Skip to content

Lent - Our Identity, Walk, and Work

Our identity, who we are, what we are in Christ and our walk, which is our active relationship with him, how we live our lives are tied up in walk is work.

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
16 min read
Lent - Our Identity, Walk, and Work
Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

Table of Contents

The following text is the raw, unedited transcript from a sermon given on March 19th, 2023. You can also listen to the audio. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast! :-)

This morning, I would like to connect a couple of ideas that I have not typically heard connected. And as I sort of stewed and meditated on this morning's lectionary readings, it just, it just kind of surfaced and, I love it when God does that. My background is in a more typical exegetical Bible teaching style where it's book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. And each one of these readings would be its own Bible study because they're all amazing. But I think there's an interesting pattern that we can see that does connect them.

I'm trying, I'm not trying to shoehorn this in. So I don't, I hope I'm not, but it makes sense to me. And the two ideas are this. It's kind of 2.5 ideas.  Our identity, who we are, what we are in Christ and our walk, which is our active relationship with him, how we live our lives and tied up in walk is work. So we have our identity and we have our walk or our and our work. And as I was thinking about those two ideas, I think when we have a bad concept of one or the other or both of them, that's where people can tend to suffer with, confusion at best or, or mental illness at worst because we don't, we lose track of who we are or we lose track of how we're supposed to live or how we're supposed to walk or it is somehow confused for us.But I, I think when they are in balance, when they are understood and walked out, there is peace in that. There is more life in that than otherwise.

Identity By Way Of Annointing

So in the 1st Samuel passage, it's David is when he's, it's when he's anointed king, there's already been a king king, Saul, except that wasn't God's choice. That was the people's choice when you go back and read that. God warns them. He says if you choose this man as king, here are the things he's going to do and they are awful, terrible things and that's what Saul does.

Finally, we get to God's choice for king. In fact, Samuel, who is the priest or the, the prophet who anointed. Saul God says to him, how long will you grieve over Saul since I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Samuel apparently had some feeling some emotion for this guy, some buy-in perhaps, it’s part of our identity, part of our walking with God is to let go of the past. God's trying to do something that he actually planned, not that the people planned.

And, sometimes when we do things that we plan and hope God blesses it and it doesn't work out, we lose sight and we fear that past. And God's saying, just don't, don't worry about that. Let's, let's move on to the thing I actually wanted to do. A lot of times individually or as churches or as ministries, we're like, this sounds like a good idea. Let's do this thing. And let's ask that God blesses it when God is over here already doing something that we should join in on that.

He's already a blessing our attention. That's where our attention needs to be, is looking for what God is already doing and join him in it. Instead of saying God, I'm gonna do this great thing. Help me out. Come along. That's flip flop. That is almost said something. I shouldn't say that's backwards. That's where, that's where Samuel was. But God tells him to go to this, go to town, go to the, go to Bethlehem. And, and if you've been around the Bible or even Christmas for that matter, you know about Bethlehem and, and David and the sheep and, and how all that works.

But he goes there and finds Jesse who is the dad of the family. And he says to consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice, the idea of consecrating yourself is, I think is something we lose sight of. Yes, we're in Christ. Yes, we're washed clean from our sin. But we're also in process, aren't we? That we, we have been? There's kind of these, these, some people call it the three tenses of salvation. We have been saved. We are being saved and we will be saved.

It just depends on where you are in eternity, I suppose. But there are times we need to sort of remind like, OK, I, I need to consecrate. I need to set myself apart. I need to, I've been all tied up in other things and I've lost sight of where I'm supposed to be what I'm supposed to be doing and I need to set myself apart again. That's what consecrate it is to, to set yourself apart. And he said, do that. You guys just take a minute and consecrate and we're gonna go sacrifice.

It's a way to remember. That's part of Lent is I'm read the more I read about Lent, the more opinions I see and they're good opinions and it's about many things. It's about reflecting, it's about repentance, it's about sort of taking inventory, it's about identifying with the Lord and his suffering. This would be a sort of that reflection idea to consecrate to step us. OK? Where, where am I with the Lord? Am I too busy doing other things that I've, I've lost sight of him so consecrate and then God says, ok, it's, it's, it's gonna be one of Jesse's kids and Jesse starts parading his sons before Samuel.

