Tag Archives: Identity

Sunday with John — Purposeful

John 18:15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Peter and another disciple are literally following Jesus as he’s taken to yet another place of judgement about his identity.  Out of deference to the identity of the other disciple, who is apparently known as a follower of Jesus, the door has been opened to Peter.  He’s been brought into this place where his identity is unknown, and his response to a simple question, “ I am not,” reveals he doesn’t know himself yet either.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
There is power in everything that is implied in this verses.  Peter thinks he’s followed Jesus here, but he’s been led to this place.  He could have been left outside the door, but he’s been brought in.  The Lord has a purpose for the simple question from a curious girl; to begin to reveal Peter’s identity to himself through a misspoken answer.

What does it say about people?
The strength of those who “purpose” to follow Jesus is not their innocence.  It’s their willingness to face Jesus with their imperfection knowing He will forgive because He has given them their purpose…and His love is the perfection they need.

Is there truth here for me?
I actually felt a physical twinge in my chest as I read Peter’s response to that servant girl. My heart made some connection between the odd exchange in John 13 at that special dinner where Peter asked John to ask Jesus who was going to betray Him. It’s always seemed odd to me he needed to ask what they were all wondering.  Peter wasn’t the only one that needed reassurance of his innocence that night but now in this place he’s heard his own misspoken words of denial, “I am not.”  It may not have happened right then but surely those three words became his own twinge of guilt…as he remembered that night and realized he wasn’t innocent after all…he was a betrayer! 

Peter’s misspoken words, “I am not,” have pierced my heart. I felt those words because I’ve heard my own.  I’ve realized it’s easy to excuse misspoken words as something other than betrayal and then accept my misplaced relief as the standard of my innocence.  I would like to be innocent but innocence was lost thousands of years ago. Instead Jesus has agreed to the truth of my purpose to follow him and offered to take my misspoken words and misplaced relief as an act of repentance and make them into something more purposeful than innocence…purity.

Sunday with John – The Control

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, I am he.”aJudas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” ESV
[a] Footnote: John 18:5 Greek I am; also verses 6, 8

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus is the only one who understands the Father is in complete control.  Everyone else is under the assumption they have some control over this situation. Judas has come to this familiar place prepared to betray Jesus.  The soldiers have come to this garden prepared to execute that betrayal once Jesus’s identity has been confirmed.  Peter has come prepared to fight to save Jesus.  Jesus “knowing all that would happen to him,” is the only one who’s come prepared with the truth of His identity.

“Jesus answered them with this curious phrase, two words in both English and in the original language (ego eimi). It is curious because Jesus didn’t say I am He, but simply I am – the He was added by the translators and is not in the original text. With this Jesus consciously proclaimed that He was God, connecting His words to the many previous I am statements recorded in the Gospel of John, especially in John 8:58 (but also John 6:48, 8:12, 9:5, 10:9, 10:11-14, 10:36, 11:25, 14:6).” Enduring Word

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus, identifies Himself as I am!  In those two simple words He acknowledges His compete identity with the Father who IS in control; “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

What does it say about people?
People make decisions within the context of control.  It’s a human part of the reasoning nature the Father has built into His people.  Step 1: accumulate and compile information, Step 2: make an informed decision and Step 3: take action.

Is there truth here for me?
It’s not those three steps that are the problem, it’s the sin of losing sight of who’s in control of our identity.  Sin has distorted reasoning.  Judas for some inexplicable reason had accumulated and compiled his information, knowing Jesus considered him a friend, but chose to believe some lie of reasoning that could justify betraying his friend.  The soldiers chose to rely on the informed decisions of their leaders reasoning, but were knocked to the ground by their own. Peter in this context of wanting to save Jesus had no time to reason but chose violence as his knee-jerk reaction. 

None of these responses are unfamiliar to me.  John has continued to remind me how important it is to remember Jesus is THE control over the context of my identity.  I have a reasoning nature that is improving because of Jesus in my life but it is still distorted.  I can make informed decisions until I’m blue in the face but I just can’t trust they’ll all be perfect.  The one assurance I have is that Jesus is THE control over every action I take.  Jesus has promised He will inspect, correct and redirect every clumsy step I take in my journey with Him toward eternity “to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 

Wednesday with John — Shared Identity

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus prays that the truth He’s spoken to “these” He’s kept in the Father’s name will endure for “those who will believe in me through their word.”  He’s giving each of them a part of His own “glory” to unite them with the Father “even as we are one” so “the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is asking the Father to grant their shared one-ness to those who “may believe that you have sent me”… in the future. 

What does it say about people?
It’s not unusual that people want to establish their identity with one another.  It’s exactly what Jesus prayed for us.  What is unusual is the ways we’ve chosen to do it.

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus’s trust is complete; that if “these” people [us] can experience that one-ness with each other they will confirm the reality of His ministry to the world.  The Father is going to answer that prayer by choosing to make His followers “perfectly one” in a very distinctly unique way…because of their shared identity with Jesus.

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.”

[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?
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?”