How do we fully identify with Jesus?
It can be hard to know what this means.
It must go back to what Jesus himself taught in John 15. This is the parable of the vine and the branches, and in it Jesus teaches what is perhaps his most important teaching about our identity. Turn there and read John 15:1-10.
Did you catch Jesus’ central theme? Remain in him. Apart from him, you can do nothing. It is not only that we need to acknowledge our identity in him, but also that he wants us to depend on him. The result is his power flowing through us.
We recently had to cut down one of the English walnut trees in our back yard. Those trees made delicious walnuts for years. My daughter didn’t have a lemonade stand, but she did have a little walnut business. But this year the tree made no leaves and no walnuts. Branches had been falling down for years. This season the tree died.
Likewise, in order to avoid becoming spiritually dead and unfruitful, we must have union with Christ.
How then do we remain in him?
Jesus said in John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me, has seen the father.” Thus Jesus provides for us the ultimate example of what humans are to strive for. And likewise we, Christians, are to be the reflection of Jesus to the world.
So we followers of Jesus should not assume that we know him. Who is Jesus? How did he carry himself? What did he do in difficult situations? Study the gospels to learn how Jesus thinks, talks, behaves. Get with another person or two and study a book of the Bible. Read a chapter a week.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. When you study the Gospels, notice who Jesus interacted with. So often it was people on the margins of society. But rather than marginalize them further, he treated them with compassion, getting personally involved, reaching out to them, sitting with them. How does that relate to us? It can be easy to write a check, send a gift, and feel like we are being like Christ and doing our “duty.” While those things are good and necessary, they are not the complete picture of Jesus. Instead we should build genuine caring relationships with people that are different than us.
When we are in Christ, our lives will look more and more like his. He gave of himself, sacrificially, over and over. This sacrificial pattern of his life was not just one act of sacrifice at the end. He gave sacrificially of his energy, his time, his gifts, and he did so regularly throughout his entire ministry. Then he took time to recharge. How? By getting away and sitting with God.
So what about you? What do you do to connect with God? If we are acknowledging that our identity is in God, in Jesus, those times in gathered worship with our church family, with our small group and individually with God, are where we are fulfilled and understood and loved deeply. We recharge with Him. Otherwise it’s like putting bad batteries that are nearly dead into a remote. They work for a minute but the charge will not last. It does not sustain. This is a significant way to remain in the vine; staying connected to the one who gives us life is the only way to live the abundant life we are promised and we long for.
Just to be clear: none of these things are done as a thing to earn God’s love. He loves us. Simple. You are loved by God. You are his child. He is a good God who loves his children deeply and fully. But when you choose to acknowledge your identity and walk into situations with that acknowledgement, then you will have more joy. Not necessarily an easier life, which is not a promise, but you will have joy. You will know deep love and acceptance. You will have inner strength in difficult situations.