The last few weeks at Beachside I preached a series called “Confronting Fears.” I want to unpack it a bit. If you’d like to watch the sermons they can be found here:
July 9th – Confronting Fears – Identity
July 16th – Confronting Fears
July 23rd – Confronting Fears – Freedom
The first week we talked about “Identity.” We’ve all got baggage we carry from a few different sources. This baggage hinders our walk with Christ and teaches us the wrong things about ourselves. Some of that baggage comes from:
Society – what is the baggage you carry from living in this world? It could be busyness, a warped sense of self, a desire for a certain kind of recognition, misguided sense of value (for yourself, others, possessions) and more. None of us can escape this; we are products of the world in which we live.
Family of Origin –Everyone has positive and negative values and lessons from their childhood and their immediate family. For example, if your parents are divorced, you have a higher chance at getting divorced. Maybe your family had trouble saying “I love you,” weren’t emotionally present, or valued the wrong things. What we have in common is that everyone’s family is at least a little dysfunctional and parts of us are products of our environment.
Experience – When I preached on July 9th, I used an example from my deployment to Iraq. I spoke about praying over the bodies of 3 Soldiers and an Iraqi translator after a catastrophic IED event. It didn’t seem to affect me at the time. A couple years later I saw the name of one of those Soldiers at memorial and found myself crying. I didn’t know the Soldier; I “met” him as his remains came into the morgue. Nevertheless, something about that event became a part of me. We all have experiences – good and bad – which have formed us.
This baggage produces certain fears. We could fear relationships, failure, death, being hurt or something else.. I’ll unpack more of that in the next post. But this baggage is part of our identity.
The challenge with all this baggage is sorting out the noise. These experiences shape our self-image. Some of it is positive. Some of it produces negative (and untrue) self-talk. These lies affect our perception of God’s love for us, and hinder our walk with Christ.
Who We Are
In Jesus Christ, God tell us who we actually are. His message is counter-cultural to much of what we’ve been told. He labels us with:
Value – Think about the famous verse John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” This is a tough verse if you believe people have to make changes before God loves them. What Jesus is saying here is that God relates to you first by love. You have value to God. He loves you.
Covenantal Love – This love is expressed through a special “covenant.” A covenant is an agreement made by one person or party with another or others. Sometimes it’s a mutual covenant, sometimes it’s one sided. For example, in Palm Coast we have a covenant telling us where and when we can do certain things (like not parking on the street overnight). We do not have a choice. It simply is the covenant.
This is how God relates to us: through a covenant of love. We don’t “do” anything to earn this love. In fact, Jesus did it all on the cross long before you had any clue God existed or loved you (Romans 5:8). You are loved by God.
Unconditional Acceptance – This love is unconditional. That statement is the hardest part of Christianity and some of you will get hung up about it. You’ll protest that God cares about how we live, and Christians should do and don’t do certain things. Absolutely. But those are not pre-conditions for love. God’s love is unconditional and He loves us first. It is similar to the love of a good parent (not all parents are good). A parent love their child unconditionally. That doesn’t mean they don’t care how their child lives. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s because of their love that they care even more.
As we begin to confront our fears, we have to be willing to lay our baggage at the foot of the cross. Will we listen to all the garbage in our lives? Or will we embrace God’s identity for us: a value, covenantal love and unconditional acceptance?
Tomorrow I’ll post about facing some actual fears in light of this identity in Christ.