A youth minister that a few of our old-timers will remember, Reid Moon, was fairly famous for his questions that seemed to come right out of left field—that would make you think a little deeper. One of his more famous questions was supposed to be asked while looking in a mirror, “Who am I, and what am I about?” The right answers to this double question can make a huge difference in the life of an individual Christian, because it refocuses and clarifies our true identities and purpose.
And if it helps us individually, it will help us collectively as a church. Let’s ponder this thought starting with who we are.
Or rather who we aren’t. Looks can be deceiving, of course, and this is the reason we must even ask the first question at all. For example, although the church is a group of friendly people, we are not a social club. Social clubs are for the expressed purpose of forming social circles and giving opportunities to socialize and make friends. They may have a few hoops to jump through, a special handshake to learn, and a secret to be in on, but these are primarily for the purpose of weeding out people “who just wouldn’t fit in”. If the church sees itself as a social club, it misses God’s vision by a mile and will miss God’s whole purpose for its existence. And although we do good things, we’re not a philanthropic society. Such groups raise money and help people or causes, so that they can feel good about themselves. And yes, such groups have certain value to society, but the church is much, much more, doing things for a much different, a much higher, reason than “the good of society” or to feel good about themselves.
We are the Bride of Christ. Here is the original rags to riches story, told in several spots throughout the Bible (Ezekiel 16, Ezekiel 23, Hosea 1, Ephesians 5:22ff, Revelation 21:1,2). We may look like just any other group of people, but we are the very Bride of Christ! Though at one point we were common, unremarkable, and even enemies; now we are chosen, covenanted, holy, loved, protected, special, and exalted.
We are the saved (Acts 2:47). At one point we were lost, doomed, and the certain objects of God’s wrath and justice; but now we have been rescued by a most gracious Savior. Rescued from the certain doom of justice, from slavery to sin, from sure disaster for our souls. Yes, we may still look a mess with eyes of the flesh—sin takes its toll and still tries to claw at us—but don’t be fooled, we are the saved, the rescued, from sin and death.
We are the new Israel, God’s people. Israel was described as the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8)—holy, chosen, and treasured. With such privilege, however, went great responsibility, too. Now, the church has become the new Israel (e.g., Romans 2:28,29). God once said this about Israel, (Isaiah 52:13, 14) “Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men.” That is to say, we may not look like “the nation of God”, the “kingdom of God”, but that’s exactly who we are! Conquering, mighty, and led by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
We are priests of God (1 Peter 2:5). This description speaks of both great privilege (no one approaches God as a priest without God’s designation) and responsibility. As a church we offer up offerings of praise and living sacrifices of our lives, and we mediate between God and mankind with the Gospel. We may look like a bunch of “laymen”, we may feel like “laymen”, but the reality is, we are priests of God Most High.
We are the body of Christ. Christ’s resurrection body ascended from the Mt. of Olives 10 days before Pentecost approximately AD 30, He still has a body that remains here on this earth—us! What does Jesus look like? Us. A light to the lost; an example of obedience and love; and unified people melded into one body giving glory to God in all its deeds and perseverance. Granted, we may look a bit bedraggled from a human perspective, we may be misfiring as a body sometimes, but as long as we are connected with the Head, Christ—listening and obeying—we are His body.
We are the family or household of God (1 Timothy 3:15). Yes, I know, we don’t look like we’re related: short-tall, willowy-rotund, black-white, upper-class—lower-class, GED-doctorates, brown-eyed—blue-eyed, native-born—from-away. As Paul put it, (1 Corinthians 1:26) “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble”—but we are family. And not just any family, God’s family. Covenanted, heirs, beloved, and even disciplined as sons.
So look in the mirror again, church. What you see is not exactly what we are, unless you’re looking in the mirror of God’s word. We are so much more than the eyes of flesh perceive, more than our fleeting feelings sense. And that realization is transformative, for then we can accomplish the commissions God has given to us. More on the commissions next week.