I have a fishing pole and tackle box – I even own a pair of waders. But I am not a fisherman. I am a dad of four boys who wants to do dad things with sons – and fishing every now and then is one of them. In fact, I was reminded again of this reality this last week as I packed our fishing poles and tackle box on our camping trip to Florida over spring break. Once I took them out of our camper and set them by the tree on our campsite, I didn’t touch the poles again until we packed up the site and headed back to Tennessee!
I have a friend, however, who is a fisherman. He also has a fishing pole and tackle box. But he eats, sleeps and breathes fishing. He ties his own flies, researching what fish are eating on any given stretch of river - planning trips and vacations around fishing adventures and maintaining a well-organized inventory of fishing gear. I know for a fact that he even tries to think like the fish he’s trying to catch.
He has fully embraced his identity as a fisherman – because he’s passionate about catching fish. I have not. For me, fishing is something I do now and then, but it is certainly not part of my identity - who I am.
A New Identity
When we become a believer in Christ, we are given a new identity - as a disciple, a follower of Jesus. Not based in what we do – but in who we are. It’s truly a “new way of being.” And as my fisherman friend does with fishing, Jesus has called each of us to reorient our entire lives around our identity as followers of Him.
Recently, I read a great post by Pastor Mark Irving on the DNA of Discipleship – the intersection or overlap of three essential elements: Gospel, Family and Mission. As we find ourselves where these three circles intersect, our new identity as a disciple on mission becomes more clear.
Caesar Kalinowski, in his book, Transformed, unpacks the idea of our identity in Christ as “a family of missionary servants, sent on mission as disciples to make disciples.” I’ve been grappling with this identity concept, and have been working with this language with my own family.
Scripture uses the metaphor of family often. God, our heavenly Father, has chosen us and drawn us into a relationship with Himself. As the Church, we are a family. God’s family. Each of us are brothers and sisters in this family (in fact, Christ, is also our brother) called to live in grace-based relationships with each other. Remember – the Church is not four walls, it is people. It is us. We are the family of God.
Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 20:21 just after His resurrection: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Jesus sent His disciples to make disciples – and they went out and built the Church. This continues now, from the first century, with you and me. Each of us is a “sent one” – which is the definition of a missionary (read this recent post). We’re sent – as missionaries – to go into all the world and make disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Mark 10:45 tells us that Jesus "came not be served, but to serve – and give His life as a ransom for many.” It’s essential to remember that he didn’t have to come and serve – but he chose to. And we’re called to imitate Him. To serve those around us – in our family, our neighborhood, our workplace, our school – in any way possible, based on Christ’s example.
Identity: A New Way of Being
So, as Kalinowski puts it – our identity in Christ makes us a family of missionary servants, sent on mission, in the power of the Holy Spirit, as disciples who make disciples!
It’s far more about who we are than what we do – and yet, the reality is that the more we embrace our God-given identity, our actions will soon follow. We can’t help it. The power of the Gospel to transform hearts and lives is THAT strong.
I get excited about what it means for our families, neighborhoods, communities and cities if each of us were to truly embrace and live out of our identity as a family of missionary servants – by the power of the Spirit, with the Gospel at the center of who we are.
I doubt I’m going to start tying my own flies anytime soon. Sure I’ll take the boys fishing a couple times a year… although it might be a while before I start thinking like a trout. But, if we take Jesus’ words literally – I guess I already am a fisherman. As Mark 1:17 reminds us, Jesus said to His disciples “Come follow me, and I WILL MAKE YOU fishers of men.” Its His work, not ours. And as I follow Jesus, fishing IS my Gospel identity… (for people, not fish!)
How might God be calling you to more fully embrace your new Gospel identity in Christ?