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Life lesson #1: Who I Am

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(10/24) I have told my children that there are basically two ways to learn in this world. The first is to listen to wise people, that is, like parents, teachers, counselors, elders, etc. That is why most military boot camps or basic training is taught by combat veterans. We learn from their life wisdom. The second way is from the school of hard knocks, that is, we learn the hard way, from life experiences. I want to begin a new series for you that I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren, called Life Lessons I Learned the Hard Way. I want them to learn from my experiences and avoid the pain that learning the hard way brings. So letís begin.

Okay, some of you already know this, but I love cartoon movies. That is, the Disney style movies. I love, The Secret of Nimh, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, and more. One of the best is The Lion King. If you remember the movie, you know the middle section where Simba runs away and grows up with Timba and Pumba. Later he is confronted by the monkey Raficki, who says, "You donít even know who you are." He leads Simba through the grass land to the water where Simba has a vision of his Father Mufasa. He hears his father say, "You have forgotten me, you have forgotten who you are and therefore, you have forgotten me. You are my sonÖ." That part always stirs me as well as a few other scenes.

I grew up during a time that few, today, can understand, i.e., the 60ís. We had the invasion of the British, (Rolling Stones, Beatles, and more). We also picked up where the French left off in Vietnam. We engaged in a war that was unpopular and few understood why we were there (I didnít know). In 1954 we said that "In God We Trust," would be our nationís official motto. Then, in 1956, we said, the words, "Under God," should be part of our Pledge of Allegiance. Then 6 years later, we kicked God out of our school system. Until 1963, we read the Bible and recited prayers in public school. I learned the Lordís Prayer and 23rd Psalm in public school (seriously). We had Christmas and Easter plays in school about Jesus (For real). New music, unpopular war, and the introduction of recreational drugs (marijuana, Boones Farm wine, LSD, and more), gave birth to protests and a movement called the Hippyís. Enter bell bottom pants, flowers everywhere, long hair, tight pants, no pants, no bras, love ins, integration of formerly segregated schools and more and America was volatile.

A lot of college age young adults, loaded into Volkswagen mini-buses and set out to, "Find themselves." They didnít know the answer to lifeís questions, like, "Who Am I, and What am I here for, or what is my purpose in this life?" I did not pile into a Volkswagen, but I did not know the answer to those questions. So, they set out to, "Find Themselves." Some went to Canada to avoid being drafted and going to the Vietnam war.

Spending little time with my dad as I was young and with a mother who was unstable, I desperately wanted someoneís approval. I was one who did not know who he was. I found a lot of approval in playing sports. I wasnít the best at any sport (except throwing a football - I could throw one farther and with greater accuracy than anyone in my school. Only problem was we didnít have a football team until the year I graduated and then, I couldnít get away from the farm to practice twice a day in August, so I didnít play.) but I was far from the worst. I played baseball and softball (for Shiloh Methodist Church), soccer and basketball for my school, and even tried to run track (I hated track).

All I thought about was joining the military. I thought that if I joined the Marines and went to war, I would gain peoples approval. That didnít happen, but even when I joined the Army (Vietnam was winding down) I thought the uniform would define who I was and that would make me somebody. I think that is why I wanted to be a policeman; I thought my identity would come from what I did.

Some people think their identity is defined by their sins or mistakes or the label someone else has given them. "You are an idiot, stupid, a klutz, a drunk, a thief, a liar, a felon, a con, a sex offender, you will never learn, never amount to anything, etc." Parents or peers sometimes stamp that label on us and many of us feel it is our obligation to live up to it, or we believe what people say and we believe we are doomed to be that person. Pro. 23:7 says, "as he thinks in his heart, so is he."

For many, their identity is completely related to what they do; that is, a policeman, fireman, electrician, athlete, etc. I saw an interview with Michael Phelps on TV in which he stated that after the 2012 Olympics, he was on an express elevator down. He said he was retiring, but swimming was his life, his identity. What was he if he wasnít a swimmer? In his own words, he turned to the dark side of life and ended up in a rehab for 45 days. Then he met a girl, fathered a son, and learned that there was more to his life than swimming, even though he would come back and swim in these last 2016 Olympics.

Many people are identified by their looks, or hair, or who their parents are. When Debbie and I married, I was known in Hampstead as Billís boy. In my case, that was a good thing, because dad had earned a reputation of honesty, hardworking, and a man of integrity. It was assumed I was chip off the ole block. Thatís not so good if your parents donít have good reputation.

You can be identified by your race, or nationality, and so many more. Some have developed the victim identity; that is, my life is not my fault; I am the result of what other people have done to me. My parents, my employer, my spouse, my children, my teachers, etc. are the reason I am who I am. I am a victim.

How you see yourself and what you believe about yourself will impact how you live your life now and into your future, and it will impact all those around you.

