IDENTITY: Who We Are and Why We Are Here –
A Journey of Discovery
By Colleen Donahue
Part 2 – IDENTITY: What is It?
IDENTITY MATTERS TO GOD – The Example of Jesus
- When Jesus came to earth his whole life flowed from his identity. It started with his baptism. What did God allow the people to hear about his Son?
Notice that God’s identity of Jesus took precedence over what he was going to be doing. Otherwise, God might have said, “This is my beloved Son who is going to redeem the world”, instead of saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
2. Then we see Jesus immediately led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. There Jesus suffered 3 temptations. Notice that the first 2 of these temptations were attacks on his identity.
“If you are the son of God” is the phrase that the devil used twice. Does that sound familiar? It may come to us like this: “If you really are a Christian then….” Or “If you really were a good person….you would do that.”
3. Next we see Jesus going home to Nazareth and when asked to read scripture in the local synagogue he publicly declares who he is and what he has come to do.
Over the next 3 years of his ministry, everything Jesus said and did flowed from his identity. Here are some examples all from the Gospel of John:
4. Because Jesus is the Messiah … He was able to tell a Samaritan woman everything she ever did, proving to her that He knew her through and through. From her testimony, a whole village comes to believe in Jesus.
John 4:25-26, 39-42
5. Because Jesus calls God His Father….. it follows that he is the Son of God and thus makes himself equal with God. As you read these verses list what He will do (or not do) as the Son of God.
John 5:16-30 / John 6:38-40
6. Because Jesus is the Bread of Life….it follows that all who believe in Him will be perpetually satisfied with the life of God within him (just like bread satisfies our stomach). This will go on eternally.
John 6:33-35; 47-51; 58
7. Because Jesus as God had come to bring back the Holy Spirit to fill men’s spirits…. It follows that He would be the source of “living water” for all who would come and drink.
8. Because Jesus is the light of the world….he makes it possible for all his followers to be able to find their way through a fallen and dark world.
John 8:12 / John 12:46
9. Because Jesus is the Son of God…he is fully qualified to set us free from the devil’s grip on our life. He can free us from the sin and guilt that hold us in bondage.
10. Because Jesus is “I am” (the most holy name for God) it means he existed in eternity with God and is equal with God……. It therefore follows that when we see what Jesus does, we know what God would do. When we read/hear what Jesus says, we know what God would say.
11. “I am the gate (or door) for the sheep” …..it’s Jesus’ way of saying to us that because of his identity as the Son of God, he is the entrance to the Father and the Kingdom of God.
12. “I am the Good Shepherd”….It’s because Jesus is the Good Shepherd that he knows us completely, he’ll never abandon us and ultimately sacrifices His life for us.
13. Because Jesus is the Messiah….. he proves it by the works he does in His Father’s name. He tells us this when the people tempt him with the question:
“If you are the Messiah….”
14. Because Jesus is the Son of God….He has been set apart by God to do God’s work on earth.
15. Because Jesus is “the resurrection and the life”…… it follows that all who believe in Him will never die (spiritually) but have eternal life.
John 11: 25-26
16. Because Jesus was “the King of Israel” ……He could ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, meaning He was a king coming to bring peace.
17. Jesus indeed was the “prince of peace” that Isaiah prophesied about.
18. Because Jesus was “born to die”…..He knew that with his death would come a harvest of new life.
19. Because Jesus was God’s Son ….He knew that He had come to be our Savior and not our judge.
20. Because Jesus had the same authority as the Father…it follows that He could say and do what the Father would say and do.
John 12:44-45; 49-50
21. Because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life ….. he is available to lead us personally along the way of truth that will bring us to the ultimate life the Father has for us.
22. Because Jesus is one with the Father….He is able to give us God’s Spirit to dwell within us. His Spirit leads us into all the truth.
John 14:15-17, 26
23. Because Jesus is God and lives within us by His Spirit….He is able to give us peace of heart and mind that this world cannot give.
John 14: 23, 27
- Because Jesus is the true Vine…..we are able to produce much fruit if we remain in Him….and we can ask God in Jesus’ name for anything that we need to accomplish what we are meant to do on earth.
John 15:1, 4-5,725. Because Jesus has the same authority as His Father…..he is able to do the work the Father gave him and also pray for all his disciples to do the same.
26. Because Jesus is the King in the Kingdom of God on earth….he is able to testify to the truth.
27. Because Jesus is the Son of God….he has a power and authority that is over all other earthly authorities.
28. Because Jesus has been resurrected from the dead…..he is able to give His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) to all his disciples.
29. Jesus was the ONE person who could say, “I know where I came from and where I am going!”
It’s important that we get to that same place. Why? Because the world judges us only by human standards. (Jn 8:15 – “You judge me by human standards.”) We need to know what God says about us.
WHAT IS IDENTITY?
How God defines us describes who we are as a total person and not just what we do or what family we came from. We all have a God-given identity whether we know it, understand it, or even want it. In scripture, anytime God created something he named it---therefore marking its identity. This shows us how important identity is to God. A name in scripture was a way to describe a person’s character, attributes, role and purpose in the world.
