Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Crisis of Identity

Good morning my friends. First an apology. In the last couple of weeks I have been concluding a New Testament Survey study with my students which involved discussing 1, 2, 3 John. Yet in our devotional time in the mornings we have been looking at 1 Peter. For the last couple of blogs I have inadvertently referred to John when I clearly should have referred to Peter. I apologise for any confusion this may have caused. Now for this morning's look at the Word.

I am convinced that the Church is going through an identity crisis. For a period of time walls between denominations seemed to be coming down. People were starting to realize that we are the Body and our identity is found in Jesus and not our denominations. Various leaders and simple folk were beginning to realize that what we had in common, the headship of Jesus and the unity of the Spirit was much greater than the disputable matters that separated us. But in recent years there appear to be new denominations emerging, smaller and focused perhaps on one man or a single church. People have again begun aligning themselves with certain teachers and pastors, spending time defending one and disputing another. We are forgetting the original design and I think we need a refresher from Peter:

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Regardless of our differences, what we have in common is greater. Peter saw us as a great temple, being built together, becoming a spiritual house, a holy priesthood. Together we have purpose and calling. He refers to our spiritual sacrifice which some would read as worship. Well, if you consider the sacrifice of your life as worship then I would agree, because we have been called to forfeit our lives, to become servants of the great and mighty Creator of all things, so that the glory of Jesus could be revealed to the entire world. This is our common mission. Jesus said that if we would be united then the whole world would recognize us as his disciples but our confusion over our identity has led to the world being confused over Jesus. Peter continues:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Doesn't that sound terrific? Read those titles out loud: chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. Titles of dignity, of inclusion, of purpose. How could we not be united when we all have the purpose of declaring the praises of Jesus? Yes, we declare them to each other but the true purpose is to declare them to a lost and dying world, that they would know there is hope. However, we are too busy following men and arguing over disputable matters that the world could not care less about. We are fighting over scraps while the danger of Islam marches across the world. We are more concerned about which pastor is the most popular and has the biggest following to care about the orphans and widows. I am not talking about church programs but about us as individuals who have the responsibility to make disciples and to do the good works that have been prepared for us to do.

In some ways the Internet is doing what the Church has failed to do. The Internet removes titles and dividing walls, as long as we will allow it. Only twice in the past year have I been asked what denomination I belong to. Other than that people have simply accepted me as a follower of Jesus Christ, as it should be. Our identity should not be found in the denomination we were raised in or perhaps joined in with, but instead our identity is found in Jesus Christ:

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:10)

There are so many things that could divide us and only one that unites us, but that one is so much larger than anything else that everything else appears like wisps of smoke in comparison. If we are not in this for Jesus then we are not in it at all. We are playing house, dress-up, make believe and one day all those things will be burned up into the nothing they are. Only the things built on Jesus Christ will last, including us. So put down your placards and stop calling out "Peter", "Paul" and "Apollos" and get behind the only head of the Church- Jesus Christ.