Who Am I?- Summary

This study felt like it had two distinct halves. The first was captured in the title: Who am I? The other was: And what does that have to do with God? An unanticipated follow-up question that came up for me was: Does being God’s creation compromise by individuality?
One dynamic from my life is that I am the fourth of nine children. And many times I really felt just like that: the fourth of nine. I wasn’t sure what my personal identity was, separate from the mass. As a result, my pattern for life has not been to choose an identity for myself, but to let identities choose me. And that has led to some unfortunate results.
It is not unusual to yearn to understand oneself better, I would say it is a fundamental need that we all feel. After concluding this study, I am convinced that that need cannot be satisfied without God. Let’s examine why.

We Want There to Be an Us

There is inherent in each of us a desire to be a real person. That might seem a strange thing to say, obviously we’re all real people, aren’t we? But yet we all have experiences where we feel that we are non-persons. We feel overlooked, or lumped in as just part of a larger conglomerate, or not worth personal consideration. In times like these we receive a message that we might occupy a space, but we are not a seen, validated identity.
Being a person is essential to being a person. We cannot abide the contradiction of feeling that we aren’t what we obviously are. We feel hurt when a sense of non-personness arises in us because it is contrary to our very nature. Just as the pain in our hand teaches that touching the hot stove is wrong, the pain in our heart teaches that accepting the role of “nobody” is wrong as well.
And this is healthy and natural. When we were formed, we were designed to have this need for the self. It is neither a mistake nor a selfishness to demand that we are full individuals, that we are distinct and totally real persons, that we are our very own soul. This sense exists in us because He is a very real person, and He made us in His image.
Genesis 1:27- So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Luke 4:13- And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

We Get Lost Looking For Us

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all: no one is so lost as when searching for themself. Unfortunately we most often respond to those moments of doubting ourselves by trying to build up artificial identities instead. We try to win the attention of those that overlooked us, which most often leads to either radical conformity or radical defiance. Whether they see us because they love us or see us because they hate us, we intend to make them see us.
Of course playing for the attention of the very ones who ignored us is a losing game. The fact that we try to prove our somethingness instead proves how deeply we feel our sense of nothingness. The more we try to pour into these facades, the less real us we have to work with.
In the end the only point we prove is our sense of having no worth. We would rather be something bad than to not be anything at all. But the lie is in believing that those are our only two options.
Luke 15:18-19- Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
Exodus 3:11- And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

God Rescues Us From Ourselves

But because we have claimed these identities as our own, we often find it difficult when we hear that God refutes them. To be sure, the statement that “God loves me just the way that I am” is 100% true. But that doesn’t mean He wants me to stay just the way that I am. He isn’t that cruel.
God does not come to save me because He despised who I was. He comes because I despised myself, and He wants to prove to me that I am still worthy of love. I hated myself, and He came to help me see that what I thought was myself was not myself. What I hated was but a shroud, while my actual self has been preserved just the way it should be.
He invites me to let go of the artificial identities that gave me no pleasure. He says that it is time to stop letting these identities choose me, to let Him choose for me instead. He tells me that in His family I am neither four of nine, nor one of billions. I am just me. The only one of me that He has. And He proceeds to teach me to myself.
It goes against the grain to admit it, but there is no real me without God. It takes humility to say that I do not define myself, that He does. It hurts my pride to confess my nothingness. But as I do, I finally find my somethingness.
John 15:16- Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.
Luke 15:24- For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

Genesis 17:5- Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham.

Who Am I?- Luke 4:3, 13; Matthew 16:13-14; Mark 6:3; Matthew 26:63, 65; John 18:33

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

COMMENTARY

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God…
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

In the account of Jesus’s temptations in the desert, twice the nature of his divine identity is brought under attack. Satan tries to stir doubt that Jesus really is who he is, and goads him into proving hos holy sonship.
It is an ingenious ploy, for to rise to the challenge and prove that he really was the son of God, would be for Jesus to reveal that he actually had an insecurity about it. If you really know that you are who you are, you don’t need to prove it to anyone.
Jesus resists the temptations, and finishes the encounter safe and secure. Surely, though, this was not the end of the his and the devil’s duel. Indeed, the entire exchange finishes with the telling phrase “he departed from him…for a season.”

Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Is not this the carpenter?
Tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God….He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses?
Art thou the King of the Jews?

In fact, a review of the gospels readily proves that the assault on Jesus’s identity was far from over. Many times the claims of his divine sonship was challenged, questioned, and rejected.
People tried to tell him that he was a carpenter, a devil, a blasphemer, a prisoner. Even those that probably meant well mislabeled him as John the Baptist, or some other prophet. At one time Jesus remarked that even his own disciples did not know who he really was (John 14:9).
Satan knew that Jesus’s entire mission could be broken if he could get the Savior to question who he really was. If he could make Jesus unsure, even once, he would be defeated.
But Jesus was sure.

