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Knowing Who You Are - Part 1

Turning Point / David Jeremiah
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December 31, 2020 12:24 pm

Knowing Who You Are - Part 1

Turning Point / David Jeremiah

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Please make your donation today at Welcome to Turning Point. Now it's hard to be sure of God's purpose for your life when you're unsure of your own identity. How well do you know the real you? Today Dr. David Jeremiah offers insight into discovering your unique identity in Christ and becoming who you were created to be. To cook off his series, The Life God Blesses, here's David with today's message, Knowing Who You Are.

And I want to thank you for joining us today as we head out into the year of 2021. We're going to begin our study this year with a series entitled, The Life God Blesses. And today's lesson is Knowing Who You Are. Before God can use you, you have to understand who you are, not in your own eyes, but in his eyes. There's a wonderful worship chorus that we sing sometimes at Shadow Mountain, and some of the lyrics are like this, we are who you say we are.

And that's true, isn't it? If we don't understand that, it's hard for us to experience the blessing of God in our life. And we're going to talk about that in a few moments here on Turning Point. Well, let's open our Bibles to John chapter 21, and let's study Knowing Who You Are. One of the serious challenges in life is the challenge of identity. Who am I? How am I defined? When people see me, who do they see?

How can I discover my real self so that I am set free to be the person I was created to be? As Don and I were trying to decide whether we should accept the call to this church or not, I came to grips with this question as never before. One day I was walking across the parking lot of the Blackhawk Baptist Church, the church that we had started back in 1969 and had been pastor of for 12 years. I was so conflicted over the call to come to California, and on the other hand, the love that I had for this group of people who had joined with me in the establishment of this vibrant congregation in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

As I walked across the parking lot that day, this thought hit me, and I remember it as if it happened yesterday. I wonder if there is a David Jeremiah apart from the Blackhawk Baptist Church. I had so identified myself with that church from its beginning that I could not help but wonder if I even had a separate and unique identity.

I thought that I was kind of a part of the Blackhawk church, and did I exist outside of that? Thinking back a little earlier in my life while I was in seminary, I watched many of my colleagues surrender their uniqueness to a teacher they truly admired. People would joke about becoming a little Howie because Howard Hendricks, who was one of our professors, was so dynamic that people who would study under Howard Hendricks, when they would start to speak on their own, you would, oh my goodness, that's a little Howie. They sounded just like Howie Hendricks. They co-opted their personalities and became him.

Perhaps the best known and well-loved professor on campus still has his little proteges all over the country. Every once in a while, I hear a student of Howie's, and I turn to my wife and say, he sounds just like Howard Hendricks. Now all of us are impacted by what we do and who we know, but when we allow our own true selves to be lost to a job we love or a person we admire, we create a sense of emptiness in our own soul, and we short-circuit God's perfect plan for our own individual growth, development, and blessing. I believe that the Apostle Peter has been going through a period of time in his life where he has been trying to discover who he is. It is an exhilarating moment in your life when you make that discovery.

It was an exhilarating day in my life when I realized that I could never be a Chuck Swindoll or a Billy Graham or a John MacArthur. God had uniquely wired me to be who I am, and on that day, I quit trying to be a core copy of somebody else and started trying to be the best original of the person God made me to be. So we watch Peter now as he's been walking through all of this stuff that has been happening in his life. We have watched him grow through the sorrow he has created. Three times he confessed to the Lord, three times he promised to the Lord, three times he denied the Lord, three times he's restored by the Lord, and all through this process there's a churning going on in Peter's heart as he's trying to figure out what is this all about. But the Lord has one more instruction for Peter before he's finished with the training program, and in this moment he's going to show Peter once and for all who he is and what he is to do. Peter is going to hear from the Lord these two words, follow me.

Say that out loud, follow me. Peter had started following years before and he'd become so sure of himself that he had boasted that prison nor death would separate him from following the Lord. But now all of that's gone. His pride has been destroyed. He's made such a failure out of so much of his life. He's cursed and he's denied, and now all of that is behind him. His cursing and denial, his unfaithfulness has all been buried in the grave of Jesus, covered by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter has been forgiven.

