Who God Says You Are: Your Relationships

Who God Says You Are: Your Relationships

Introduction 

  • In 1829, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia decided to implement a form of punishment based on the Quaker belief that “prisoners isolated in stone cells with only a Bible would use the time to repent, pray and find introspection.”
    • Unfortunately had opposite effect: often went insane, committed suicide, or became incapable of functioning in normal society—simply because they were left alone.
    • This was a process that prisons have tried throughout the years known as “Solitary confinement.”
  • This punishment was based on a fundamental truth: that we need each other. That humans need relationships, we need interaction, communication, and friendship.
    • Ironic, because although we desperately need it, its one of our greatest difficulties.
    • To prove my point: think of some of the worst pain you’ve ever experienced, some of the greatest difficulties you’ve endured in life—I can almost guarantee it had something to do with a relationship.
    • Divorce; loss of a loved one; problem with parents.
  • This is a sad truth, but shouldn’t be a surprise: the first thing sin infected was our relationships (husband and wife are ashamed and self-conscious in each other’s presence; blaming and accusing each other of faults; Cain killing Abel and the ruin that came from that).
    • “Sin is, by nature, about fracture.”
    • Because of sin, we often taint/twist our relationships:
      • We objectify (treat people as objects instead of investments).
      • We abuse (some of the worst crimes committed—murder, sexual assault, domestic abuse—are all abuses of human relations).
      • We manipulate (Instead of being honest and open, we often deceive for our purposes).
      • We conform (instead of having a healthy of view of self, often are chameleons, trying to be someone else).
    • To make matters more complicated, we define our worth and value by relationships—who people say we are, what they think about us, and the type of friendships we have all shape how we view the self.
      • We idolize (we become enslaved to what people think about us, and what is said).
      • This is a terrible bondage to be in (believe me, I know).
      • What then is a healthy view of our relationships, and how do we allow God’s view of us to shape those relationships?
    • Lesson: Who God Says You Are: Your Relationships.

Jesus is Your Most Important, Most Defining Relationship 

  • While we may not think idolatry is a serious issue for us today, the reality is that we idolize people we love: parents idolize their children; young teenagers idolize each other.
    • The reality is that Jesus leaves no room at the top—He expects to be the most important, defining relationship in your life (Matt. 10:34-37).
    • Our most intimate relationships are radically altered once we begin following Jesus; in fact, sometimes they end.
    • Addressing those who would renounce Jesus and his teachings in favor of familial relationships.
    • Who do we allow to be the determining voice in our life for truth, guidance, and eternal life?
  • Gets back to the idea of being enslaved to the perception of others (i.e. “But what would the neighbors say?”)
    • Please don’t misunderstand: we should give thought “not only to our own interested by the interest of others” (Phil. 2:3) and do what we can to “not give offense” (Matt. 17:27).
    • At the same time, if we recognize that God’s view of us, and what He says/thinks of us is far greater and far more valuable, than this truly frees us to live freely and happily because:
      • He accepts me, knowing I have sinned.
      • He accepts me, by his grace.
      • I may not can dictate what others think of me, but I can look to scripture and find satisfaction if I am doing the will of God.
    • We then are no longer a slave to what others think of us, but find satisfaction in what Jesus knows about us. 
  • Some may feel uncomfortable saying they have a “relationship” with Jesus Christ, but that is often how scripture defines our connection with our Savior.
    • John 15:4-5, 9; 14; 1 John 1:1-3; Col. 3:3; 1 Cor. 10:16; Eph. 5:30.
    • Christianity isn’t simply about proper education, but participation within the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. 
    • Within the gospel we become “one spirit with the Lord” (1 Cor. 6:17) and the language used to describe that relationship is very intimate in nature (Eph. 5:31-32).
    • Within the gospel, and our acceptance of it, Jesus draws us into “his family” his “inner circle” and defines who we are by our relationship with Him.
  • This is why we are called “Christians” and will be given a “New name” (Rev. 2:17) within the resurrection: because our identity is forever altered by our fellowship and relationship with Jesus Christ.
    • Yet, this isn’t experienced within isolation.
    • Unfortunate baggage of “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”—although this is true to an extent, there is a communal aspect as well in which we experience the rich vibrancy of knowing Jesus through knowing others. 
    • This community of people which shares and loves Jesus together is the church.

Church: The Christian’s New Community 

  • Its been said that “you can’t be human alone” but this is also true of Christianity; “You can’t be a Christian alone” (Rom. 14:7).
    • In fact, the gospel calls us into a new community of renewed relationships where the central defining factor isn’t our wealth, ethnicity, social class, intelligence, etc. but our shared need for Jesus. 
    • Gal. 3:26-29
    • This is experienced within worship, particularly within the Lord’s supper, as we all recognize our need for the grace of God within the blood and body of Jesus.
  • As we mentioned, our relationships define us in many ways; who we spend time with, shape who we are (1 Cor. 15:33).
    • So, our most intimate, most influential relationships should be other Christians.
    • We are joined to each other in an intimate way (Rom. 12:5).
    • Within Christ, we belong to other people, and other people belong to us; this is what it means to be within the family of God.
  • “Bird of a feather, flock together”—-this should be true of Christians, not simply within the church building, but outside of it.
    • Sharing meals in the context of our home, enjoying time and fellowship together outside of the building are so very important.
    • Some of our most precious moments should be spent in the context of Christians.
  • All of this is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ who has redefined who we are by his death and resurrection:
    • Through self giving love we learn to share Jesus with each other by serving (Gal. 5:13-14).
    • Within the church we come to know Jesus better, by coming to know each other better and learning to love people we never thought we’d love.
    • Because we see ourselves within the context of the cross—sin broken and in need of grace—we can love those who aren’t like us.
    • The incredible thing about Jesus is the transformative power of His love. One day you find yourself loving people you never thought you would—grumpy, selfish, arrogant, annoying, awkward people. And then, an even more incredible thing happens: those same people start loving you.

Conclusion

  • The selfie generation: an obsession with the self (often with disregard for others).
  • Yet, the reality is that our identity isn’t shaped by who we are, but by who we know, and who knows us. (Gal. 4:8-9).