Claiming Your True, Forgiven Identity

I was the last person I would have picked to serve on a Christian Education committee, but someone in the very first church I got involved in twenty-five years ago nominated me, and so I served. 

I was the last person I would have picked to become a youth director, but over the course of ten years, two different churches hired me to serve in that capacity. 

I was the last person on the face of God's green earth who would have ever said that I would become a pastor, but I've been one for nearly twenty years for three different churches.  

The reason I felt so unworthy to do any of these things was because I was hearing voices. 

We all have voices in our head that speak to us, and tell us that we're not worthy to do any of the things that God calls us to do.  Mostly, these voices remind us of all the things we did in the past to become so unworthy. The bring up our mistakes, our foibles, the poor decisions and tragic errors that we've committed.  

And they tell us that we shouldn't... that we aren't...  that we can't...  

I know that I have been forgiven by the grace and mercy of God.  I know that God has redeemed my past, wiped the slate clean and given me more than one second chance to be the person God has always dreamed I would be.  

But sometimes knowing these things and internalizing them as part of my very identity are two different things.  

As it turns out, forgiving ourselves for the things we've done, said or left undone that have strained our relationships with God and others is something most of us do very poorly.  We struggle, in the words of Shakespeare, to "Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil; With them forgive yourself."  

One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is found in Romans chapter 8:1.  The Apostle Paul wrote these incredible words nearly 2000 years ago, and yet they still ring so true and clear to us today:  

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."  

The great Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran wrote about this very thing nearly a century ago.  "Now I realize," he said, "that the trees blossom in Spring and bear fruit in the Summer without praise; and they drop their leaves in Autumn and become naked in Winter without fearing blame." 

May you discover the weight and beauty of these words: You are not condemned.  You have been set free by the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sustainer of the Universe.  You are a beloved child of God, an imperfect disciple of Christ--stumbling after Jesus.  Set yourself free, and embrace your true identity.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.  Amen. 

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