Tag Archives: Identity

Sunday with John – Identity

John 9: 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him [the ex-blind man] out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
There’s one new identity the ex-blind man has already experienced with Jesus; the power of Jesus to take away his physical blindness.  Because of that experience he’s now an outcast too, and Jesus has sought him out to ask an odd question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  Those capitals are not mine, they’re God’s!  Jesus has chosen that phrase to connect the other-worldly power this man has already experienced to another new reality standing right before him; the Son of Man is Jesus the Messiah. This man who had no sight at all just a short time ago now sees the full truth of Jesus’s identity and he said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 

The Pharisees claim to be “those who see” but Jesus’s judgment has hit a nerve.  He’s already shown them one truth they can’t accept; “If you were blind, you would have no guilt.”  Their defense goes something like this: “we can’t be guilty of sin because we aren’t blind!” Now Jesus confronts them with a much harder truth.  They are blind to the error of what they see so “now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Son of Man, ben-adam, is the term Jesus most often chose for Himself during His life on earth to identify His likeness with God and mankind that began at Creation.  

What does it say about people?
Even before Adam was created, God had a plan to safeguard mankind from the corruption of their free will by allowing them to see His full identity as “Son of Man” and “Son of God.”

Is there truth here for me?
Long before those terms of Jesus’s identity became a reality in my life His plan was at work covering the distance between heaven and earth for me.  I believe this is an accurate visual way to represent God’s eternal commitment to establish the restoration of His broken Creation so “those who do not see may see.”

Jesus
[The Son of God* – who promised sight for the blind]
God’s perfect creation*
to rebuild life broken by the corruption of “free will”
[The Son of Man* – offering comfort in our identity to Him]

Wednesday with John – Life Now!

John 5:19 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.
20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel.
21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,
23 that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.  25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself,
27 and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man.

What is the general theme of the passage? Jesus loves His Father and only does what He is asking of Him.  Together they have a purpose; to give life that begins in this hour, now, and into eternity!  God has given Jesus His own power of judgment over life and death so that we might see in Jesus the deity of God lived out in the humanity of man.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
The Father loves the Son, and shows him all that He is doing.  Jesus does only what he sees the Father doing. The Father raises the dead and gives them life.  The Father has given all authority and judgment to the Son to give life “to whom He will.” The Father has life in  himself. The Son also has life in himself.

What does it say about people?
People honor a judge because they recognize He has the power to decide their fate.  What people hear from Jesus, now, will decide their final judgment later. Read verses 25 – 27 with a small rearrangement in the two phrases “Son of God,” and Son of Man . Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and NOW is, when the dead will hear the voice of [GOD THE SON], and those who hear will live.  Got has done HIs power handoff to Jesus “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is [GOD THE MAN.]

Is there truth here for me?
GOD THE SON is GOD THE MAN
who’s come to reveal He’s the identity of God’s life IN us “who do not walk according to the flesh but according the Spirit,” NOW.

Wednesday with John – 4 Words of Identity

John 1:19-34 [RSV] Here is a compilation of verbatim phrases and sentences copied from these verses.  This is a personal study method of identifying an important part of each verse and then letting them guide what I write. 

19 the testimony of John
Who are you?
20 He confessed, he did not deny
I am not the Christ.
21Are you Eli′jah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the prophet?”
he answered, “No.”
22 What do you say about yourself?
23 I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
24 they [priests and Levites] had been sent from the Pharisees
25 why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Eli′jah, nor the prophet?”
26 among you stands one whom you do not know,
27 he who comes after me
28 This took place in Bethany
29 Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
31 I myself did not know him
32 And John bore witness,
“I saw the Spirit descend and it remained on him
33 I myself did not know him
He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain
this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
34 I have seen and have borne witness
this is the Son of God.”

This is the kickoff week of the ”public” ministry of Jesus.  It must have been like drawing the short straw for the priests and Levites that were sent to that wild place to question John.  He could read between the lines; he knew their question “who are you?” was code for “do you claim to be yet another messiah?”  It’s interesting to think about John’s courage implied by this phrase, “he confessed, he did not deny.”  There were many false messianic claims and that phrase was a critical part of his answer, “I am not the Christ.” Perhaps the most dangerous part of his ministry was the act of baptism itself. John had just identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” telling God’s chosen people they weren’t clean enough.  There was something more they needed to do: to be cleansed by baptism in preparation for the coming of the Messiah,  just as if they were the same as an impure Gentile.