Except for one, except for the youngest one. The little guy, David, what was he doing? Tending the sheep? Someone's got to be tending the sheep. But what he didn't know and what his brothers didn't know and what Samuel didn't even know at this time is that he was God's choice for king. He was, I'm as far as God's concerned, he's already the king. Just, no one's figured it out yet. And what's he doing? Shepherding? This reminds me of somebody Sunday school answer Jesus. Thank you. He's, nobody recognizes that he's the king that God has chosen and he's here on earth shepherding his people.

Nobody saw it. Nobody knew it. He was the last one. Anybody would have picked kind of like David. But he was God's choice and something else I noticed today. And if you're into like numbers and those kinds of patterns in the Bible, just I just noticed this the first time this morning, There were seven brothers and then David. So that's seven and then eight and one of the patterns we see in scripture is that seven is the number of completion. There's seven notes in a scale, seven days in a week, right?

Eight is a new beginning after the seventh note. You hit that first note, but the octave higher Sunday through Saturday. It's Sunday again. Jesus. Well, David is the 8th son, isn't he? The new beginning? Kind of like Jesus. I like that file that away for your Bible trivia night. So David finally comes before Samuel Samuel anoints him with oil. And that picture is, it's like a little flask of oil that is poured over the head and it just runs down and all over and you'll, you'll read references to Aaron's beard and the oil Aaron who was Moses' brother was the first priest and how he was anointed.

And just this picture, I don't know, that might feel kind of gross him and oil just kind of all running all over your head. But that's the picture of, of this. What poured oil over David's head and it's symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Oil is a picture of the spirit. So this is the Holy Spirit covering anointing. There you would visibly see it, you would even smell it. It, it would, it's a, it's sort of a full sensory experience and then it says something very interesting at the end of this passage, it says, and the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.

That sounds very new testament, doesn't it? That sounds very ax acts chapter two of the spirit coming down upon everybody. This word rushed. It means it's like if you're at the back of the line and the ice cream store is about to open. This is my own picture. Hello. And you like want to take cuts and you rush to the front of the line. That's what this, it's rushed, it's, it's to cut through. It's to get there with urgency. The spirit continually rushed down on David from that day forward.

I think that's a really great picture of identity, of establishing who this person is in God. This is an outward sign, this oil of an inward change of an inward reality. And this Holy Spirit coming upon him is going to then equip him to walk, equip him to work for the Lord. No pressure, no big deal. But yeah, that's David. Of course, we know he famously fails many times, but he's still referred to as a man after God's own heart, which points to grace to me.

So this, this, this passage is more about identity, establishing who we are in, in God, in Christ. He has called us. He wants to use us. He covers us with his Holy spirit. And that's part of the picture if we just stop and live there and don't actually walk with him. What are we doing? Not, not much.

Sheep Walk After the Shepherd

When we get to psalm 23 sort of this, you know, one of the more famous psalms, the Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want the Lord as shepherd provides and he guides, he takes the sheep where they need to go for eating and for drinking.

He looks over them, he protects them as they go and are being cheap. It's pretty simple. Like we're sheep, we should be sheep and obey our shepherd and, and follow our shepherd as he provides for us. One of our, our Bible teachers in, in college talked about how a, a shepherd, a shepherd, the difference between a shepherd and like a cowboy is a shepherd leads from a front, from the front and a cowboy drives from the back and we have a shepherd who leads us from the front.

He doesn't drive us, he doesn't push us. He's like, well, we kind of have a choice to follow him and if we wander off, thankfully, he'll come find us, but we need to be following him to get to the green grasses, to get to the still waters. God's, the he, when he says when it says that he sets a table in the presence of my enemies, I was thinking about that like, that's, that's an interesting statement and I started to sort of ponder, ok, sheep shepherds, what did Jesus have to say about sheep and shepherds?

There's the expression, you know, sheep in wolves clothing. God's God shepherds us in the presence of wolves, sort of what popped into my weird brain. God shepherds in the presence of wolves in the, at the table of our enemies. Man, I, I don't it's becoming harder and harder to be a Christian publicly. The fact is, is it's, we're going back to Bible times. We're going back to the first century. That's kind of how our, where, where we are reverting to. And thankfully when we read the gospels, or we read and the letters from the first century, we, we are comforted, we are equipped, we know what to do.

