How do we come to understand our sense of worth, know who we are, and how does this matter? Today’s society has consistently defined and redefined what it means to be someone. In this message, I explore the idea of identity in Christ by looking at the two questions Christ asks.
Focusing on our identity in Christ
Scripture: Luke 9:18-20; Matthew 16:13-19; and, Mark 8:27-29
- Solitude and Prayer
- Question Christ asked was not even one but a continuation of a searching inquiry
- The second question is another, and more personal, continuation of a searching inquiry
- Through personal revelation – Simon made his confession of who Christ is
- Christ changes Simon’s name to Peter and blesses him with power and authority
I recently watched Netflix’s Black Mirror. One episode really grabbed my interest. The episode is called “nosedive”, and the character, Lacie, interacts with people. Everyone appears to have some type of implant that allows them to see other people’s rank. Each person, including the main character, walks around with a device and clicks on a star. Now, if you ever taken a Lyft, or an Uber, you select how many stars to give this person. Allowing that person to either increase in their rank or decrease in their rank.
Lacie’s identity is defined by other’s perception and how they rate her. The higher her ratings, the higher she is ranked. If their perception of Lacie, as one watches, is not good, her rating and rank goes down. In one scene, she attempts to describe some sense of meaning and purpose for her life compared to the truck driver she is riding with.
Many of us, today, are like this character. We define our identity based on the perception of other people. And, this is something my daughter’s mother and I are helping her navigate through. With modern technology, social media, we are in a hyper-reality.
Today, I want to walk with you as we briefly encounter Christ and His disciples. Our question to wrestle with is this: Who do you say I am? The key passage we will be focusing on is Luke 9:18-20. The complimentary passages are Matthew 16:13-19 and Mark 8:27-29.
A – Being in Solitude and praying
Throughout the gospels, we encounter Christ always separating himself and praying.
Our identity in Christ begins when we submit ourselves to praying in private. Through our daily prayers, we receive enlightenment, peace, courage, and our faith increases. It is our form of communication and how we cultivate a deep intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father. In 1 John 5:14-15, we are encouraged to know that when we approach God, through prayer, he hears us. 1 Chronicles 16:11 instructs us to look to the Lord and His strength by seeking Him always. Paul, writing to the Church in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:18) admonishes them to pray for enlightenment to know of the hope God has called them. And, the Psalmist writes in Psalm 102:17, God will respond to the prayer of the destitute and not despise their plea.
How is your prayer life? Is it consistent? Is it deepening your relationship with Christ and God?
B – The initial inquiry – who do people say that I am?
Prior to this encounter, Christ had many disciples fall away from him and his teachings. This is after the feeding of the multitude, and the parable of the sower (John 6:60-71). Christ also knew the hearts of men. His concern was not about how people perceived who he was. His inquiry is specific to the disciples in assessing how they understand what people were saying who Christ is. They responded to the inquiry by identifying certain people of old.
Majority of us have heard what people say about us. Who they believe us to be, the type of person we are. We strive to make that first impression a good one. It is wonderful to hear people give us accolades – or, give us a five-star rating. Our sense of identity is driven by expecting other people to be kind, considerate, respectful, and accepting. We desire to have a sense of belonging and have people around us. And, there is nothing wrong with having people around us. The problem is that when we define our sense of worth and identity on other people’s perception, we place ourselves into an arena of experiencing disappointment, frustration, and experience some anxiety and depression.
What we are reading here is to not concern ourselves with who people say we are. Not to concern ourselves with how people define us. My identity is not tied to what people think and perceive. Neither was Christ’s identity subject to what others were saying about who he was.
Are you struggling with how people see you? Is your concern set upon what people say and believe about you?
C – Personal inquiry – Who do you say that I am?
Once the disciples had an opportunity to share what others were saying who Christ was, the inquiry becomes more personal. I admit, this must have been quite an awkward moment for the disciples. After all, they are standing around, possibly looking at each other. Maybe they were shrugging their shoulder’s, looking down at their feet and kicking around some rocks.
When it comes to asking ourselves, who we are, we most likely are left scratching our heads. Maybe you even had the thought cross your mind – I haven’t the slightest clue. This type of inquiry causes some awkwardness and discomfort. Take a moment, and sometime during the week, ask someone – “hey, who are you?” and watch their body language, really tune in and listen to how they respond. You’ll most likely be amazed. Most of us are not able to honestly and sincerely answer this question. Like the disciples, we are kicking around some rocks, shrugging our shoulders and look to others to help us find the answer.
