Christian, Digging Deeper, identity

The disciple Jesus Loved

Identity – part 2

“That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!'” – John 21:7

I have always found that title confusing. It seems a bit arrogant, and too much like a claim to fame. I remember asking when I was a child about why the disciple John called himself this in his gospel, and I remember always being unsatisfied with the answer. I was told that John was the closest disciple to Jesus, and this was why he called himself “the disciple Jesus loved”. But this always seemed to go against the Christ-centred, kingdom-minded humility that is so valued in scripture.

On one of my many sleepless nights, at a stage when I was really struggling with losing my identity with the illness, these words “the disciple Jesus loved” kept going round in my head. As I meditated on this, I realised how little else John said about himself. The only things he seems to say are about his relationship with Jesus, and Jesus’ love for Him.

We do know that John was the disciple closest to Jesus. I am not taking away from that in any way. I’m just not convinced that that was why he called himself the disciple Jesus loved. Considering how little else John said about himself, it seems that in calling himself “the disciple Jesus loved” that he had said everything we need to know about him. But couldn’t the same be said of any follower of Christ?

Yes! If we are His, if we believe in Him and confess He is Lord, if we are following Him, abiding in Him, and obeying Him, then we are surely His disciples. And if we are His we already know that Jesus loves us!

What if this title is not a “claim to fame” but actually a humble declaration that He is no more or less than loved by God and a follower of Him. Nothing more needs to be said. He doesn’t need to tell us about the faith he had, any great acts he did, his piety, experience or role in building the church. It is enough to know that He is the disciple Jesus loved.

Is this enough for us? When you think of your worth, your identity, your qualifications to be used by God, is it enough for you to say simply “I am the disciple Jesus loves”? Before other believers, or the world, are we able to stand on these credentials, and not grasp for our own self-made boasts.

John recognised that there is no higher status than to be the disciple Jesus loved.

In my illness, uselessness, and struggle with what felt like everything I was being stripped away, God showed me that I, too, am the Disciple Jesus Loves. That this is all I need to be. This is all others need to know of me. This is at once, my status, my identity, my calling, my credentials, and my qualifications. I cannot become – through work, experience, service, accomplishments, or good deeds -any more than this… for there is no higher accolade! And as long as He holds me, leads me and loves me (which is forever as He is eternal) I cannot become any less. Nothing can strip me of this other than a decision not to follow Him.

So let us live out this identity which cannot be snatched or dimmed. What a glorious inheritance we have in Jesus!

Hephzibah

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The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – Job 33:4

Breathing is something we often take for granted. Yet God brought home the truth of this verse to me during the more intense part of this illness. As I got more and more unwell, one of the symptoms I had was difficulty breathing. When seeking medical advice, I was just told, “your body is too tired to breath easily, the physical effort is too much. There’s nothing we can do.” So I would have to spend most of every day just lying down and breathing, focussing on each breath. I remember the vulnerability of this. Although I was never so I couldn’t breath, having so little energy that it took most of my strength for each breath felt too close for comfort!

But in those hours of breathing, sometimes praying for the next breath, I started to realise more and more how every breath is a gift. Knowing what it was to depend on God to give me the next breath, and the next breath, I found that each breath was precious. Every breath is a chance to live, every breath a chance to know God, every breath a chance to praise and give thanks, every breath a chance to live for him. This makes every moment worth living, even when it means chronic pain, being housebound and struggling to breath. I started to give thanks for them, one breath at a time… each one a gift of life, and an opportunity to live for him.

We are so utterly dependant on Him. Every moment is given, sustained, by Him. And when you realise this, the fragility and the preciousness of life, it begs the question: how shall we use it? It’s not enough to drift through life anymore. How will you use each breath… each day? Will you use your breath to praise or curse, encourage or criticise, to reach out and serve, or to serve yourself? Much of these daily choices are determined by your purpose. What are you living for?

The verses below describe God’s power, his gift of life to us, the way he gives each breath, and how he determines the boundaries of our lives. Then it also states what we are created for…

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God…”

Acts 17:25,27a

This should be our main purpose in life. Here I am not just talking about prayer or time alone with God (though it certainly includes this) but a constant seeking Him in everything. That every breath whether used to exercise, sing, speak to your family, communicate with others, encourage, pray, bless, challenge, serve, sustain, work, or rest is used with the one purpose of seeking God. God should not be confined to the “spiritual” part of your life. If He gives you breath for all these things, then surely He is in them. Surely the one who gives you each breath should be considered in the way you then use it?

With the purpose of seeking God with each breath, it impacts every part of our lives, changing the way we use our words, the way we spend our time, the things we count as important. Any moment spent seeking God is never wasted. Every breath is given by God, and we are free to choose how to use it… but we are created to seek Him with every breath He gives. Through so much of our day, we get on with life, and maybe touch base with God at some point, but throughout all those things we do He is supplying every breath, every moment of life. It is good to remember this… to remember in all the business and doing that even at the most basic level we are utterly dependant on the one who gives us life. That without Him we can do nothing, but with Him anything is possible.

I write this because I need this challenge as much as anybody. I would like to say God is considered in each word I say and each thing I do, but often he is not, and this is when I forget my purpose of seeking God, and live for myself. May God teach me and the rest of His church to fully live for Him, and use every breath to seek Him!

Today, as you go through life, remember the one who sustains your every breath. Give thanks for this day, this chance he has given you to love and praise him. Live with boldness using every opportunity. And seek Him as long as you have breath.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” – Psalm 150:6

Hephzibah

Illustration by Valerie Martin

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Every Breath

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