Who Am I?- Luke 15:11-13, 17-22, 24

A certain man had two sons:
And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
And when he came to himself, he said, I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And he arose, and came to his father.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

COMMENTARY

Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me
The son took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living

I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son
Previously we considered how the disciples had already carved out identities for themselves before Jesus gave them a new role to fill. In the parable of the Prodigal Son we meet another who tried to carve out an identity for himself, this time to devastating results.
For the Prodigal Son was born with an initial identity, but he rejected it in favor of his inheritance. He did not care to be his father’s son, he would rather be a spender and an enjoyer. But he found that we was unable to sustain that role, and when it was gone he was left to instead play the part of hungry and ashamed.
After suffering for a time, he had a glimmer of hope, and chose yet another identity for himself: not a son to his father, but a servant. Thus he went from a son to a rioter to a starver to a servant.

But the father said, this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found
And this is why God disrupts us in our lives and gives us identities that we did not ask for. Because the ones that we give to ourselves aren’t very good!
We might assume that when we are left to our own devices we will give ourselves the identity of hard-worker, or accomplished man, or beautiful woman, or great friend. But when left to our own devices that is never how things actually play out. Instead we end up putting ourselves in the roles of sinner, ashamed soul, and self-doubter. When we try to define ourselves, we define ourselves as bad.
But when we go to our Father, He meets us on the road, takes away the toxic role that we have chosen, and gives us the identity of Son or Daughter instead.

Who Am I?- Matthew 4:21, John 15:16

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

COMMENTARY

James, and John his brother, in a ship , mending their nets; and he called them
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Yesterday we considered how Moses was not a prophet when God called him to be a prophet. Now that might seem stupidly obvious, but it is actually a very important lesson for our own journey of self-identity and it is a pattern that was later repeated when Jesus called his disciples.
They were not disciples originally. They were fishermen and tax collectors, individuals that had already carved out a definition for themselves and had their own lives, which he came along to disrupt. And Jesus didn’t limit the surprise callings to his lifetime, either. After his death and resurrection he came to Saul, who had defined himself as being against the church, and called him to be a disciple instead. It frankly didn’t matter who the disciples were, only who they were to be.
And sometimes they didn’t measure up to the identity he gave them, but still he gave it to them, and did so repeatedly. Whether they were ready for it or not, whether they would perform it well or poorly, whether they even wanted the identity or not…they were all still called, named, and given who to be.

Who Am I?- Exodus 3:10-11

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

COMMENTARY

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
When God extended His calling to Moses, Moses showed surprise. “Who am I, that I should go?” he asked, believing that he wasn’t the right person for the job. His doubt is understandable, because who Moses was at that time was not the person that God was calling him to be. But then, who exactly Moses was had been a very fluid concept his whole life long.
Moses had been born a Hebrew slave. But that was not who he was meant to be. He was liberated from that position and instead given the role of an Egyptian prince. But that was not who he was meant to be either. Moses rejected the identity he had been given, and finally chose one for himself, that of a shepherd in the desert.
But that was not who he was meant to be either. In the end, Moses’s identity was not to be defined by the situation of his birth, or the titles others tried to put on him, or by the vocation he, himself had chosen. In the end, his identity was to be the one that God alone gave to him.

Who Am I?- Genesis 1:27, Matthew 23:9, John 15:15, John 13:14, Mark 10:45

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

COMMENTARY

So God created man in his own image
For one is your Father, which is in heaven
But I have called you friends

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister
Tied up with the question of who we are is the question of our relationship to divinity. For if God created us, and Christ re-creates us, then who we are depends upon the interaction that we have with them.
I have heard it argued that many Christians come into trouble by trying to have the “wrong” relationship with God or Jesus. But I have heard that same argument being argued in both directions.

  • This generation wants to be all buddy-buddy with Jesus, and have forgotten He is their master.
  • The real problem is that you’re so concerned with fearing God, that you don’t have any more space for Him to love you!
  • You need to respect Christ, not be coddled by Him.
  • God’s grace is more abundant than most of us are comfortable accepting. He wants to save us, and we just need to let that in.

So which voice is correct? Who is God to us? Is He our creator or our father? Should we fear Him or worship Him? And who is Christ? A brother or a friend? A master or a servant?
Well, if the verses that I’ve shared above are any indication…all of the above. Divinity represents the most transcendent and complex beings in the universe. Would not our relationship with them have to be complex and multi-faceted as well?
The simple truth is that if we can only be friends with God, but never respect Him as our Lord, then our discipleship will suffer for it….And vice versa. And if we can only serve Christ, but never be served by Him, we’ll never reach that relationship’s full potential either….And vice versa.
But that’s where many of us are: only comfortable with a partial connection to divinity. I was always ready to serve a Lord and Master, but struggled to accept the love of a kindly friend. The solution was not for me to try to fence off those difficult parts of God, though, that would have handicapped me for the rest of my life. The only way to progress was to start opening myself to receiving all that my God, my Father, my Savior, my brother, my master, my minister, my friend, and my advocate have to offer.