It is a personal and piercing question because if we do not know who we are, then there most likely is no sense of meaning and purpose. We are adrift with no direction. And, most likely, we are left feeling isolated, defeated, insecure, and unhappy. This is the question Christ wants us to really wrestle with and answer.
Do you fully understand and comprehend who you are? What barriers prevents you from coming to understand and know who you are in Christ? What’s keeping you from knowing your true sense of being?
D – Personal Revelation
While the scripture is silent on the amount of time this conversation took place, we know that at some point, Simon exploded with an exuberant confession. Matthew 16:16 shares that Simon Barjona’s responded with: You are Christ, Son of the Living God. When you examine the text, Christ, in Greek is translated to mean Anointed. In this confession, we also have Simon responding to the identity of Christ as the anointed one who is the Son of God.
In response, we read in Matthew 16:17 that Christ blessed Simon. This blessing reflects that the declaration of Christ’s identity did not come through others, or a happenstance guess. Simon’s response to Christ’s inquiry came through direct and personal revelation: My Father hath.
We receive personal revelation as to who we are through God’s word, daily prayer, being of service toward others, and walking daily in God’s divine will. Our identity is not revealed to us by others. As we seek God, He works in us and through us to not only reveal who we are, to enhance and transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Christ, our identity is defined.
Have you ever experienced a personal revelation from God, through His holy spirit, in regard to understanding who you are?
E – Blessed and Empowered with Authority
Our last focus is on Matthew 16:18-19. Here, Christ blesses and changes Simon’s name to Peter. Giving Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven which grants Peter the authority to bind and loose what is in heaven and what is in earth. Christ also shares that His Church, will be built on This rock. The promise is that death will not prevail against the reality of who Christ is.
Throughout scripture, God encounters and meets people where they are at. Upon their encounter, he changes their name. In the Ancient Near East, a person’s name held cultural, family, and ethnic identities. By changing the person’s name, God is establishing a new identity within them. Today, when a person encounters the divine supreme and Sovereign God, their name does not change. However, their identity does.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul explains that anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Our very nature changes from old beliefs, values, perceptions, and character traits. We are given a new identity. Endowed with new purpose and meaning.
Like Peter, we are blessed and empowered with the keys of the kingdom. The revelation of who we are in Christ resonates within us as we stand firm in our identity. What we bind on earth, it will be bound in heaven. What we loosen on earth, will be loosen in heaven. Even death may not prevail against us and our identity in Jesus Christ.
The rock of His (Christ’s) Church will be built on is the personal revelation of who each one of us are. It is the personal revelation of our proclamation and declaration that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. It is the proclamation and declaration of who we are in Christ. Endowed with power and authority.
At the beginning of this message, I shared a reflection on a show about a woman seeking approval from others. How she defined her sense of identity, meaning, and purpose by the perception of others. This led to her downfall and experiencing emotional pain and distress in her life. The less stars she received, the lower her rank became.
Jesus Christ knows who we are – whether we come to him with humility and sincerity and submit ourselves over to God’s will, or not. Our Heavenly Father knows us. Yet, we spend wasted time and money attempting to find our identity, where we have a sense of worth and power, freedom, fun, and belonging. Yet, we are always falling short of this.
It is only when we come to realize who Christ is, and like Peter, confess that he is the Son of the Living God, that we can come to fully understand who we are as well. Our identity comes when we submit ourselves with humility and sincerity to prayer and meditation.
In your solitude and quiet moments, reflect on answering the question of who you are. Seek and Meditate on God’s word. Pray and ask Heavenly Father to reveal to you who He declares you are.
May God bless you, be with you, and keep you in His way.
REFLECTIVE JOURNAL NOTES
- How well do you feel you know who Christ is? What barriers are preventing you from coming to know Him?
- How well do you know who you are? What is getting in the way of coming to know who you are?
- By focusing on deepening your relationship with Jesus Christ, how will this help you come to know who Christ is and your own personal identity and sense of worth?
- In What way do you see this message empowering you to focus on your identity in Christ where you begin living out a life with meaning and purpose?
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