alt text

Living Water Church

a St. Nazianz WI (Manitowoc County) un-denominational Christian church

Your Own Understanding                                                                      Proverbs 3: 5 – 12

We are all pretty smart. In fact, we human beings are very smart people. Blessed by God with intellect. Created in His image. Given dominion over His creation. We celebrate landing on the moon as well as toddlers being potty trained. Look at all the invention and ingenuity in the last 100 years. If you were part of what some call the greatest generation who lived during both World Wars, going from radio to television to the internet in itself is an amazing transition. We are pretty smart people. If you disagree, keep in mind that we do have opposable thumbs…

With all the amazing things that humans can do, God tells us not to rely on the intellect that He has blessed us with. Read Proverbs 3: 5 – 12.

The New Living Translation (“NLT”) gives us this perspective:

  • do not depend on your own understanding (emphasis mine)
  • seek His will in all you do
  • don’t be impressed with your own wisdom – instead fear the Lord

Interestingly enough, the wisest man who ever lived wrote these words. Who is the wisest person you know? If he or she said to you to go get wisdom and understanding but do not be impressed with it – instead respect and honor the Lord, would you think that this was pretty good advice?

Verse 12 talks about the Lord disciplining us. Passages on this concept can also be found Hebrews. But did you know that it’s also found in a Book of Moses? Look at Deuteronomy 8:5. Now did you catch what Proverbs 3:12 says about that discipline though? The Lord is saying to you that He delights in you as a father does a son – He delights in you.

Read Proverbs 3:5 – 6 again. Verse 6 begins with this: “In all your ways acknowledge him.” Ever read a Scripture and ask yourself “Come on, how can I do that?” How can you trust in the Lord with all your heart? How can you not depend upon on your own understanding? Verse 6 tells you: in all your ways acknowledge Him. The NLT says it this way: Seek his will in all you do. Now, if that sounds familiar to you, Jesus said something like that in…

Matthew 6:33: Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. In prior verses  Jesus talks about food, clothes, things we can get caught up worrying about that are daily provisions. Sometimes all we are focused on is one thing: provision. Jesus taught us to pray for our provision. He called it daily bread. So why would He tell us to pray for our daily provisions yet not be concerned with them?

Read Psalm 123: 1 -2. The illustration here may not be one we today in America understand fully. The image here is waiting patiently and trusting for God to act. Jim Downing, a long-time leader in the Navigators ministry, in his book Meditation (2011, p. 101) explains it this way:

The setting of this Psalm seems to be a…banquet. The hostess…is in the line of sight of maids who have been trained from their early years to watch the hand of their mistress. This is the reason they are called handmaidens. As the meal progresses, the hostess notes that one of the guests needs a glass of water, another piece of bread, another butter, and she gives a very subtle hand signal. So subtle, in fact, that a baseball scout would probably not even be able to pick it up. As the nearest handmaiden sees the signal, she responds and the need of the guest is met. Now, what would happen if the maid’s eye wandered? Someone’s need would go unmet. In the same way, we need to be on the alert to get the necessary signals from God – directions on what we’re to do in temptation, and what we’re to do in pouring out our lives to the Christian and nonChristian alike.

The NLT Psalm 123:2 says “We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.”

In all your ways acknowledge Him. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.

The wisdom of Jairus and his friends was tested. Jairus was the ruler of the synagogue. He was the Chief Financial Officer of what was the largest nonprofit organization in the Jewish state. He may have been the CEO. His friends were probably no dummies. Yet, they told Jairus to forget it and not bother Jesus anymore when his daughter, who was ill, died. They said to him, “Jesus cannot help you or heal your daughter. It’s too late.” Read what Jesus said to Jairus in Mark 5:36.

Jairus chose to believe. He did not rely on his own understanding. You have chosen to do that in your life before. You act in faith, not by your own understanding. For some of you this is a daily choice. For some of you it is even more than a daily choice, it’s hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute.

The NLT says Matthew 6:33 this way: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Do you believe that? You can’t rely on your own understanding if you do. Earthly wisdom tells us that in order to get in this life, you have to put yourself, not God, first. Survival of the fittest. He who dies with the most toys wins. You deserve a break today. Finders keepers. Is that God’s wisdom? No.

