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"RESTORING THE CHURCH'S TRUE IDENTITY"  

 

INTRODUCTION  

 

I saw a film recently which began with the main character suffering from amnesia. He was rescued from the ocean by a fishing boat but he had no idea who he was, how he came to be in the water, where he was supposed to be going or what he was supposed to be doing. The rest of the movie portrayed his desperate search for his identity.  

 

The primary target of the temptations of Jesus was His identity (Matthew 4 & Luke 4). "If you are the Son of God…." was the repeated assault on His identity. Satan knew that if he could create confusion and uncertainty in the mind of Jesus about His identity, he would effectively neutralize His mission. The same is true for the Church today – the Body of Christ.  

 

The world in which we live is desperate for at least three basic realities – identity, significance and security. When it comes to identity in our culture, people try to "find themselves" in all the wrong places - in their work, their achievements, their leisure etc. This identity crisis generates questions like, "Who am I? Why am I here? What is my life all about?"  

 

The Christian Church (in the western world, at least) is again facing its own identity crisis and is asking the same kind of questions. The limited effectiveness of the Church when it comes to impacting the world can be traced back to this crisis. Whenever we lose sight of who we are as the people of God and why God has placed us in this world and in our local community, we find ourselves becalmed on the sea of God's purposes. We lack energy, vision, direction and empowerment.  

 

The good news is that we don't have to stay in that condition!  

 

Of the many expressions and terms in Scripture that are used to describe those who are believers or followers of God, one of the simplest and richest is that we are "a people belonging to God". (1 Peter 2/9). This designation emphasises the source of our identity, significance and security as those who are His. Before we came to God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, we had no lasting identity. In fact, that passage in 1 Peter specifically says that "Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God (identity and significance); once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (security) (v.10).  

 

But what are the implications of being "a people belonging to God? Is this a nice, cosy concept in which we selfishly revel or does it have much wider implications for us as individuals and for our Church Family?   These studies have been written to help us explore our identity, significance and security as a community of faith and to help us enter more fully into the "practice of being the people". How does our new identity effect the way we relate to God, to each other and to the community where God has placed us?  

 

My prayer in writing these studies is that the benefits of this series will last much longer than the 8 weeks of group study. The material you are about to explore is absolutely foundational to our life together. We want to examine what it means to authentically be the people of God and to rediscover the ways that we can live out the New Testament principles of being the Church.For example, Romans 12/5 tells us that "each member belongs to all the others" What does it mean to belong to each other? How do we work that out in practical terms?  

 

(The remaining notes are for those who will use these studies in weekly small group sessions)   You will find a series of six Bible readings listed at the end of each study. These are designed to provide you with a daily guided reading focus which, in turn, will help you prepare for the next study.   At points you will be invited to become vulnerable by sharing your inner feelings and responses to the privilege of being one of the people of God. You and/or your group can avoid that risk by giving the "right" answer or you can get to the heart of the theme by sharing your own heart. Be open with your thoughts and questions. Press into the truth of God as it unfolds week by week. Let the Word of God accomplish change and growth in our lives as we submit to its authority.  

 

Mike Robinson

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