He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:42-43
Nate Larkin, Samson And The Pirate Monks
I recently heard a man speak by the name of Nate Larkin. Nate wrote a book called Samson and the Pirate Monks, and in his book and during his talk he spoke of the different personas he developed as he navigated life. For church and when he was in the presence of God there was Saint Nate. Saint Nate was good (at least on the outside), he memorized scripture, and he said all the right things. He polished that persona to perfection. Nate was great at looking bright and shiny to other Christians. But later, in high school, he found girls weren’t attracted to Saint Nate, so he developed another persona he calls Date Nate. Date Nate was smooth and fun and cool. And you know what? It worked. He could find dates when he took on the Date Nate persona. Then he met the girl of his dreams. But the only problem was, she didn’t like Date Nate. So he invented yet another persona he calls Mate Nate. And that worked too. The girl of his dreams married Mate Nate. Awhile later Nate entered the ministry. But he did so while carrying a dark secret: he was a sex addict, addicted to porn since his teens. After a few years working for a church, Nate noticed several high profile men in ministry were in the media because of sex scandals. He became terrified the same might happen to him. So he invented yet another persona, MagNate. He quit the ministry and went into business. He made a lot of money which turned out to be a bad thing. If you’re a sex addict with a lot of money you have the means to take your addiction further, and he did. He engaged prostitutes and visited massage parlors (the dark kind).
Nate could switch between these different personas like you change the channel on your TV. But he never developed a strong sense of identity. And he cites that as one of the chief causes of his sex addiction. (You can read his whole story, including how God redeemed him, in his book, Samson and the Pirate Monks)
Nate had an identity crisis.
As I traveled through life I had my own set of personas, but mine were based on celebrities. I liked to look at musicians, or athletes, or successful business people and try to emulate them. I wanted to make money like Warren Buffet, sing like Neil Young, and play hoops like Michael Jordan. If I watched a James Bond movie, I walked out of the theatre trying to emulate James Bond. If I was reading the Lord of the Rings, the moment I put down the book I tried to emulate Gandalf the Grey. I could change personas like changing jackets. And I can tell you, that’s not a way to find a strong identity either.
Later I would try to emulate people in my life who I admired. Not celebrities but just a few of the older guys at the fire department. Maybe you’ve done that too. You know that guy who’s a little older, who caught your attention: Maybe he helped you out when you were in need, or you see him helping others, or giving materially, or maybe he’s generous with his time, or always ready with encouraging words.
You could do worse than trying to emulate someone you admire. But there is another way. And the other way is to just give the whole process of forming your identity to Jesus. And the really great thing about Jesus’ way of forming your identity is that it doesn’t depend on you. The outcome is dependent on Him.
How Jesus Grows A Person
After spending one day with Jesus Andrew runs to find his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. And Jesus said, “You are Simon the son of John. But you’ll be called Peter (which means rock or stone).”
This amazes me. Because Jesus knew what lay ahead for Simon-Peter. Jesus knew Simon-Peter would rebuke him in a way that was so far afield, Jesus would call Simon: Satan. Jesus knew Simon-Peter would cut off Malchus’s ear. Jesus knew that when the teenage girl in the courtyard of the high priest questioned Simon-Peter, he would disown Jesus. Jesus knew all these things about Simon-Peter, and more. Yet Jesus says to Simon: Simon, I’m going to grow you into a Rock solid man. And we see later that’s exactly what happened. Peter would be used to share Jesus with a great crowd of Jews. After listening to him, 3,000 of them would give their lives to Christ.
So how did Simon become Peter, the rock solid man? What did Simon do to become the man God wanted him to become?
All Simon did to become Peter was respond. He simply responded to Jesus’ call. Because when Jesus called his disciples he didn’t lay out a 30 step growth plan. He simply said, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)
“Follow me,” Jesus said to Simon, Andrew, Philip, and the other disciples. If you want to grow into the person you were meant to be, follow me. Jesus says: follow me, spend time with me, study me, study my words and follow my words. Simply follow me and do what I do, and do what I say, and ask for the Father to fill you with my Spirit, and the growing just happens. Simply follow me and the roots will run deep and you’ll flourish. Simply follow me and you won’t become me, but, you’ll grow to become more like me.
And, you’ll grow into a different person. You’ll grow into the man God desires you to be. You’ll grow to become the best possible you.
To grow to become the true greatest possible you, all you have to do is follow Jesus. It’s simple.
So start now.
And never stop.
[You might also like: You Will Be Called Cephas]
[Image via fotologic – Creative Commons]