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Personal Identity

The Message of Jesus, Part 2

Reuniting humanity to the Father, the Message of Jesus heals our broken identity, restoring us as children of God. Loved by the Father, we are both secure and significant.

Who Am I?

Religion tends to start the human story in Genesis 3, The Fall. As such, religion views human beings as nothing more than sinners … sinners in need of a Saviour.

The Gospel, however, starts the story in Genesis 1. Human beings are made in the image of God, His offspring, and they’re entrusted as stewards of the created world.

It goes without saying that The Fall made our need for a Redeemer essential but we’re only sinners in need of a Saviour because we’re first orphans who need to be restored to the Father.

That’s how Jesus viewed humanity. Orphans. Children lost.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.″

(John 14:18)

And He followed that up with these comforting words:

At that day, you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you … We will come and make Our home with [you].″

(John 14:20, 23)

In Part 1 of the Message of Jesus series, we looked at the topic of God’s Character. We saw that Jesus’ primary revelation was to unveil God’s Father-heart. He reminded a people entrenched in an oppressive and convoluted religion that God was, in fact, their Father.

This single revelation, God’s Fatherhood, informs our identity, frames our faith, shapes our values and fuels our mission.

In Part 1, we said our relationship with God depends entirely on our view of God. That is, our picture of God.

We imagined the difficulty involved in tackling a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without a reference picture. Or even more frustratingly, trying to complete the puzzle with the wrong picture in mind.

In the same way, building a life of faith requires the correct picture of God. We are only as secure and strong as our revelation of God.

And here’s a second reason a correct picture of God is so important.

Our personal sense of identity is derived from God’s nature.

As the saying goes, we’ll never know who we are until we know whose we are!

In other words, God’s nature is critical to getting to grips with the identity questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why do I exist?
  3. What is my reason for being?

Back to the Beginning

Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment. All the way back: to the creation of the world.

Along with creating the natural world, God also defined the nature of good and evil. He ascribed value to each day of creation and upon creating humanity, the Scriptures declare that…

God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

(Genesis 1:31)

Created in God’s image, Adam and Eve were positioned as custodians over the created world. Using their God-given faculties, such as reason, intuition, volition and the like, they were to steward the world as God’s image-bearers.

To borrow a psychological term, Adam and Eve were fully actualised individuals. From the Scriptures, we note that they existed in three-fold harmony:

  1. With their heavenly Father.
  2. With one another.
  3. With the created world they were commissioned to steward.
A World of Harmony

Thus, Adam and Eve enjoyed a sense of security in their union with God and one another, and they enjoyed a sense of significance in the dominion mandate God entrusted to them.

In other words, they enjoyed a healthy sense of personal worth, or identity.

And notice, their identity was built on security and significance.

  • A sense of security stemming from harmonious relationships.
  • A sense of significance stemming from meaningful purpose.

This world of harmony, framed by God’s definition of good and evil, is God’s vision for humanity.

So, what was the result?

Secure and significant in God, Adam and Eve enjoyed an inner assurance that could be captured in these six self-beliefs:

  • I am loved.
  • I am cherished.
  • I am valued.
  • I am competent
  • I am talented.
  • I am valuable.

This leads to a humble two-fold assurance. Firstly, I have worth. And secondly, I offer worth.

Secure & Significant

Security & Significance, Personal Identity
A World of Discord

As representatives of all humans, Adam and Eve sought to define good and evil on their own terms.

This power-grab introduced disharmony into the world and put them at odds with their Father’s vision. In abusing their God-given faculties, they forfeited the authority God entrusted to them.

This disharmony had several unintended consequences. Where security and significance were inherent attributes in a world of harmony, they turned into deep, defining, driving needs in a world of discord.

Disconnected from God, from one another and a God-given purpose, human beings are driven creatures, goaded by a deep restlessness in the human spirit. A restlessness expressed in these thoughts: I am worthless. I am useless.

This is true for all men and women regardless of century, culture or circumstance.

Out of sync with the Father, we are driven to meet our need for security and significance by pursuing a host of “other things” in both conscious and unconscious ways.