John resisted identifying his own activity with anything [or anyone] other that what he’d just seen with his own eyes: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Twice John uses the odd phrase “I myself did not know him” but we know he did know WHO Jesus was. His confession was that now he recognized WHAT Jesus was, and that confirmed his own identity. “For this I came baptizing with water, that he [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel.”

He had become a disciple!  “And John bore witness, I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him…He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”  What he’d witnessed with his own eyes was the work of the Holy Spirit.  He could personally confess to the reality of  that work as the  truth of  his own testimony: “this is the Son of God.”

Disciple: a personal follower
Witness: personal observation
Confession: personal knowledge
Testimony: the confession of a follower from personal knowledge

Psalm 119:105-112 נ Nun – Fish, Longevity

Psalm 119 Nun – Fish, Longevity
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

 Right >§§§> Left

The light on my path for my feet is the lamp of your word.  I will follow your righteous laws. I have taken an oath and confirmed that.  Preserve my life, Lord, is according to your word.  I have suffered much.  Teach me your laws and accept the willing praise of my mouth.  I will not forget your law though I constantly take my life in my hands.  I have not strayed from your precepts but the wicked have set a snare for me.  The joy of my heart and my heritage forever are your statutes.  My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

—∞∞∞—

For some time now I’ve been separating the Scripture from my own writing using a typographical sign of the fish [ >§§§> ] so  the meaning of “Nun” didn’t seem unusual.  It’s a familiar image many Christians use to associate themselves with Jesus.  The surprise was to find it hidden here in Psalm 119. 

 The fish symbol was a common pagan symbol long before it was chosen as an identifying mark for Christians. Early believers in Jesus Christ chose the
“fish” because it was a sign that would attract less attention than, say the sign of the cross might, because people were familiar with seeing it.  It became a way to safely identify themselves to one another.  The story is told that when strangers met, the Christian could draw a simple arc in the sand with his toe and wait for the other to respond.  If the other was a Christian, he would respond by drawing the lower arc to form the outline of a fish.  

The “fish” is the surprise set-up for these devotional thoughts.  Did God reveal
נ Nun to the Psalmist king as a mark of a greater KING, yet to come, or was it just a poetic accident?  Was that secret little Hebrew heading written as a familiar signal for generations in the future to respond to, and reveal their own identity? 

This Psalmist king knew the law of God.  He knew it made the path he wanted to follow visible to him.  He knew seeing that path was one thing, but deciding to walk it demanded a way to identify truth and people he could trust.  He knew the writings of the prophets.  He knew life was his training ground with a divine purpose; intimacy with God.  I think he knew the significance of נ Nun – Fish was longevity, that his identity with God would last into our future too.

The Psalmist king has become known throughout history as a “man after God’s own heart.”  He knew his own identity was as sketchy and unreliable as any other human being except for his awareness that God’s truth [aka, the law] had saved and changed him.  The Psalmist knew he could trust God to be just and fair even when his own behavior and words were not.   Long before Jesus fulfilled the law, the Psalmist identified himself completely with the fullness of God revealed in His law, it’s precepts and statutes.  The value that has been ascribed to his heart was that he gave the fullness of it to God without reservation; the very best parts as well as well as the very worst parts.   That was the identification mark the Psalmist king made face to face with God trusting it would be recognized and God’s response would be to complete His identity with him.  >§§§>

Eyes Wide Open

John 15:21 But they  will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

>§§§>

Hate and persecution were shocking words Jesus used just a few verses ago to warn his followers what they might expect “on account of my name.” Those who used Jesus’s name as a confession of their faith needed courage.  Jesus warned them they were marked as different, and a risk to the existing state of conformity, by those who “do not know him who sent me.”  The acceptance of that risk with eyes wide open was the necessary seal of their identity as a follower of Christ within a world of conformity.

An Unbreakable Thread

Exodus 3:14 & 15b God said to Moses, “I am who I am…“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.

”…every time you see “Lord” in the English Bible you should think: This is a proper name (like Peter or James or John) built out of the word for “I Am” and reminding us each time that God absolutely is.”  John Piper from “I Am who I Am

• John 6:35 “…I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
• John 8:12 “…I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
• John 10:9  “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
• John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
• John 11:25 “…I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
• John 14:6 “…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
•John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I don’t think I’ve ever consciously thought of God in terms of His proper name being “I Am.”  That idea has added another dimension to the already meaningful “I Am” statements of Jesus.  If you’ve ever had an English class you know the definition of a verb is a word of action that supports the main identity of the subject.  Our subject is God.  His name “I Am” is the verb.  “I Am” is the present-tense version of the verb “be/exist.”  God is!  The “I Am” statements of Jesus confirm the reality of his complete identity with I Am.

