We used to think that we were the only true church on earth. We understood the Bible in a way that no one else did. We had doctrines that made us distinct from “all those other churches.” We had a clear sense of identity.
Discovering who we are
We gradually came to see that our distinctive doctrines were in most cases a misunderstanding of the Bible. Our clear sense of identity was based on mistakes. We had to swallow our pride, and discover from the Bible who we really are.
We are sinners, just like everybody else. We are saved by God’s grace, just like everybody else. And we see ourselves not in opposition to the “other churches,” but as part of the Christian community.
Each church has its own personality, and we have ours. Just like other churches, we have slightly different views on some minor matters. But these things do not define who we are, or what our purpose is. Rather, our identity is in Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we are defined by our faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot tell you who we are without also telling you who he is. We accept him as our Lord and Savior. He made us, he loves us, he died for us, and he lives to help us. Through him, we have eternal life.
Our mission is to tell others this wonderful news—the simple truth that God made us and wants really good things for us. Even though humans run away from God, act as if he’s not there, or refuse his help, God still loves us.
He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to become a human, to be one of us, to speak our language, to feel our pain. Jesus shows us what God is like, that God is willing to forgive us no matter what we’ve done wrong, no matter how evil we have been.
But forgiveness does not mean that God winks at evil. He hates evil, because it causes pain and suffering to the people he loves. So in Jesus, God accepted the suffering of sin himself, showing that he has the right to forgive our sins. The barrier between us and God is removed. We can return, if we want to.
In a way, all humanity has a mistaken identity. People think they can be self-sufficient and make their own way in the world. But an identity without God is a mistaken identity.
God is not mad at the world
Many are sadly misinformed about what God is like. They’ve heard that he is mad at the world, ready to incinerate it. This is also a case of mistaken identity. What God is like is perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ. He is willing to suffer for us, even die for us, so that we can live forever with him.
Everyone has sinned, fallen short of perfection. And in Christ, God has done something about it.
People react to this in different ways. Some people won’t accept the idea that Jesus died for their sins, because they don’t think their sins were anywhere near that bad. They feel that God should accept them whether or not they accept Jesus. They have too high an opinion about themselves—a mistaken identity.
Others are painfully aware of their guilt, and are perpetually trying to make up for what they’ve done wrong. They try to earn their way back into God’s favor.
They also overestimate their ability, for no one can work themselves back into God’s favor. His favor is already there. Even when we were sinners, even when we were enemies, he loved us and sent his Son to die for us. No amount of work is going to make him love us any more than that.
Our identity in Christ
Here’s our true identity: We are sinners. We can’t change that, but God can. As his gift to us, he sent his Son to die for our sins, in order to forgive us. And in him, through faith in him, we find our true identity as his children. That’s who we are, and what our church is all about.