He's been restored. He's been recommissioned, and Peter is ready to begin again. And there's one last little interchange between him and the Lord, which is so very important for us to understand. The loving words of the Lord Jesus to Peter in this section of Scripture will help him face the future with courage and strength.

He's about to discover his own voice. He's about to realize who he is and what God is asking him to do. And I want to ask you this question as we begin this message together. Do you know who you are? Do you know what God wants from you? As we examine Peter's life, will you be willing to ask yourselves some of the same questions that the Lord asked him and review where you are in your walk with the Lord as well?

Question number one, where have you been? In verse 18 of the 21st chapter, we read, most assuredly, I say to you, Peter, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished. Looking back over Peter's life, the Lord Jesus makes a pretty interesting comment. He says, Peter, when you were young, you were always ready to go anywhere and do anything at a moment's notice. You'd throw on your coat at a moment's notice and you'd take off your coat for any task at hand. Peter, you were just the normal average young person who was characterized by impulse and independence.

Do you remember those days, some of you who are as old as I am, when anything was just kind of the spur of the moment? Let's go get something to eat. Let's go to the ballgame.

Let's go bowling. And then you just jump up and did it. And the Lord said, Peter, when you were younger, you were impulsive. You were independent.

You did whatever you wanted. Alexander McLaren, one of the great preachers of another generation, says that self-reliance is a gift to the young. We all fancy in our early days that we are going to be the ones who make the difference. We're going to build the towers that go to heaven. We are here now and we will show you older people how this is supposed to be done. And past generations have failed, but ours will not. Some of us older folks kind of smile at that because we've been there and done that and we've watched some generations do that.

So full of our brashness. Our Lord's words to Peter were meant to cause him to look back over his shoulder and remember the carefree lifestyle that he had. He had done as he pleased. Sometimes he was right, sometimes he was wrong, and it usually didn't make a whole lot of difference to Peter in those days.

It didn't matter to him which way he went. He was all full of his autonomy and he took it to the max. And there's a sweet kind of bliss about all of this. When we are young and we haven't yet fought the battles of life, we haven't experienced the difficulties that take the edges off of us and make us stronger inside.

We somehow feel we're going to sail right through life and everything's going to be just as carefree as it is right now. Such was Peter's early experience as a fisherman. He did what he wanted to do and when he wanted to go fishing he just said, I'm going fishing.

Jumped up and went. But the Lord said, Peter, the youth and the carefree days that are in your past will one day be radically changed. And in the same verse he gets Peter's eyes off of his youth and he asks him not where have you been but where are you going. And in the same verse he says, but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. And this he spoke signifying by what death he would glorify God. Now that's a rather convoluted paragraph in the Scriptures but it's really not hard to understand. Here's what the Lord Jesus is saying to Peter. Peter, when you were young you did whatever you wanted. You took your coat off, put your coat on, but there's coming a day when you won't be able to do that. Somebody else will dress you and someone else will take you where you don't want to go. Now putting all of the theology aside, how many of you know that's sort of the pattern life goes on anyway, isn't it? What we do for ourselves early on in life, sometimes later on in life, we have to have other people help us do that. And we none of us look forward to that.

It's just the way life is. But Jesus is talking about much more than just the normal transition in life. When he says these words to Peter, Jesus is really referring to something that's going to happen to Peter that Peter was told was going to happen to him early in his life.

You see the words, stretch forth your hands, that's a Greek expression for crucifixion. What Jesus is saying to Peter is, Peter when you were young you did what you wanted to do but one day someone's going to gird you up and take you someplace you don't want to go. Peter, one day you're going to be crucified.

You're going to die the death of crucifixion. In his proud self-confidence, one time Peter had said to the Lord, Lord I'm ready to go with you to prison and I'm even ready to go with you to death. And you remember what Jesus said to him?

Think back now. Jesus said, Peter you can't follow me there now but you will follow me there one day. And if you read the book of Acts in the 12th chapter, he followed Jesus to prison. And what we learn from this passage of Scripture is he actually followed Jesus to death.

For read what it says in the text. It says Jesus spoke this to signify by what death Peter would glorify God. Did you know how Peter died? You won't find this in the Scripture but in the secular writings of the period of time a man by the name of Eusebius writes these words. He said, Peter at last having come to Rome was crucified head downward for so he himself had asked to suffer. According to tradition, Peter was crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord. Peter's life beginning so carefree without any thought. The life that denied the Lord is ultimately at the end going to be characterized by a life that glorifies the Lord through a death very similar to the Lord's death.

