- 03 Sep
As I look at the news, social media, movies, and sitcoms, it seems to me that people truly struggle with their identity. Who am I? Movies are often a reflection of our society. Cast Away, Life of Pi, Cinderella Man, Eat Pray Love, A beautiful Mind, The Pursuit of Happiness, Forest Gump, Good Will Hunting and more.
A review on the movie, ‘Three colors blue’ said, “Human connections persistently stalk Julie in ways she couldn’t help but let her muffled emotions and desires flow off as her eventual realization of human connectedness and love proves to be a gateway into her own self.” - Another review of the movie ‘Into the Wild’ It is a beautiful, poignant, thought-provoking tale of self-discovery; one that every human being on this earth must watch before he dies. However, when we try to take this journey of self-discovery without the original manuscript as our guide we so often lose ourselves completely. The following poem by Faigie Rabin describes so where so many people find themselves in this journey of self-discovery.
Who Am I?
Who am I you may well ask
I really wish I knew
If I am not myself at all
Then maybe I am you
To discover who I really am
Is really quite a task
Maybe I am someone else
Who wears a funny mask
I strive so hard to know myself
To discover the “real me”
My thoughts and feelings all confused
Yet still I cannot see
What makes me tick?
What makes me feel?
So very special and unique
My purpose in this glorious world
Is what I truly seek
Let’s turn to the original manuscript and look at the Gospel of John. We all want to live true to ourselves and be all that God has called us to be. To live into our purpose in this glorious world, isn’t that what we truly seek? John the Baptist is a dynamic example for every single one of us who call ourselves Christians.
John 1:19-28 This was the testimony of John when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John whether he claimed to be the Messiah. (20) He flatly denied it. "I am not the Messiah," he said. (21) "Well then, who are you?" they asked. "Are you Elijah?" "No," he replied." Are you the Prophet?”. "No." (22) "Then who are you? Tell us, so we can give an answer to those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?" (23) John replied in the words of Isaiah: "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Prepare a straight pathway for the Lord's coming!'" (24) Then those who were sent by the Pharisees (25) asked him, "If you aren't the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?" (26) John told them, "I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not know, (27) who will soon begin his ministry. I am not even worthy to be his slave." (28) This incident took place at Bethany, a village east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.
John was questioned by the religious leaders who were very suspicious of him. These religious leaders were a fact-finding commission sent from Jerusalem, the headquarters of Jewish religion. The questioning of John by the religious leaders was to be expected, because John's father, Zechariah, was a priest; and in the eyes of the authorities all the sons of priests were automatically priests by descent.
Frustrated by his denials that he was the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet, the Jewish leaders asked who he was! They were under orders to determine his identity and report to their superiors. If John was none of these three identifiable prophets, then who was he? John, however was not a priest like other priests. He was most unusual, for the way he lived and preached was radically different. We read just how different John was in the Gospel of Matthew.
Mat 3:1-4 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea (2) and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (3) This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" (4) John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
John was a non-conformist, and the authorities had to find out why. Three times he was asked the question, “Who are you?” He knew who He was. He was a voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Prepare a straight pathway for the Lord's coming! And the world needed to know about the Messiah. As the Son of God, the Messiah would be so different. The Messiah was to bring a new message, a message of God's love—a love so strong that it would proclaim the truth.
If I ask you who you are, do you know? As a Christian is it any different today? If we know who we are in Christ, whether we are gardeners or doctors, cooks or nurses, accountants or builders, pastors or painters; Is our first and foremost identity not in Jesus. And if it is in Jesus that should inform our lives, actions, words and every aspect of our lives.
Do you want to discover who you truly are, serve Jesus. But Andrew, we live in a world with rampant poverty and hunger, warring nations and civil wars. There are 68 million refugees. Who can say as the Psalmist did, “God is good” and pray “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord”? Only an idiot, in the eyes of the world. In our despair, we are drawn to those with charisma and persuasive speeches and a proven record of results. We look to who the world perceives as successful and seek answers there. People like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barak Obama! But do they truly have the answer to who you are?
I hear the same arguments repeatedly, “Faith” is foolishness. If Christianity hasn’t “worked” for 2000 years, how can we still believe? People continue to demand proof that God exists, and that Jesus guarantees a strategy of “faith” that will fix our world. Have you not heard these phrases or a version of them? “Only a fool would follow Christ; Jesus is just a crutch for those who can’t face real life. Christianity is for the gullible, those easily duped, the naïve.”?
Let’s press further into the original manuscript and look at another well-known personality in scripture, Paul. We read the following in his letter to the church in Corinth.
1Co 1:17-25 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (18) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." (20) Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (21) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (22) Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (24) but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (25) For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
Can you hear that the spirit of this world has not changed? “Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing…” I love what General Omar Bradley said, "We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount ... The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants."
Do you want to know who you are as a Christian? You find out who you are when you serve Jesus. While the world sees this as foolishness, who would you rather follow, base your life on and emulate? Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Barak Obama or Jesus Christ?
I have taken the following and paraphrased some of it from Deborah Belka who wrote, “Who am I in Christ?” Read the words slowly and carefully, allow them to sink into your heart and mind.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I am His new creation,
I am chosen, I am adopted, I am a child of God, I am a child of light
I am a child of day, I am God’s clay, I am alive to God, I am destined, I am called, I am loved, I am bought with a price, I am redeemed, I am set free from sin, I am joined to the Lord, I am alive by grace, I am justified
I am forgiven, I am sanctified, I am reconciled, I am transformed, I am renewed, I am made perfect, I am dead to sin, I am a slave to righteousness, I am baptized with the Holy Spirit, I am a partner of Christ, Jesus, I am His temple, I am His building, I am His field
I am His branch, I am His follower, I am His fellow worker, I am His ambassador, I am the salt of the earth, I am the light of the world
I am sober-minded and watchful, I am armed, I am His warrior
I am His friend, I am being trained in righteousness, I am created for good works, I am a doer of the word, I am kind, I am humble, I am meek
I am patient, I am loving, I am fruitful, I am steadfast, I am gentle, I am faithful, I am never alone, I am never hungry, I am never thirsty, I am sealed for the day of redemption, I am called to eternal glory, I am the aroma of Christ to God, I am crucified with Christ, I am not ashamed
I am a sinner, I am forgiven, I am born again, and I am going to heaven!
In Christ this is who you are! Who are you without Him?
Who has the power to bring you eternal life, reconciliation with your Father in heaven, healing, wholeness, peace, love, joy, and fulness in your identity as a child of God? While it seemed like foolishness to the religious leaders of the day when they were questioning John, while the Corinthian church also struggled with the spirit of the age. Paul addresses this subject very clearly in his letter to them.
Who are you? You are a child of God and a kingdom agent, called to proclaim and demonstrate the Kingdom of God wherever you go. As Paul says in 1Co 2:4, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power…” Do that, serve Jesus and in this journey of self-discovery you will discover who you are, who you are meant to be. There is no better way!