Read Proverbs 3:7 – 12 again. If you believe these things, you can’t rely on your own understanding. It’s not logical wisdom that

  • If you fear the Lord and turn from evil, it is healing for your flesh and strength for your bones.
  • If you honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce, then He will fill your barns with grain and your vats will overflow.

Try this one:

  • Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.

Do you believe it? Do you, who the Lord delights in like a father does a son, whom that father will correct because He loves you…do you believe that you cannot rely on your own understanding?

Seek Him first. Seek His will in all you do. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Trust in the Lord, and do not rely on your own understanding.

 

His Government

Raise your hand if you will be glad on Tuesday night because you won’t have to accidentally see or hear another political ad. I just learned that our television viewing area was the #1 area in the country for political ads. I’m sure the local welcome wagon and tourism boards will be marketing that to outsiders looking to move here. I’m sure it’s in all the corporate recruiting packets. Great place to raise a family, the lake is so beautiful it reminds tourists of the ocean, and all the political ads you could ever want!

The last few Presidential elections I have heard “I’m not voting because I don’t like either of them” and many things along those lines. So, how do you decide? Do you prayerfully choose and vote for the candidate who lines up best with Biblical values and Christian world view, or do you choose just not to go to the polls at all? If you are having a hard time choosing or your choice is to do nothing, you could check out Randy Alcorn’s blogs on voting. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. The Bible has many things to say about our government and what our Jesus-based attitude should be toward it. Let’s study a few passages, starting in the Old Testament.

Read Deuteronomy 16:18 – 20.

All leaders of God’s people are under the authority of God and His Word. Leaders, like parents, exercise God’s authority toward those under them. Justice without partiality derives from the character of God. Let’s look at a familiar passage often read at Christmas. And it’s not too early for Christmas – some radio stations started playing Christmas music on November 1.

Read Isaiah 9:2 – 7 in your Bible. The New Living Translation says it this way: “The government will rest on His shoulders.” As I think about that phrase, I picture that famous image of Atlas’ holding the entire earth upon his shoulders. And he’s not shrugging. Ever. Jesus can handle the whole world on His shoulders, no problem. The Message paraphrase translates these verses in Isaiah this way:

For a child has been born – for us! the gift of a son – for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness He brings…He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom. He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going with fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always.

Does that picture of Jesus in control increase your faith that no matter the result of a political election that Jesus has the government on His shoulders? What about a government we do not agree with? We’re blessed to be in a country with religious liberty written into the document that is one of the foundations for our government, the Constitution. But what if we had a king or dictator in charge of our country? It would probably be harder to picture the government resting upon Jesus’ shoulders. But it would be. Jesus lived in a time of a dictator. How did he respond to government regulations? Let’s look at that in…

Luke 20:21 – 25. Read this in your Bible. Jesus teaches that we should pay our taxes. More importantly, just like in the passage in Isaiah pointed to earthly government and His kingdom, the two kingdoms that we live in now on earth, Jesus points to what is important in His kingdom, the government that will last eternally. The Roman coin Jesus asks for bears the image of Caesar. Jesus said give to the government what is theirs. We are to obey civil law in the realm of civil government. But like the Roman coin bore the image of Caesar, we bear the image of God. We are created in His image. We are His image bearers. We also need to give to God what is His: ourselves.

Paul also taught about government to Roman Christians in Romans 13:1 – 7. Please read this in your Bible. This shows that government is ordained by God. We know that God is in control, but sometimes that is hard for us to believe. God does approve of disobeying government when it would make us disobey God. References here would be Exodus 1 where Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharaoh; 1 Kings 18 where King Ahab’s household manager hid 100 of the Lord’s prophets when Jezebel wanted to get rid of them; Esther 4:16 where Esther communicated that she would do what is illegal to try to save God’s people; Daniel chapters 3 & 6 – how many times did Daniel disobey the government…and he was a government employee – as well as his buddies Shadrach and Meshach and Benny;  the Magi not going back to Herod in Matthew 2; Peter in Acts 5:29 with the famous “We must obey God rather than men” stance. There were times when God raised up leaders to rebel against government and deliver His people from evil rulers. For references of this, the entire themes of the books of Exodus and Judges, the lives of Moses, Samson, Gideon, and David are examples.