But it's the in-between that's so important. How did Peter get from where he was as a young person in his carefree almost irreverent life to the place where at the end of his life he's willing to lay down his own life to honor the God and the Lord who had so called him? And that leads us to the third question. Not where have you been or where are you going but what are you doing?

What are you doing now? In John chapter 21 in verse 19 we read, and when he had spoken this he said to Peter, follow me. What is the key to getting from the carefree youth to the godly age? It is these two words, follow me. Whit Stevens is an investment banker from Arkansas and he tells the story of a trail that was made in Arkansas by a calf 300 years ago. He describes how the trail turned into a path as dogs and sheep walked in the calf's footsteps. Behind them were people who while complaining about the winding path walked in it anyway and the path became a lane and the lane became a road and then a village street and then a thoroughfare and wrote a poem about it and it goes like this. So people two centuries and a half trod the footsteps of that calf.

A hundred thousand people were led by one calf three centuries dead. For we are prone to go it blind along the calf paths of our mind and work from sun to sun to do what others have done. In the poem he is saying how easy it is for us to become followers of just whatever. Whatever we happen to get behind we just follow.

Whether we know it or not we're all followers of something aren't we? Peter had followed his family into the fishing business. Some of you even today in our culture you follow your family into your careers or into your business or into whatever it is that you do.

That's especially true in Europe. Even to this day when we were in Europe we were overwhelmed at how everywhere we went somebody would say I'm a guide and we said how did you become a guide? Well my parents were guides.

But we're all followers of something and we all get in line behind someone to do whatever it is we do. Peter had followed his family into the fishing business but one day he was asked to leave that fishing business and he began to follow the Lord. The Lord is issuing to him the same challenge. Now he is being called again by his Lord after his failure and his forgiveness the word of the Lord comes to Peter the second time and our Lord's words are follow me and they must have brought back to Peter the memory because if you go back to Luke 5 those are the very same words Jesus used when he called Peter in the first place.

He said follow me and I'll make you fish or men. Now Peter's at the end of his life and Jesus is saying to Peter follow me. It is this call that had dominated Peter's life. Between these two calls of following are all the ups and downs of Peter's experience. All of the progress and the backsliding all the lights and the shadows which go to make up humanity are on display in Peter's impulsive life. Did you know Peter was always first whether he was right or wrong?

Have you ever noticed that? Always first. He was first to give an answer at Caesarea Philippi. He was first to talk on the Mount of Transfiguration. Although John in his youth beats Peter to the empty tomb, Peter is the first one to walk into the empty tomb.

Peter's the first one to jump out of the boat when he thinks Jesus is on the shore. He denies first when his relationship with the Lord poses a personal threat. Peter's always first. Does that tell you something about how he's wired? It doesn't make any difference whether he's right or wrong.

He just wants to be first. Jesus is probably the only one who could have ever put up with Peter. After the denial we would have all written him off, wouldn't we? But Jesus forgave him and Jesus restored him. Did you know that there are three ways in which he says to us today, follow me? First of all, he says to us, follow me in salvation as he did to Peter back when he was fishing.

Follow me. It's a wonderful journey to follow the Lord. But he says to us in another way to follow him and that is to follow him in service.

He said to Peter, follow me and I will make you to become a fisher of men. And Almighty God is calling some of us today to follow the Lord in service. Well, we followed him in our salvation, but then we've just sort of gotten inside the door of salvation and we've gone dormant. And he's calling us now out of that passivity of our life and he's saying, you followed me in salvation.

I want to ask you now to follow me in service. And then one day we will all, if we're Christians, we'll follow him to the Father's house, won't we? And the Bible says that where he is we are going to be someday too. Paul praised that the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and so shall we ever be with the Lord. We'll follow him one day into the Father's house. So here is Peter and the Lord is speaking to him. He says, Peter, I told you to follow me once and you got lost.

We had to do some repair work to get you back on the road. Now here is my instruction to you again. Follow me. Where have you been? Where are you going? What are you doing? Here's the fourth question.

