OUR SEARCH FOR EXTERNAL IDENTITY
Morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
I was never physically strong growing up.
In ninth grade, I decided, it was time to bulk up.
Some of the other guys were getting muscles, so I figured it was time to follow suit.
And so, I started going to the weight room after school with a friend.
Every time it was time to do the bench press there was always a line (because well, this was high school), so I always ended up doing the incline bench press…
…where you sit at an incline and bench.
About two weeks later, no joke, the bench press was finally open.
My overly zealous friend put a ton of weight on the bar, and I started to lift…
But, used to the incline bench press, my arms started to go backwards.
And just like that, I dislocated my right shoulder.
My overly zealous friend wasn’t watching, so I sat their with the bar on my neck, yelling, “Help! Help!”
I can still literally picture the senior captain of the football team walking by me and laughing.
Now, it wasn’t my first time dislocating it, so I was able to pop it back in…and I somehow found the emotional strength to stay in the weight room.
I thought, “I’ll try something with my legs. I’ve always played soccer, so I’ll do that”
I went over to the thing where you lay down and push up the huge sled w/ your legs, but somehow I didn’t put the safety switch on right, and literally, 5 minutes after I had the bar strangling my neck…
I was completely trapped under the sled…yelling, “Help!
The two biggest kids in the weight room had to come over and lift it off of me.
And as everyone was laughing, some kid yelled above their voices, “Get out of here!”
I started crying, cried the whole way out of the weight room, and the whole way home
And that day, “I vowed to myself…I would never lift weights again”
And I suppose that was fine for a while…as I decided I would find my worth in other things.
Besides, I was super in shape from playing soccer almost year round
But you know what happens…you get older…you get more, how do I say this… “sedentary” J…and suddenly you look different.
And even as a guy, especially nowadays in a visual culture, it’s hard to not think about how you look.
It didn’t used to be this way for guys…or at least not to this extreme.
Growing up, I don’t think there was a single “gym” in the town I lived in…now they’re everywhere.
And guys, if we think we have it bad, women have it worse.
There are a lot of studies out there about how often the average woman has negative thoughts about her body…
Some tell you 5 times a day…some studies say as many as 50 times a day
Either way, it’s a lot.
It’s hard in a world where we have to stare at perfect models in every sort of ad all day long…
And not only that, we don’t even really stare at perfect models…we stare at photoshopped and surgically altered versions of perfect models.
And so for the AVERAGE American female, this is incredibly difficult.
Studies say that:
70 percent of 18-30-year-old American women don't like their bodies
60 percent of women in middle age still remain unsatisfied with their bodies.
And nearly 20 million American Women will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
And it’s affecting our children too. Especially our young girls.
When we let our looks be our identity, our kids notice. They’re expert observers
When little girls, who think their mommy is incredible and wonderful and pretty…when they hear mommy say, “I look ugly, or fat, or I need to lose weight, or on and on…”
The often think, “If mommy says she’s ugly, than what am I?”
Studies now say that:
42 percent of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
81 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being overweight.
And for a lot of people in our culture, many of us included, our looks are where we find our identity.
And you don’t have to be incredibly good looking (or w/ HUGE muscles) for your looks to become your identity.
Our looks also become our identity when we feel incredibly insecure about them, and we can’t stop thinking about how we don’t measure up
If every time you look in the mirror, you think, “I look overweight…”
If you can’t stop thinking, “I need to work out”
If you think about it 30 times a day…that should be a flag to you.
Anything you think about 30 times a day should tell you, “This is shaping my identity”…whether it’s positive OR negative.
If I told you, “I think about how my landscaping at my house looks, 30 times a day…
You’d say, “David, you have a problem. Life is not about the bushes in your front yard”
And yet, if we think about how we look 30 times a day, we tend to not think that’s somehow not a problem
Our thought life is incredibly revealing about where we are finding our identity.
A real theme verse of this series is:
(Matthew 6:21) – NIV
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Very similarly, where your mind is, there your identity will be also
What do you think about the most??
Far too many of us in America are finding our worth through the external…through the things on the outside.
And it’s not just in looks…for a lot of people, it’s the external things we dress up around us…to make us look better.
…from our clothes…all the way to our living spaces
Seriously, how many shows are there about improving the look of your house, apartment, condo, you name it?
Flip or Flop
And the list goes on…
Not to mention you’ve got to stare at everyone’s social media posts on how they:
Just did a new gallery wall
Someone just bought a new throw pillow and it looks way better than grandma’s hand-me-down pillow you’re using
Someone’s showing off the perfect placement of their brand new plant while they sip on tea while sitting on their new piece of furniture.
And there’s this constant pressure…to feel like you need to measure up…externally…on the outside.
You don’t want someone coming over to your place and seeing that your wall just has a family photo on it…how…1997 of you!
Where’s your cool Word Art that says “Coffee” or “Gather” or something like that?”
And so it’s back to “Hobby Lobby”…so you can keep up with the Gaine’s.
And we’ve got people all over this country…even in this church…racking up debt…to keep up…finding their identity in the externals.
We need to hear God’s Word on this.
