‘Be who you are’

1 John 3:3
And all those having this hope on Him, purify themselves as He is pure.

            Children of God, be who you are. It’s interesting how identity has become so much more important in recent years, who you are according to politics, to ancestry, to cultural practises, race, sexual desires, gender roles, even economic history and so much more. There is the call to ‘be authentic’ or to ‘just be yourself’, to live out freely who you are without care for what others think, but only if who you are doesn’t affect or impose on others. It’s a reasonable need, a desire that makes sense, let the rock be a rock, the river a river, the pig a pig. But then the question comes, who says a pig is a pig? Who do we listen to?

            I remember as a child my siblings came to hate the movie, Babe, because apparently I would watch it every afternoon. If you haven’t seen it, or it’s been a while, essentially it’s a movie about a piglet, called Babe, who learns to herd sheep better than any of the sheepdogs. This pig gently asks the sheep to go to the sheep pen and they do, because Babe has a special code, ‘baa-ram-ewe’. Obviously Babe doesn’t live like a pig, rather he finds this strange identity by listening to a Boarder Collie who becomes a foster mother to him. Now why do I bring this up today? Is it to condemn those who identify themselves as homosexual and live it out? Those who identify as any of the LGBTQI+? Those who identify as Greenies, as Country, as old/young, as victim, upperclass, tough, black, white, yellow, pink with purple polkadots? No. Rather to point out that we often, if not always, find our identity by listening to someone. Now that might be yourself, or someone you respect, or even sometimes people you hate. But regardless, once we hold to our identity and know what that is we can live it out.

            Now, God Almighty has called you His children, identifying you with His Son, Jesus Christ the righteous. To Him this is the most important part of who we are, and if He’s the most important for us this identity we have in Christ will be the most important to live out. This is part of what the first commandment means, ‘you will not have any other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). Do you listen to other gods before Jesus? Other identities that are more important to you than being a child of God, other identities that you live out more fully and regularly? Put another way, do you make a habit of sin? If God has called you, although like Babe you look like a pig, to be a sheepdog why would you still wallow in the mud? As John writes, if you hold to this word, this promise of God, you will purify yourself as Jesus is pure. In light of Easter, do you live in Christ’s victory every day? Do you live a life where sin, the fear of death, and the temptations of the evil have no hold over you? The Holy Spirit through John today is clear, if we make a habit of sin, our lives revolving around another identity, we do not have a relationship with God Almighty, neither see nor know Him.

             Is there then any hope left for me, for you? At times I might break these bad habits, then either I fall back or others form. How can we purify ourselves, how can we make ourselves pure as Jesus, God Himself, is? Listen to His Word, His Word in the rest of this letter; From the opening of this letter: if any claim to be without sin, they lie and the truth is not in them; if we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). Listen to His Word, His work throughout the Bible; did Jesus wait for the Jews to purify themselves of bad habits, of other gods? No, God came to die for us while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8, 10). We cannot even know God without the Holy Spirit, He acts first (1 Corinthians 2:7-15). It is only after He lavishes His great love on us, adopting us, that we can live with Him towards the goal of our hope. It is only in this relationship, this listening to Him, to who He says we are, that we can live out of this New identity in Jesus, of Jesus. As you come today after a week of hearing others, to hear His Word, to hear what you are to God; forgiven, beloved, righteous, as Jesus children of God. As you hear all this He is changing you, He is purifying you, He is making you new again. The Holy Spirit is doing His work today, through as we confess in the creed, the church, Communion, forgiveness, toward the final resurrection and life everlasting with Christ; to grow forever in this relationship. The Holy Spirit, after preparing us for this New Life as God Almighty’s children, is sending us out to live as who we are called to be.

            You, together with all Christ’s Church, are living toward Christ; what we will be has not yet been revealed, but we know when Christ appears we shall be like Him and with Him. This is our hope. According to God’s steadfast Word. You children of God are called toward this, the Holy Spirit waling with you, to purify your lives as Christ’s life was pure, to live according to our most important identity, to fight against our bad habits, our harmful meditations, and those stray thoughts that speak against who we are in Christ Jesus. When you fall, just come back, confess, and hear again God speaking to you. Listen to Him, pray together with the Holy Spirit and live the life of Christ.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto our eternal hope. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.