“Who Are You?”
Pastor Tom Millner
Jeremiah 31:3; Genesis 1:27; John 3:3, 16-17
The famous Gloria Gaynor song that was featured in the movie “Birdcage” touts the virtue of being one’s own creation. The words to the first verse are
“I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook
Or the ovation
It's my world
That I want to have a little pride in
And it's not a place I have to hide in
Life's not worth a damn
Till I can say
I am what I am.”
This song has long been the mantra of so many who have otherwise felt put down or discarded by the broader society. We can understand the human need for affirmation, acknowledgement and acceptance as what we perceive ourselves to be. None of our efforts to express and live out “what” we are addresses the question of “who” we are. We spend so much time trying to express (find out what fits) what we are that we miss the opportunity to fully understand who we are. The extreme need for self expression is often the mask behind which the hurting and confused child attempts to find adulthood! Who we are, however, can never be found at the altar of self- expression, self-experimentation, or self-abuse. Who we are is to be found first in God’s Word and then lived out in Christ’s character.
Psalm 139:13-14 reminds us that we are not made by our own hands. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Even the creation story from which we read this morning in Genesis, Chapter 1, informs us that the image in whom we are made is God Himself. If we are made in the image of the creator of the universe, what other image do we need to project? Each of us possesses an almost innate need to experience something greater than ourselves. That need is the hole that is left in our heart that can only be filled by Christ! The call upon each of us is to live out who we are in Christ, because of Christ and the love that is God!
Not only are we creations of God’s own hand, but we are also redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! When I was a child, my parents would receive “Green Stamps” at the local grocery store that were placed on a booklet. The book of stamps could be “redeemed” at a designated place for various items. We once got a new toaster with green stamps. To be redeemed is to be purchased with something of value. God has redeemed (paid the price to restore us) us with the act of Jesus on the cross. Even though God designed and made us, we all go our own individual way to be creator of our own special life. Not a single one of us is exempt from the attempt to create ourselves in some different image than what God has made. In Jesus’ time, that action was called sin. In today’s world we don’t like to call it what it is (sin) so we call it self-expression, self-creation, self-actualization or any number of other self-exhibits. No matter how hard we try, however, we can’t improve upon what God has already deemed worthy enough to give His Son’s life to redeem. What we think is the worthy part, however, is NOT what God sees as being the worth! As we’ve heard before, “I am not who you say I am, I am not who I say I am; I am who God says I am. We’re so busy living out the former two that we miss the opportunity to discover the vastness, the wonder, the magnificence of God’s creation repaired, restored, and redeemed to His original intent.
What is the “who” that God sees in us that makes us so worthy of His love, grace, mercy, redemption, salvation or restoration? Could it be the kindness we show to strangers? Could it be the way we live out our lives that gives honor and glory to him? Could it be the gifts of tithes and offerings that we shower upon His church? Could it be the ways in which we avoid situations that tempt our lust for sex? Could it be our non-judgmental attitude toward others who don’t share the same geo-political stance as we? Could it be our gracious heart that gives generously to the homeless and needy? Could it be all the accolades given for just being the gracious “You” that you are? Could it be the heart of forgiveness that is at the ready to forgive 70 times 70? Could it be the magnetism of your compelling personality that causes you to so positively influence vast numbers for the cause of the cross? Could it be the tongues that you speak when filled with the presence of His Holy Spirit, proclaiming the glory of God? It is in none of these that God sees as who we are. These are the things WE hold up as value that prove what we believe to be our worth to God. We give them value and we declare some to be more valuable than others. We let our light shine before each other so as to show how bright we are. Isaiah 64 states that our righteousness amounts to nothing more than a used tampon. It’s good for nothing. It has to be thrown away, discarded as used up and no longer worth anything. So, does that mean that who we are is of no use to God? The answer is yes and no! Yes because God who is omnipotent uses all things for His ultimate will. Despite our belief and action otherwise, He is still in control. What is of little use to God is the person we strive to project, direct, maneuver, scheme, scream, or otherwise contrive to glorify the WHO on which we place greatest self value. That, in fact, is the greatest obstacle to God doing His work in and through us. If all we profess to value (by virtue of how we act) were sufficient for God’s divine intent for us, then grace would have no place. Instead, grace is the only place we can rest assured.
Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-10 that “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We’ve read that over and over, yet we continue to behave like it all depends upon us. We do this, I submit, because of the natural bent we have to take back ownership of the mother ship and fool ourselves into the belief that it is stewardship!
The question of who we are cannot be answered accurately without first answering the question of who’s we are. Are you your own special creation? If so, then there is little room for God. 1 Corinthians 6:20 reminds us “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” And Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”What it means to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Him as our worship,” is to NOT conform to this world’s version of what is more valuable, more adorable, more desirable or more lovable. It is to surrender all those things at the foot of His cross and thus transform our minds to the things of Christ’s character, the reflection of the Master’s image in which we are made and to whose care we belong. The value that God sees in us is viewed through the life blood of Jesus Christ. We have been made whole again and restored to a place where we can walk and talk with the Father as His very own child. We are the recipients of an eternal life wherein we can worship Him with the same degree of love that created us. We have been made whole as His special creation and need no other expression or creation to make us whole. We are no longer on our own; we have been redeemed and now belong to Him.
The question to answer then is not who you are, but whose you are! Who we are cannot be fully realized outside of “whose” we are. Whose are you today? Have you been overtaken by the god of self will, the god of “my way”, or have you acknowledged your purchase by your creator from the jaws of false gods to a restored position in the house of THE God? If you have made your choice, you will live your life expressing whose you are!