Now, come Tuesday night, or maybe it will take until December for a state then the Supreme Court to determine what a hanging chad is – I always felt sorry for guys named Chad back then – what will you do if your candidate loses. The one you voted for didn’t get in. What about if he wins? You’ll be happy and the world will finally work like it should! Well, the guy you voted for is human. Let’s look again at what Paul says.

1 Timothy 2: 1 – 6. We are to pray for all people and thanksgiving be made for them. That includes “kings and all who are in authority” – the Message paraphrase says “Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well.”

Not convinced yet? Ok, one more. Let’s go to Titus. Titus is a letter from Paul to Titus describing a healthy congregation of His church.

Titus 3:1 – 2. The Message paraphrases it this way “Remind the people to respect the government and be law abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God’s people should be big-hearted and courteous.”

No matter the election results, Jesus has the government resting on His shoulders. And as Christians our primary world is not this one. It’s His kingdom.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand up to tyranny and those officials who disobey God. On the contrary. Yet, we are told to pray for whom He puts in authority. It’s His government. So let’s do that and go to prayer for that right now.

What Should We Know About What We’re Expecting   John 14:1-4

Merry 6th Day of Christmas! How many of your true loves have already brought you 5 golden rings, 4 colly birds, 3 French hens, 2 turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree? If you want to re-gift any of those items, let us know. Do you know what day comes after the 12th Day of Christmas? Epiphany. The traditional Christian church calendar certainly includes Christmas and Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, which is 50 days after Easter. It also includes Epiphany, which is traditionally celebrated on January 6th. January 6th just so happens to fall on a Sunday this year. And by that Sunday you will not know what to do with the 12 drummers drumming and the 11 pipers piping, but worship team practice is scheduled for them this week. I have no recommendations for the leaping lords and dancing ladies – the Nutcracker performances are over. I have some cleaning to do for the maids. As for the cows that they are milking and the swimming swans, can’t help you there.

I’m supposed to be talking about Epiphany. Epiphany is the celebration of the Magi from the East, who were not Jews by the way, but knew the stars and probably studied other cultures. Here’s what they knew. Let’s read Micah 5:2. So, what did they – these wise men – know about what they were expecting? They knew that the star had not been there before. They knew the new star meant that the King of the Jews was born. They knew He deserved to be worshiped like a King. They knew He deserved Kingly gifts. They knew this would be a journey for them because they may likely end up in the land of the Jews, though they didn’t know for sure where the star would lead them exactly. Sort of sounds like us and God. We know what He says to us in His Word, the Bible, but we’re not exactly sure where we will end up exactly.

Back to Epiphany. Let’s read Matthew 2:1- 12. By the time these wise men got to Jesus, He was in a house. Bible scholars believe Jesus was two years old or so when these men arrived. The gifts they brought were expensive Kingly gifts – gifts of wealth, worship, and sacrificial death. Gold is fairly obvious. Not to obvious is myrrh – used in incense in the Temple and in ancient burial. And frankincense, also used in incense, again particularly in the Old Testament Temple. Were the wise men of the East that in tune with Jewish customs of incense burning as a form of worship in their Temple that they knew what was in the incense? Perhaps so because the ingredients were traded by merchants of that time, and prices for them were sometimes more expensive than gold. But were they, by giving these gifts of incense, also foreshadowing Jesus’ sacrificial death for His people (and us) by the giving of the myrrh? I don’t know, but it’s interesting to think about.

I think it’s incredible the expectation that the wise men had for this King. They expected to journey to find this newborn King. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they set the whole city a-buzz (verse 3). Why wasn’t Herod expecting this King? Why weren’t all the Jews in Jerusalem remembering anything about a Messiah when they heard that these foreigners were looking for this King of the Jews? Verse 3 says Herod and all Jerusalem with him were troubled by hearing of this newborn King. Maybe the 15 – 20 or so generations between Jesus’ birth and the last recorded Old Testament prophet Malachi had something to do with that. Generations lost of memorizing Old Testament Scripture, passing down the Word from God by the fathers of each Jewish household. Could happen. Does that sound familiar, like what could be happening in the United States generation after generation?

