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Why identity is fundamental to discipleship

As a church family full of members—those who are faithful in community, serving, giving, and mission—I want to help you see this Ephesians series in context.

We have an amazing opportunity during this Ephesians series this winter. That opportunity is to be a church family who truly grasps our identities in Christ—the absolute fundamental part of our lives and mission.

Fundamentals can make or break you

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, used to start his teams’ first practice not with shooting, defensive schemes, or even passing—he started with teaching them how to put their socks on. He explained that because basketball was a game of sudden starts and stops, if there was a wrinkle in their socks, they’d get blisters. If they got blisters, they couldn’t play well. If they couldn’t play well, they couldn’t win. The team didn’t touch a ball until they could put their socks on correctly.

If any of you watched the BCS Championship between Alabama and Notre Dame game a couple weeks ago, we had a great example of this. Notre Dame couldn’t execute the basics of football: blocking, tackling, running. Alabama, on the other hand, executed in a way that is reflective of a team that is drilled in the fundamentals constantly.

Identity is fundamental to discipleship

Identity is who and what God says we are. Understanding our identity in Christ is fundamental to discipleship, shepherding, and making disciples.

Our identities in Christ are incredible fruits of justification: because we are justified by faith in Christ, we are united to him. But our identities in Christ, these gospel truths, are also the keys to sanctification, i.e. growing as a Christian.

We are prone to find our identities in:

  • What we do (success or failure, what people think of us),
  • What has been done to us (victimization or shame), or
  • Our roles, relationships, and responsibilities (single, married, pastor, Community Group leader, etc).

This side of heaven we will constantly be prone to turn away from who God says we are and live out of one of these distortions, and we’ll need to be reminded of who we are in Jesus, repent, and believe in what God says about us and bring it back to him. That is fundamental.

Jesus has sent us

The truths of our gospel identities are fundamental to that mission. Take an opportunity over these remaining 14 weeks to focus on the fundamentals in your own life, your family, and your Community Groups. Imagine if we were a church full of people who lived out of their God-given, Jesus-secured, Holy Spirit-empowered identities! As Pastor Bill Clem says in his book, Disciple:

May we be a people like that.

Nick Bogardus is the lead pastor of the Orange County church.


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