Calling: My Identity, Matthew 19:16-24

1.  Introduction

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about calling.  I have said that in God we have an identity, a purpose and a place to do it.  We have used the three two letter words: BE-DO-GO in the form of questions: Who am I created to BE? What am I created to DO? Where am I created to GO?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus (BE) to do good works (DO), which God prepared in advance for us to do (GO) (NIV)

In a general sense for all Christians we have said that we are disciples who make disciples wherever we are.

This morning I want to look a bit more at what it means to find YOUR UNIQUE identity in Christ (the BE question).

2.  Core identity

Let start here: In John 1:39 Jesus made the invitation for two men to spend the day with him – he said to them “Come and see”.  Now many people have heard that invitation from Christ, but it is a about investigation and information.  Later on in the gospel (more than once) he calls them to “come and follow me” (Matt 4:19).  This second invitation is about surrender.   The abundant life that God offers us in Christ comes through willingly making his Lord and leader of our lives.  This is an exchange of the good life for the better life, the earthly focus for the eternal focus, comfort versus peace (surrender is uncomfortable – see Todd)

Consider the rich young ruler.  Jesus basically says to him: you have to choose either to willingly surrender (uncomfortable) to me or be owned and controlled by your money.  The question Jesus confronts him with (and that confronts every one of us) is what gives you your identity.  Very quickly that man had to do an assessment (balance sheet) of what was truly valuable to him – in a split second.  We would do well to take more time to careful, thoughtful assessment.  What gives you your identity? Promotions, positions, influence, increasing salary, retirement plans, medical plans, private schools, vacations, early retirement date.

Who was that man?  What was his name?  The literary device used by the author is intentional: he is not given a name.  He is simply known only as “The rich young ruler”.  His riches had become his identity.  The reality is that everything we own also owns a part of us.  Or you could say more broadly: everything that gives us our identity owns a part of our identity.

And here is the core of what it means to find your identity in Christ: we have to surrender all the would-be contenders for securing our identity in this life and find our identity as a child of God, a disciple of Jesus.  Jesus said to the rich young ruler

  • give up the identity you have built in your riches (‘sell everything and give it to the poor’ – i.e. stop trusting in earthly riches),
  • ‘come follow me’ (those words or surrender again)
  • ‘and you will have treasures in heaven’ (your life will be full of true riches).

a.    A good thing becomes a God thing

Quickly: it is important to make that point that the rich young ruler had made a good thing (riches) in a God thing.  There is nothing inherently wrong with promotion, bigger salary, houses, cars, or influence.  But when they own your identity you have put them in the place of God in your life. There is only one person deserving of our full, wholehearted devotion: Jesus.  Being a disciple means that we progressively grow in our identity in Christ and in our obedience to him trumps anything else on our balance sheet.

b.   Probing questions

Stop (half way) for personal reflection

  • Where are you on the spectrum of “come and see” versus “come follow me”?
  • What good things are preventing Jesus from taking the God-thing place in your life?
  • In what areas of your life do you battle to surrender to the lordship and leading of Christ?
  • What are the biggest fears and uncertainties in giving you full “Yes” to Jesus?

3.  Unique identity

All that I have aid so far applies general to all of us.  But what about your unique identity.

Psalm 139:13-16

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This passage tells us that we have been created uniquely, intentionally and lovingly for a specific calling and purpose on earth.  The picture here and elsewhere in the bible is of God taking special and creative interest in forming us into once-off individuals.  Each person is created in the image of God to be his child and to become a disciple.

But within that we need to discover the unique design that God brings to the unique good works that he brings into your life.  So I want to be as practical as possible and give you two tools that you can use to help you find you unique identity.

a.    Our lives are a book

The idea is that over lives are like an unfolding story written in a book.  As long as you got breath in your lungs the story continues.  God already knows how the story is going to unfold (he gets to do that because he is God).  But if we want to know what is going to happen in chapter 33 and 34, or chapter 57 and 58 the clues are scattered in the last 30 odd / 50 odd chapters!

Your personal core identity is something that you can’t switch on and off.  It is integral to your make up, it is in your emotional, mental and physical make up.  It has been shaped by your family, friends and experiences but it is there deep within you.

