Summary: #6 in series. Who are we? How do we find out?
Colossians 2:6-12 – Identify Yourself
Today we resume our series through the book of Colossians. Where we left off, before I took a week vacation, was the first part of chapter 2, and that’s where we pick up again. Today Paul is writing to the believers in Colosse about their identity. Who were they? Whose were they? The issues are the same for us now. What do we use to form our identity? Let’s read 2:6-12.
You probably know Ted Giannoulas even if you’ve never heard his name. He has been the San Diego Chicken for 30 years. He originated the character as a college student, but Ted is getting older. At age 50, being the Chicken has been his life and his whole identity. His face is never photographed unless he is in costume. No one knows the real Ted. He has no family. At first, he loved his alter ego. "I discovered an untapped personality in that suit," he said. "It was like, now I have freedom. Now I’m no longer Ted."
But, there is a price to pay. Dave Raymond, who for years wore the costume of the Philly Phanatic, said, "[Giannoulas] was the first and the funniest, and I have nothing but respect for him. But if you’re not careful, you can lose yourself in that suit."
Ted himself says, "I have plenty of Chicken stories. I’m afraid I don’t have any Ted stories."
Who am I, asked Ted Giannoulas. Am I a man or a chicken? What makes a person who they are? What defines us? How do we identify ourselves?
Some people define themselves in terms of their clothing. How they dress, what they wear, their colours, their fashion, the latest from Paris, or retro from the 80’s… some see themselves as what they wear.
Some define themselves in terms of their abilities and talents. What they can do determines who they are. I’m a hockey player. I’m a musician. I’m a chef. Whatever. Some people look at themselves by what they can do or can’t do.
Some define themselves by family. I am so-and-so’s daughter, I’m his son, my cousin is the mayor, that’s my son out there on the ice or in the field, Archelaus Smith was my 8th great-grandfather, and so on.
Some define themselves by what they have. A new boat, a bigger house, a successful business, a nice camper, a comfy cottage, a big chunk of land… these are things that many of us take great pride in, and it affirms our success in life. We see ourselves as successful by all the things we own.
Others define themselves by, maybe, their style of music, or the kind of movies they watch, or their piercings and tattoos, or their causes and pet projects, or their hairstyles, or all kinds of things. They choose to identify themselves by what they like, or what they look like, or how they act, or things like this. And I suppose there might be a place for this, to a certain extent.
But that thinking only goes so far. If your whole identity, how you see yourself, how you value yourself, is tied up in your looks, say, and then something happens to your looks, then what? If you pride yourself in a nice haircut, and then you get a shabby one, how does it make you feel?
Or if your identity is tied up with your talents, and then someone doesn’t appreciate you for those talents, then what? Your self-esteem takes a tumble. Like, if you work to make a beautiful dessert for an auction, and it doesn’t get bought for what you think it’s worth, how do you feel? If your view of yourself is connected to people noticing and appreciating your talents, you don’t feel great.
This esteem issues muddies everything we do, even good things. If you want to serve God, and you try, and you feel no-one is noticing, very often, your ego kicks in, and motives change, and then you start to serve God so that you get recognized. The desire to be seen and valued and appreciated can undermine even the best of God’s servants who start off with the best of motives.
This is why Paul helps us to understand who we are, and whose we are. Paul wants us to understand ourselves, to identify ourselves, with something more lasting than talents, looks, or family. He says we have been given fullness in Christ – that is, completeness, everything we need… it’s in Jesus. In Jesus we were circumcised – the symbol of the Old Covenant, that God is making for Himself a new people, different and unique. Christ did that for us, that He put the past behind us, and gave us a new heart. For a believer, the sinful nature has no hold on us. Not to say that a believer never sins, of course, but a Christian does not have to follow the sinful nature. Show me from the Bible that a believer has to sin, and we’ll argue the case a little.