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on the Jerusalem Jews being troubled when they heard about strange wise men from the East inquiring about where the newborn King of the Jews was. I think I can parallel that to something that we are supposedly expecting as believers but maybe if we were hit over the head with it, we wouldn’t know what it was. What that parallel is is this: What should we know about what we’re expecting about…Heaven. Do we really know what Heaven is like? What does the Bible say about it? Think about all the things you heard about Heaven your whole life. You may have heard any number of things about Heaven such as:

  • Only good people go there,
  • or what might be worse yet and is becoming more common today – everyone will go there,
  • The streets are paved with gold,
  • We’ll be singing praises to God 24/7…and we may have harps and be sitting on clouds and look like angels,
  • All dogs to go heaven,
  • Grandpa (or another close relative that has gone before us) is looking down upon us from Heaven,
  • Heaven is a wonderful place – filled with Glory and Grace – I want to see my Savior’s face ’cause Heaven is a wonderful place – I want to go there (repeat),
  • I’m but a stranger here – Heaven is my Home.

What else have you heard about Heaven?

Let’s begin with what Jesus says about Heaven. Let’s read John 14: 1-4. Jesus is talking to His 11 disciples here, since a few verses before this Judas is excused to go out to quickly do what he was to do, which is to betray Jesus. And if you read starting in chapter 13, where Jesus washes his disciples’ feet in humility, through chapter 17 right before He goes out to be betrayed the day before He dies, Jesus is talking to His disciples continuously about all these reasons why and how He will be with them when He is gone. By the way, He says this to us, His disciples, His followers, now:

  • In chapter 13, He tells us that we can’t go where He is going quite yet (He has work for us to do on Earth for His Kingdom first) but He wants us to love one another while we are here on Earth. He tells Peter that he will deny Him. But in the very next verse He says “Do not let your hearts be troubled” – He is going to prepare a place for us in Heaven. I have never thought of Jesus, until right now, as the general contractor of my house in Heaven.
  • In chapter 14, we know the way to God’s dwelling place, Heaven, where the Father is, and He will not leave us as orphans on Earth but will send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to be with us
  • In chapter 15, if people don’t like us because of Him, because of Jesus, it’s Ok because the Holy Spirit will be with us
  • In chapter 16, Jesus tells us that our sorrow here on Earth will turn to joy in Heaven
  • In chapter 17, Jesus prays for us. It’s an unbelievable prayer. Please read it this week.

In that next chapter in John, chapter 18, we see Jesus going out to be betrayed. This all happened on the Thursday before Jesus died, on Friday.

Jesus presently, right now, is seated in Heaven next to God the Father interceding for us, praying prayers like we see Him praying in John 17. Paul states this in Romans 8 and Colossians 3, and it’s stated in Hebrews 8. It also says this at the very end of Mark, and in Luke 22 Jesus told the Jewish council that He would be at God’s right hand very soon. Stephen saw this in Acts 7 right before he died. He was given a glimpse into Heaven right before he died, actual present Heaven. So we know that Heaven is God’s dwelling place – created by Him to be His dwelling place that is presently apart from Earth, and that right now Jesus is sitting there in present Heaven at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. He doesn’t have to dwell there in Heaven. He chooses to. Where He really wants to be is with us. That’s why He sent Jesus as our replacement for our wrongdoing – to make us Holy and blameless like Him so He can dwell with us. We see this in Genesis 3:8 where the Lord is walking in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and in Revelation 21:3 (we’ll look at this shortly) where we hear a shout saying that God will now dwell among his in this New Heaven and New Earth. John 14:23 says God will make His home with us, His followers. His eternal intent is to be with us, just like He walked in Eden with Adam and Eve who He created in His image.

That’s a peek at Heaven now, in the present, where we believers will go right after we die. The present Heaven. It’s paradise, as Jesus states to the believing thief on the cross next to Him in Luke 23:43. The new Heaven will meld present Heaven and a renewed Earth into the new Heaven on Earth. The Bible in several places refers to this as the New Heaven and the New Earth. What will that look like? First of all, let me say this: look to Scripture for what Heaven is like, Heaven present and the New Heaven. If there’s one thing that satan lies about, it’s what Heaven is like. Because if Heaven is made out to be boring and dull thus stealing our joy of it, it is not the work of anyone else but a liar, the liar. In Revelation 13:6 the beast slanders not only God, His name, and those in Heaven, but also His dwelling place. And, I like how author Randy Alcorn puts this: “It must be maddening for him [satan] that we’re now entitled to the home he was kicked out of.” So, lies about Heaven not existing or it being mythical and not real or it being boring are just that: lies.