The result is universal and inevitable.

Driven by an insatiable appetite, we use people, we consume things, and we chase goals with reckless abandon … all in a futile attempt to find meaning and satisfaction. To scratch at the itch. To silence the ache.

Yet our self-centeredness leads to further disharmony and discord.

We have a God-shaped hole that only restoration with the Father can fill. And no matter how much we throw into the vacuum, it only deepens the void.

At our core, we nurse a chronic sense of insecurity, and a fatal sense of insignificance.

We’re in trouble. A mess.

Our sense of personal worth lies in tatters. Dysfunctional and desperate, our identity is shattered. We are interminably broken.

Worse, we’re unable to fix or heal or save ourselves.

Tragically. We are doomed.

Enter Jesus

Into this hopeless mess, Jesus entered the human story to reveal God’s loving fatherhood.

Yes! We are loved. We are forgiven. We are healed. We are delivered.

In fact, we are restored. Restored to God our Father.

And in this miracle, the Father forever settles the identity problem.

The apostle John ecstatically exclaimed,

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”

(1 John 3:1)

Yes! We are children of God! Our identity is informed by the nature of God.

Because God is first and foremost a Father, we are first and foremost children of God.

It’s the greatest thrill. The highest honour. Our sublime privilege.

It is the answer to our identity problem.

This may sound terribly simple. As far as merely intellectual information goes, it might even sound simplistic.

However, it’s a life-transforming revelation that once unpacked, defines our core identity.

Identity Restored

So, let’s unpack it.

Because God’s my Father, I am His child. I’m loved by the Father and precious to Him.

My identity is informed by His nature.

So, I’m not merely a number. I am not just a pawn on the chessboard of life. I’m not a mistake or an accident. I’m not merely the product of random chance and probability.

I am a child of God. I am made in God’s image and likeness.

Thus, I have worth!

I’m not merely skin, muscle tissue and bones. Nor am I merely consuming oxygen to survive.

As God’s child, I have God-given competencies and abilities.

Thus, I offer worth!

Therefore, as a child of God, I am secure and significant:

  • I am loved.
  • I am cherished.
  • I am valued.
  • I am competent
  • I am talented.
  • I am valuable.

Importantly, I cannot earn this love. There is nothing I can do to deserve it. It’s a free gift.

The obvious and reasonable response is gratitude.

Doing God’s Will

Grateful that I’m valued and valuable, I want to bring pleasure to my Father. It’s simply my privilege to do so.

And I bring the Father pleasure by representing Him well and doing His will.

Importantly, I don’t do this to earn His love and acceptance. Rather, because I am loved and accepted, it’s my privilege as His child, to honour Him with my life, my attitude and my actions. To uphold the family name, so to speak.

And suddenly, I’m fulfilling God’s will for me.

Not out of a sense of duty and obligation, but filled with love and gratitude. Enabled by the grace He gives so liberally.

So, in a nutshell, here’s the miracle and the magic:

Secure in my relationship with the Father, I find significance in doing His will and partnering with Him in His purpose for creation.

Wow. Restored to Father means I’m loved. It means my identity is healed. And it means that, as a child, I’m invited to partner with my Father in making this a better world.

And notice. The goal isn’t merely to get to the other side. To get to heaven.

The goal is relationship with the Father. Now.

Here. On this earth.

A relationship that…

  • transforms me from the inside out. A relationship that makes me a better person. Not better than others. But better than I was. And better than I would be without Him.
  • enlarges my heart, sharpens my mind and empowers me to use my time, talents and treasures in the service of King Jesus in His loving plan for humanity.
  • starts today and that enriches every day, as I respond to His shaping, maturing work in my life.
  • starts now, enabling me to live as a channel of love in this age and preparing me to reign in the age to come.

Distorted Roles

Let’s take a moment to underline the importance of identity as followers of Jesus by looking at three roles we’re called to play: steward, servant and soldier.

Unless we understand the Father-heart of God and derive our essential identity as a child first, we’ll fall into a few ditches, confusing who we are and mistaking what He has called us to do.

