by Suzie Strickler
"Mom, do we have any cottage cheese?" I ask as I look into the fridge, making a shopping list of items I needed before going to the store. I was making lasagna for family dinner and taking stock of ingredients. "Yep, there it is," seeing a carton labeled cottage cheese. Upon my return, I discovered that although it was a cottage cheese container, it definitely did not have cottage cheese in it. My family frequently reuses old containers to store leftovers, and sometimes we forget to re-label the container with its actual contents. This time, my failure to check the actual contents meant another trip to the grocery store.
Just as that cottage cheese container had new contents, so when we come to Christ, we also become a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17). God gives us a new identity, a new name (1 Corinthians 6:11; Isaiah 62:2). However, sometimes our old labels seem to stick around. We may continue to define ourselves by past sins or accomplishments. And sometimes, our labels and identity are derived from the culture around us - by political views, career, marital status, physical abilities, social media presence, even important causes we support or ways that we serve. But as we are learning together through the sermon series in Ecclesiastes, all these things, when allowed to define us, leave us empty.
So where do we find our identity and how do we deal with old labels? We turn to our Creator, the One who made us and has true authority to define us. Isaiah says, "But now thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.'" And again, "You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married" (Isaiah 43:1, 62:4). We have all earned the label Forsaken and Desolate because of our sin, so why can God call us His Delight? Only because Jesus, who lived the perfect life in complete obedience and perfect communion with the Father, was forsaken. He deserved the delight of the Father, yet was forsaken so we could be received, broken so we could be made whole, made destitute so we could be restored (2 Corinthians 5:21). He did this, not because we are good and deserving, but because of His love and Who He is (Ephesians 2:4). Our worth and identity is not based on any of our own merit, but in the character of God.
Looking at the labels I give myself or that others give me, I need to be reminded that although they may describe me, they do not define me. I am created by God, in His image, for His glory - to love Him and enjoy Him as I know Him more fully. "Thus says the LORD: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.'" (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
You are not your accomplishments or your service. You are not your sins or temptations. You are a beloved child of the King, fully known and fully loved by God, not because of anything you are or have done, but because of Who He is and what He's done.
Join us on August 19 at 7P in the HUB at Summer Together: Re-Labeled
. We will look more at the labels we put on ourselves, the one's others add, how they often become our identity, and how we can shed those labels and put on the ones that Jesus gives us - Loved, Worthy, Adored!