I’m all for the fall, but until recently, I was sort of mourning the end of summer.
We recently turned on our heater at home. I’m wearing my Ugg robe (Thanks, Mom!) and fuzzy slippers as I type this sentence.
I can feel the chill in the air. First it was unfamiliar. Uncomfortable, even. But I’m starting to settle in and sensing a growing excitement for what’s ahead.
Change can be hard. We all get stuck. But God created the seasons, so I don’t think he wants us to stay in the same place (literal or figurative) forever.
I’ve been studying the gospel of John alongside 90+ women at my church, and it’s been incredible to hear from God and learn from each other.
When I started reading John this summer, I was struck by all this suspense surrounding identity. As I watched the way Jesus interacted with people, I noticed how he has a way of telling people who they are.
When Jesus meets Simon, he says, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
Jesus is saying, I know who you are now, and I know who you will be. He gives Simon a new name, a new identity.
Something similar happens when Jesus meets Nathanael: When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.“
He points out a character trait. Perhaps slightly surprised, Nathanael asks Jesus, “How do you know me?” And Jesus answers, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree…”
These exchanges illustrate an important truth: Jesus knows us and sees us. Up close and at a distance.
A few weeks ago, I started a new online class, Strategic Planning. (Real talk: I was grumbling about it. I’m cool with the Bible classes I get to take, but this class? Not so exciting. It seemed so boring and business-y.)
While I was reading for class one day (and not happy about it), a sentence suddenly jumped. off. the. page. God was speaking to me THROUGH MY TEXTBOOK. He’s wild like that! Here’s what I read:
Clarity about identity is crucial because often the most effective way to influence a person is not to tell them what to do but to communicate who he or she is.John M. Bryson
I mean, wow. It resonated with me because I realized that this is exactly what I saw Jesus doing in the first few pages of John. He’s not so much telling people what to do but rather telling them who they are.
We all want to know who we are. So how do you find out? You get to know your Creator, and he will tell you.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.John 1:9-13
Believing in Jesus means that you gain a new identity as a child of God.
When Simon Peter and Nathanael met Jesus, he invited them to come and see where he was going. He invited them to literally walk with him, which meant spending quality time together.
Are you curious about Jesus? Maybe you’ve heard his name but don’t really think he’s for you. Or maybe you have a ton of questions.
If you’re reading these words, I bet you care about who you are and how to live your life to the fullest.
Maybe you’ve tried the whole “religion” thing, and you’re tired of people telling you how to act and what to do.
Instead of rattling off a list of rules, Jesus is extending the same invitation to you today: Come and see what I’m up to. Follow me.
He invites us to believe and to talk with him. He tells us who we are. He asks us to turn from sin to a new way of life. But he doesn’t force or coerce.
We have a choice. And this choice is on display in John 5, when Jesus seeks out a disabled man.
We don’t know his name, but we know his issue. He’s been lying on a mat outside the city walls for nearly four decades, when Jesus approaches and asks him a question: Do you want to get well?
You’d think the man would say “YES!” … right?
But he doesn’t. Instead, he makes some excuses. And before we jump to conclusions, let’s think about it…
Healing requires risk, hope, change. It’s painful. It demands that we confront our past and how we’re living our life.
This social outcast is stuck on a mat. He’s familiar with his current reality. It’s become his identity. And he cannot even fathom what Jesus is offering him.
And despite his excuses — Jesus heals his body! The man moves from disabled to able in an instant. Can you imagine the freedom?
And here’s my favorite part … Jesus approaches this man TWICE. This time, they’re in the temple.
Did you catch that?
This man’s healing allows him access to a new place, a place he’d likely never been, a place with people he’d never met.
Jesus seeks him out and says: “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
First, Jesus reminds the man of his identity: You are well. Second, he invites him to deeper healing, to cross over from death to life, to know his healer and to claim an even greater identity: forgiven, loved, and empowered.
Jesus is asking you and me the same question today: Do you want to get well? Do you want to be healed? Made whole?
Maybe you’re stuck. Maybe you’re paralyzed in sin, in fear, in shame, or something else.
You cannot imagine another reality than the one you’re currently living. It may not be ideal, but at least your current surroundings are somewhat comfortable and certainly familiar.
Well, I want to remind you right now that Jesus has MORE in store for you — beyond what you can imagine.
He is pursuing you. He wants to take you to a new place. And on the other side of your willingness is influence.
Because it’s not just about you. It’s also about the people you have the potential to influence because of your healing — family, friends, strangers, neighbors, the next generation.
I love what David writes about God:
He brought me out into a spacious place;Psalm 18:19
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
This spacious place is an area where you have much FREEDOM to move within God’s boundaries. And God wants to take you there. He wants to bring abundant life. Why? Because he delights in you. The word delight indicates an intimate knowing and love.
The gospel of John is named after its author, one of the 12 men Jesus chose to share his life with. John refers to himself a few times in his book as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
I don’t think John’s being arrogant. Rather, it was the truest thing about John and what he chose to focus on. John had an intimate identification with the Savior’s love for him.
All of us face daily pressure to define ourselves in countless ways: job titles, achievements, mistakes, weight, salary, marital status, motherhood, etc.
But Jesus is inviting you to more. He wants you to be healed and whole and secure in your truest identity.
It’s an open invitation. He’s waiting. He’s patient. And he’s faithful.
So how do you get there? I think it starts with willingness. You can turn toward him, believing and accepting that he knows you and loves you right where you are.
It also means moving out of “comfort,” acknowledging your need for a Savior, and acting in obedience so you can experience all he has for you.
The Holy Writings say, “No eye has ever seen or no ear has ever heard or no mind has ever thought of the wonderful things God has made ready for those who love Him.”1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
Phew. This was a long one. Thanks for sticking with me. If you’re still reading this and you want a next step, I created a three-day email challenge that gives some simple yet powerful steps to draw near to God. Sign up via the form below.