By Pastor Phil Stanley January 14, 2024
Last Sunday I preached a message called “Who Are We?” and looked at the core beliefs and values we have affirmed here at Cornerstone.
Today we will be talking about our identity and how that propels us into our “why.”
One of the reasons why Cornerstone can truly say we are a place where you can truly welcome and love anybody who walks in our doors is because we are not afraid to make friends with anybody.
Historically, there have been some churches who failed at this because they were worried about contaminating themselves, or allowing people who traditionally don’t look like church people into their fellowship, because they were worried somehow that it was going to corrupt and corrode what they had. They were trying to protect their church identity.
But that’s not us. We truly can make friends with anybody and not be afraid of where they are in their faith because “greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world.”
That verse is found in 1 John chapter 4 and the I love the way the message puts it:
My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world’s language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.1 John 4:4-6
We belong to God. Our firm foundation is Christ’s identity. If we identify with Christ, and have Him live within us, we can’t lose what we have by meeting people that don’t have Him yet.
And the mindset that people are going to come in and corrupt or contaminate because they’re sinful or don’t believe is just completely inaccurate. They’re just looking for a home, they’re looking for dignity, they’re looking for respect, they’re looking for a chance to connect with the community and not feel rejected or judged. If by some wild chance someone came here with the intention of causing disunity or even blatantly tried to cause people to stumble, don’t you think Jesus can handle it? I’m pretty sure He’s more qualified than us. It feels like the church at large has put a filter on who’s good enough or worthwhile enough to be part of our fellowships but that’s not us. We identify with Christ, and Christ had no such filter. The man literally had the audacity to fellowship with tax collectors and other disreputable people and never apologized for it a single time. He was giving us an example of fearlessness in evangelism that we often dismiss today because it makes us uncomfortable.
So let’s talk about identity today. How many of you have ever had your id checked?
We affirm that we are all created in God’s image. The human race comes pre designed with the special designation of being like our creator.
Genesis 1:26-27 says:
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings[b] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[c] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings[d] in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
All of God‘s creation deserves respect. It deserves to be taken care of. Humans and the Earth alike. I want to be a good steward of God‘s creation because that’s our original purpose, our job was to take care of this creation alongside God himself.
It’s a big deal if we can find ways to keep trash out of the rivers. If you keep plastics and other crap out of the ocean, that would be wonderful not because of an agenda, not because of a tax credit but because it’s the right thing to do to take care of our home.
I really get sad when I see biblical principles that should stand the test of time have been apprehended by whichever political party, both sides do it and act like they own these biblical truths, like it’s their original idea but no.
It’s what God stands for, and we have to discern the bigger picture and see everything through God‘s Word.
All human beings are made for respect and dignity, just because they’re human beings designed and cherished by God almighty. It should be unquestioned. You deserve to be respected, you deserve to be loved, and you deserve to have fellowship with one another.
We are also uniquely designed, each one of us has our own gift to offer.
It’s magic when you get a group of people like us, who are comfortable, who are secure in their identity as Christ followers and disciple makers. That’s when you see the magic happen.
The security of our identity in Christ unlocks the gifts God has placed within us.
If you’re insecure, then you’re afraid and can’t function as designed. Paul confirms this in his second letter to Timothy
2 Timothy 1:5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Timothy was a young pastor and Paul sent him at least two letters of instruction and in each of them he urged him to step into his gifts and calling. There’s a reason why he kept encouraging him.
Our new identity in Christ comes with a responsibility to serve within the giftings and grace extended to us.
Paul talked about our new identity a lot when he wrote the church of Ephesus.
I want to look at a couple of passages beginning with the first chapter and verse 5:
1:5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.[b] 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
So we are adopted into God’s family. That immediately changes our identity. Many of you know that Heather and I adopted our son Nikolai. But if you didn’t know that off the bat, you’d believe he was our biological kid. He acts like us. He thinks he knows everything just like his dad. He thinks he can do everything he wants just like his mom. It’s scary. He’s Stanley through and through.
Of course I’m kidding. I can see the good things we’ve passed along to him as well. He loves people. He loves helping others. He cares for the elderly and for those who don’t always have the easiest time making friends.
How did that happen? The more time he spends being around us, the more he takes on the qualities of our character. And that’s exactly God’s plan for us all. Pick up in verse 9:
9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God,[c] for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own[d] by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him
Before adoption, Nikolai’s life was on a completely different trajectory. I’m not saying this to brag on Heather and I for adopting him. It was a God thing. We just obeyed and honestly I believe it was to teach us a great deal about how God loves us. It taught us patience. It’s definitely been used by God to grow us in faith and giftings.
We all have that same story of preadoption. We all can relate to chapter two of ephesians.
Ephesians 2:1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world.[a] He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 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.
Our new identity comes with a divine purpose.
“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.”
It’s not a change of plan, this is what we are made for. Doing the good work He has orchestrated for us and serving one another all while doing it side by side with Jesus.
The mesaage says verse 10 like this:
Ephesians 2:10msg “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”
So God decided before the world began to adopt us into his family. That instantly changes the entire dynamic of our identity. Now we get to be part of the royal family complete with the power of the holy spirit in our lives as proof.
This is why it’s so important to keep fear in check in our lives.
When you exchange your identity in Christ for insecurities, you lose your authority and the ability to speak into circumstances and situations in your life and the life of others.
In other words, you rob yourself of your Spirit Empowerment.
It has always been a choice.
We can either overcome or succumb to our insecurities.
God’s plan includes you. You can be part of something bigger than yourself.
Because we all identify in Christ, we also identify with each other.
Wednesday night during our group discussion. This became one of our topics. Several commented on the benefits of being members of a church. Here’s some of what was listed:
- A sense of belonging.
- Real community.
- A place to be vulnerable and share the ups and downs of life together.
- A unified purpose where we can work together to accomplish something bigger than ourselves.
This is who we are, this is the identity we walk in.
Children of the living God, who walk in Spirit empowerment to accomplish the good works He has set before us.
Never let your deficiencies define you.
David describes it so beautifully in psalm 139:
Psalm 139: 13-17 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
They cannot be numbered!