This past week I had the privilege of speaking twice a day to about 150 middle school teens. Now this may be your definition of suffering, but it is my sweet spot. They are my favorite group of people on the face of the earth.
I love everything single thing about them from the squirrelly behavior of the boys to the extreme drama of the girls to watching them take another step in their spiritual journey.
One of the many things I love about this stage of development is that they are trying hard to define who they are apart from their parents…and they certainly don’t want to be like their parents. Through interactions with their friends, events at school and other experiences they are seeking to discover if they are athletic or musical, an extrovert or an introvert, an academic or someone who works with their hand, etc. They are trying to find answers to big questions like, “who am I,” “what am I good at,” “what makes me special,” “how does God fit into all of this,” …basically, they want to know what defines them.
I have discovered that question is not unique to adolescents. As adults we can struggle at times to know what defines us – to know who we really are. This is an important question to answer because how we look at ourselves will color how we relate to the rest of the world as well as how we relate to God.
So, if you had to describe yourself to someone who does not know you, what would you say?
When I do this exercise with groups of adults, I find that people usually define themselves by marital/family position, profession, talents or gifts, geographical location, interests or hobbies, achievements and successes. All these things are of course true, but they are not the ultimate definition. There are those who have struggled with life and define themselves by their failures or mistakes, who let shame and guilt color their definition. Others define themselves by situations that are outside their control (i.e. I am a cancer patient, etc.).
While all these situations are correct, they are not the ultimate definition of who we are. What is the ultimate definition? In his book, “Swipe Right,” author Levi Lusko uses a term that I would like to suggest is the ultimate definition.
That term is, “defined by deliverance”.
Because of the atoning, completed, efficacious work of Christ on the cross, we have been delivered from the bondage of our old sinful nature, forgiven of our sins and restored to an intimate relationship with God. Our deliverance means guilt, shame and our broken past need no longer define us.
We have been delivered from fear of the future even as we face life-threatening diseases.
We have been delivered from alienation with God to being adopted into the family of God. Romans 8:15 says it all, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” We are children of the King, God’s treasured possessions, His beloved.
We are His ministers of reconciliation, His ambassadors, His righteousness.
We are salt and light.
We are His people called out of darkness to be prophet, priest and king.
We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are empowered by that Spirit to do mighty things to bring God’s kingdom here and now and bring Him glory.
We are defined by our deliverance!
Praise be to God!!