Summary: A sermon addressing temptation.
"The Importance of Knowing Whose You Are"
Lorenzo Sell Writes:
"In mid 2009, I left my position as CEO of a company that I had founded.
I didn't know it at the time, but this was the beginning of an almost four-year process that I can only describe as losing my identity.
During this time I would go through heartbreak and homelessness and question every aspect of my life.
I moved from Honolulu to San Francisco to New York City.
I spent 11 months living in my car and incurred massive debt.
After a challenging breakup, I didn't go on a single date for 18 months.
I went through immense psychological stress and periods of time where I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.
All the things that had been important to me -- a nice apartment, fashionable clothes, a fancy startup, my social life, financial stability, my diet and fitness-- dissolved."
Sell continues, "As I began to let go of all these things, I came to a very challenging psychological place: I had no idea who I was.
With every core identity in question, I had a very hard time even socializing with other people.
If I had no identity, on what basis could I connect with others?"
Identity is that collection of attributes that defines how we see ourselves.
It is the answer to the question: "Who am I?"
If you have ever seriously asked yourself that question you may have found that the answer is not as obvious you might have thought.
Lorenzo Sell continues his story: "In experiencing my loss of identity, I could see that many of my actions were motivated by a desire for external recognition.
I was either trying to impress others or worried about how they would judge me.
However, any situation where my self-expression is contingent upon the validation of others is bound to limit me from being myself.
And if I'm not being myself, how can I possibly be happy?
True identity is being true to oneself."
This morning's Gospel Lesson takes place immediately after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.
And we are told that "When Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up out of the water.
Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him.
A voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.'"
This is the core of Jesus' identity.
Jesus is God's Son.
And baptism marks a "new beginning."
In Jesus' case, it was the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry.
So, what does it mean to be "God's Son...
...whom [God] dearly [loves]..."
...in Whom God finds happiness?
What does it mean for Jesus?
What does it mean for us?
Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, and how Jesus responds to these temptations give us some very important clues as to Who God is when God takes on flesh and becomes fully human.
And for those of us who profess to follow Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior, our identity is extremely contingent on Jesus' identity.
Who are we?
What does it mean that you are a Christian--that I am a Christian?
After-all, the word Christian literally means: "little christs."
How will we live into this identity?
As Christians, who are we, really?
These are questions we ask when we are faced with difficult choices.
There can be no doubt that our identity is challenged the most when life is hard.
What do you do when the rubber meets the road?
Do you put your money where your mouth is?
Who are we when everything else is stripped away?
We are told that Jesus was famished when He was tempted by the devil.
The text says literally, "After Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving."
We may find ourselves faced with temptation when we are stressed, overtired, anxious or sick.
It was in the wilderness that the Israelites struggled to identify themselves as people of God, and when the going got tough, they created a golden calf to worship in the place of God.
We are tested when we face financial problems, disagreements, or threats.
These are the kinds of situations in which it is hardest for us to be the people God has called us to be.
Notice that the first two of Jesus' temptations challenge the issue of His identity directly.
"The tempter came to him and said, 'Since you are God's Son, command these stones to become bread.'"
That's a huge temptation for Someone Who has not eaten a thing for 40 days and 40 nights.
So just how human is the Son of God willing to be?