I spent two hours today with a remarkable young woman who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here name is Jaquelle Crowe, and she’s written a book called This Changes Everything: How The Gospel Transforms The Teen Years. Jaquelle’s dad is a pastor of a small Baptist church in a part of the world that he described as hard ground for sowing gospel seeds. But trust me, his daughter gets it.
We started our conversation talking about how all of life flows from our understanding of who we are. The adolescent years are often filled with exploration and angst as teens try to figure out what makes them who they are.
Many locate their identity during those years in whatever makes them stand out or gain the attention or approval of the people they care most about. For some, identity is wrapped up in appearance. For others, it’s about intelligence. Or athletic ability. Or artistic gifts. Or… you name it.
But for every person, young or old, man or woman, our deepest, truest identity is found in the fact that we have been created as image bearers of the Almighty. “We are his workmanship,” Paul reminds us. Whatever you look like, whatever you’re good at, whatever else defines you, the thing that is core to who you are is found in your understanding of whose you are. The One who created you is the One who gives you your essential identity.
In Jaquelle’s book, she points to the shift that occurred in Paul’s life when he began to see his identity in a new light. In Philippians 3, Paul explains that he had always found his identity in his Jewishness.
Paul found his confidence, he said, in the fact that he had been “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
You can almost hear him reciting this spiritual resume and finishing with a “beat that!” kind of confidence.
When Paul met Jesus, his understanding of his identity was revolutionized. “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:7-11).
In those verses, Jaquille identifies six things that are true about anyone who has been genuinely converted by God’s Spirit, as Paul had been:
1. The truly converted man or woman treasures Jesus. Knowing Him, serving Him, trusting Him and obeying Him become a higher value than anything else in life.
2. The truly converted man or woman devalues everything else in life. That’s the flip side of treasuring Jesus. Other things in life still have value. But their value is aligned properly when Jesus is treasured above all else. Knowing Jesus has “surpassing worth,” as Paul said.
3. The truly converted man or woman puts their faith in Jesus alone. They recognize that gaining Jesus and being found in Him does not come from a life committed to self-righteousness. It comes from faith in Christ and the righteousness that comes from that faith.
4. The truly converted man or woman knows Him. Paul (who had been a Christian for many years when he wrote this) said that his chief aim in life was to “know Him.” As a husband for almost four decades now, I know my wife pretty well. But I am still getting to know her better every day! And it’s my goal in marriage to know her better today than I did yesterday. The same is true for our walk with Jesus. A converted person makes it his or her life’s work to “know Him.”
5. The truly converted man or woman suffers for Him. This is part of what it means to be a child of God. In this world, we will suffer. “Suffering will come for the Jesus follower,” Jaquelle writes. “When God saves you, you sacrifice a life of ease.”
6. The truly converted man or woman becomes like Him. In addition to knowing Jesus, Paul’s goal was to become like Him. Transformed from our old nature to a new nature. Living as a new creation, a child of God.
Would those who know you best say that your relationship with Jesus is the defining core of who you are? Or would they point to your vocation, or your role in a family, your gifts or the things that set you apart from others?
Paul himself was a missionary. A church planter. A preacher. A writer. But his primary identity was wrapped up in being a servant of the God who had saved Him. He treasured Jesus. Everything else in life was a distant second on the value scale. His hope for this life and the life to come was not in his own goodness, but in Jesus’ righteousness. His desire was to know Him. He was ready to suffer for Him. And he longed to be like Him.
Could the same be said of you? What is your defining core? What would others say?
It’s summer time! You know what that means, right? It means all of this is ahead for us in the next 12 weeks!
You’ll notice that the first of four Summer Kid’s Fest events is a week away. Wednesday, June 5 from 9 AM – 11 AM, kids who are 5th grade or younger are welcome at church for a big morning of fun and learning. If you child has not yet been to kindergarten, he or she is welcome at Kids Fest as long as you’re there too!
If you’d like to help out with Kids Fest or if you have any questions, contact Jen Gurney at email@example.com.
And on Sunday, June 10, we’ll be baptizing and celebrating together at the Arnold’s house and pool. Now is the time to let us know if you are interested in being baptized. Contact Matt Gurney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the baptism details.
What makes you a strong or a week Christian? How can you know which you are?
That’s ahead for us this Sunday as we dig into Romans 14.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!