What does God say about us finding our identity from how we look on the outside?
Well, first of all, God says, “The external…is not even what I look at...what I value”
We covered this when we went through 1 Samuel as a church.
God tells the prophet Samuel that the new king is going to be of Jesse’s sons.
So Samuel goes straight to the tallest, strongest guy…and yet it was the young boy David who would be king.
And God told him:
(1 Samuel 16:7) – NIV
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
And so as followers of God, we’re told to not find our worth from the external
Look at the teaching of the New Testament
(1 Peter 3:3-4) – NIV
3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
I’m going to give you a few reasons today to not find our worth in the externals, and one of them is that all external things are fleeting:
(Proverbs 31:30) – NIV
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
God knows that it’s a waste of your time to find your identity in something that isn’t going to last…like your good looks J
And Scripture uses the same principle for other external idols as well.
There’s a Lecrae song where he says: “Identity is found in God we trust, and any other identity will self-destruct”
So maybe you find your identity and your worth in exercise.
Watch how Scripture uses this same principle about not staking your identity in fleeting things.
(1 Timothy 4:8) – NIV
8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
It’s fine to want to change the way you look. To exercise. To eat healthy. To lose weight (your body is a temple)
To change your fashion….to stop wearing mom jeans…
“oh, they’re back?! Keep your mom jeans…they’re back.”
It’s good to take care of your body in this present life, but…
those things are dwarfed in comparison to you growing in Christ.
Because they only have value for this life.
Listen, you are going to look incredible in heaven.
I can guarantee you nothing for these next 50 years, but for the next 5 billion, God has got you covered. J
We see the same principle about fleeting identities all of the things we try and dress up around us (our houses, our cars, our machines)
Right before the verse about your treasure and your heart, Jesus says:
(Matthew 6:20) – NIV
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Want to know how people will feel about your kitchen in 40 years?
(1970’s kitchen photo)
Someone got their worth out of this at some point.
They were the coolest people on their block.
It’s just all fleeting.
Give it up!
Stop the rat race…it’s not Biblical.
It’s not Godly.
It’s not helping your heart.
It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, but what’s on the inside.
Now, if you’ve been around here for any length of time, you’ll know that I hate cultural clichés with a passion…so I say this “tongue in cheek”
Let me flesh out what the Bible really means when it talks about looking at the internal (the heart, what’s inside, etc.)
Our culture is understandably frustrated with always having to look beautiful, and so, like we said in our “Chair w/ no legs” series this past winter, the culture is trying to draw on some Christian principles, but often missing the point.
Let me give you an example of this:
I hear a certain song on secular radio all the time, when there’s a commercial on KTIS or Air1 of course…
“oh they don’t have commercials??” Oh… J
Maybe you’ve heard Alessia (Ah-LESS-ia) Cara’s “Scars to your beautiful” where she says, “You’re Beautiful just the way you are…” or “no better you than the you that you are”
And that’s a common refrain of our culture right now, and it’s kind of right…but not really.
What the culture is trying to say is, “Your worth can’t come from the outside.”
And they’re actually right about that.
But what the culture is wrong about is this: Your worth is not found deep within you…just because you’re you…and you’re perfect just the way you are.
When I take a deep look at me…just me…and my sin…I’m not perfect “just the way I am”
Me…just me…is messy.
So what is it, internally, that gives me worth if it’s not “just me?”
Where is it, internally, that I should actually find my identity?
It’s in the fact that you are made in the image of God
(Genesis 1:27) – NIV
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
It’s in the Scriptural Truth that God specifically and purposefully “knit you together”
(Psalm 139:13-14) – NIV
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
So you’re valuable, not just because of how you look on the outside…but because God made you, and GOD DOESN’T MAKE JUNK.
You are, as we read last week, God’s “masterpiece” according to Ephesians 2.
Think of it this way:
I don’t know if you saw in the news this week, but a Picasso painting (that was one time captured by the Nazi’s) sold for $45 million just a few days ago.
(Show Picasso painting)
Personally, I think the painting looks terrible.
But I don’t love art, and I certainly don’t love Picasso.
I’d pay about 45 cents for that.
But it just sold for 45 million!
Because it’s value isn’t derived from what any random person (like me) has to say about how it looks.
What gives it worth?????
It’s worth 45 million…because it was created…by PICASSO!
Now, if you were the owner of the painting, how dumb would it be, if you decided, “You know what would make this painting valuable…if I put a GOLD frame around it instead of the one that’s on there!”
If you thought, if I just “dress up the exterior a little bit,” that’ll make it valuable…then it’ll be worth lots of money!
That would be silly.
Or if you thought, “You know what would make it valuable…if I just put it in a nicer environment…if I displayed it next to some more expensive furniture…or I placed it in a nicer house…that’ll make it valuable!”
What makes it valuable…what gives it worth…is its creator!!
THE SAME IS TRUE WITH YOU!
(back to “It’s what’s inside that counts” slide)
And so…when you seek out value through your body image, or through adorning your house…or through whatever…
It’s like trying to increase the value of a Picasso by dressing up its frame.
It’s never going to work.
