When I was a young man in my 20’s, I was a police officer. I served for 9 years and then God changed the direction of my life and for the last 34 years, I have been a pastor. Those 9 years deeply impacted my life. To this day, I see life through the lens of a protector.
About three years into pastoring, Jan and I attended our first conference joining with our larger international church family for their yearly convention. We flew from Montana to Los Angeles and rented a car. We were like two escapees. My parents were watching our kids and the church was in the faithful hands of our new leadership team. It was like we were on a weeklong date. We landed at LAX, rented a car and made our way to our hotel.
The next day we were driving along Sunset Boulevard. We stopped at a traffic signal and waited for the light to turn green. A car pulled alongside. It was a low-rider filled with four gangbangers. They all had their windows rolled down. The guy in the right front seat yelled out, “Hello officer, have a nice day!” I was stunned. I had not been a police officer for over three years and yet these guys made me. They were smiling and laughing. I pulled up my right hand with a smile on my face and pointed my index finger like pistol at them and said, “You too, dude!” Off they sped still laughing. I looked at Jan and said, “I haven’t been in uniform for 3 years and I still look like a cop!” We laughed and made our way to the conference. I still had the mark – and the look of a cop.
As I thought of that funny story, I began to think of what marks our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. When we first believed we were given a new identity. If you live within an identity long enough we will begin to take on the characteristics of that identity. As believers we have been marked by the presence of God’s Spirit. Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 1:13-14 “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
We are a marked people. The presence of the Spirit in our lives is what marks us and sets us apart. This mark is not our unique physical appearance or whether we look like a cop, a cashier or a retiree playing shuffleboard. The mark is not our acts of kindness or goodwill. What marks our lives and sets us apart is the presence of the One we carry. This presence is what shifts the atmosphere in a room when you enter. This mark is what causes a dark spirit to react because the presence you carry violated its hold on a life or a territory. His presence in you marks you as one who carries the authority of heaven. Even in those seasons when you forget what marks your life, God will be faithful to help you remember by bringing people and circumstances your way as a reminder of what you carry. It might even resemble what happened to a young pastor 30 years ago.