I have a past. You have a past. We all have a past.
Who are you? What defines you? Does your past define you? Are you defined by achievements? Are you defined by pain?
Ok, huge loaded questions right? Here is why I am asking. I am a human just like you. Directly after college I moved to Lynchburg, VA to live with my brothers and wrestle with God. I didn’t live well during college and really needed some time to get life together. So I moved in with my brother and begin to pow wow with God. During the next year, I had highs and lows. During that chapter of my life I had some amazing moments; I met my wife and landed a future job that ultimately led to Wellspring Church. I also have moments in that chapter that bring me great shame. They are wounds that are hard to heal. They bring me great pain.
How does God define me? Does He define me by my shame? Does He define me by my achievements? Neither. I think our new identity is formed out of great moments of weakness and success to leave us with one option; Jesus.
Genesis 32:22-28 “The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,6 for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Think about this event. Jacob on one hand failed. He was wounded. It’s a wound that would last his lifetime. It could be the source of great shame, pain, and an identity formulated in failure. Should the Christian person focus on shame or Jesus?
On the other hand, He wrestled God and wasn’t destroyed. Jacob could look at this one episode and become prideful. He could make life and identity all about himself. Should the Christian person focus on self or Jesus?
Which should define the Child of God? Selfish pride or shame? Exactly, neither.
This wrestling match serves to be a great wound and a new identity. He would forever be known as Israel. He was humbled through this process. This humility led to identity.
My point is this, your past, good or bad can take your focus off Jesus. In achievement, we make ourselves the focal point. In shame, we make ourselves the focal point. God will give us a new identity from the places of deep wounds. He will give us a new identity in a place of great achievement. No matter the circumstances, a Christ-centered identity is never about you, it’s always about Jesus.
So whether your past brings you pain or pride, if it brought you to Jesus, make that the focus. The enemy wants you to focus on yourself because it’s hard to see Jesus when you’re the only thing in sight.
If your past is littered with pain- focus on Jesus. Romans reminds us that in our sin Jesus died for us. Your past points to the fact that you need Jesus. We all do. A need for Jesus is why God sent Him to us. Your sinful past does not surprise Jesus. If its pain brought on by another, God, as only He can do, was able to bring beauty from ashes. He was able to bring the beauty of eternity to a place of hardship. Praise God for that.
If your past is littered with achievement- focus on Jesus. Is it all about you? Did you accomplish great success? Did God allow you to be successful for your fame or His? Satan wants it to be for your fame. God brings fame for His glory and for His name sake. When you think about your past, how can you bring Jesus fame through it? How can you paint a picture where people say “Wow God” instead of “Wow Jason.”
I have a past, good and bad. No matter the direction, I am always tempted to make my story about me. However, when I step back I see that the areas of my greatest wounds, Jesus was at work bring me to a place of complete dependence. When I step back and think of some of my achievements, I understand it was all about Jesus. I understand how God was moving and working. It would be prideful to think God wasn’t at work.
So since we all have a past, the question becomes, how can we make our past all about Jesus? It’s a choice. Lean in. Write down your story. Make it about Jesus. Write your story but make Jesus the main character. When Jesus is the main character of your story, He’s the famous One, not you. That is good.
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