All of us are born NOT knowing our identity and therefore we are all on a journey of discovery. The people around us shape our identity – some reliable – others not. But soon our identity becomes the lens through which we evaluate ourselves. It becomes a deep underlying part of our thinking all the time.
Our external behavior flows from the way we see ourselves. And when we come into difficult circumstances, they test whatever identity we think we have. The real need is to discover the true identity that God assigns us. And when we do, we can be set free from the problems we face – especially behavior problems.
30. What is it that sets us free?
31. The purpose of discovering our identity is to know God and to be known by Him. When this happens, it clarifies the purpose God made us for so we can fulfill it. It is the way we partake of eternity.
32. Jesus was the only man born who knew his true identity from the start of his life. It was important that His followers also know who he was…. And so, He asks us a question.
33. Peter tells us the answer to Christ’s question. But how did Peter discover Christ’s true identity?
Matthew 16:14-17 (especially vs. 17)
34. God the Father wanted His people to know Christ’s identity. Scripture records twice where God allowed the people to hear his voice telling them about Jesus. The first time is at Christ’s baptism, and the second time is when Jesus is transfigured on the mountain. What did God say?
Mark 1:9-11 / Mark 9:7
35. The Father clearly testified as to His Son’s identity and Jesus knew it was true.
Now, that’s what He wants you and I to know about ourselves – our true identity – which is who GOD says we are.
WHY ARE WE SO CONFUSED ABOUT OUR IDENTITY?
The main reason for our confusion is that we don’t know the God who created us and the purpose He had in mind for our life. It’s a little like being on a baseball team but not knowing what position you play. You are out in the field but operating in a lot of fog and confusion because you don’t know exactly where you should stand and what you should be doing. So, not only are you frustrated yourself, but your team members don’t understand what you’re doing! Anyone who doesn’t know their true identity, or embraces a lie about their identity, will struggle with confusion and inconsistencies.
36. How are we to discover our true identity?
Romans 12:2 / Ephesians 4:23 / Colossians 3:9-10
The Bible is God’s Word to us -- written down. Someone’s word that is written down is called a testament. This is one of the ways that we discover God and his will for us and it’s a process. First, we grow up learning what others think about us which often leads to faulty assumptions about ourselves. Here are some examples:
|“You’ll never amount to anything. You’re a loser and can’t do anything right!” Therefore…..
|……..We develop a low opinion of ourselves and don’t rise up to better things.|
|“You do that so well. You’ve got this, keep going. Well done. You passed that test!”||We start seeing ourselves as someone who is developing and we want to do better.|
Our identity is NOT based on the faulty assumptions (good or bad) of people. Only God knows why He made you and that’s what you must discover. Faulty assumptions about our identity lead to feelings that are faulty. Feelings are the most unstable part of us. Just because something “feels true” doesn’t make it true. Our feelings are not an accurate gauge of how we should see ourselves. A lie will feel true if we choose to believe it, and this leads to choices that are wrong for us.
For example: “I don’t feel loved.” ----- Therefore, I must not be loved. -----So, you go looking for what you think is love in all the wrong places.
37. All of us are made up of three parts: body, soul, and spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
Every part of us can affect our feelings. For example:
38. THE BODY is our “mobile home” for God (1 Corinthians 3:16 / 6:19 / Ephesians 2:22). When it’s in good shape and working well, we feel great. But if it’s lacking in sleep or sick it can drive us off the road. Our bodies must be led and managed by us but NOT TRUSTED to act as our guide. The body will enslave us if we let it have its way.
Romans 6:12 / 1 Corinthians 9:27
39. THE SOUL is our mind, will, and emotions, all of which impact our feelings. If we mentally allow our thoughts to dwell on evil, or believe a lie, then we’ll start to feel the darkness of it and experience the bondage it produces. Here is an example:
The Old Testament tells us the story of Abraham’s nephew named Lot who lived in the area called Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot lived amongst filthy and wicked men. How did it affect his soul?
2 Peter 2:6-8 (especially vs 8)
40. THE SPIRIT (spelled with a small “s”) is the deepest part of every person and it too affects our feelings. When we walk uprightly with God we feel love, joy, and peace. But let there be a time when we let sin rule us, we’ll live in the same agony King David lived in when he committed adultery and murder.
Depressing thoughts are handcuffed to depressing feelings. We must not believe everything we think or feel. Believing a lie – even for a long time – doesn’t make it true.
For example: If a man feels like he is woman deep down, it would not be true according to God’s word.
41. Someone might protest that they are just “following their heart”. But what does Jeremiah warn us about what the heart is really like?
42. Regardless of the source, (body, soul, or spirit) we must filter every thought through the wisdom and truth of God’s Word.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
God’s word is the standard of truth that we measure everything else against. Do you read and study the Bible every day? If your answer is NO, then you have your answer as to why there is confusion about your identity.
