Identity – Who are we?
A redeemed family of servants on mission.
We are ‘disciples.’ This is the Bible’s most basic description of the followers of Jesus.
- Jesus’ original band of 12 followers was called his disciples.
- His larger group of followers were referred to as his disciples.
- The command that Jesus gave to the Apostles was to go and make ‘disciples’ of all nations.
- As they went in obedience, proclaiming the gospel, the number of disciples increased and churches were established.
The word ‘disciple’ literally means ‘to be a student/pupil’ of a particular teacher. To be a disciple of Jesus, therefore, means that you are someone who is “getting to know” Jesus. You are someone who is learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
It is important for us to be clear on how Jesus made his disciples. His intention was to impart his ‘DNA’ to them. He did this in two ways:
- He gathered them around him so that they could LISTEN to his words.
- As they LIVED with him, they could see what his teaching meant in everyday life.
Our desire at Christ Church Waterkloof is to be a community of Jesus’ followers who will grow in “knowing Jesus”. Not merely intellectually, but also relationally. To this end, we gather in various contexts to LISTEN to him (through his Word, the Bible), as we LIVE with him (through his body, the church).
Throughout the New Testament we find that our pursuit of “knowing Jesus” is always to the end of “becoming more like him”.
But the call to become more like Jesus is not primarily one of imitation; it is rather a call to live out who we already ARE in Christ.
The New Testament describes our identity in Christ in a number of different ways. Our aim at Christ Church Waterkloof is to allow the Bible to remind us of who we are in Christ so that we can increasingly live out our newfound identity, both individually and corporately.
So it is helpful to consider our identity in Christ (individually and corporately) from these four perspectives:
In short, we’re a Redeemed Family of Servants on Mission.
The heart of the message of the Bible is the glorious news that God has sent his Son to redeem his people. When many of us hear the word ‘redeem,’ we, unfortunately, assume that it is simply a religious way of saying that we are ‘saved’. This innocent mistake can have a significant impact on our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
In the Old Testament, the word ‘redeem’ found its origin in the world of the slave-market and described the act in which a costly price was paid to purchase a slave. This transaction had, of course, two massive implications for the slave – 1) the slave was set free from its previous master, precisely so that 2) the slave would belong to and serve a new master. It is with this background in mind that the New Testament describes Christians as a “redeemed people”.
This is the first aspect of our identity that we want to remind one another of:
- We have been set free from our old slave masters.
(John 8:31-36; Col 1:13-14; Gal 4: 8-5:1; Rom 3:24; 2 Cor 3: 17; Eph 1:7)
At Christ Church Waterkloof we want to be a community of disciples who constantly remind each other of this great truth: We have been redeemed. Jesus has lifted our yoke of slavery by the most costly of payments – his very own life. As we find ourselves daily being bombarded by the devil, a hostile world and our own sin, we want to be a community who keep reminding one another of who we are in Christ: we are redeemed.
- We have been bought to serve our new Master.
(Rom 6:17-23; 1 Cor 6:19-21; 1 Pet 1:14-19; 1 Pet 2:9-10)
Unfortunately, as sinful people, we tend to abuse the grace of God and forget that our redemption also comes with a newfound responsibility. At Christ Church Waterkloof we want to raise the stakes as to what it means to be a Christian. We want to remind one another that we are not “free” to live as we please. Rather, we have been set free, precisely so that we will be servants of our new Master, King Jesus. Being a slave of God is true freedom.
All throughout the gospels we see that Jesus refers to his disciples as his ‘family’. The rest of the New Testament explains that this description of Jesus’ followers is due to the profound reality-change which they have undergone. Through faith in Jesus (the Son of God), Christians have been ‘adopted’ by God. They are consequently called:
- the sons of God (Gal 3:26; Rom 8:15)
- the family God (Eph 1:19)
- the children of God (Jn 1:12; Rom 8:16; Eph 5:1; 1 Jn 3:2)
- brothers and sisters of Jesus (Mk 3:35; Jn 19:26-27; Heb 2:11-12, 17)
- people who can call God “Father” (Mt 6:9, Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6; Js 2:27) and
- Co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17; Gal 4:7; Tit 3:7).
This vertical reality-change has massive horizontal implications. If our union with Christ has made us part of the family of God, then it means that we are all part of the same family:
- We ARE brothers and sisters (Rom 14:10; Lk 17:3; Js 2:15);
- Who ought to treat each other as family would (1 Tim 5:1; 1 Jn 3:10-18; 4:21-22).
