Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Your Sin Isn’t Your Identity

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter (C), preached on Sunday, April 24, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!
    We call him Doubting Thomas.  But why?  Why do we define Jesus’ disciple by a moment of doubt?  Why do we define him by sin?  Is that how the Lord sees Thomas?  Is that how you want Jesus to see you?  Of course not.  We don’t want Jesus to identify us with our sin…and He doesn’t.  When He looks at you He sees someone forgiven and cleansed from their sin.  He sees someone clothed with His righteousness.  That’s your identity.  But the world and Satan want you to find your identity somewhere else. 
    Our world and culture today is very concerned with identity; and not just any identity, but self-identity.  We don’t want people to label us; to assume things about us.  That’s for us to decide and us alone.  “No one can tell me who I am but me.”  And so we spend a lot of time trying to figure it out.  We wrestle with how to define ourselves.  This is especially true for the younger generations.  All the time they're told to figure out who they are, and there’s plenty of negative influences out there that are happy to help with that.   
    Many of us happily identify with our jobs and careers.  We identify with our hobbies and fandom.  We identify with our familial relationships and other groups that we’ve joined.  We’ve been identifying ourselves in these ways for a long time.  But within the last several decades there’s been a strong movement to self-identify with our feelings, whether those feelings are based in reality or not; and to self-identify with our sins, especially our sins that are sexual in nature.  But is that all we are?  Are we only just our feelings, feelings that change throughout our lives, feelings that change many times throughout the day?  Are we just people who are controlled and enslaved and defined by our sin? 
    It’d be odd for someone to introduce them self to you as Hateful Harry or Depressed Debbie.  You’d be unsure how to react to someone who shook your hand and said they were Klepto Kevin or Gossip Gail or Murderous Megan or Lustful Larry or Adulterous Anne or Cheating Charlie.  But that’s exactly what our culture and society is trying to get us to do.  That’s what’s being pushed on our young people.  The world and Satan want us to identify in these ways because these identities lead us away from Christ. 
    Satan was happy when Thomas wasn’t there that first Easter night.  He was glad that Thomas embraced despair and doubt.  The more that Thomas identified with his doubt the less he'd be identified with the Lord, and that’s what Satan wants.  Satan didn’t want Jesus’ disciples to hear the news of His resurrection.  He didn’t want them to receive Christ’s forgiveness.  And He doesn’t want you to either.  Satan wants you to identify with your sin because sin keeps us from the Lord.
    Satan loves it when we focus solely on our sins and the sins of others.  He loves the fact that the first things we think of when we think about Peter is his threefold denial.  He loves the fact that we’ve been calling Thomas “Doubting” for centuries.  Satan loves it when we associate ourselves with our sin, claiming it as our identity, because when we do this we forget about Christ’s forgiveness.  We forget about what He has done for us.  We forget about what Jesus says concerning who we are.  Satan wants you to cling to sin.  Jesus wants to forgive your sin.
The very first thing that Jesus said to His disciples that first Easter was, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19).  He said it not once, but twice.  “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21).  That peace was spoken to His disciples, all of whom ran.  We remember Peter’s denial, but all of the disciples ran when Jesus was arrested.  They stood at a distance while He hung on the cross.  The disciples were gathered together fearing the Jews, but imagine how the source of that fear shifted to Jesus when He appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the room.  Before that fear turned to gladness, think about what they must have thought.  What kind of tongue lashing were they going to get for abandoning their Lord?  
    But that wasn’t why Jesus appeared that evening.  He didn’t come to scold or identify His disciples with their sin.  He came to forgive.  He came to absolve.  He came to give them an apostolic identity, sending them out to share the peace of Christ with all sinners; including their friend Thomas. 
    The next week, the disciples made sure that Thomas was with them.  And again, the first thing Jesus said was “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:26).  That peace was for Thomas.  That forgiveness was for Thomas.  Seeing his risen Lord, Thomas believed.  With faith, He confessed his Savior and received His forgiveness.  He received a believing identity; the same identity the Lord gives to you. 
    Jesus' sacrifice on the cross redeems you and redefines you.  His death paid for your sins.  His death atones for your sin.  His blood cleanses you from your sin.  Your sin is gone, taken from you.  As far as the east is from the west, so far does the Lord remove your sin from you (Ps 103:12).  He doesn’t see your sin anymore.  He doesn’t associate you with your sin.  He doesn’t define you by your sin.  Murderous Megan is Forgiven Megan.  Lustful Larry is Forgiven Larry.  Cheating Charlie is Forgiven Charlie.  And the same is true for you. 
    When the Lord looks at you He sees His baptized child.  He sees you clothed with the white robe of Christ’s righteousness.  He sees you marked with Christ’s cross.  And that’s how you should see yourself.  
    Your sin doesn’t define you because the Lord has taken that sin away.  Christ carried it to the cross and there He died for it.  There He left it.  Don’t take your sin back from God.  What He’s removed from you, what He’s forgiven, don’t hold on to it hoping to find your identity there, because that’s not who you are.  You belong to the Lord.  You’re baptized in the name of Christ.  This isn’t a fleeting identity.  This identity doesn’t change.  This identity is certain and true.  It’s permanent and everlasting.
    We’ve had the habit of identifying and defining Thomas with his doubt.  But should we?  That’s not how our Lord looks at him.  Christ died for Thomas.  His blood covers Thomas’ sin; and it covers yours too.  Don’t define yourself by your sin.  Repent of it.  Don’t let the world and Satan convince you that all you are is your sin.  Let Christ’s forgiveness erase your sin.  Let that be your identity.  With faith, believe in your Savior, and believe in the identity He has given you.  You are a forgiven baptized child of God.  In Jesus’ name…Amen.  
Alleluia!  Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

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