Who Am I?- Personal Example #2

I do wonder if God is ever amused that we get so worked up on mysteries and questions, especially ones to which He has already placed the simplest answers in plain sight. As I found myself trying to reflect on whether I can be a creation, made in the image of my Heavenly Father, and still be an individual, I had the following thought come to me: “well how is it with your own son, Abe?”

I do have a son of my own, and he is very like me. He doesn’t necessarily look a great deal like I do, not even back when I was his age, but his mind and demeanor I find very familiar. My wife has commented on it as well, how he is very much my son, and not hers.

But then, for all the likenesses between us…he is not me. I can understand much of him, I can relate to many of his experiences, but some parts are entirely an enigma. Parts that my wife cannot claim either, things that are just all him.

As my son grows, I expect that he will manifest even more qualities that are like mine, but I know that he will also always be his own individual. My hope is that the two of us will always be close, share common passions and purposes, be united, and be willing to work together…. But that we will always do so as our own selves.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Frankly, I do not want another me, I rather like being the only one! So, too, I would much rather that my son be himself.

I am convinced it is the same with God. God already has Himself, so that’s already covered. If I made myself just like Him, then I would only be giving Him what He already had, and that isn’t what He’s interested in.

What He really wants from me…is me.

Who Am I?- 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18-20

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet but one body.

COMMENTARY

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ
For the body is not one member, but many.
Yesterday we examined how we are all creations of God. Our identity begins with what He made it to be. I believe part of the reason why our society resists this notion of being another’s creation, though, is because they fear that it takes away their individuality. There seems to be a sense that we are defined by our flaws, and smoothing them out would just leave us as generic good person #2167. Or in other words, if God is my creator me, and He made me to be like Christ, then following Him will just turn me into a carbon copy of Jesus, no longer myself.
But this is a misconception, a lie of the adversary, one that breaks down as soon as you take an honest look at genuinely good people and recognize how distinct they still are. Even if you are a creation of God, you can still be a unique creation. As Paul attests, the word “body” is singular, but it is composed of “members” which are plural and distinct.

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Saying that we seek unity in Christ does not mean that we all become Jesus. It means uniting with one another under a common banner, but still retaining and exercising our individuality. Yes God made you and set you, but He made you and set you to be and do something that only you could be and do. The reason that He even made you was because among all His other children He still didn’t have a you, and He very much needed a you. There is a you-sized hole in the body of the Christ that not I, not your neighbor, and not even your identical twin is shaped rightly to fill. God was the one that first baked your individuality into your bones and He isn’t about to take that way. The loss of your sins and misconceptions, will not be the loss of yourself.
In short, what the gospel intends for us is a unified diversity. If that sounds like an oxymoron, so be it. God loves to work in the impossible!

Who Am I?- Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV), Jeremiah 1:5

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

COMMENTARY

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee
The question of who we are must eventually come to terms with the truths proclaimed in these verses: that we are creations of God. I say “come to terms” because this notion of being someone else’s creation rubs against the grain of our modern culture. Each of us crave to be a self-made man or woman, one who doesn’t owe anything to anyone, someone who no one else has any claim on. To suggest that that we might be a creation offends a part of us.
But…it also makes another part of us very excited. For we also speak longingly of finding somewhere where we feel we belong, a calling that we were meant to fill, a situation that we were uniquely fitted for. But how do we belong, or are meant to fill, or are uniquely fitted, unless we were designed–created–by another to be so?
There is no shame in saying that we are another’s creation, but there is a humility in it.

Who Am I?- Genesis 17:5, Genesis 32:28, John 1:42

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

COMMENTARY

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham
Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel
Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas

There is a theme in the scriptures of people being given a new name in association with finding their calling in life. This is a moment of extreme importance, usually based around a turning point, where the old person is remade into something greater.
Especially important is who it is that is giving out these new names: God or Jesus Christ, the same individuals who seek to give us a new life, a new identity, a new purpose to follow. These are the original creators of our souls, and also the creators of our new soul, after we choose to come to them.
Therefore, the question of “who am I?” can be replaced with another question, that of “who will God make me into?” Though it goes entirely against the grain of worldly philosophy, we do not make ourselves. Perhaps we choose our own destiny, but we choose it from the options that He gives us. If you ever want to really know who you are, you have to start asking Him who He thinks you are.