“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved…” – John 13:23 (KJV)
It occurred to me during our men’s Bible study this morning. We’ve started a study of the Gospel of John and were going through background material. We were discussing the Apostle John, talking about how alike he and Peter were when he was younger and the fact that John seemed to mature quicker. The point came up that, in his gospel, John never refers to himself by name. He always calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Just at that moment, as we looked at the scene at the Last Supper where John is reclined against Jesus, it struck me.
John so closely identified himself with Jesus that he truly surrendered all to the Lord – including the very definition of who he was. He was no longer the former fisherman John, son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of James. He was no longer one of the “Sons of Thunder.” All of that former life was gone. He was a new creation, so thoroughly identified in Christ that he humbly referred to himself simply as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John isn’t being boastful, or claiming himself better than the others. He is simply stating fact: he is recognizing that the love of Christ defines who he is. After all, the true mark of a disciple is to live a life as close to your Lord as possible.
We all claim an identity. For some of us, it is our career that defines us. Perhaps it is our place of birth, or religious or political affiliation. Inwardly, we often define ourselves by our self-image – whether healthy or unhealthy. But, the simple fact of the matter is, if you are truly a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ who seeks to do His will and follow His precepts and walk in His love – then you are defined by the Lord as a disciple whom Jesus loves.
You are not identified by what you do for a living.
You are not identified by your former glories, or your past failures.
You are not identified by any restrictions you feel society has imposed on you.
You are not identified by what somebody said you were.
Shame does not identify you.
Guilt does not identify you.
Mistakes do not identify you.
Hear me, beloved… Christ defines you. Your identity is found in the Lord Jesus Christ! What exactly does that mean? It means, if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior have confessed your sins and repented (which means turned away from your sin and turned to Christ to save you and guide you), then you have a new identity. The old you has disappeared in the shadow of the cross. It means you are redeemed, reborn, redefined.
It means you are loved, beloved. Drop the old identity and let Christ so redefine you that the world knows you are His. You were once a slave to your old identity. Now, in Christ, “he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17, ESV).
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, ESV).
Maybe you used to be identified by one of the sins listed in verses 9 and 10 above. But, if you have turned your life to Christ, you have a new identity (verse 11)! You are CLEAN. You are FORGIVEN. You are FREE FROM THE PAST. Most of all, you are BELOVED, a child of the Most High God, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
And if you haven’t accepted Christ, what’s stopping you? It’s never too late – not as long as you draw breath. There is no sin too bad that God cannot forgive, no life so far gone that God cannot restore, no person out of the reach of Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:19-23 (ESV)