43. What does the Bible itself say we are to do with God’s Word?
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 / 11:18-20 / 30:14 / Psalm 119:11
44. God’s word is to be the line of truth for our lives.
45. But what if what God says, and our feelings don’t line up? Then we must trust what the Word says. Why?
1 Samuel 2:3 / Daniel 2:20-22 / 1 John 3:20
If we trust God’s Word over what we think and feel, eventually our behavior and feelings come in line with it.
46. Besides our fickle feelings, all of us have desires bubbling up from inside of us. Because we are all born with an inherited sin nature, those desires are usually opposite of what God wants for us.
47. It’s our own sinful desires that lure us toward doing something wrong – never God’s doing.
48. Desires are deceitful, just as feelings are fickle. What is the Biblical response to wrong desires?
Notice the two things that James tells us to do:
1. Get rid of all moral filth and evil (which might be different for each of us)
2. Apply the Word of God. The Holy Spirit dwelling within us is the “Spirit of Truth” and His job is to make the truth you and I know from God’s Word a reality in our lives. The more truth we know the more He can work that in us.
49. Other’s opinions of us can change, but God knows us with perfect understanding because He made us. He must be the one to establish our identity. When He does, our confusion will be gone. What will we also experience?
Proverbs 29:25 / 2 Timothy 1:7
WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF OUR IDENTITY?
There are many examples in scripture of people who thought they were one thing when God had made them for another and it created identity issues for them. Let’s look at Moses’ as an example. Moses had Hebrew parents, but was raised by Pharaoh's daughter as an adopted son. Pharaoh's daughter employed a Hebrew woman as a “wet nurse” and she just happened to pick Moses’ real birth mother. He was called by an Egyptian name. He became a fugitive alien in the foreign land of Midian, married into a Midian family, and embraced a low-key life of a shepherd.
50. It was just a normal day for Moses tending the flocks when God broke into his day.
51. What did God tell Moses He had been seeing, watching and hearing?
52. What did God want to do as a result?
53. God had been systematically orchestrating and developing Moses to be the man for the job.
54. But Moses saw himself quite different from how God saw him.
Exodus 3:11 / Moses 4:1, 10
55. His excuses for not being qualified are finally unmasked when he says….
Moses simply didn’t want to embrace the identity and purpose God had for him. It was all beyond his comprehension so that he didn’t want to accept the challenge. And that can be our problem too. We see ourselves quite different from how God sees us. But who really knew Moses’ true identity: Moses or God? Who really knows your true identity: you or God?
It's only our Creator God who is all-knowing and has the qualifications to decide who is best suited to do what needs to be done. Consider the following:
56. God has perfect knowledge of every detail in our lives.
Psalm 139:1-6 / Psalm 56:8 / Matthew 10:30
57. God knows every thought before we think them. He knows every word before we say them. He knows every question that we have and all about any secret sin rooted in our heart.
Jeremiah 17:10 / 1 John 3:20
58. God knows what you’ll be doing in 1000 years!
2 Peter 3:8
59. God is the expert on every one of us. Why?
60. And since God created us what does this mean?
Psalm 100:3 / Romans 14:8
61. God made us; therefore, we are His. God has complete ownership of us!
Psalm 24:1 / Psalm 89:11
62. As the Creator and owner of our lives God has the right to claim us, name us, and tell us what He wants us to be. God the Father and His Son Jesus have the ultimate authority over all of our lives.
Psalm 103:19 / Matthew 28:18
The one with the most authority makes the final call as to what we will be. Not our parents, or our siblings, or the culture, or an intelligence test can define us. Only God who made us and Jesus who redeemed us have perfect knowledge, full ownership, and absolute authority to define us. The sooner we discover this, the better off we will be.
63. The fact is that ALL of creation ultimately finds its true identity and meaning in God.
64. Our identity can only be understood within God’s identity.
65. Knowing God and WHO HE IS turns on the light so that we can see WHO WE ARE.
Proverbs 1:7 / 2:6 / 9:10 / Colossians 2:3
66. In Exodus 3:14 God calls Himself by an interesting name: “I am who I am”. “I am” was the most holy name for God and it contained all of His attributes. Here are a few of them:
God is ONE.
Deuteronomy 6:4 / Isaiah 43:10
God is PRESENT
God is UNCREATED
God is TRANSCENDANT. (He exists apart from the universe He created through Jesus and is not subject to it.)
God is LIFE
God is LIGHT
God is KNOWABLE and INTIMATE
God is INTELLIGENT
God is FAITHFUL
1 John 1:9
God is TRUE
1 John 5:20
God is ETERNAL
God is POWERFUL
67. Jesus, in coming to earth, is the fullness of God expressed in human, bodily form.
Colossians 1:19 / Colossians 2:9 / Hebrews 1:3
68. Therefore, as we grow in our knowledge of Christ, we grow in our knowledge of God and then of ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:6
God is the source of our identity and unless we know HIM, we’ll always be confused as to who we are and what we are here to do.
Next Study: Part 3- We Are Unique & Valuable - But Broken