Thursday, October 27, 2016

A new identity

So back a few months ago I listened to the Labelmaker series from Passion City church. It was a powerful series on our identity in Christ as written out in Ephesians 1 and 2. It was so impactful for me and it really challenged the ideas engrained in me as a child.
Growing up in different churches, the way I interpreted the message until high school was behave, be a good girl, be nice to others, and somehow that all pleases God. Maybe I didn't go so far to believe I could earn my own salvation but it was pretty closely tied up in my behavior. Through the teaching in college, and our church in Atlanta and here, I've learned and grown so much in my understanding of grace and freedom and have tried to continually sacrifice that idea of behavior earning me any sort of position or good standing with God. I this series I listened to explained it all so concisely as it went through each "Label" God puts on us. Child, Heir, Holy, Able, Alive, Purposed, Chosen. Such powerful labels that contrast with what the world says or what I say about myself. So I decided to walk through it with the kids and translate it a bit into their language. We started on the first night talking about what a label is, kind of like a name-tag we wear. We asked them what kind of name tags we put on other people or have been put on them. They answered, smart, sporty, kind, brother, daughter, rude, brown skinned, white skinned, small, not sporty, etc. We talked about how some name-tags are good and some are hurtful, some are true and some are not. But the most important person we should let label us is our Creator. So we began to look through Ephesians 1 and 2 to see what God calls us. They got busy high-lighting all the name-tags they could find. You could see their faces light up in encouragement of what God speaks over them. Saint, faithful, holy, blameless, adopted, chosen, heir, alive, purposed. The following nights we talked about a name-tag one at a time. We started with 'Heir'. We talked about how a King and queen have a child and that baby becomes an heir to all the king and queen have. That child gets all the riches, power and authority that their dad had. Same with God, in Christ, he gives us all power and grace and forgiveness and eternal riches that he gives Jesus because we have now become his heir through what Jesus has done for us. The next night we did 'adopted'. We talked about the similarities and differences in our family's adoption and the way God adopts us into his family.
The similarities: it costs a high price, the person you were adopting can't pay for their own adoption, that person is brought into the family and treated as a true son or daughter and given the same inheritance, they take on their family's name, etc. The differences were our adoption is a faulty picture and just a shadow of the adoption we have in Christ. He paid a price beyond any amount of thousands of dollars, he paid with his very life. But in both there is a waiting and a pursuing. The next night we came to 'Chosen'.  We talked about how each of these name tags we don't earn by our behavior or our performance, but only as our position as God's child. As we talked about what it meant to be chosen for a team or chosen for a game, John talked about how he knew he wanted to marry me and he chose to ask me to marry him. But he couldn't just choose me, there had to be a receiving of that choice and a choosing back. He explained that if we would have both showed up to the chapel on that day, dressed in our wedding clothes, showing up in the chapel didn't make us married, us vowing to choose each other did. Making that choice of the will toward each other now entered us into a covenant relationship. Same with God, he chooses us, but there is a choosing back that has to happen. He can't force us to love him. He chooses us and waits for us to accept his choice to enter into that relationship. At this point in the conversation Maran shouts, well I want to choose Him so we can be together forever! Wheeler responds, "Me too! I want all these name tags to be true about me!"So we stopped right there and talked about what it means to choose Jesus, that is doesn't make life perfect or easy but that it guarantees we aren't alone.
It gives us hope. We get a new identity. We trade in the name-tag of sinner for the name-tags of holy, adopted, heir, and chosen. They prayed a sweet prayer in their own ways of understanding the choice they were making. It was a powerful moment as a family. A few weeks later they were baptized and it just so happened to be on the 4 year anniversary of Maran and Levi landing on US soil and becoming citizens and members of our family of 6 forever. God wrecked my heart as I watched that girl go under the water, symbolizing Jesus dying and being buried and then resurrecting 3 days later and him giving that to her as a gift. I thought about that orphan girl I met in Congo 4 years ago, with nothing to offer, who just wanted to be loved and cared for. That day 4 years ago she received our family name, a new identity as a daughter, all that we had financially and emotionally to give to her. Now she is taking on a far more important identity: his daughter, adopted into his family, his heir.

What a powerful picture of death to life, beauty from ashes. When our church baptizes people they ask them two questions. 1. Do you believe Jesus has done everything necessary to save you? 2. Will you go wherever he asks you to go and do whatever he asks you to do. That is the prayer I will pray over my kids: that each day they answer these questions with a yes. That they trust fully that their salvation rests in Jesus' work, not their own. And that they will say yes to God wherever he takes them, whether to a war torn country or a cubicle in the city.