It’s wasted energy.
What makes you “beautiful” as the culture likes to say…or what “gives you worth” is not YOU…it’s not you dressing yourself up…it’s your creator!
And as a Christian, what gives you invaluable worth is knowing what’s on the inside…the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit that says, “You are God’s child!
You are forgiven, saved, loved, and cherished in Him…and THAT…is identity worth living out of!
Hear the words of Jesus Christ this morning
(Luke 12:22-23) – NIV
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
Jesus says this most likely to people who weren’t sure if they could eat…or have enough clothes…
But the point is just the same, even though we’re on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Our identity is not in what we eat…or in what we wear
Let God be enough for you.
Can you say this week: “God is enough”
Let me give you some practical ways to move towards this (write these down):
For one, monitor your thought life this week.
Remember, what you think about, is often where you find your value.
If you’re constantly thinking about dressing up the external (whether it’s something you own or the way you look)…own up to it this week.
Say, “I can’t stop thinking about this…and that means something!”
Secondly, if you’re finding worth by dressing up your externals…do some practical things to walk away from that this week (Write: “Stop dressing up the frame”). Here are some ideas for that:
Stop dressing to impress so much
If that’s where you’re getting your worth, try dressing like an average person this summer.
Cut back at the gym (you don’t hear that very often!)
If it’s a problem for you, unfollow all of the designers you follow on Instagram and stop posting pictures in your house all the time.
For some of you: I dare you to not buy anything for your house for a year
And if you just went, “Um…I don’t think I could do that…then yes, that was for you” J
When you talk to each other, don’t talk about the externals so much.
“Dude…your car, your yard, your garage…is awesome”
“Or honey your house is SOOO Cute”
We ascribe value to the things we spend our time talking about
Say things like, ‘I just love what you said about Jesus the other day…that really…
Here’s one: “Invite someone over to your house and don’t clean it first”
Or here’s another one: Instead of taking a night to making something else look beautiful in your home, take that same night…and actually invite someone over to your home.
This is a great irony of our modern culture.
We spend all these hours dressing up our living spaces to show them off online, but we never actually invite anyone over (in real life)
Just leave your place as is…and invite someone over…someone from your House Group, or a neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus yet.
Let’s start living our lives like the Bible talks about, not just living like everything is about the external.
I constantly hear people from church say, “Oh, I wouldn’t want to host a get together at my place, or you wouldn’t want to come over…my place is too small, or not decorated nice…or not”
You do realize that the vast majority of the world thinks you live in a mansion, right?
Even if you live in a 700 sq ft apartment…MANSION.
Keep in mind, Jesus, who we’re trying to imitate, in the last 3 years of his life, didn’t even have a HOME!
And there comes a point, where we just miss the Biblical emphasis of hospitality.
Hospitality is about hosting and loving others.
And when we don’t do that because of how “our space” looks or doesn’t measure up, what we’re saying is, “How I look externally is more important than what God is asking me to do.”
So what can you do?
Where do you think you need to let go of finding your worth in something external?
And the third thing (so monitor your thoughts…stop dressing everything up), and thirdly, begin to actually live out your identity from the internal…not the external.
I once heard a story from a woman in our church that I thought would be helpful here, so she wrote it down in her own words for us…
Here’s what she said:
“I was asked to play viola in a quartet for a wedding that was out of town.
I was sharing a hotel room with the woman cellist, and the morning of the wedding, I decided I wanted to curl my hair to look nice for the wedding.
I spent the next 30 minutes or so working on my hair, and while I did so, the cellist practiced a part for one of the songs we were supposed to play for that day for the wedding.
As I curled my hair, I listened to her get better and better at that part, and eventually perfect what she earlier…could not play.
And I realized that I spent all that time trying to make myself look more beautiful – which would not last for more than a few hours, but she spent her time preparing for the job we were called to do that day…make the couple look more beautiful
And it makes you think…
We spend so much of our short lives making ourselves look better, when we really, our core task as Christians, is to make Him look better.
And as the old saying goes, “God is most glorified in us…when we are most satisfied in Him”
When we can put down our external idols…and replace them with Scriptural truth.
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
“God, you don’t make junk.”
“My identity is in you…not in how I, or the things around me, look.”
We need to tell our Savior, every day, “God…you are enough!”
“You love me, I’m your child…and that’s far better than anything in this world that I could have.
And when you can live like that…
Your life, fascinatingly, actually starts to look even more beautiful to the people around you.
They see a freedom that you’re living in, that they clearly don’t have
You can leave for work in the morning, knowing that your house is a mess, your grass is too long, and you might even look like “that guy” in the neighborhood…and it’s all okay.
Because you’re a child of God.
And your aim isn’t to make you look amazing, but Him!
And you can wake up in the morning and not have to spend hours just looking for the right thing to wear to make you look perfect…or the right thing to hang on your wall…
Because you’re not pointing people to you anymore…it’s to Him…inside of you.
Can you sense the freedom in that?
So put down your false identities.
They’ll never satisfy…they’ll never be enough.
Remember your real identity…in Christ.
He will always be enough.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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