What do you say about yourself?

One of the things that every Christian dreams about, and is called to in some capacity, is ministry. Almost from the very beginning of our faith journey, we start to wonder what God is calling us to and the big question in Christian circles today is “what is my purpose/ministry/calling/identity?” What is that special way that I am going to live out my faith and touch the world–or at least my section of the world?

In John 1, we meet a key minister, John the Baptist, or more accurately, John the Baptizer. He wasn’t a part of a denomination 😉

I believe that John is a key example of ministry, because he was the forerunner for Jesus Christ. What bigger ministry/calling than that? To pave the way for the Messiah Himself! Right in the midst of the famous verses describing Jesus and His Mission, John is introduced as the one who “bore witness about Him, and cried out, ‘This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me!'” (John 1:15)

What an honor for John to be spoken about in Scripture right along with Jesus. However, it’s less his position and more his testimony that stands out to me.

In John 1, the religious teachers and leaders of that day approached John as he was baptizing, and they asked him a few questions that I believe are crucial for us to ask ourselves as we live lives of ministry. First they asked him who he was and if he was the Christ. After all, he was preaching repentance from sin, baptizing people, and gaining followers. He had spent time in the wilderness and from his youth people recognized that the hand of God was on him in a special way (Luke 1:66). However, John’s answer is very important. The Bible specifically says that he “confessed, and did not deny, but confessed,” that he was not the Christ (John 1:19-22). Furthermore, he continued to deny it as the leaders mentioned other famous spiritual leaders he could possibly be. I think it’s important to note that John was not tricked into self-promotion or false humility with his answer about his identity. He knew who he was and he didn’t need to embellish it or denigrate it. In our lives, it is crucial for our ministry to others that we know who we are. And this comes from spending time with God. When we know who we are, then we don’t need to dress up the truth of our identity or be afraid of it.

Next, the leaders said, “‘Who are you?…What do you say about yourself?'” (22).

This also is a very important moment. What comes out of our mouths about ourselves says a lot about what we really believe. Psalm 139 declares, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. How vast are the sum of them!” Are we agreeing with what God says about us or are we believing lies spun by the culture, the flesh, or the enemy? Any lie we have adopted, no matter how subtle, is dangerous to our identity and to our effectiveness in ministry. John’s answer to the Pharisees lets us see that his identity was wrapped up in God and that he believed what God said about him.

“He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah said'” (John 1:23).

John had spent time with God, and in the Word of God, and his identity and calling were built on that foundation.

As children of God, we believers ought to be living in such a way that makes others take notice. But what will we say when they do? It’s been a thought-provoking question for me–what do I say about myself? How do I describe myself? In terms of my own opinions/gifts/talents/what others say about me? Or in terms of God’s thoughts about me?

How do we know God’s thoughts about us? We talk to Him. We listen. We get into the Word and let it get into us. Jesus is the Word and He was with God from the beginning. Anything and everything we need is in Him.

Because the Spirit of God dwelt within him, John was secure in his identity and also in his calling. He didn’t have to feel afraid of the Pharisees. He didn’t have to try to promote himself. He didn’t have to feel threatened when his disciples went and followed Jesus (John 1:35-37). He knew what he was on earth to do–point to Jesus, and when the Lamb of God showed up physically on the scene, faithful John did just that.

“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29).

May our lives point to the Lord. May our voices cry out that our God saves. May we find our identity and our pleasure and our greatest testimony in serving Him!

Advertisements

Untitled 2017

A New Year. Fresher than a new blanket of snow on the ground.

And just as austere, in some ways.

Winter after Christmas can sometimes feel grey. The new year can look like a white canvas, a blank page–full of potential, but as I stare at it, I can often feel empty, nervous. It’s something akin to writer’s block. Stomach flutters. Pressure to do things differently. To not mar the page with something unfocused, un-brilliant. Wishing all the scattered bits of last year don’t have to follow me into this one. Still an icy chill inside from the questions pricking my heart like sleet. The flurry of Christmas activity is like the rush of first snow–exciting, breathtaking, entirely welcome. But by the new year, joy can be reduced to just a shred glittering bravely, like a forgotten ornament clinging to the Christmas tree a week later.

Christmas lends beauty to the new year–Jesus Christ came down to give us Himself, to save us from sin and the empty, dark nothingness of life without Him. And it’s still just as true a week later. Rather than being empty, can’t we just be open?

There’s a vulnerability to the open hands, the face turned toward the sun that’s barely rising. But it’s better, braver than forgoing it all and wasting in worry, losing the opportunity to be there for sunrise.

Remember, God wasn’t ever afraid of beginnings:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing would have been or has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it!” -John 1:1-5

And out of our nothingness, God has birthed His greatest Miracles.

This new year, God is right where He has always been. Get close and hear Him. Let Him breathe on your empty canvas, your blank pages, your collection of questions. Spend time with the greatest Author, the most brilliant Composer, the supreme Creator/Redeemer of all time, who is making all things new.

It’s the sweetest sound, Father God breaking through the icy cobwebs of my own thoughts and embracing me in the morning quiet while snow gleams outside, ready for fresh footprints. “I’m with you” becomes not just an adage, but a powerful, true reality. He’s with me, in me, has set His Seal on me and invested His Name and Glory in me.

In all those who are His. We can come close and receive Him. He won’t leave us. He will stay and equip us Himself! And there’s nothing better. No better teacher, no path more exciting, no work more rewarding.

So ask Him for the new year. Remember and embrace His new year promises.

Begin again in me, Lord. Renew me. Make me freshly, powerfully, joyfully Yours.

In Jesus’ Name.