What will the new Heaven be like? Let’s look at Revelation 21:1-5.

  • It will be new – it will change somehow from its present state to being a part of a new Earth as well. Verse 1 says new and the old disappears. Ephesians 1:10 says God will unite all things in heaven and on earth in Him.
  • a city, New Jerusalem, is part of it.
  • It’s still God’s home. By definition Heaven is God’s dwelling place. He’s here.
  • It’s our home. With God.
  • Us, His people, will have no more death or sorrow or crying or pain because these things are gone.
  • We can believe it. It is trustworthy and true.

Now there is certainly more in the Bible about Heaven and what it will be like, what our resurrection bodies will be like, what our work will be in His Kingdom, that elements of the Garden of Eden such as the Tree of Life will be in the New Jerusalem in the New Heaven, but we’ll stop here today. I encourage you to dig deeper in the Bible with what Heaven is like, and what it will be like to be in the same dwelling place as the Lord. And if you are not 100% sure if you are going to Heaven when you die, please contact one of us so know that you have that assurance.

 

What to Expect When You (?) Are Expecting – Luke 1:35

The Christmas season is a wonderful time for reflection amidst the planning and shopping and writing and baking and trying to take just one decent picture of your kids to mail or email to everyone you know with a Christmas and New Year’s wish…until you finally decide that that expectation just isn’t going to happen. That’s why collages of pictures all throughout the year were invented. Some of us don’t feel like we’ll be able to reflect until after the holidays are over and friends and extended family have left. (Or, we were the ones leaving and now we’re back home in our natural habitat).

Most of us recall from the traditional Christmas story that “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” This line is in Luke 2:19. Why do you think this verse is even recorded here? If you put yourself in Mary’s place, I think we can agree that what she was expecting to happen in her life probably did not involve being the mother of Jesus…and all this happening before she had her engagement ring from Joseph. I am sure she had thoughts of being proposed to and how romantic that would be. Her plans for her wedding. What she could expect from her first year of marriage. She may have been expecting to have a home birth, but she wasn’t exactly expecting a manger birth.

Now, here’s something Mary was certainly not expecting. When she asked the angel how she could be the mother of Jesus, the angel said this to her. Let’s look at one verse of the Christmas story in Luke 1:35. And keep in mind that God says this to us every waking moment of our lives. Read Luke 1:35.

Why would the angel messenger Gabriel tell Mary that all three persons of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – be involved in this miracle of the baby Jesus? God the Father is represented in this verse as the Most High from the Hebrew word Elyon which translates to the Most High God. The word used to describe the action of God the Father is “overshadowed.” That might be difficult to picture. Sometimes the word overshadowed seems negative like a shadow looming over you. That’s not what this means here. The picture here is a shining cloud wrapped around Mary. So we have all three persons of the triune God there with Mary.

I don’t think Mary doubted the messenger Gabriel for a second. At first she couldn’t find the words to express what she was beginning to process. When she was able to speak, after hearing of these wonders from Gabriel and putting that together with her understanding of what she had heard from her parents growing up and the Scriptures discussed by her father and around the temple, all these years hearing of the Messiah and her people’s special relationship with Elyon the Lord God Most High, I think her question was an inquiry into what God had in store for her. If she had doubted, maybe she would have been unable to speak until her son was born, just like her cousin Zacharias. Look at Mary’s response in the following few verses 36 – 38. Zacharias’s response to news from this same angel is in verses 18 – 20. It took a young woman to not doubt and hand over her expectations to the Lord. Zacharias, a priest, did not hand his expectations over to the Lord right away. The Message paraphrase of the Bible says that Zacharias’ response to the angel was “Do you expect me to believe this?” Later, when Zacharias wrote down that the name of his son would be John as the angel told Zacharias to name him, rather than naming his son after himself or another man in his family as the tradition usually was in that day, his speech was restored. He had given his expectations over to the Lord, just like Mary had. So they were no longer his expectations; they were the Lord’s. As Mary stated (The Message paraphrase of the Bible translates it this way), “Yes, I see it all now. I am the Lord’s, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.”