A Steward

We are commissioned as stewards of all creation, and we are called to steward all that God has entrusted to us.

However, unless we derive our identity as a child first, we’ll botch our role as stewards. We’ll hold on to things too tightly, failing to entrust to God what is His.

Rather than stewards, we become hoarders and end up deriving our identity in what we have. In a phrase, our identity is defined by our things (our talents, abilities, possessions and the like).

A Servant

Yes, we are called to be servants, revealing Him to others through acts of service and good deeds.

However, unless we derive our identity as a child first, we’ll botch our role as servants. We’ll serve others for our own benefit with mixed motives, seeking attention or approval.

Rather than servants, we become slaves and incorrectly derive our identity from what we do. In a phrase, our identity is defined by our achievements.

A Soldier

Yes, we are called to be soldiers of Christ, advancing the Father’s Kingdom of self-giving love.

However, unless we derive our identity as a child first, we’ll botch our role as soldiers. We’ll consistently fight the wrong battles, looking to defend our turf and protect our self-interests.

Rather than soldiers, we become renegades and err in deriving our identity in what we fight for or against. In a phrase, our identity is defined by our cause.

Distorted Roles

Distorted Roles, Personal Identity
Child First: Then Steward, Servant and Solider

To the degree we are defined by things, achievements and causes, we have yet to settle the identity issue.

Said another way: if my identity is defined by what I have, by what I do, or by what I fight, I have not yet allowed God’s fatherhood to shape my identity.

However, when we define ourselves as a child first, we find our sense of identity in Him and in Him alone.

Then, as secure children, we can be faithful stewards.

Our attitude is “I’m a son. I’m a daughter. I look after all I have as a gift from Father, which I’ll ultimately return to Him for account”. 

Not “I have worked for all that I have and must do whatever I can to keep it because everything ultimately depends on me”.

Secondly, as secure children, we can be faithful servants.

Our attitude is “I’m a son. I’m a daughter. I serve for my Father’s pleasure and delight”. 

Not “I use others to fill my own need for affirmation, approval or recognition”.

Thirdly, as secure children, we can be faithful soldiers.

Our attitude is “I’m a son. I’m a daughter. I only fight the battles my Father deems important. I live for His cause”. 

Not “I fight the battles that trigger me. Battles that validate my sense of worth or that move my sense of injustice”.

When we grasp God’s Father-heart and accept the privilege (and responsibility) of our identity as children, we are empowered to live life as He intended.

Why?

Because every child is empowered by the Presence of their Father.

To sum up then…

In John 1:12, we read,

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Jesus came to reveal God’s fatherhood and restore all creation back to the Father’s heart. In this restoration miracle, the identity issue is forever settled.

Our identity is derived from God’s fatherhood.

We are children of God.

Secure in the Father’s love, we find significance in doing the Father’s will. And the will of God is not some vague, elusive concept.

Firstly, it involves honouring Father in a spirit of gratitude, as we learn and grow into mature sons and daughters who represent our Father well.

Secondly, it includes the invitation to participate in God’s purpose for all creation.

In our next article entitled, God’s Purpose, we’ll explore what this incredible privilege involves.

NOTES

What Next?

Jesus restored us to the Father, a love relationship that restores humanity’s identity as children of God and restores humanity’s destiny as custodians of God’s creation.

In Personal Identity, we looked at the identity question. Now, in God’s Purpose, we explore humanity’s destiny purpose.

God's Character, The Message of Jesus, A Better Future Now

God’s Character

[The Message of Jesus, Part 1]

Revealing God’s nature was central to the Message of Jesus. Jesus peeled back the curtain of heaven to re-reveal the Father-heart of God. In so doing, He restored humanity to God’s loving fatherhood.

God's Purpose, The Message of Jesus, A Better Future Now

God’s Purpose

[The Message of Jesus, Part 3]

Restored to the Father as His children, the Message of Jesus restores humanity’s destiny as custodians of creation. We’re commissioned to partner with Jesus in His restoration plan for the earth.