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?- 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 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.

Who Am I?- Question

Our relationship with divinity seems to be a tricky one. We tend to think of God and Jesus as persons, distinct beings, clearly defined entities.

But then there is the matter of the trinity, which suggests that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are one being that manifests in three forms. Other religions take the identity blending still further, where we are all nothing more than manifestations of one single cosmic consciousness, to which we wish to return in a total homogeneous unity.

Even language in the Christian scriptures speaks of God and Jesus as being a part of us, and of us being remade in their image. Does this mean that we are nothing more than manifestations of their own selves? Does it mean that we melt into them at some point of our discipleship and lose our individuality?

I do have my opinions on the nature of God, but that isn’t the question that I want to focus on with this study. I’d rather focus now on the other question: what is the nature of me? I want to consider the purpose of diversity and individuality, and whether they can survive after we have become unified with the divine. What is the correct relationship to pursue with God and/or Jesus? Am I a son? A brother? A creation? An unperfected manifestation of their same self?

I’d be curious to hear if you have ever struggled with questions of your own divine identity before. How did you find your own place in the greater scheme of things? Did your journey involve you seeing God as a part of you, or as separate from you? Who would you say your perfected self is?

That They Might Have Joy- Personal Example: Summary

One of the motivations for this study was that I have been feeling an increase of joy over the past year and wanted to examine the reasons why. As I’ve considered the matter I have identified three basic reasons, which I have discussed over the previous days.

First I spoke about my discipleship, and how finally taking it seriously made me come alive spiritually. Secondly I spoke about creativity, and purposefully doing the work I felt I was made to do. And finally I spoke about my wife and I expecting our second child, and the way that fatherhood helps me discover divinity within myself.

Now all of these describe my very personal situation, and some of these points may not apply to you. But I do believe there is a common core that is universal in them, which is universal to all mankind. In each of these cases I was receiving joy by more fully living my fullest, truest self. I was discovering the man that God meant for me to be and feeling immense pleasure in becoming more complete with that image.

I am convinced that this truth applies to us all: the level of our joy is directly related to how fully we are living the divine identity God put in us. The more we fill that measure, the more we give expression to the person God meant for us to be, the happier we will become. We will simply feel more right.

The Differences Between Knowing, Doing, and Becoming- Jeremiah 24:7, Ezekiel 11:19, Psalm 51:10


And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

COMMENTARY

Thus far we’ve studied examples that illustrate how God wants us to become a good person, more than He wants us to merely know or do good things. As we recognize and accept that divine identity within us, goodness naturally flows from us without coercion.
But the idea that God wants us to become something presents a difficult quandary and it invites all manner of anxious questions. How exactly do I change myself into something new? What if I can’t make myself better? What if I haven’t figured out how to change my heart with the flip of a switch?
Well, I won’t leave you in suspense, you can’t and you won’t. You need to be changed at your core, and that frankly is not within your power.

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you
It is God who changes the heart and God alone. If ever we are to experience a real transformation it is purely by an act of grace from Him.
Certainly it is within our power to do good works which invite God to change us, but make no mistake that it is still God who does the actual changing. We get ourselves to the right place, then He does the miracle.

But that might bring up other anxious questions. What if God just doesn’t show up for me? What if I do my part and then He never makes that change in my heart?
It really goes against our grain to depend on someone else like that. Our human natures balk at the idea of giving up direct control to trust in someone else. We would much rather that God just give us a to-do list and send us on our way.
If I knew that I needed to utter so many hours of prayer, attend church for so many weeks, and read so many verse of scripture, then that would mean it was entirely up to me whether I made it into heaven or not. That is how I would prefer it.
But that is not how it works, is it? You simply cannot earn your way into heaven. God knows that this is uncomfortable for us, and frankly He designed it to be so. God requires us to be humble, to rely on faith, and to depend on Him. You’re right that if He didn’t show up for you it would be very bad, but He promises that He will.
As you submit to that you’ll probably feel something hard and heavy breaking and falling away from you in the process. That would be your pride.

The Differences Between Knowing, Doing, and Becoming- Matthew 4:6, 27:40, 3:17

And when the tempter came to him, he said…If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

COMMENTARY

Previously we discussed that’s Peter test was to be challenged in his commitment to his identity. He called himself a disciple of Jesus, but when pressed by fear he then denied that. It is tragic, but also very relatable. For many of us our crisis of faith involves us similarly questioning who we really are.
Maybe we feel we don’t know as much as we should and maybe we feel we don’t do as much as we should, but where the guilt of these failings comes to their full agony is when they make us feel that maybe then we aren’t the person we should be. At one point or another we have all asked: Am I really a child of God?

And when the tempter came to him, he said…If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down…
If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

In these crises of identity it may be helpful to recall that Jesus was tempted in the exact same fashion. Very early in his ministry Satan came to tempt him, and Satan’s attack was immediately to cast doubt on Jesus’s identity. If thou be the Son of God.
But the accusations did not end after that initial temptation. In fact, in the Savior’s final moments on the cross the exact same doubt was cast by the people at his feet. If thou be the Son of God.
The similarity between these moments are astounding. In fact each calls for the same action: come down. It is the same demand made of each of us. Stop thinking you can be a worthy son or daughter of God, come down.

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Fortunately there is another voice as well, and one that repudiates the tempter. God knows our identities are challenged, and He speaks to reaffirm our worthiness. This is my beloved Son. He establishes identity, being, and character.
I am convinced that of all the truths God wants me to have faith in, this is the one He wants most of all: You are my son. If I allow myself to be His son, then the knowing and the doing will just naturally flow from that.