NEW CASTLE —
“Back to school.”
Other than “death and taxes,” perhaps no three words in the history of mankind have created more anxiety or dread.
Not this year.
This year can be different.
This year, you can be different.
In fact, you already are different. You just don’t believe it all the time.
Sadly, neither do I.
As I do on occasion, today I am speaking directly to the choir. To those young people who call themselves followers of Christ. To all the young people out there who have made a commitment to live for something much greater than yourselves.
You know who you are. And this message is for you.
This week, consider me your CRO — Chief Reminding Officer.
And consider this a very, very important reminder.
Not about which rules to follow in the halls. Not about what you can and cannot say. Not even about what’s appropriate to wear or look at.
No, my message today is much more important.
It’s about your identity.
Not just what’s on your birth certificate. I mean your eternal identity. The one we tend to forget about as we get tangled in worldly concerns.
In reality, there are thousands of aspects to our identity that we could examine, but this week I’d like to focus on three in particular. So as a new school year begins, just say “yes” to these Knows and watch your life change.
1) Know who humans are: Welcome to Earth. If you haven’t noticed by now, we live in a crazy, broken, fallen world. People are mean. People are selfish. I’m often astonished at the capacity we have to harm one another. We tease. We gossip. We fight. We lie.
We’re born that way.
A verse: In Romans 3:23, Paul writes that “we all fall short of the glory of God.” He didn’t say some of us. He said ALL of us. That’s you. That’s me. It’s your bus driver and your pastor. Everyone. From the first days in the Garden of Eden, we have an enemy who doesn’t just want to destroy us — he wants to use us to destroy others, too. But you were created for so much more.
A quote: “The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.” — John Eldredge
A challenge: Go ahead and embrace your weakness. Maybe you struggle with anger. Or fear. Or lying. Or cheating on tests. Don’t try to hide it anymore and pretend you are “good.” In fact, write down your struggles to get them out in the open. Then remind yourself you’re not alone. Think of Moses. David. Peter. Any “hero” of the faith has battled some pretty serious temptations and issues. But they also received the power to overcome them. You did, too.
2) Know who God is: He is your Father. He is for you. He will always be with you — in your science class, at recess or on a field trip. He wants you to be free. He wants you to be bold and filled with joy. He wants you to know you are his adopted child, yet loved like His very own.
A verse: In Galatians 4, Paul reminds us that “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ ”
A quote: “Your calling is to let the world around you experience the glory of your life.” — Gary Barkalow
A challenge: Too often we live like orphans, and our goal is “to get mine.” Or we try to achieve something so others will see us differently. But what if you knew you already had an A+ in math before classes even start? Wouldn’t it free you to learn at your own pace, without fear of punishment or flunking? Wouldn’t it free you of any pressure to excel on tests? Wouldn’t it give you more humility to ask questions and really learn the material? Well, congratulations! You’ve already got a perfect grade in life. You will always be part of the family! Live like it and enjoy it!
3) Know who you are: You are a new creation, which means you now have a new heart, a new mind and a renewed spirit to guide you today. Every trait we want for our lives — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control — we already have. It’s a gift. Living inside of us already. In other words, the Christian life is really just the process of becoming who you already are.
A verse: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17
A quote: “Don’t be preoccupied with developing a good self-image. We already have the best one available.” — Dwight Edwards
A challenge: Remember the liar, the cheater and the coward we talked about earlier? You still struggle with those weaknesses, but that’s no longer who you are. Those are human traits of a “dead” person. You are now alive. You aren’t just changed. You are NEW.
Isn’t that good news?
And that’s not all.
I’ve got a few more identity traits I’d like to share with you, just to make sure it sinks in.
OK, I lied when I said I would focus on just three today. (I told you I struggle with issues).
•You are God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10). Remember that when your enemy uses someone to call you stupid or fat or ugly or a wimp.
•Despite any screwups you might make, you are never condemned. There are still consequences for your actions, like detention, but never condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
•Despite how you may feel before speech class or before a big test, you are courageous. (2 Timothy 1:7)
•Isn’t it comforting to know someone is praying for you? Well, Jesus himself will be praying for you on the bus, in the classroom and on the athletic fields. (John 17: 20-26). Let me repeat that: Jesus. Will be praying. For you.
•And He has promised never to leave your side. Ever. (Hebrews 13:5)
Who says God is no longer allowed in school?
Just make sure to show your ID.
(Tim Kolodziej is executive editor at The News. To follow him on Twitter, CLICK HERE).
NEW CASTLE —
“Back to school.”
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