Our desire at Christ Church Waterkloof is to be a community of Jesus’ disciples who remember who we are in Christ, and consequently live out our identity as the “family of God”. We want to share our lives with one another in the way that a normal, healthy family would do. We want to laugh together, play together and cry together. We want to learn what it means to trust each other, and we want to be more patient in accepting one another. We want to support each other in difficult times; but also be open to the correction (even rebuke) of our family members, if we were guilty of dishonouring the family name.
Jesus was the prototype servant. He was the fulfilment of all the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Servant of the Lord (Is 52-53; 61; Lk 4:18-19; Mt 12:18), the One who gave up all his riches and privileges, to serve us. (Mk 10:45; Phil 2:7).
Through faith in Jesus, we who are “in Christ” have also become servants. The Bible describes us as servants,
- of God (Mt 4:10; Rom 6:22; 1 Thes 1:9; 1 Pet 2:16)
- of Christ (Jn 12:24; Rom 14:18; 1 Cor 7:22)
- of fellow believers (Jn 13; Acts 4:34; Gal 6:10; Phil 2:1-4)
- of the world (Jer 29:4-7; Gal 6:10; 1 Tim 2:1-6; 1 Tim 6:17-19; 1 Thes 5:15)
Being a Christian, therefore, cannot mean that we are a people who occasionally agree to serve others, but rather that we (as a new creation), are servants by nature. If one were to dissect a Christian, every aspect of his being would be marked by servant-heartedness.
It is our great desire to see this identity lived out by all who are part of Christ Church Waterkloof. We want to be a community whose life is characterised by its service to God, one another, and in particular to the broken and destitute world where God has placed us, for its benefit.
Right at the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he gave his original disciples his most familiar and significant commandment: He sent them to make “disciples of all nations”. (Mt 28:19)
As we study the New Testament, we see that this missionary mandate was given not only to a particular group of Christians but that every Christian is called to invite others into this family. A Christian is, in essence, a viral organism: someone who was designed to ‘infect’ others with the good news, and consequently multiply. We are:
- Salt and light for the world (Mt 5:13-16; Phil 2:14)
- The aroma of Christ (2 Cor 2:14-16)
- The exhibition of God’s wisdom (Eph 3:10)
- A royal priesthood, who proclaims God’s salvation (1 Pet 2:9)
This missionary identity is ours, exactly because it was Jesus’. He is the Missionary of missionaries:
- He is the Light for the world (Jn 1:4-5, 9; 3:19; 8:12)
- The One sent by His Father (Jn 8:15; 10:36; 17ff)
- To reveal the Father, in our midst (Jn 1:14, 18; 14:10; 17:26)
- And to call us to repentance and faith (Mk 1:14-15; Jn 6:35-40; 10:25-27)
It is our conviction that our lives need to reflect that which characterised Jesus’. Just as the Father sent his Son into the world, so he sends us (Jn 17:18, 20-21). At Christ Church Waterkloof we want to be a people who encourage and equip one another to live as ‘sent ones’: Normal, messy and broken people, who radically realign their lives to participate in Jesus’ mission.
DISCIPLESHIP AS A DIAMOND
Representing our DNA as a diamond is helpful because all these different aspects of discipleship function interdependently on one another.
- It is impossible to live for Jesus without having first listened to him.
- If our listening to Jesus does not result in living for Him, then we probably have a hearing problem
- If we remember that “we are not our own, we have been bought at a price, in order to glorify God in our bodies,” (Redeemed) this realisation would empower us to be less self-centred, and instead spend our lives for the good of others (Family, Servant, Mission).
- If we were to live as ‘family’, it would necessitate us ‘serving’ one another. If we were to ‘serve’ one another, it would make us better ‘family’. The love and unity amongst us would be noticed by the world around us and give us an opportunity to share the reason for the hope that we have (Redeemed, Missionaries).
- Whenever we fail to live out the ‘horizontal’ aspects of our identity (Family, Servants, Missionaries), it should drive us back to the cross, where we are reminded that we are already accepted and forgiven (Redeemed).
May God our Father, through the powerful working of His Spirit, give us the grace and strength to be faithful disciples of Jesus.
[Christ Church Waterkloof is a part of REACH South Africa.]
[The above content has been adapted from LIG.punts Identity statement.]