An Identity Rooted in Jesus

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James…”
Jude 1

Over the next few installments of this blog, I’m going to be taking a little different direction. Usually, the blog is just a random collection of thoughts, with very little connection from one week to the next. What resulted was a rather scattered, cluttered mess – which, apropos, describes a lot of my life right now.

In an attempt to be more organized, I’ve decided that I’m going to start working through scripture, slowly, methodically, systematically. My hope is not to write a commentary or sermon, but to simply reflect on the passage, soak in it for a while, and hopefully, prayerfully, discern truth in it. If you benefit from reading along in this journey, all the better.

So we begin with Jude. It’s a great little letter, near the end of the New Testament. If you haven’t read it in a while, I encourage you to step away from your computer, find your Bible, and read it. It won’t take long.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Welcome back.

Did you notice how Jude introduces himself, how he identifies himself? 

The introduction of  the letter follows the typical format of the NT epistles: name and credentials of authority. Paul did this regularly, giving his name, then commenting on his call and relationship to the audience. We see it also in James’ and Peter’s letters, while Hebrews remains anonymous and John never introduces himself except in Revelation.

Here, Jude describes himself as a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James. 

This is interesting because at the time this was written the only “biblical” James we know of who is still alive is James the brother of Jesus, the author of the epistle James.  That means that Jude would have also been the brother of Jesus. 

So why not come out and say that? If part of the introduction of a letter is the validation of authority, don’t you think that saying, “I’m the brother of Jesus” would carry some weight? Wouldn’t that make you a shoe-in for apostolic authority? 

This is how a lot of the world works. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, that really counts. We drop names in order to bolster our influence, we make connections hoping to advance ourselves.

If you read about the brothers of Jesus in the Gospels, however, you see perhaps why Jude doesn’t emphasize this relationship. Mark tells us that Jesus’ family thought he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21), and John says that even his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5). Imagine, then, the shame that the brothers of Jesus would have felt when they come face to face with the resurrected Lord. It was the resurrection changed everything.

After the resurrection, Jude calls Jesus “Master” and “Lord.” He recognizes Jesus as the Christ. He knows Jesus not simply as the brother he grew up with, but as the Messiah, the anointed one of God, who saved him from his sins and unbelief, and to whom he owes His life. From now on, Jude’s identity is wrapped up in the person and work of Jesus Christ. “Jesus is Lord,” says Jude, “I am his servant.”

Is this how you are identified? That’s a question that gets tossed around a lot today, “How do you identify yourself?” The world says that identity is fluid; changeable, malleable by successes, failures, opinions, moods, feelings, so that it becomes impossible to even begin to know who you are. So much of our identity is established by our work, our accomplishments, even our failures. We let these things define us, and entrap us. “It’s just who I am…”

But here in the introduction of Jude we hear, not just who Jude is, but how we too may be identified: “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Master, I am His servant.

If you want to know my real identity, if you want to see behind the mask that I wear (no, I’m not Batman), here’s who I am. I am a sinner. I have been redeemed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. I have been purchased by His blood, redeemed by His cross, covered in His righteousness, secured in His kingdom. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Master, I am His servant.

Whatever else may be said, regardless of your accomplishments and failures, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, your identity is rooted in Him. 

Tune in next week as we explore the second half of this verse in greater detail.

SDG

Frustrated!

As I began to write this article today on “Frustration” my WIFI network crashed. Instantly, all access to my bog-site, youtube videos for illustration, catchy quotes on wiki-quotes – all gone.

WHY DOES THIS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME!!! THIS IS SO FRUSTRAT….

Oh. Wait. There it is, the frustration monster rearing its fuming head.

It doesn’t take much, just one little nudge, and the plans of mice and men have gone awry.

How frustrating.

How fitting that the network would crash, frustrating my efforts to accomplish my goal That’s the verb form of the word. As a noun, frustration is the feeling of irritation or annoyance because of an inability to achieve one’s goals.

What frustrates me? Here’s the quick list:

Choppy internet connections

People who don’t know how to drive, especially at roundabouts

source-1

Constant interruptions that keep me from what I’m doing

Having to deal with the same problems over and over again

My own inability to live up to the standards that I have set for myself.

Now, if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that all of these, even the internet thing, all stem from my sense of self-importance and entitlement.  People should drive better so they don’t slow me down. Why can’t you do what I told you the first time, the way I told you to. An honest self-critique reveals that I am frustrated most when others don’t do things like I would do them, when my own lack of power and control i exposed, when I realize, once again, that I am not God.

Of course, the scriptures reveal the genuine source of my frustration – my own disobedience and willfulness. In Deuteronomy 28 God warns of His curse upon those who do not obey the voice of the Lord, that he will send confusion and frustration upon them. In Job 5, we are told that the Lord frustrates the plans of the crafty. In Psalm 33:10 we read that God frustrates the plans of the peoples, but the council of the Lord stands forever.

Frustration is evidence that even still His ways are not my ways; that I must continue to die to myself and follow after the Lord.  It is proof that the old man in me, though slain by grace (for I have been crucified with Christ), still rears and rages from time to time.

So what is the solution to my frustration.  Here are some quick thoughts.

  1. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). My frustration comes primarily when I am full of myself, insisting upon my ways, and putting myself in the place of God. When I sense frustration building, it is a good reminder to humble myself in the sight of the Lord, to know that He is Sovereign and I am not.  And that’s a very good thing. Nothing can frustrate His councils, not even my own weaknesses and shortsightedness. “He who has begun a good work in you is faithful to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
  2. Let Love for God and Neighbor Replace A sense of pride and arrogance.  1 Corinthians 13 teaches, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” These characteristics of love are the exact opposite of frustration.  Let love for God and one another be that which soothes and abates the fires of frustration.
  3. Preach the Gospel to Yourself. Simply trying to replace frustration with love would end up making me more frustrated, because that would be a works-based remedy, and remember, the source of frustration is making myself the center of everything. No, the best cure for my frustrations is always the gospel.  Knowing that Jesus has taken my sin, my brokenness, my failures, my shame, and died upon the cross for me, so that by faith in Him I have new life; this is my hope and peace. Now, if ever there was someone who had a right to be frustrated, wouldn’t it be Jesus?  He is the righteous One, who never sinned, but was sinned against by all, and bore the sins of the world upon His cross. Yet as Hebrews 12:2 reminds us, he, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” By His grace I am delivered from the curse of frustration of the old life, and raised to joyful life in the Spirit.  Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Feeling frustrated? Turn to, and trust in, Jesus Christ for your salvation. He will make your paths straight!

SDG

PS – Here’s the video I thought I’d share on Frustration – can’t help it, it’s Ray Romano and Grover.