It was not a Christian society. Rome was far from it, but it's, that's what it's becoming. We are being shepherded in the presence of wolves. No, that's not the complete picture because we are supposed to, there's a lot of crisscrossing. All my ADD people raise your hand. Yeah. Yeah. OK. You're with me. You're tracking good. There's this, we, we need to reach out. We need to show love even to our enemies, don't we? Blessed are you when they persecute and revile you, you know, do unto others as you would have them, do unto you, love your enemies.

All these are like we're supposed to do this and if we're sort of hidden away, huddled up in a church together or up in the mountains in some survival camp, how are we supposed to reach out to, to people who need Jesus? How are we supposed to be available to people who need Jesus? So we have this shepherd who walks in front of us, who we have to follow? That's the walking. We had a little bit of identity and, and for Samuel here is we have a little bit of this idea of walking.

We have to follow. Otherwise we're sheep just kind of hanging out and lost and on our own. And we will be eaten by wolves. Sheep need to be together, don't they? Sheep? When they're together, they're more protected. There are this morning, I have too many words for my little mouth to spit out and, and I apologize. When you're isolated, you're more vulnerable. When you're with the other sheep, you're more protected. And the, that's what the church should be. That's what the body of Christ should be is a, not a place where we come and individually sit and hear and leave, but we come to be together.

We come to be the, the sheep in that little herd, that little pack. What's the right word for sheep herd? What flock? I don't do crossword puzzles. So that would have been it. When we, when we flock together, we are better off, but we have to do that together. We have to actually follow the shepherd. Ephesians is this whole, it, it's a great passage but, and I, I, I think we get lost in the weeds of the list that Paul gives us as far as what to do or what not to do.

You Walk Like Your Dad

And we lose sight of how he starts this statement. He says therefore, be imitators of God as beloved Children, imitators. The word is a mimic, mimic God. Be an impersonator of God. If you're older, you'll remember rich little if you're younger, you know, Frank Caliendo. These are great impressionist people who do voices of, of, of famous people, sound almost exactly like them but to mimic them to, to, to in the first century, a rabbi and disciple relationship was such that the disciple wanted to mimic the rabbi to reproduce, not just their teaching or their speech, but their mannerisms, the way that they walked, the way that they ate food, that's they wanted to be a copy of their rabbi.

So Paul, as a rabbi himself says, mimic God as beloved Children. When I started to work, where I work now at the Christian school, there was the first weekend there, there at our sort of all staff before school started meeting. There was now there was a woman now who I knew as a child. We were childhood friends. Our, our families knew each other and I hadn't seen her since we were much younger. And I had been called up front for something and then she came up and found me afterward and she said, you know, I knew that was you because of the way you walked, you walked just like your dad.

I was like, no, I don't take it back. Mhm. Because he walked like my grandma who had a very distinctive walk. And the rebellious side of me says, no, don't do that. But sometimes we on purpose or sometimes we accidentally imitate our parents, mimic our parents. And I want to be one who on purpose mimics God, not accidentally mimics God. And what does that mean? And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So to be an imitator of God is to walk like God did like Jesus did in love and giving ourselves up for others. For Him, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Another interesting connection in these passages is they all have something to do with anointing or offering or sacrifice for Samuel. There's a sacrifice, there's the anointing in Psalm. There's, there's a sacrifice here. It's, it's really cool. I don't, it's somebody had some good time on their hands to put all these things together. But, and then Paul gives us this list of things to avoid.

Like these are things that should not be among one who walks like God because sexual immorality, impurity. These aren't we, God doesn't walk in these ways, does he? So if He doesn't walk in these ways, we ought not to walk in these ways. If He walks, he walks in the way of thankfulness. Paul, that's Paul's sort of substitute, but instead let there be Thanksgiving these other things break down and hold us down. Whereas Thanksgiving elevates us, Thanksgiving points us vertically. Everything else focuses horizontally or even down if you want to go that direction.

No good, impure thoughts don't be an idolater. There's a, there's this, you know, don't do these things. And sadly, the church has not listened as well as it should do some of these things. But again, that's another sermon. He says, such were some of you, you were these things, but now you are something else. Now, when we get, if we get caught up in old sin and we might slip back into old patterns, we might feel like we were. But again, there's this idea of we have been saved, we're being saved, we will be saved.

