What is your self identity? Do you think of yourself in terms of your vocation? your ethnicity? the people who love you?
All of these identities are a part of who you are. However, if you are a follower of Jesus, let me challenge you to think of yourself primarily as beloved of God. There is no better self identity. The Bible says that God loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
Nothing compares with the sense of being deeply loved. In his book, The Signature of Jesus, Brennan Manning tells about a young woman's personal breakthrough during a five-day retreat. The small number that attended this retreat allowed for an unusual degree of dialogue and interpersonal communication. One woman in her mid-thirties was conspicuous by her silence. She was so quiet that she neither smiled nor sighed, laughed nor cried, reacted, responded, nor communicated with anyone.
On the afternoon of the fourth day, Manning invited each person to share what the Lord had been doing in his or her life the past few days. After a couple of minutes, Christine (not her real name), the uncommunicative woman, reached for her journal and said, "Something happened to me yesterday, and I wrote it down. You developed the two images of husband (Isaiah 54:5-6) and lover (Hosea 2:16-20). Then you quoted the words of St. Augustine: Christ is the best husband. At the end of your talk you prayed that we might experience what you shared. Almost the moment I closed my eyes, I was transported into a large ballroom filled with people."
"I was sitting on a wooden chair when a man approached me, took my hand, and led me onto the floor. He held me in his arms and led me in the dance. The tempo of the music increased and we whirled faster and faster. The man's eyes never left my face. His radiant smile covered me with warmth, delight, and a sense of acceptance. Everyone else on the floor stopped dancing. They were staring at us. The beat of the music increased and we pirouetted around the room in reckless rhythm."
Then I Knew
"I glanced at his hands and then I knew. Brilliant wounds of a battle long ago, almost like a signature carved in his flesh. The music tapered to a slow, lilting melody and Jesus rocked me back and forth. As the dance ended, he pulled me close to him. Do you know what he whispered?"
At this moment, every person in the chapel strained forward. Tears rolled down Christine's cheeks. A full minute of silence ensued. Though her face was beaming, the tears kept falling. Finally she spoke. "Jesus whispered to me, 'Christine, I’m wild about you.' I stayed in the chapel for over an hour, then went to my room and began to write in my journal what I had just experienced. The love of Jesus swept over me like a gentle tide saturating my being in wonder, bewilderment, peace, certitude and deep worship."
"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him...We love because he first loved us." I John 4:16, 19.
Nothing is more personal and powerful than the matchless love that Jesus offers. There is no form of human love that can compare. Most wonderful of all, Jesus knows who we really are and loves who we really are. We can never exaggerate how much Jesus loves us. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Are you interested in knowing more about God's love and how you can have peace with God?
Author:Paul Schlieker www.bible-study-lesson-plans.com
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Discussion ideas for your small group or Sunday School class:
1. How does thinking of yourself primarily as being loved by God change your self identity?
2. Relate a time when you felt deeply loved by Jesus.
3. How would being rooted in this self identity combat fear, depression, or anxiety?
4. Share a favorite verse about Jesus' love for you.
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