Our identity is not primarily in our work, but in the God who calls us.
Adapted from Øystein Gjerme’s main stage message Exponential Orlando 2019.
You may know that you are God’s masterpiece. Yet have you ever told someone what you did for a living as if it was your identity?
We have all been there. Actually, I found myself telling others one day that I studied theology but wanted to be a church planter. Someone awkwardly replied, “Seriously, you are getting a degree to plant flowers in the graveyard?”
That was an awkward moment, but that conversation shows how we identify ourselves to the rest of the world. What we do daily can become the identity that we have. In a way, this means that we have the possibility to become the architects of our own happiness. What it actually does though is gives us a self-made identity.
Yet Ephesians 2 teaches us that we should have a Christ-made identity because each one of us is God’s masterpiece. On top of that, he has prepared us to live out his work in advance.
Why is it so important that each member of the church understands that he or she is God’s masterpiece?
People need to hear more about how they are set apart to do the work of ministry. This includes their walk in everyday life. They need to know that this is the work that God has prepared in advance.
To a large extent, one of the reasons that church members don’t understand is that we have not conveyed this idea specifically enough. Here are the three best ways to explain why this is important:
1. Church members’ identity needs to be in the right place to do God’s work.
When we send people into the work week, we need to send them to meet the need. We need to send them out as Jesus sends out the 72 in the first part of Luke 10. In other words, it is not important if your church member is a doctor or a plumber or a dentist. It is instead all about what type of doctor, plumber or dentist he or she is.
We need people from all walks of life to do God’s work. In other words, we need each person to live in the fact that we are God’s masterpiece. We need to commission our people to go out into the world based on their identity in Christ rather than their identity in a career.
When God created the first human being, he set him in a garden and said, “You are a gardener.” And when he sent his Son, he sent him as a carpenter. We can all agree though that Adam’s identity was not a gardener, nor was Jesus’s identity a carpenter. Ephesians 2 helps us understand that God places us in different walks of life so we can each be God’s masterpiece in action.
2. We can learn how to walk the steps prepared for us by leaning into him.
In the third story of Luke 10, we have Mary and Martha debating whether it is better to be busy or to be quiet. We live in a self-made culture because we believe that we ought to be the self-made architects of our own happiness and our own lives.That’s what we believe in the Western world. However, part of being God’s masterpiece is walking the steps he prepared. We learn to do this by leaning into him. In that moment Jesus taught us something: If you are going to be firmly placed in your identity in Christ, then you have to sit first.
We need to slow down the pace so that God’s words enter us. This way we can come to believe that we are not here to build our identity by climbing the career ladder or building a life that we can post on Facebook. Instead, we believe that we are God’s masterpiece created in Jesus Christ.
In addition, we believe that there are steps prepared for us to walk from Sunday to Monday. When we walk into our week, we can be walking in the path that God has already prepared for us through Christ Jesus. We can walk out this mission no matter what our job is.
3. We win gathered when we commission scattered.
Unfortunately, sometimes we create this idea that what happens inside the church is more important than what happens outside the church. This leads people to believe that what they do as a career is not the mission God has called them to do.
In our church, we have a small staff but we have over 643 volunteers. This is because we give value to what people do. An amazing thing happens when you give value to people. People will scatter and go back into their work week and their everyday life. When they come back gathered, they come back with power because they understand that it is important to be scattered. This is why every Sunday when I give the benediction I don’t dismiss church, I send church.
We have to make sure that we don’t become so desperate about being gathered that we forget about how being scattered wins. We have to make sure that our identities are so rooted in Christ that we understand the path he has prepared for us in advance. This way, we can come back together empowered and ready to change lives through him.
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