We're in process. And if we do slip back, we are, we still have this identity in Christ that we repent and we turn around back to and follow after God again. It's not lost, it's not, you're not done. It's, it's kind of all, all in how you think. And it's not, I'm not just saying this is positive mental attitude, although there is a piece to that. And I, I'm not gonna say I struggle with that, but sometimes I struggle with that because as a techie nerd I T guy, my job is to look for problems, to fix them, not just for the sake of looking for problems.

And sometimes I can be perceived as like you're just so negative like no, I just wanna fix stuff that's broken and I see a lot of broken things. It's frustrating but it can shift my thinking to more critical, more negative. And Paul says, no Thanksgiving turn that around. He's, he says it, he says the same idea a little bit more fully in Philippians 4:8. He says, finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable. If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things like what's going through our brains all the time is it anxiety?

Is it stress? Is it what we see on the news? Is it what we see on social media? God's not telling us to be Christians who are like la la la, nothing bad ever happens. I'm good, blah, blah, blah. He's not saying that he's just saying focus on the good and pray for the bad might be a way you could say that there are bad things happening that we can reach out as believers and help with. But we can't let that consume and redefine who we are in Christ.

We have to keep our minds on him. After all, we, we have been told to put on the mind of Christ. That's also something we have to actively choose to do is to put on the mind of Christ to think as he thought. And if we think as he thought, then we walk as he walks. No. And we work as he works. And that's kind of what we see in the last passage in John. When he heals this blind man in a really weird way. I'm, of course the man is blind.

He can't see what Jesus is doing when he spits on the ground and makes mud. Everybody else can. And like, what is he gonna do with that? Oh gross. He's put on the and I'd be like, no gross. You guys probably like what is this stuff on my eyes? What is going on right now? And that this would have been weird. And you know what Jesus does weird stuff sometimes just to mess with this, I think just to really, they're like, OK, here's what I'm gonna do.

You're not gonna get it but it's gonna work. You have to trust me. But he said, oh I should in verse four, we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day, night is coming when no one can work as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. So Jesus ties in this idea of walking and working. He says, I, he says, I'm not doing it in another pass, another passage. He says, I don't do anything of my own accord of my own will.

I do what I see the father doing. Jesus is mimicking his father. How much more should we do that? And he's, he is doing this work that he wants, that the father wants him to do. And then we get to carry on this work that the father wants to do in us. And through us, we just have to keep this balance of identity, which I'm sort of calling the anointing and this idea of walk and work, which I kind of wrote down as God leads, we walk.

There's an echo here in the Ephesians passage about walking in the light as he is in the light. Jesus says, I am the light to, to walk in that light. So when or if you feel confused about who you are or what you're supposed to do take a few moments and just consider what God's already done in your life. Consider, ask him like, who, who am I in you? God kind of likes it when he, we talk to him. So feel free. But we can who, who am I in you?

I think David wrote several songs along those lines. What, where I, I feel lost, I feel abandoned. I don't know what I'm supposed to do, even though he went through this anointing experience with Samuel. Ask him, who am I? What do you want me? Who am I in you? How am I related in you and to you? Maybe you're OK there, maybe you're like what am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to walk? Sometimes it's as simple two things. Sometimes we need to not move until he tells us to move.

We have that, you know, ready fire aim mentality like Peter has where I'm gonna go, God and you're gonna bless it. So maybe you're one who just needs to stop and ask God, where do you want me to walk? Maybe you're the other kind of person who just needs to take a step. Right? God's like I'm leading you, I'm calling you. You just need to start putting one ft in front of the other. Ask him that too. Who am I in you? And should I be stopping or should I be moving right now?

And Lent is a great time to do that.



Related Posts

Members Public

Hearts Surely Fixed

Do you have an unruly will? Therefore, what we are determined to do sometimes gets off track, out of whack. Our affections, the things we desire at any given time, are also unruly. Therefore, our feelings can be flippant.

Hearts Surely Fixed
Members Public

Right Relationship With God and With Others

God's Law gives us the boundaries that keep us on the path instead of falling off the path and off the cliff or into the water or whatever the danger might be, but they keep us in line.

Right Relationship With God and With Others
Members Public

Ash Wednesday and 80s Movies

Ash Wednesday is every '80s movie training or preparation montage you've ever seen. It's recognizing the need for training, practice, exercise, whatever word you want to use, and doing it.

Ash Wednesday and 80s Movies