Well, it should be no secret by now that by public proclamation and repetitive mantra, Gospel Life Church believes wholeheartedly and desires to convey in word and deed to the world that, "It's All About Jesus!"
As "believers" who have encountered the Good News of the Gospel and have experienced its supernatural transformation in our lives, we know this declaration to be ultimately and absolutely true. We know that we are part of a story much bigger than our own and that despite our depravity and rebellion against our Maker, God has pursued us, rescued us, and reconciled us back to right relationship with Him. We also know that the transformation from our former, sinful, world-influenced, flesh-indulgent selves to sanctified missionaries does not happen overnight. We are in the process of becoming true Christ-followers, or "Disciples" of Jesus Christ.
At Gospel Life Church, we speak often about IDENTITY. This term stems from our belief that the gospel doesn’t make bad people good, but it actually makes dead people alive. Consequently, a person who responds to the gospel is NOT just a better version of their old-selves, but a brand new person all together (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian is a new creation altogether, with a fresh start and a new IDENTITY. Now as disciples-in-process, how do we make sure that we are operating from our new IDENTITY?
Here are a few tips that we have encountered in our short church-planting journey that have helped keep us focused on our IDENTITY:
1. Eyes On Jesus
Like the Greatest Commandment, from this concept, all others flow. At Gospel Life Church, we say all the time - "Keep your eyes on Jesus"! But exactly what do we mean by that?
Essentially, keeping your "eyes on Jesus" means to "abide" in the Gospel, whereby this highly used Christian term "abide" means to remain "in", or to conform "to", or to continue in a place, and who by, the focus of your abiding is Jesus Christ Himself. Practically, this means to preach the Gospel to yourself as often as possible, preferably at least every minute of every day. The only way to prevent shifting identity, is to be constantly immersed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, growing in your understanding of what He did for you and why. It is this revelation that supernaturally transforms you from the inside out. And every single second that you are not looking to Him - progressing towards Him - pursuing Him, you will find yourself drifting away from Him. Look UP from your circumstances, and keep your eyes on Jesus.
2. Thick Skin
In our created complexity, we humans are pretty simple-minded. We are broken and fragile and if we are honest, we are pretty insecure. As a result, we are easily offended - that is, our pride is quickly challenged. In order to remain effective in the call to constantly reflect the glorious image of God, we need to grow some pretty thick skin. This is especially true in ministry. If you don't have thick skin in ministry, you will be eaten alive by the very ones you aim to serve.
Thick skin is not something that you just "get". Like the new skin of a healing cut, you must "grow" it. But the source of its growth comes from #1 - keeping your eyes on Jesus. As the weight of the truth of the Gospel of grace sinks into your very being, as you begin to recognize your created purpose, and as you learn to respond to the call of your new IDENTITY, you will "grow" thicker skin. You will begin to worry less and less about what other people think or say and eventually you will adjust your motives to glorify only God rather than yourself. In time, you will find yourself in a purely monogamous relationship where your affections vie only for an Audience of One.
3. Repent Often
There is no better way to diffuse an angry mob than to admit your failures and there is no better way to reflect the glory of God than by emulating Jesus in His humility. To repent is to acknowledge that God is utterly Holy (set apart; "other"), that you are not God (but want to be) and to recognize that the power of the Gospel lies in the fact that you don't, and never will, deserve the grace that has been extended to you. And in that recognition you are humbled to a position of lowliness that cries out to God with eternal gratitude for rescuing you despite yourself and elevating you to a place of eternal value in His Kingdom, on His mission. Inadvertently, your example of repentance may precede you, but more importantly, your Pharisaical judgment of others will be cast away by the understanding of your own circumstances.
An inability to repent is indicative of the state of your heart (and possibly your salvation). Keeping your eyes on Jesus will bring you to repentance often, which is the only way that #4 is possible.
4. Lots of Grace
Perhaps you've heard it said that "[Ministry] would be easy if it wasn't for people", or something like that. Think about it - if we're all in the same condition, we're in trouble! Here's what we know about people - Christians and non-Christians alike - they will hurt you; they will disappoint you, frustrate you, let you down, gossip about you, be "brutally" honest with you, back stab you and maybe even try to take you down. This is simply the problem with having mistaken IDENTITIES.
Even though the famed "Golden Rule" is not actually Biblical, this is one place where it can be properly applied - as you better be praying that people will extend you a ton of grace, you too better quickly, and freely, extend generous amounts of grace to those around you, all the time - to your biggest critics and your ministry partners alike. The benefit of obliging them that courtesy, is that you may get the opportunity to point them to these techniques.
If you find yourself struggling in this area, here is a formula to help you: #1 + #2 + #3 = #4.