God has already written into your life many defining and revealing moments.  You can identify them by completing the sentence, “I remember when…”.  There are probably only a handful of experiences really stand out in your life and they are most often the formative, foundational and revealing moments.

When I did this exercise I finished the sentence with:

  • I used to take broken electrical appliance t the garage to “fix”
  • Making a trigger for my toy gun (which I had also made)
  • When something breaks and I try fix it my wife will tell you that my favourite line is “crummy design”

I want to understand how something works, I love information, I love to fix things that are broken, I like to be able to extract information from source/s and put it together.  I like design and order.

All that probably tells you why I studies Engineering for four years!  I did electrical engineering although I wonder now whether I would not have been more suited to mechanical or elec-mech.

b.   Personal assessment tools

There are many free and fee-based personality and skills test tools.  The less you have grappled with this and the younger you are the more helpful they will be.  If you are 55 and you’ve continually reviewed your core identity through your life it will probably not contribute much.

These kinds of tools are easier to use but less helpful.  They are a great way to confirm what you are already thinking but not a place to start.  You can use DISC, Myers Briggs, Strength Finder, or Via Institute on Character.  Each has value to add.  There are also spiritual gift surveys that you can take.  Some are more helpful than others.   They are best used when they are confirming what you already suspected and not discovering for the first time.

4.  Why is this important

Next week we are going to be thinking about our unique mission/purpose.  Understanding who you are (identity) is going to shape how God uses you – it translates into action!  The identity that you discover has not simply about “where the church can get you involved” So I would encourage you to try write something down, five or six words that you.  And five yourself permission to change it and refine it.

 

Questions

Read Matt 19:16-25 and Ps 139:13-16

  • What do we learn from Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler?
  • What is the significance of Matthew not giving the young man’s name?
  • “Everything we own also owns a part of us”. How does this help us understand our struggle for identity?
  • There is a subtle difference between a ‘good thing’ and a ‘God thing’, what is it? How does a ‘good thing’ become a ‘God-thing’?
  • Grant asked four questions during the service, take time to ponder then now:
    1. Where are you on the spectrum of “come and see” versus “come follow me”?
    2. What good things are preventing Jesus from taking the God-thing place in your life?
    3. In what areas of your life do you battle to surrender to the lordship and leading of Christ?
    4. What are the biggest fears and uncertainties in giving you full “Yes” to Jesus?
  • Our lives are a book: use the handout to complete the statement, “I remember when…” What does this reveal about your identity and where God may want to use you in the future?

NOTE: Group leaders, below is a A4 that you can print for each group member with space for them to complete the “I remember when…” statements and then a long list of words (in addition to their own) that they could use to distil their identity into a couple of key words / a key phrase.  EG I am “an inquisitive learner” or “a pioneering entrepreneur”.  Then complete the statement at the bottom of the page.

 

 

Our unique identity is our unique design that distinguishes us from God’s other children.

 

I REMEMBER WHEN…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT:

 

[…………………………………………..], a [………………………………………………………………………] of Christ Jesus

your name                                              unique identity

(remember, this is not set in stone. It will develop and mature the more you grapple with it)

 

Here are a couple of useful words to ignite your thinking[1]:

Expand or Extend
Scale and sustainability
Systematize
Entrepreneur
Overcome
Establish
Design
Strategic
Explore
Innovate
Drive
Provoke
Pioneering
Start
Catalyze
Illuminate
Proclaim
Pioneering
Challenge and correct
Seeing possibilities/visionary
Reveal
Point
Diagnose
Discern
Perceptive
Shape
Assess
Align
Justice
Tell/Foretell
Recruit and seek out
Enthusiastic/Raving Fan
“Living Invitation”
Provoking Interest
Advertising and PR
Inspire
Share/Tell
Catalyse
Persuade
Salesman
Proclaim
Expand
Connect
Pioneering
Entrepreneur
Nurture and protect
Operational
Develop
Empathize
Technician, Operator, Counsellor, Builder, etc.
Caretaker
Manage
Calm
Supporting
Loyal
Feed
Comfort
Help

See and Serve

Explain and enlighten

Grasp and apply truth

Transfer knowledge

Show/Demonstrate

Bridging theory and practice

Understand

Define

Model

Instil

Exemplify

Guide others

Illustrate

Develop

Extract

 

[1] More, Todd Wilson