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January 22, 2023

God-given Identity vs Alternative Identity

Pastor KJ Kim

Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

In ancient days, the Israelites recited and reenacted this drama in Deuteronomy 26—remembering the life of an immigrant in a foreign land; the God who brought them out of Egypt; the God who led them into the promised land; and responding to God by offering their best produce and pledging to live their life with and for that God—over and over again, in each new generation, and in each new circumstance.

The Israelites were not the only ones who embraced this identity. Jesus was an at-risk refugee; Jesus was probably exploited as cheap labor when he worked as a carpenter; Jesus was finally executed by a worldly power; however, Jesus were delivered by the wonder of God; Jesus was brought up to the kingdom of God in heaven; so we enact our gratitude to the same God who has saved us; has brought us out of suffering; and has led us into the life of abundance.

In today’s other passage in gospel of Luke, Jesus was confronted with temptations from the devil not only to give up his identity but also to abandon his vocation, to forsake his calling, to have a better life outside his true identity. And we all are still tempted too—giving up our identity and abandoning our vocation and calling.

The voice of temptations takes many forms among and around us, tempting us to give up our identity and seek a better life on other terms—seeking to live by bread only; worshipping any form of idolatry; and putting God to the test. I will name three forms of temptation that I believe each of us easily encounter in our culture.

First of all, we are easily tempted to misunderstand “power” in and for Jesus. When we imagine “power,” we can be trapped within our “military power,” which Jesus has never used. The power Jesus has exemplified is a restrained power…that Jesus could have… but Jesus did not…Jesus could have turned the stones to bread, but he didn’t. Jesus could have sought all the glory of the worldly kingdom, but he didn’t. That is the power we are called to perform.

Next, we are often seduced to seek “real-world math” to understand who we are and what we do as a faith community within a consumerism world. We all know that ‘if we have more we are better and comfortable.’ ‘Somehow we will be made happier.’ Lastly, we are easily tempted to have “anxiety” in which we give ourselves over to countless worries.

The challenge, temptation, and crisis are real in every level. Our calling is to answer the voice of temptations just like Jesus did. We do not live by bread only. We remember who we are as a child of God and where we come from, born with God’s images. And we are the ones who entrust our own lives to the mercy and faith of God, not to our money, our beauty, our weapon, our technology or our smarts.

Thanks be to God who has saved us; has brought us out of suffering and hardships; and has led us into the life of abundance.


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