Here’s the question I would like for us to examine today. What are we expecting? And that’s probably not even the right question. The right question is closer to “Are our expectations the Lord’s expectations?” or are our expectations really our own idea that has not been prayed through, that has not been given over to the Lord as a servant would – ready to serve, like Mary’s response?

As followers of Jesus who have made that decision to follow Him as our first order of business on earth, acknowledging that only by His grace He took our place for our wrongdoing since we can do nothing to earn a right relationship with Him…as followers of Jesus, Elyon – the Most High God, God the Father – is wrapped around us in His shining cloud. The Holy Spirit is upon us. And we certainly know Jesus. Is there any reason we cannot expect God to have better things in store for us than we can even imagine, like Mary, and that God’s expectations are beyond our own expectations? What if those expectations, though, are not expectations for ourselves but are our own expectations for one of our parents, or for our kids, or our spouse, or a loved one, or a friend? What are our expectations for them? Are they God’s expectations?

Matthew 6:33 says to seek Him first. Read Matthew 6:33. If we seek Him first in our expectations, He takes care of the rest. He took care of Mary, traveling on a donkey, giving her and Joseph a place to rest to have their baby. Joseph was expecting to be able to have their baby at the Bethlehem Holiday Inn. But what God provided for them, that barn, or what some believe to be a cave, with the manger to place baby Jesus in, it was sufficient for them by God’s expectations.

When you read the Bible and discover that many of the major characters in the Bible had expectations that were not God’s at first but then gave up their own expectations to God: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, Jeremiah (and that’s just the beginning), they, like we, all had expectations. But only when they gave their expectations over to God to allow Him to lead (as a servant would, like Mary, to seek Him first)…only when their expectations were God’s expectations did God’s plan of salvation, through the human ancestry of Jesus, kick in. Like Mary said “I am the Lord’s, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” – is that what we are saying to the Lord?

Are our expectations the Lord’s expectations? Even though we do not know exactly what the Lord has in store for us when we do turn our expectations over to the Lord, like Mary did, we can expect great things. As we read further in Luke 1, you’ll see that Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is married to Zacharias. And we know it’s the best visit they ever had for two reasons. One, Mary could finally get in a word edgewise because Zacharias couldn’t speak! Secondly, and most importantly, a musical breaks out! Elizabeth starts and Mary finishes in what is recorded in verses 46 – 55, traditionally called The Magnificat. In it, it talks of the expectations of an entire people group – God’s chosen people, Israel, the Hebrews, the Jews – being fulfilled through her and her baby. The last line in Mary’s song speaks of God’s fulfillment of expectations of the Promised Messiah so she, and us, can spend eternity with God. Not her expectations, not our expectations, but God’s expectations. That’s what you can expect from God – He takes care of the rest when we seek Him first. Just like Mary.

 

Many of us may have been confronted by the phrase “Who do you think you are?” It may have been a parent that said this to you, after repeating your entire name – including your middle name, of course. It may have been a teacher. Maybe a sheriff’s deputy after pulling me over for speeding – I did not respond with “A really fast guy.” For some of us the question of “Who do you think you are?” still resonates in the exact tone of voice that this was said to us, because maybe it happened on more than one occasion!

But if you really think about it, who do you think you are?

Mark Driscoll has this to say.

The fundamental problem we have in this world is that we don’t understand who we truly are…and [we] define ourselves by any number of things other than Jesus.

He goes on to say that

You aren’t what’s been done to you – but what Jesus has done for you.                                         You aren’t what you do – but what Jesus has done.                                                                             What you do doesn’t determine who you are. Rather, who you are in Jesus determines what you do. (Emphasis mine.)

Think about that.

  • You aren’t what’s been done to you,
  • You aren’t what you do,
  • What you do doesn’t determine what you are, but
  • Who you are in Jesus determines what you do.

Let’s look at a few Bible passages that back up these truths and help us think about who we are.