That, is how a lot of people think. What I learned the hard way was, my true identity doesnít come from what people think of me. And it doesnít come from what I do. It is wrong and fake to try to be someone I am not just to get attention. I learned that my identity comes from what God thinks of me. Do you know what I discovered? He thinks I am somebody special. Special enough to redeem me and adopt me as His own child, no different than when we adopted Amanda. I am a child of God. I wasnít born that way. I was chosen and adopted into the family. I donít have to prove anything to Him or anyone else. He accepts me and He loves me. He has prepared heaven for me, (Compare Ephesians 1:3ff).

I am not defined by my mistakes or my sins by God. I am His son and an heir to all he has. (cp. Luke 15 - Prodigal Son and Saul the Persecutor-Paul the Preacher).

What I do is not for attention. It is out of gratitude. It is my desire to tell you and whoever will listen that God doesnít want performers; He wants children who will love Him and live for Him out of gratitude for His grace. I wish I would have learned this as a young man instead of in the second half of my life. Itís a life lesson I learned the hard way.

Let me take a few moments to tell you about it. What I discovered is that God doesnít see us for what we have done or what we do. God sees in you tremendous potential. He knows what you can be if you let Him have your life.

You are who God says you are. I donít know what Abramís life was like. His name meant exalted father. His problem was he had no children. He was the childless father. But God changed his name to the Father of Nations, Abraham. He ended up having many more than two sons. He remarried after Sarah died. (No kidding. Itís in the Book; Gen 25:1-6).

Jacob the heel-grabber, the trickster, would be called Israel, the Prince of God (Gen 32:28)

Mosesí name was not changed but he went from the prince, who killed, and became a shepherd, to being the mighty deliverer, and law giver to Israel. He was the man who spoke face to face with God.

Gideon the timid thresher would become a mighty man of valor (Judges 2:12-16).

Jabez was given his name, meaning pain, because his mom had extraordinary pain in his birth. His great prayer was that his legacy would not be what his name means. And God granted his requests (1 Chron. 4:9-10).

Simon Johnson, the extraverted fisherman that wore his emotions on his sleeve, would be called Peter or Cephas, that is, the Rock, the stable, secure one, who would be key in establishing the Church of Jesus Christ. (John 1:42; Matt. 16:18).

Saul the Pharisee and Sanhedrin leader would become Paul, the little one who would only glory in Christ and His cross.

Joe would become Barnabas, the encourager, because after his conversion (Acts 4:36), he was the man who could see potential in people and encouraged others to see it too. Even you, do you know that you have a new name? (Rev. 2:17, Isa. 62:2)

God does not see you just as you are. He sees the potential and possibilities that you have if He would be in your life. He sees what you can be. You must grasp that! We will talk about your purpose next week, but if you want a new identity. Here is where you must start:

1) Resolve the past Ė Deal with it. No matter who you think you are, or what others think you are. Change will only come when get on your knees, and seek Godís forgiveness for what you have done, thought, said, or neglected. Confess it, turn from it and turn to God.

Then, those you have specifically sinned against, go to them and resolve it.

Say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness.

2) Read and Believe what God says about you when you receive His grace and forgiveness. Believe it. Claim it. And Live like it. Let me tell you some of what it says. This is your identity:

a.) Child of God Ė John 1:11-12; 1 John 3:1; Galatians 3:26; 4:4-7

b.) New Creation Ė 2 Corinthians 5:7

c.) Temple, dwelling, house, of God Ė 1 Corinthians 3:16

d.) Heir of God Ė Romans 8:17

e.) Saint Ė 1 Corinthians 1:2

f.) Priest of God Ė Revelations 5:10

g.) King Ė Revelation 5:10

h.) Citizen of Heaven Ė Ephesians 2:19

i.) Ambassador Ė 2 Corinthians 5:20

j.) Conqueror Ė Romans 8:37

k) His Workmanship Ė His Masterpiece Ė Ephesians 2:10

l.) Beloved of God Ė Romans 1:7

m.) Brother or Sister of Jesus (Hebrews 2:10-18: John 20:17)

American Olympic divers David Boudia, 27, and Steele Johnson, 20, were awarded silver medals in the men's synchronized 10-meter platform diving. "We both know our identity is in Christ," Boudia told reporters afterward.

Compare, contemporary songs Ė "Hello My Name is Child of the One True King" by Matthew West, or Iím no longer a Slave to Fear, I am a Child of God, by Jonathon David and Melissa Helser, Or, "Youíre a Good, Good Father, and I am loved by you, thatís who I am," by Chris Tomlin.

 If any of these messages have encouraged you, or if you have any questions please let me know. You can email me at I would love to hear from you. And I promise, I will never ask you for money, nor place you on any mailing list.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman