Nicknames can carry great meaning…we grandparent types know this which is why it’s so important to us.
· My own grandparents nicknames evoke great memories grandma and nana)
Sometimes nicknames become associated with a person even though you have no idea where it came from or got started
· Mighty Chandler for instance
· or Hoosiers – nobody seems to know how we got that nickname
Then there are other nicknames that have changed so dramatically in meaning over time that their original significance is lost.
· such is the case with the nickname Christian. That perhaps may be how you refer to yourself when you explain your identity to someone.
· That nickname may be important to you not because of the word itself but because of you think of yourself - your identity…how you see yourself.
o self-image or self-identity has a huge influence in how you live your life.
So let me ask you…how do you refer to yourself spiritually?
· Do you call yourself a Christian? Believer? Follower of Jesus? Evangelical? Protestant? Catholic ? Baptist? Lutheran? Methodist?
· How do you refer to yourself when you are in a conversation about faith? It does say something about you you know.
Here’s the problem – just about all the words that I mentioned are loaded with baggage or double meaning or political propaganda or just plain confusion.
So, this summer…let’s figure this out…let’s figure out not how to refer to ourselves but let’s figure out who we are.
· what is our spiritual identity?
· who are you?
· what do you stand for? What is in your spiritual DNA?
· what shapes your life?
Look, I know when you stop the madness of your life for just a few moments…and you dit and you wonder about stuff
· …what you really want to know is why am I here?
· What is the meaning of my life? What is my calling?
Figuring out your identity is the most important step in discovering your calling.
So…Here’s how we are going to figure out who you are…we are going to spend the summer together walking with Jesus through the Gospel of Mark.
· We are going to try to figure out what Jesus was trying to create…who did he want his followers to become.
· What kind of identity was he trying to form in them?
· Just what kind of people did he have in mind to represent him throughout human history?
· Who does Jesus want you to be?
So in a minute we’ll begin our journey through the Gospel of Mark but before we do…let me do a little history lesson on our corporate nickname:
Here’s two of our early nicknames in one verse:
Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Acts 16:1
o Those nicknames have stuck for 2000 years but only we know what they mean since the average person would not know the reference
Here’s one that didn’t stick - Nazarenes
We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes. Acts 24:5
Then our most famous nickname - Christians
It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians. Acts 11:26
o The term was one concocted by the Roman government – likely the governor or the area around Antioch to try to identify this new cult.
o From the greek word Christos = Christ = from the Hebrew word for messiah
§ And a suffix -ian = “identified with”
§ Usually implied a radical identification …beliefs, lifestyle, morals
§ It implied belonging
o In time the community of believers in Jesus embraced the term that was given us: But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! 1 Peter 4:16
For 1000 years that was our primary nickname…until the great schism
o Roman Catholic and Orthodox
o Christians then started to refer to themselves as Catholic or Orthodox
500 years later (1500) another nickname was added after the Reformation took hold led by people like Martin Luther and John Calvin
o These men and their followers launched a protest movement against the heavy handed theology of the church…called for a return to the Bible only as our source of truth and life.
o Thus – Protestants were born.
o So Christians now had 4 nicknames with which to identify
And for the last 500 years it was game on when it came to nicknames of Christians for since then there are estimates of 33,000 Protestant denominations
And Christians starting calling themselves by those names:
· Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian , Mennonite, Amish, Anglican,
· Dozens of Baptists alone…southern conservative, american, free-will, primitive, separate, cooperative
Then in and around 1900 two new nicknames for Christians were conceived.
· Fundamentalists – reaction to modern liberal theology
Finally after WW2 another nickname emerged and has stuck but has been thoroughly confused: evangelical.
· 1976 – Time Magazine declared The Year of the Evangelical, Jimmy Carter (born-again Christian)
· Emphasis on being Born again Christian and a reaction to Fundamentalists and restrictive morality
· But over the last 50 years it has come to mean something else… a political block of the religious right or social conservativism
So…today then you could call yourself any one of number of nicknames….but it might mean absolutely nothing. And have no bearing on just who you are and what you believe.
· So…with this confusing identity in mind we felt it important to get our personal bearings again and determine – WHO AM I?
· not so much what should we call ourselves but who am I?
Let’s go back to our source material – and in particular the one from whom we derive our most basic nickname – Christian
Mark 1 page 829
Background on the book of Mark:
- Anonymous but likely John Mark on behalf of Peter
- The earliest of the 4 gospels – likely a source for Matt and Luke
- The occasion:
o 64 AD a fire in Rome – Nero likely set the fire himself but pinned the blame on Christians who were arrested and treated hideously
o also…a heresy arose with a new theology confusing the nature of Jesus
o both of these would naturally lead to soul searching and identity confusion among people who claimed to believe in Jesus
This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’” This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!” One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:1-15
The story from Mark’s perspective starts with the prophet John the Baptist who came to prepare the Jewish world for the introduction of his cousin, Jesus.
- He was the warm up act …starting to get people to think differently – ready for the Lord!
- It ramped up quickly as thousands came to be baptized and repent
And then in the stoy… He – Jesus came…was baptized. Anointed. Sent to the wilderness.
· Returned and then HE himself began the same prophetic all…I’ve got good news! The Kingdom of God is near – Repent and believe!
· When I use my imagination…I imagine Peter retelling this story to John Mark…I picture what it did for Peter reinforcing his own identity and does so for all Christians of all time.
Who are we?
1. We are the people of the Good News! (Vs 1 and Vs 14 and 15)
a. Euengelion – lit. the good message
i. Engelion = message or messenger (angel)
ii. Eu- = prefix that implies good or pleasant
iii. In its most rudimentary sense the good news was the thing conveyed by a runner to a city when its army won the battle … it was cause for joy
b. As the story plays out you’ll see that it took on a much more specific sense: Look again at Verse 14- 15:
Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:14-15
i. It’s God’s good news
ii. It’s about the fulfillment of a promise by God
iii. The Kingdom has arrived – 6 broken places are starting to be healed
iv. Implied: your sins can be erased and you made right with God
This is the Good News that we are all about – this defines our identity like no other thing can or does! You are a person of the Good News!
· You are defined by the good news
· You are shaped by the good news
· Your heart should beat for the good news
· Your calling is built on the good news
· It is the absolute core of who you are.
And if it isn’t at the core of your life…. Then please stop calling yourself a Christian.
But the term is not only a reference to that thing we believe at the core of our being…it also implies a lifestyle…a way of going about your day to day life…
Who are we?
1. We are the people of the Good News!
2. We are people who proclaim the Good News!
a. Euangelion – angels/messengers/preachers/runners with the good word
b. Note how many references to the aggressive proclamation of the Good News show up in the remainder of the passage:
3He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
4This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized
7John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals
14Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News.[f]
15“The time promised by God has come at last!”he announced.“The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
You’ll see as the story unfolds this summer that Jesus fully expected his followers to not just be people of the Good News but messengers of the Good News.
· We are the Good Angels.
· We are pleasant messengers
· The thing that should come out of our mouth is pleasant and hopeful and lovely…not angry and belligerent and furious
· We are bearers of good news not bad news
· We are preachers of hope not despair
· We are communicators of possibility not doom.
So let’s get practical – what does this say about your identity:
1. You and I do not have the luxury or being private with our faith.
2. You and I do not have the luxury of believing that your faith is just one of many options
3. You and I do not have the luxury of being angry and belligerent …it is Good News!
4. You do not have the luxury of a half hearted intellectual only relation to Jesus…there is only one way to be Christian – ALL IN! SURRENDERRED!
Good News is at the core of who you are. The proclamation of the Good News is at the core of your calling!