St. John's in Dover is starting a new sermon series during the season of Epiphany, that lasts from the end of Christmas, Dec. 6th, until the beginning of Lent. Epiphany is the day traditionally celebrated as the arrival of the Magi from the East bearing gifts for the young child, Jesus. Although, typically cast as part of the nativity on Christmas day, scholars believe that the Magi arrived a couple years later. The meaning most commonly attributed to their visit is one that expresses that Jesus is for all people.
The Advent series that St. John's just finished was "Name Above All Names" that explored the names and attributes of God. This series will journey through the names we are given as the children of God. To know our identity in Christ is to hold onto the promises, care and love that our God has for all his children and creation.
I have created special sermon notes for the series. There is a different name for each week. The files will be posted below with each description. Here are some of Pastor CJ's thoughts on "Hello, My Name is..." from the January St. John's Journal.
Identity theft. Very few things strike the kind of fear into the hearts of people as these two words do. We have heard horror stories about someone who was a victim of this. We have seen the news stories that warn of hackers obtaining the personal information for millions of people at a time. We have seen the commercials on TV that promise peace of mind in the face of a threat that we are otherwise helpless against.
Our identity is a very personal thing. We have only got one, and if something happens to that identity it can create all sorts of headaches and problems for us. While this is certainly a very important topic that we do not want to treat lightly, identity theft as we know it is not nearly as significant issue as spiritual identity theft.
Spiritual identity theft is not something that threatens our bank accounts or social security numbers. It is much more serious than that. While it is not something that will cause us to lose our eternal salvation, it is something that will seriously hinder our discipleship and the life that we live with God as his people. Spiritual identity theft will steal our joy. It will give us a false understanding of who we are. It will make us miss out on the hope, peace, and certainty that comes from knowing that we belong to God.
Spiritual identity theft causes us to live lives marked and motivated by fear, worry, and uncertainty. It hinders our abilities to move and act because lives marked by fear, worry, and uncertainty, are often too scared to take action. Or, even worse, being motivated by fear can cause us to do things that we would not otherwise do under different circumstances. Spiritual identity theft can even cause us to wonder if God really does love us, and whether his promises really apply to us or not. Spiritual identity theft is what happens when we live our lives according to an identity that is different from, and sometimes even contrary to, the identity that God has given us in Jesus.
It is nearly impossible to live the Christian life without knowing who and whose we are. While the devil, the world, and our sinful nature will work hard to steal our attention and focus away from our true spiritual identity, this is not a threat against which we are helpless.
When we understand the true identity that our God gives to us, we live with a sense of purpose and certainty. When we understand the true identity that our God gives to us, we live in hope and certainty. When we understand the true identity that our God gives to us, we live in the confidence that comes from knowing how he sees us, loves us, and values us.
During the season of Advent, the season theme was entitled The Name Above All Names. It was a series that looked at some of the different names and titles given to Jesus. This was a series that was all about his identity.
Having this understanding, it makes sense that the next thing we would do would be to look at our own identity as God’s people. During the season of Epiphany, that is exactly what we will do. As we consider the gospel lessons for the season, we will focus on a specific concept that is connected to, and helps us to better understand our true identity. These are the concepts we will be talking about: beloved, known, included, restored, healed, and adopted.
BELOVED - Mark 1:4-11 We are dearly and deeply loved by God. As we look at the baptism of Jesus this week, we see how, in our own baptism, God calls us his beloved sons and daughters. CLICK HERE FOR BELOVED NOTES
KNOWN - John 1:43-51 It is a great gift to be known by someone. It means that we matter and are important to them. As we see Jesus’ knowledge of his disciples, we are encouraged in knowing that he knows us too. CLICK HERE FOR KNOWN NOTES
INCLUDED - Mark 1:14-20 Being left out is never a fun experience. This is never something we have to worry about with our God. By his grace, he has given to us a place in his kingdom and family. We are included. CLICK HERE FOR INCLUDED NOTES
RESTORED - Mark 1:21-28 While sin has separated us from God, we can know that in Jesus we have had the price paid for all of our sins. We are forgiven. Because we are forgiven, we are also restored to God. CLICK HERE FOR RESTORED NOTES
HEALED - Mark 1:29-39 We live in and experience much brokenness in our lives. Jesus heals that. As God’s people, we live in the certainty of knowing that he answers our prayers for healing now, and that we will be ultimately and perfectly healed in the new creation. CLICK HERE FOR HEALED NOTES
ADOPTED - Mark 9:2-9 God does not just give us a place in his kingdom and family. He makes us members of his family. He makes us his own children. He makes us his own dearly loved daughters and sons. As we hear God say that Jesus is his son with whom he Is well pleased, we can know with great confidence that we are also dearly loved sons and daughters. CLICK HERE FOR ADOPTED NOTES
These are concepts that show us how God sees us. These concepts show us how God relates to us. These things reveal God’s heart to us, and allow us to understand the ways in which he sees us. These concepts show us what our true identity is.
The true identity that our God gives to us is one of the most wonderful and important gifts that we have. As we focus on this, and incorporate it into our lives, we are able to let go of those things that would threaten spiritual identity theft. We are not stuck to live lives marked by fear, worry, and uncertainty. Our true identity assures us of this, and enables us to live in the hope, peace, joy, and love that comes from living life as God’s dearly loved daughters and sons.