That’s a reality that’s still true for us today.  “I Am” is our confirmation that Jesus is still taking action to create an unbreakable thread that binds his followers between Himself and I Am.

“Who are you, Lord?”

Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

§§§

Saul’s question, “Who are you, Lord,?” was the unexpected beginning of his identity with Christ.  We see the reality of the man God created Paul to be unfold in a large part of the New Testament.  Those words still inspire us today to discover the reality of our own identity with Christ.  

You know Paul’s story.  He walked down that Damascus road convinced he knew the unassailable truth about God.  Paul saw himself as obedient, full of moral virtue and willing to brutally ensure the future of what he believed.  God saw something more: a committed man who was not Godless, but not Godly either when He asked “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Paul’s identity with Christ began when he replied “Who are you, Lord?”  The answer would open his eyes and change his heart from the unassailable truth he knew ABOUT God to the unassailable truth OF God.  The Bible is filled with stories of flawed, but not Godless, people we can easily identify with who were changed into Godly people with a new identity.  Paul wrote about his own experience of God’s revealed truth.  That truth still has the power to change the identity of those who dare to ask “Who are you, Lord?”

Second Chance: Hebrews 2

FYI: No chapter 2 in Philemon
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Hebrews 2:5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? 7 You made them [for a little while] a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor 8 and put everything under their [Or his] feet.” In putting everything under them,[Or him] God left nothing that is not subject to them.[Or him] Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.[Or him] 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 

§§§

The first thing that caught my attention in Hebrews 2 was the [footnoted] path that challenged me look at “them” with the alternate [him.]  That was intriguing because I believe the Old Testament is a foreshadow comparing the glory and dominion God intended for man, then, to our example for life now, Jesus.  This was more than that for me.  God began our world with a plan to establish an identity of “glory and honor” between the divine beginnings of man and His own.


• Genesis 1:26 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[Or the earth] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
• Later David wrote about man in relationship to God: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?  You made them [for a little while] a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their [Or his] feet.”
• Then Paul writes “In putting everything under them,[Or him] God left nothing that is not subject to them.[Or him].  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them [Or him].  But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Did you catch that identity between “man” and “Jesus?”  Both were made “[for a little while] a little lower than the angels…both crowned with glory and honor and everything under their [Or his] feet” or “subject to them.[Or him].”  Clearly a strong identity but not quite a “likeness.”  G.K. Chesterton wrote “one thing is certain – man is not what he was meant to be.” 

• Jesus came into our world with the unmistakable identity of “man.”  He was born a baby!  The Son of God lived his identity with man, lost his identity because of man but was resurrected to reveal another unmistakable identity to man – the image of God!  That’s the revelation that turns our identity with Him into “likeness” and changes “for a little while” into an eternity of shared “glory and honor” with “them” [him].

Personal Identity

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The other minor prophets are going to have to wait. I need a break after Hosea. Something like going back to New Testament basics. I did learn valuable things about the character of God and his enduring love and desire to teach, train and correct us despite, and because of, our circumstances. I learned first and foremost his heart is to equip us to be able to walk on our own two feet…but always with him…never alone. It’s a total picture of what righteousness training looks like.

It’s good to know that the Word is more than one book. It’s not just a long list of painful reminders of the results of bad choices, hard lessons and needed corrections so we’ll be afraid to step out of line. God has chosen Jesus to provide that independence for each of us. Jesus gives us a personal, independent identity with God that reveals our unique spiritual gifts “that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The Week of Reality

Matthew 21 [excerpts] 1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me…8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna [a Hebrew expression meaning “Save!” which became an exclamation of praise] to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

For a moment as I read about Jesus entry into Jerusalem I thought how his heart must have swelled at this reception. Then I remembered he knew what was in the heart of man. He also knew the conflicting emotions of his future from “thy will be done” to “take this cup from me.” It’s much easier for me to imagine Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem by a cheering crowd than to realize he knew he was facing a gut wrenching human choice as well. This day begins The Week of Reality as Jesus completes his identity with our humanity to give us the opportunity to complete our identity as sons and daughters of God. “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”