My 3 year old daughter puts her hands on my face, draws her face close and says, “Daddy, I’m Selah, right?”
Selah is one of the most precious children I’ve been around. She is always laughing. I’m lucky to be her dad. Selah has this one unusual thing about her: if you call her by another name she gets really insecure. A few years ago my wife and I were watching Celebrity Apprentice and, we taught our 5 year old, Sophia, to say, “You’re fired.” Quick disclaimer we taught her this before it was a political statement. Sophia tells Selah she is fired. Selah runs to me, crying and says, “Sophia said I was fired. But I’m selah, right?”
There’s a lesson in here for all of us. “She’ll say, I’m Selah, right?”
Are you ever unsure of who you are? Perhaps you’ve tried to figure out who you are. Lately FB has been pushing that we fill out a description of us. It says, “Describe who you are.” Have you seen this? I think to myself, I don’t have time to try to explain myself.
When someone asks who are you, or if someone asks you to describe you, what do you say?
Some of us here who believe in Christ believe Christ is one part of our life. When asked to describe us, we list out a few things. We have kids. We work here. We like reading and golf. I’m from Huntsville. Oh, and I go to church.
What if we were totally missing the point on who we are? I mean seriously, I’m speaking to each one of us. What if you’ve got it wrong on who you are? Is it possible? Let’s read a passage from the Bible that can help us remember who we are, and the implications of our real identity.
1 Corinthians 15:54b-58 Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
If my 3 year old can become insecure when she is unsure who she is, the effects on an adult are even more severe. If you forget who you are, the effects are severe, and miserable.
I’ve found that when I’m at my lowest, it’s because I’ve forgotten who I am. When I’m snappy with my wife, it’s because I’ve forgotten who I am. When I’m micromanaging my family it’s because I’ve forgotten who I really am. When I am harsh to one of my children, it’s because I’ve forgotten who I am. When I decide to be selfish instead of sacrificial, it’s because I forgot who I really am.
If you are a Christian, Christ is not part of your identity. Christ is your identity.
Let’s explore the passage.
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin,
The claim of Scripture is that death entered because sin entered. Sin, simply defined is disobedience to God. The consequences of sin is not only death in this life, but also separation from God. That was the sting of death: death in this life and separation from God eternally. Before Christ we had one identity: enemies with God.
Paul, the author, continues, “and the power of sin is the law.”
The law here refers to the laws given my Moses to the people who followed God. Jesus said these laws could be summed up in loving God and others as ourself. What this scripture is teaching us is that if you want to see just how powerful sin is, try to live your life loving God and others as yourself.
Just try to live a good life in your own strength and see how powerful sin lives within you.
Greed! Hate! Lust! I’ll never look at that again, I’ll never do that again, I’ll never think that again. You say you will never do something again, then you do it. You resolve to stop something wrong, than you give-in to it. Moving forward I’ll only do what’s right, then you do what’s wrong. Like a man who tells his wife he’ll always love her, than he cheats on her - we intend one thing, but then do another thing. You start to think, I’m lost in my own poor choices, I’ll never get it right. You say no more, only to do it once more. We see the power of sin when we try to do good.
On our own, we are hopeless.
Have you ever seen a squirrel in a squirrel trap? It can fight all it wants but the cage has it. !Sin is our cage! Arguably the band Smashing Pumpkin’s most popular song, Bullet with Butterfly Wings has a lyric that says, Despite all of my rage, I’m just a rat in the cage.” The song goes on to make a point that Jesus couldn’t save him. Since there was no other Savior, he has no other hope. Could it be that in spite of our good intentions we can’t break out of the cage of doing wrong towards God and others?
Is all lost? Is all lost? Let’s look at our text.
57 !!But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.!!
The Smashing Pumpkins were wrong. Christ has won. No matter how bad the things are you’ve done, you can be made right with God. It is only Christ that can bust you out of the cage.
We have been given something we did not deserve. Think back to school days. Did you ever get caught for doing something wrong? Was anyone here a sneaky kid? Are you a sneaky kid? One of the best feelings as an immature child is to get away with something you were guilty of. But imagine you were caught red handed. And then the teacher says, you stole this. You know what I’ll do, I’ll personally repay what you stole. Not only are you off the hook, but last month I received a teacher of the year award and was given a gift basket of goodies. And the teacher hands you the gift bag of goodies. That’s starting to get at what Christ has done for us. That’s what Christ has done for us! He took our punishment then gave us his reward.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus gives us total victory. You may ask, how did Jesus give us total victory? Because Jesus took the sting of death for us! We deserved that sting, but Christ took it for us! All those jacked up things we just talked about. The things we say we will never do but then do them, Jesus took the punishment we deserved. That’s why you see so many crosses everywhere. It was on that cross that Christ paid the penalty for our sins.
