Developing a New Identity in Christ: A Case Study

Developing a New Identity in Christ: A Case Study

Text: Mt. 4:18-5:2

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  • We have seen that our social world trains us to understand ourselves in terms of a dominant model of what it means to be a person.
  • Jesus invites us to discover a new life and a new identity with God.
    • A life shaped by God’s kingdom transforms your identity.
    • This new life begins with grace & must be developed on the basis of grace as we follow Jesus and learn from him (Mt. 11:25-30).
    • A baby gradually develops a unique, mature identity as an adult.

Explore the Text

Jesus begins his Ministry of God’s Kingdom Near at Hand Mt 4:18-5:2.

  • He proclaims the good news: God’s kingdom has come near: Repent.
    • Repent: to turn away from the life they have learned from the world and to enter this new life way of God’s kingdom.
    • Is a political-military revolt the way to the kingdom?
      • Wight: If the light-bearers insist on darkness, darkness they shall have. If the peace-people insist on war, war they shall have. If the people called to bring God’s love and forgiveness into the world insist on hating everyone else, hatred and all that it brings will come crashing around their ears. This won’t be an arbitrary judgment or punishment; it will be what they themselves have been calling for. This is why they must repent while there’s still time. The kingdom is coming, and they are standing in the way.[1]
    • Jesus’ life and teaching revealed the true meaning of life in the kingdom: an unexpected light of a life-with-God in a dark world.
  • Jesus called disciples to follow him: he initiated that relationship & spent three years forming these men as his disciples.

Peter as a Case Study in the Development of a Disciple: Three invitations to follow Jesus and the identity changes that flowed from saying, “Yes”.

  • Jesus invites a fisherman to be his disciple and follow him. 4:12-22

    • 1 & Lk. 5 help us understand Jesus’ calling Peter: a man with gifts & potential whose identity would be transformed.
    • Imagine Peter’s grounded sense of identity that had to change to begin a revolutionary relationship with Jesus!
      • Family, friends, and his work as key aspects of his identity.
      • The place where he grew up: the landscapes of our lives.
      • What is next & how will this life together be financed?
    • Peter held a different understanding of the Messiah & Kingdom.
    • Jesus Will Teach Them Along the Way ( 5-7): his preaching & teaching are essential aspects as they develop an understanding of the profound depth of this new identity shaped by God’s kingdom.
      • Jesus Must Reveal the Meaning of Life in the Kingdom.
      • A sermon with a flow of thought guided by a purpose.
      • Without this teaching, they would not understand the deep meaning of the kingdom’s presence in and through Jesus.
        • It redefines our identity as a follower of Jesus.
      • The sermon is like the parable of the soils: only being with Jesus daily will reveal the depth of hidden meanings.
  • Jesus renews his invitation to Peter at a critical moment Mt. 16:13-28.

    • Peter had witnessed powerful miracles and profound teaching: healings and casting out demons; calming storms and walking on water; feeding large crowds; brilliant and profound teaching.
      • He had been successfully sent out by Jesus to do the work.
    • Peter confesses Jesus as the Messiah: he is affirmed and renamed.
    • The Messiah will be crucified at the hands of Jewish Leaders.
      • Peter challenges Jesus’ thinking: No crucified Messiah!
      • Jesus rebukes Peter and renews the call to follow him.
    • On another Mountain with Jesus: A Glimpse of Glory Mt.17
    • Jesus Continues to Teach as they head to Jerusalem & the cross.
      • New challenges to Peter’s thinking about identity: what is true greatness, what is important (physical temple vs. God’s kingdom), escalating conflicts, & confusing events.
      • Deepening the understanding: A Cruciform Life with Jesus.
      • Imagine how destabilizing such things would be!
    • Peter fails Jesus, the other disciples, and his own expectations.
      • Peter failed Jesus in the Garden.
      • Peter denies Jesus in the dark courtyard.
      • An identity crisis!!
    • Witnessing the crucifixion of the man he chose to follow.
  • The Risen Jesus renews his invitation to Peter. 21

    • A familiar place: Fishing with friends & a stranger on the shore.
    • Jesus challenges and commissions Peter.
      • Peter had often compared himself with others: that shows up again and Jesus confronts the problem: Follow ME!
    • Peter’s continuing story of Acts: The work of the Spirit to empower him as a faithful messenger of the crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus.
      • Continuing to grow and mature as he develops his unique identity in Christ.
  • Peter’s New Life as a Follower of Jesus was Revolutionary.

    • A transformed identity from a fisherman in Galilee to a unique person trained & empowered to lead in God’s Kingdom in the world.


  • Jesus’ Invitation becomes a new identity through faithful obedience.

    • Discipleship as our relationship with Jesus: the shape of our friendship with him, & the way our new identity is formed.
  • Being Jesus’ Apprentice becomes Our New Inside-Out Identity: He Teaches Us Daily to Live an Abundant Life of Agape Love.

    • A present life that has eternal implications: a light in darkness.
    • Jesus is a brilliant & patient mentor who accepts us & stays with us.
  • S. Lewis on Our New Identity: Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. [2]

[1] Wright, T. (2004). Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (p. 30). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

[2] Lewis, C. S. (2003). A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works (P. S. Klein, Ed.; 1st ed., p. 218). HarperOne.

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