Who Are You?

Who are you? Whether you realize it or not, whether for good or for ill, you have been told who you are all of your life, and you have grown up into that identity. Being given an identity, defined by others, is not evil in itself. It is part of being a creature. We are made in the image of God, and, from the beginning, we have been told who we are. As image-bearing creatures and procreators, we define the lives of our children, and we have been defined as children by our parents. We have been taught our identity, and we have grown up into it.

Sin sees an opportunity with this created order and seizes upon it. Sin knows that if it can determined the answer to the question, “Who are you?” then it can control your life. If sin can damage you through abuse as a child, it will. Furthermore, sin will take those horrible instances and tell you for the rest of your life that you are a victim, you can never have a good relationship with anyone, you must always protect yourself from being hurt again, and you must look for love in all the wrong ways. You answer the question, “Who am I?” with “the victim of abuse,” and from that point on, you relate to everyone around you in terms of your victimhood.

You were reared in a certain type of family, a family characterized by anger and violence. You have been taught all of your life that, as a part of this family, this is the way we relate to people that treat us this way. You are catechized by word and culture to answer the question, “Who am I?” with “I’m an angry and violent person.”

The world plays on this with you. Do you want to answer the question, “Who am I?” with “a wealthy person,” “a popular person,” or “a good-looking person?” Well, they have the product or gimmick that will help you get there ... for a price.  

The same is true with positive qualities as well. If you grow up in a family culture that is hospitable, loving others, and serving others, you answer the question, “Who am I?” with “I am a hospitable, loving person.”

If you think about it a bit, you’ll realize that this is true. You have been defined, and you have accepted some definitions about yourself. What we are called to do is to examine those definitions in terms of what God has said about us. 

Paul tells the Roman church, “Reckon yourselves on the one hand to be dead to sin and on the other hand alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6.11) If you read the entire chapter up to this point, you’ll discover that Paul has told them that they have died and risen with Christ in baptism. The “reckoning” that they are supposed to do doesn’t make their baptism effective. Their reckoning recognizes what God has already said is true about them. Reckoning themselves dead to sin and alive to God is acknowledging the reality of God’s word concerning each of them in their baptism.

The reality is that our old existence in the first Adam and the Kingdom of Sin-and-Death set up through his sin is over. Gone. Finished. It doesn’t linger around in us as our “dark side.” We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col 1.13). Just as Jesus died to sin once, so we die to sin once. That dominion has been broken over us.

This doesn’t mean that we no longer struggle with sin. However, it does mean that we are not defined by sin’s kingship over our lives. We can’t keep believing the lie that sin somehow still retains mastery over us; that it is simply who we are. It isn’t.

Sadly, even in good Christian churches, Christians will hear Sunday after Sunday that they are nothing but sinners who just happen to have a ticket to get out of hell. But really you are still only a sinner. That is your fundamental identity. And we believe it. We believe, not just that we sin (because we will always struggle with sin), but that we are mastered by it. And this gives us the excuse to keep on living the way we are living only to come to grovel and wallow in the presence of God on Sunday again and again.

Don’t get me wrong. We need God’s mercy on a moment-by-moment basis. We need forgiveness daily. But God tells us to stop living as if sin is what tells you who you are. You are a Christian. You have died and risen with Christ, and sin will not have dominion over you. No, you are not defined as a “victim.” No, you are not fundamentally an “angry and violent person.” No, you are not a drunkard. No, you are not under the mastery of sexual immorality. No, this is not “just who I am.” No. No. No. 

You must start seeing yourself for who you really are. Who you really are is what God says about you in Christ. Accepting this is faith. It is a faith that doesn’t rest on emotional experience or whether or not you got a formula just right. It rests on God’s Word, the Word that created the heavens and the earth and continues to sustain them. It is more real than anything you can see, feel, touch, smell, or taste. He says that you belong to him. He says you are no longer under the dominion of sin but in the Kingdom of Righteousness-and-Life. Believe him.

This is where your life begins to take a new direction. This is where you are transformed by the renewing of your mind.