Your 3rd Word

Written by: Steve Crowder

From his youth, Steve knew he was called into the ministry which ultimately led him to Applied Life Christian College in Arkansas. Now as Lead Pastor of Highway, after two decades of ministry experience, marriage and raising three kids, Steve teaches with unique insight and practical application.

May 29, 2024

Matthew 16:15 ESV “Jesus said to his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”

     There’s a moment recorded in the life and ministry of Jesus that He asked His disciples a very intentional question on the heels of them sharing what the buzz was around town regarding His identity. He was gaining notoriety in the region, which isn’t surprising considering the miracles that He was publicly performing. But in this group discussion, He was less concerned with the crowd’s opinion and more interested in whether His closest followers had caught the divine revelation of His true Identity. And, in the following verse, the apostle Peter absolutely nails it saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner, Johnny!

    I don’t think any of us are caught off guard with the reality of Jesus knowing who He is. I’m sure He was well aware of His own identity for many years prior to this moment. It’s at least documented that in His preteen years He was found asking questions in the temple and referred to it as “being about His Father’s business”. The Gospel of John records on numerous occasions of Him saying of Himself things like, “I am the Good Shepherd…I am the Light of the World…I am the Gate…I am the Door…I am the Bread of Life…I am the Living Water…I am the True Vine…I am the Way, the Truth & the Life…I am the Resurrection & the Life.” More than we know, Jesus understood the power of the 3rd word! 

     You see, we define ourselves with that 3rd word;  “I am _____”. But many times we struggle with our own identity, so we have a hard time with that 3rd word. Too often we put a negative word or phrase in the blank. “I am stupid, lazy, uneducated, lonely, afraid, angry, ashamed, shy, unable”, and the list goes on. The Bible documents many men and women who struggled in the same way that we do today.

     Most of the time (for the majority of people), we have fallen victim to a flawed self-assessment which leads us down the path of self degradation & defamation. Maybe we’ve allowed voices in our past to define our 3rd word, and we bought into a lie of who we really are. The Israelites had a very similar moment that was recorded in the Old Testament book of Numbers for us to read. In chapter 13 we find Moses recruiting leaders from the 12 tribes of Israel & assigning the task of spying out the land of Canaan, the land they were looking to occupy. After 40 days of observing the fortified cities, the enemy’s military strength, as well as the vast amounts of produce & wealth there, the spies finally concluded that they would NOT be able to conquer Canaan. Even though God had promised it, and His presence was with them. As they gave what God called, “An evil report”, there is one line that vividly articulated their flawed self-perspective: 

vs. 31 “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 

vs. 33 “There we saw the giants…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” 

     Did you catch that? The identity they had allowed to be formed within themselves over the decades of slavery in Egypt hindered their advancement & ultimately their success. It didn’t matter in that moment what God had told them because their low self worth and limited perspective stopped their forward momentum into the fullness of the promise. It’s that third word that makes the difference…It identifies WHAT you believe about yourself.

     So how do you see yourself? That’s really the question we are asking here. It’s less like the caterpillar asking Alice the question, “Who are you?” as he puffed that Wonderland inhalant, and more like Wendy lady asking a grown up Peter Pan in the movie Hook, “Don’t you know who you are?” Your answer will probably come through a filter of past failures, empty promises, broken commitments or on the moments you succeeded in…that you committed to & followed through? Either way, there’s still MORE IN YOU than you realize!

     Paul wrote to the church in Ephesians 2:10 CEV “God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. This is why he sent Christ to make us what we are.”

     Maybe we should stop building our identity on what we do or what we have done…instead focus our attention on BEING who God says we are now! Let’s learn to rightly assess our 3rd word. Today, let’s shift our perspective and allow God to shape our identity. And when we do, I think it will sound more like:   I am able. I am smart. I am capable. I am confident. I am patient. I am beautiful. I am ______. Go ahead and give it a try for yourself. There’s power in your self perspective! I believe that your destiny is wrapped up in your identity. 

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