Summary: Too many times we allow old labels to stick tightly even after we have come to Christ. How can we get old negative labels off so that we can become what Christ intended for us to be?
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
Dr. Marilyn S. Murphree
August 14, 2005
Taking on a New Identity in Christ
INTRODUCTION: Today’s scripture talks about the most unlikely person in the world to be a leader and deliverer of Israel. Gideon at this point had a painful past that he was still having difficulty with. He had been so beat down psychologically by the fear of the Midianites that he was hiding out in a winepress trying to do his work. He may have been struggling with a lot of “ifs” and “whys” because in this scripture he verbalized these concerns to the angel of the Lord who visited him.
Today you may be experiencing some of the same concerns that Gideon was experiencing. You may be struggling with a painful past that is still defeating you. I have entitled this message “Taking on a New Identity in Christ.” Let’s see what we can get out of this Old Testament scripture that we can apply to our life today.
1. Labels of the Past: Gideon had many labels of the past placed on him by others as well as labels he placed on himself that prevented him from being what God wanted him to be. The day the angel of the Lord came to him, he was hiding in a winepress trying to do his work. People didn’t thresh grain in a winepress. But Gideon was so fearful of the Midianites who terrorized the land day in and day out that he was reduced to this lifestyle. The angel approached him by saying, “The Lord is with you mighty warrior!”
If you had been in Gideon’s shoes at that moment, how would you have responded? “Yeh, right! Sure he is.” Gideon said pretty much the same thing. IF the Lord is with us, why has all this happened?
WHERE are all His wonderful miracles that people told us about in the past?
But now the Lord has ABANDONED us.
He had a lot of “ifs” and “whys” and doubts. His faith was at a very low point.
The angel of the Lord didn’t pay much attention to all of this. He said, “Go in the strength you have [been given] and deliver Israel out of the hands of Midian. Am I not sending you? (vs. 14).
Gideon was not prepared for such an assignment. He not only had a lot of “ifs” and “whys” but his self talk revealed the self-defeating labels that stuck tight.
ILLUSTRATION: Have you ever tried to get the label off of a jar? Sometimes it is a real chore. This pickle jar is one that I want to put paint in. It is a nice size and has a use. But I don’t want it to be labeled “pickles” anymore. I want to get the old label off so it looks like this jar. Part of it has peeled off but there is still more work to do on it. [show the two jars].
The labels from Gideon’s past were sticking even more tightly than this. He came up with all kinds of objections. Look at me....
1. How can I?
2. My clan is the WEAKEST in Manasseh
3. I’m the LEAST in my family (The Message Bible says, “I’m the runt of the litter.”
4. IF you are really serious, give me a sign...
STORY: In one of the cathedrals of England, there is a beautiful window through which the sunlight streams. It displays the facts and personalities of the Old and New Testament, and the glorious truths and doctrines of the Christian revelation. This window was fabricated by the artist out of broken bits of glass which another artist had discarded.
Gideon’s success was not dependent on his family background or his past. It was not dependent on his present circumstances. The Lord said, “I don’t care about the past because I am going to be ACTIVELY PRESENT in your life today.” He had all of the necessary qualifications. We do too.
Do you have labels on you from the past that are still defeating you? Probably most people do.
ILLUSTRATION: I remember when I was in the 8th grade the supt of schools, Mr. Brown, came over to speak to our class. He said to us, “You are the dumbest class that has ever passed through these doors.”
I think that label has stuck all these years. Otherwise I wouldn’t have even remembered it.
That’s an example of a label that someone else placed on our class.
STORY: A class of students in New York inter city schools had very low achievement. During parent-teacher conferences the teacher’s grade book was lying open on the desk and she showed them the individual grades. There was a number beside each student’s name. The parents not only saw the poor grades, but they saw a much higher number and they assumed it was an IQ score. The parents talked among themselves at what a high score their child had and started to help with homework and encouraged their children to do better. The next six weeks the grades had improved remarkedly and the teacher didn’t know why. When the parents came in for the conference, she asked. They explained it was because of the high IQ score listed in the grade book. What they thought was an IQ score was really the student’s locker number.