Not only has Jesus took the sting we deserved for those jacked up things. He has given us the reward he earned. Jesus took our punishment. He went to the cross and paid for our sins. Then on the 3rd day he arose Easter morning having received the reward for his perfect obedience. Now, those of us who place our faith in Christ have received this reward as well. Do you see the grace and goodness of Christ in this? He took our punishment, then gave us the victory he alone earned.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable,
Christ has made you into something new, he has given you a new identity. You are no longer the rat in a cage trapped by your own shortcomings. You’re a child of God. Paul says my brothers. We were enemies, but now we’ve been adopted into the family of God. Now your brother is not only the apostle paul but even Christ himself. Do you act like one who has received everything from Christ or do you still lean towards acting like an enemy to God?
So many things in our life cause life to be harder than it should be. Not all, but many of the frustrations in life are a direct result of us being movable or not holding fast because we’re confused about our identity. We’re one thing, but we act like something else. We’re called to generosity but we act stingy. We’re called to love but we act angry. We’re called to faith but we’re constantly in fear. This is what identity-confusion in Christ looks like. When we get who we are confused, it causes all kind of stress and pain in our lives.
Paul continues, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Our text says always abound in the work of the Lord. I recently read from an author that most of our misery is because of an over-focus on ourselves. We’re constantly worrying and feeling anxiety because there is something in our life that is not going the way we want it to.
If we pivot our focus off of ourselves and start focusing on the work of the Lord which you could sum up as loving God and others as ourselves, we will find life much more meaningful. Why is this? Why would putting our focus on others make life more enjoyable? Because if we’ve become Christ followers, our true identity is loving God and others as ourselves.
Acting out of our identity in Christ is never in vain. The cost of following Christ is high. Yes, it changes everything. But the high cost of living out of your identity as a Christ follower is always worth it. The more we act out of our old identities as enemies to Christ, the more we will find life draining, miserable and hopeless. The more we act out of our identities as Christ followers, the more joyful, peaceful, and the more fulfilling of a life we will have.
This leads us back to our main problem this morning. We either forgot or don’t know who we are. Most of our lives are compartmentalized. Our lives are compartmentalized to the point we’re not sure who we are any more. We have work, we have family, we have hobbies, we have God.
Who am I really? A decent engineer? an okay husband? A great friend? There is nothing you can find in Biblical teaching that suggests this compartmentalization is good. The reality is if you follow Christ, your identity if first and foremost a Christ-follower. everything is for God. So when you work, work as if you weren’t doing it for an extra buck or the approval of another man or woman, DON’T work as if you were working for some compartmentalized identity.
Don’t work to be a great engineer. When you work, let your motivation to be a great engineer because you want to work as if you were working for Christ himself. When you spend time with your families and friends, don’t do so to be a good friend. Do so out of your identity as a Christ follower. When you go to church, do not do so just to check off a to-do list. Instead, remember your identity as a Christ follower.
If you are a Christ follower, God is not one part of your identity, he is your identity.
To be clear, and if you’re new here, please listen carefully: We don’t do things so that God will love us. That is typically what religion tells us. That is NOT what Jesus tells us. Doing good things so Jesus loves us is opposite of what Jesus told us. Jesus told us we are already loved. So we should act out of the love we’ve already been given.
It’s the difference between a child cleaning her room to try to win the affection of her parents versus a child knowing just how much daddy and mommy loves her and so she cleans the room with a full heart.
If you’re not a Christ follower, I want to invite you to take a next step in finding what you’ve been looking for. Today, you can know who you really are. You can find the open, welcoming and waiting arms of your heavenly father. Myself and multitudes around the world have experienced the love of God. There is a God. He absolutely loves you. He wants you to love him too.
How do we apply this passage? This passage tells us a lot. So what? If you want to apply this passage I want to invite you to calendar one hour this week asking yourself, “Who am I really?” Once you identity your identity, ask, are you acting out of your new identity in Christ? You need to know who you are, and you need to know who you are not
Remember my daughter. She looks me in the eyes and she says, “Daddy, may name is Selah, right?”
Ironically, Selah’s name means to pause and to reflect. You and I need to pause and reflect today on, who am I? Each of us need to take an honest look into the face of our father which can best be seen in the pages of the Bible and ask, “Daddy, who am I?”