Summary: We are as He is in this world...As followers of Jesus Christ, we have an obligation first to our Lord then to others to live lives that identify us as set apart from this world, different from those who don’t know the Lord.
Text: 1 Jn 4:17; Re 1:13-16
Introduction: As a child, I remember a Sci-Fi TV show where the robot would go around saying, "Identify yourself!" As humans, we all have an identity. Our identity is very important - it is what distinguishes us or sets us apart as our own person - no other in the world exactly like you. That identity, as perceived by others, is mostly based on what the perception others have of us - how we portray ourselves to others. This perception that others have of us leads them to either like us or dislike us. This perception is the "real you" others see. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have an obligation first to our Lord then to others to live lives that identify us as set apart from this world, different from those who don’t know the Lord. Unfortunately, too many believers today are suffering an identity crisis. They’ve forgotten who they belong to. They’ve lost sight of their Savior. Thus, they have lost a proper identity in this world. Maybe this is you today. We need to make some adjustments in our lives today so that we may properly identfy ourselves as God’s children.
Think about this: during His earthly walk, the perception we have of Jesus is "a suffering servant, headed for the cross." That was His mission but that was not His ultimate goal. Too often, we stop at the cross. If we stop at the cross, our perception of Christ falls far short of completeness. The Christian life is not found on the cross rather the Christian life is found because of the cross.
I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the cross in any way here because without the cross, we have nothing! But, the cross is not the end, rather it is ithe beginning, it is the entrance to the real Christian life. Even for Jesus, the cross was something to be endured in order to obtain the joy that was on the other side. Too many in the Christian world still find themselves weeping at the foot of the cross - their minds transfixed on the Christ who died rather than the Christ who lives. We need to readjust our focus. Rather than spending all our time looking at the Redeemer who died, let’s focus on the Redeemer who lives.
Jesus became poor so that I might become rich. Jesus suffered with stripes so that I might be free from affliction. Jesus became sin so that I could become the righteousness of God. Why then should I spend all my time trying to become as He was rather than trying to become as He is? We need to allow the reality of the resurrection - the power of the resurrection - to dominate our lives.
John gives us a revelation of the triumphant Christ - the Christ whose ultimate goal was to defeat death, defeat the grave, defeat the enemy, release the captives, and ascend triumphantly to the right hand of the Father. John’s perception of the triumphant Christ is revealed in Re 1:13-16:
"One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe, and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. His head and hair were white like wool--white as snow, His eyes like a fiery flame, His feet like fine bronze fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters. In His right hand He had seven stars; from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was shining like the sun at midday."
This is the Jesus that John speaks of when he says: "we are as He is" in 1 Jn 4:17. This is the Jesus we are to be identified with.
As we consider our identity today, let’s begin by considering a misunderstanding too many Christians live under and that is:
1. A Counterfeit Cross
A. In Mt 16:24, Jesus said: "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."
1. This call has led many to follow Jesus’ life of self-denial.
2. This life is filled with attempts to crucify the sin nature by embracing joyless brokenness.
3. This life is identified by self-denial and self-abasement.
4. Those who embrace this identity rarely if ever experience joy and happiness.
B. The focus of Jesus in this particular verse was worldly pursuits.
1. His attention was on priorities.
2. It is not the denial of worldly things rather the proper placement in our prioritizing.
3. Living to fulfill worldly desires never brings fulfillment - living for Jesus does.
Application: When we live lives of self-denial, we stop short of living His life of power. When we embrace an inferior cross, our lives are constantly filled with introspection and self-induced suffering. Christians who are trapped by this counterfeit are constantly talking about their weaknesses and living weak lives. The true message of the cross is power and God’s desire for you and I is to experience that power and live in that power.