What is your purpose? Now here is one of the most amusing episodes in Peter's life. Up to this point, if you didn't know what was coming, you would say, you know, the Lord has finally gotten Peter straightened out. He's finally gotten Peter going in the right direction and he understands what it's all about.

Watch what happens. Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved. Who is that class? This is John. He's talking about John. He's describing John. Peter seeing him said to Jesus, but Lord, what about this man? And Jesus said to him, Peter, if I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?

Follow me. Here are three principles that emerge from this last point that I hope you won't miss. First of all, God has a comprehensive purpose for your life. For your life. It's not somebody else's life. It's your life. What is that to you, said Jesus?

You follow me. Although the Lord's will is not seen by everybody, the Lord's will is sovereign over everybody. And Peter needed to review that principle. When the Lord said, follow me, apparently Peter began to do just that until he turned around and he saw his good friend John and he turned to Jesus and he said, well, Lord, what about John?

Peter did not need to have his attention diverted to the Lord's will for somebody else. He was having a hard enough time dealing with the Lord's will for him. Peter had a history of starting to follow and then getting off track. Back in Luke 5 when the Lord called him, Peter started to follow and then he got his eyes on himself and he said, Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man. And when he was walking on the water, when Jesus told him to come to him as he was walking on the water, remember what happened there? He was doing great as long as he kept his eyes focused on Jesus, but then he looked around at the waves and he began to sink like a rock. Peter was a good starter, but he didn't always stay focused. Have you ever been around people like that?

They get started real good, but it doesn't take much to get them off track. And this time Peter heard John walking behind him and he lost his focus again and he said, Lord, what shall this man do? And Jesus answers with a rebuke and he says it, and I want to say it the way I think Jesus said it. I think Jesus said, Peter, what is that to you? What is that to you?

You follow me. And I think the Lord's frustration may have been born out of all of the effort he'd put into Peter to get him up to this point and it looks like he's there. He's got himself figured out.

He knows who he is, but before he can really get far down the road, he gets his eyes on somebody else. And the Lord has to come back and rebuke him. These are strong words from the Lord. They are meant to convey to Peter the importance of his own personal obedience.

There's no time to worry about God's will for someone else when his will for us is still unrealized. This is a lesson that every believer in every age needs to take to heart. Friends, it is especially necessary for those of us who are in the occupational ministry. How easy it is for us, no matter who we are, what we're doing, to look around and see that someone else is doing something that seems to be more successful or more exotic or more well-received or more recognized.

And we get our eyes off on them and we can almost hear the words of the Lord in the back of our minds saying, Jeremiah, what is that to you? You just follow me. You do what I want you to do. I haven't called you to do what someone else has done. I've called you to do what I want you to do.

And if you don't do what I want you to do, who's going to do that? Amen. Amen.

Well, that's a good question, isn't it? And one that we should all ponder. All of us need to have that visceral moment when we come to grips with who we are before God. And if we don't feel ourselves to be what we'd like to be, we should never complain because that's an affront to God himself. He made you. He made you as you are. He made you who you are. He made you for a special purpose.

Find out what that purpose is and get after it. That's where joy is. That's where you will find the blessing of the Lord in your life. All of us are different, but all of us are important and all of us are a part of the body of Christ. Well, we're going to talk about this again on Monday as we continue our discussion of the life God blesses. We'll see you here on Monday.

Thanks for joining us. Our message today originated from Shadow Mountain Community Church and Dr. David Jeremiah, the senior pastor. Would you like to tell us how Turning Point ministers to you? Please write to us.

Turning Point Post Office Box 3838, San Diego, California 92163. Or visit our website at forward slash radio. Ask for your copy of Jack Countryman's new book, God's blessings just for you. It features 100 inspirational readings and reflections, and it's yours for a gift of any amount. And if you still haven't requested David's new daily devotional for 2021, Strength for Today, there are still copies available. It's a great way to get a dose of biblical truth every day. Ask for your copy when you visit forward slash radio. I'm Gary Hoogfleet. Join us Monday as we continue the series, the life God blesses. That's here on Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. Thanks for taking time to listen to this audio on demand from Vision Christian Media. To find out more about us, go to
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