Read Deuteronomy 8:17 -18. The Message paraphrase version of the Bible says it this way:

If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine.” – well, think again. Remember that the LORD your God gave you the strength to produce all this wealth. (Emphasis mine.)

Let’s look at a Bible passage that might be more familiar. Read Ephesians 2:8-10. The New Living Translation version of the Bible says it this way:

God saved you by His Grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

The passages in Deuteronomy and Ephesians make it clear that we as the redeemed followers of Jesus have a different perspective on what is ours and what we have done. In fact, to be clear here, we have not done anything. If getting to heaven was up to us, we couldn’t do it. It’s only by God’s grace – His free gift – that we can even get to heaven. So, be glad that You aren’t what you do. In John 15:5 Jesus said it this way: “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Read that Scripture. Now read 2 Corinthians 3:5. This Bible passage says that we are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. So, be glad that What you do doesn’t determine what you are.

Look back at Ephesians 2:8-10. The phrase “He has planned good things for us to do long ago” in Ephesians 2:10 helps us see that Who you are in Jesus determines what you do. Read Jeremiah 1:5 and see what God said to Jeremiah.  The New Living Translation says it this way (this is the LORD talking directly to Jeremiah):

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you.

The New King James Version of the Bible says it this way: He (God) ordained Jeremiah. Most of us probably have never been part of an ordination. An ordination is a ceremony, usually a religious one, with a keynote speaker who gives a keynote address blessing and praying for the one being ordained. Imagine this: in heaven…thousands of ordination ceremonies occurring… before God creates each new baby in his or her mother’s womb. The LORD ordained each one of us; He set each one of us apart. He appointed each one of us. To do what? Look back at Ephesians 2:10 for the answer. He ordained each one of us to do “the good things He planned for us to do long ago” for His Kingdom. The Keynote Speaker who gave the address at each one of our ordination ceremonies talked about these things – these are the reasons we were created. And he calls us His masterpieces. Read what David said about how God made us very specifically in Psalm 139:13-16.

The New International Version of the Bible uses the word “ordained” in verse 16:

Your eyes saw my unformed substance. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

If you need further proof, Paul says the same thing about God and himself in Galatians 1:15.

Finally, let’s look at this truth: You aren’t what’s been done to you. Read Revelation 12:10-11.

First of all, know that whatever has happened to you in your past – whatever has been done to you, it is overcome by Jesus. Whatever has been said about you to ruin your reputation, it has been defeated by Jesus. Secondly, what has happened to you is part of your personal story. Another word for your personal story is your testimony. What Jesus (the Lamb) has done for you, in your place and by His grace, is part of your testimony. Therefore, You aren’t what’s been done to you; however, in a mighty way, Jesus will use your testimony, His victory over whoever accuses you, His victory over whatever happened to you in order to win others to Him. It may also be part of your ordination, to minister to those who have suffered like you have. But keep this at the forefront of your mind: He has overcome. What does that mean for us? That means…

  • we don’t have to live for anyone else’s approval,
  • our self-image is based on God’s image – in which He created us (Genesis 1:26-27),
  • our identity is in Jesus – and not what we do that determines what we are, and
  • Jesus has ordained you and set you apart for his work. As you read His Word in the Bible, listen as He tells you who you are.
  • When you get to the point where you are happy and even joyous in who you are in Jesus, that is what the apostle Paul calls the true freedom in Christ (in Galatians chapter 5).
  • Finally, the next time you have identity amnesia or want to identify yourself with your job, your family, your things, your sufferings, your future, or anything that is not Jesus, please know that, in your identity in Jesus, you are
    • Saved,
    • Loved,
    • Adopted (into the family of Jesus),
    • Forgiven,
    • Blessed,
    • Appreciated,
    • Heard,
    • Healed,
    • Gifted,
    • New,
    • Rewarded,
    • Victorious,

and you will think and say that you are first (identified as) a follower of Jesus who (secondly) also works in manufacturing, is a daughter or son, is a sufferer of a disease, or who hopes to have “successful” kids. We aren’t fathers who follow Jesus; we are followers of Jesus who are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, ministers to His people, have jobs, volunteer, go to school, play basketball, paint and sell rocks, and do art at the kitchen table. We are first followers of Jesus.

Who do you think you are?