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WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?Finding Your True Identity in Christ
By MARK DRISCOLL
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Mark Driscoll
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI AM __________?
You see, I have this condition. —LEONARD SHELBY IN THE MOVIE MEMENTO
In the movie Memento, Leonard Shelby tries to track down his wife's killer. Complicating the search is the fact that as a result of a blow to the head by the murderer, Leonard suffers from anterograde amnesia, a condition that makes it impossible for him to remember anything new for more than a few minutes.
To cope with his amnesia, Leonard creates a complicated system of notes, Polaroid photos, and tattoos to remember facts and string together evidence to find his wife's killer and exact revenge. Unfortunately, several shady characters try to manipulate Leonard's condition for their own gain. Using his amnesia against him, they tell him lies about his past, who he is, and their intentions for him.
Memento toys with the concepts of identity and truth. As the movie progresses, doubt is cast on Leonard's version of the story, and you begin to wonder if the Leonard the movie portrays is really the true Leonard.
In one important scene, Teddy, Leonard's crooked "friend," says to him, "You don't know who you are anymore."
"Of course I do," Leonard responds. "I'm Leonard Shelby. I'm from San Francisco."
"No, that's who you were," Teddy says. "Maybe it's time you started investigating yourself."
What follows is a series of revelations about Leonard that cause him to question the identity he's built for himself. He then suffers a severe identity crisis that leads to the movie's shocking ending—all because he can't remember who he is.
As Christians, we're a lot like Leonard. We have a condition. We're continually forgetting who we are in Christ and filling that void by placing our identity in pretty much anything else. This leads us to often ask, as Leonard did, "Who am I?" The question is far-reaching, belief-revealing, life-shaping, and identity-forming. How you answer determines your identity and your testimony. Tragically, few people—even few Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians—rightly answer that question.
How we see ourselves is our identity. Our culture talks about identity as self-image or self-esteem. As a parent and pastor, I believe that correctly knowing one's true identity is the one thing that changes everything.
For years, I pastored and counseled people struggling with issues such as alcoholism, sexual perversion, pride, depression, anger, bitterness, and more. Often I felt as though I were talking to a wall because, though I gave biblical counsel, many people seemed to either not hear or not care and instead continued down a path of destruction. It was frustrating and heartbreaking. I felt there had to be a way to help people find freedom.
Then, thanks in large part to the wise words of older and more seasoned counselors, it dawned on me that underlying our struggles in life is the issue of our identity.
This world's fundamental problem is that we don't understand who we truly are—children of God made in his image—and instead define ourselves by any number of things other than Jesus. Only by knowing our false identity apart from Christ in relation to our true identity in him can we rightly deal with and overcome the issues in our lives.
My hope is that, by the grace of God, truth of Scripture, and power of the Holy Spirit, this book will help you know your identity in Christ so you can live as you should.
You aren't what's been done to you but what Jesus has done for you. You aren't what you do but what Jesus has done. What you do doesn't determine who you are. Rather, who you are in Christ determines what you do. These are fundamental truths that we'll explore in depth throughout this book.
I'M A CREATED IMAGE BEARER
Who do you think you are? Where do we even start to answer that enormous question? Let's start at the beginning. You are an image bearer of God.
Genesis 1:26–27 says, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
The trinitarian God who lives in eternal friendship and community created us to image him. God uniquely honors humanity in this way. He's made nothing else in his image. Practically, this means that God made us to image, or reflect, him, as a mirror does. And in a world where we're encouraged to spend much time gazing at ourselves in a mirror, it's helpful every time we look in the mirror to be reminded that we're to mirror God to others. He created us to reflect his goodness and glory in the world around us, like Moses, who radiated the glory of God after being in God's presence.
All the Wrong Places
The question of identity is one with which humans have struggled since the very beginning of creation. Only by seeing ourselves rightly and biblically between God and the animals can we have both humility and dignity. There alone are we as God intended us to be. By understanding our position under God as created beings, we should remain humble toward and dependent upon God. By understanding our position of dominion over creation, we embrace our dignity as morally superior to animals and expect more from others and ourselves as God's image bearers.
You were created by God, are on the earth to image and glorify God, and when you die, if you are in Christ, you will be with God forever, imaging and glorifying him perfectly in a sinless state.
Ways We image God
Imaging God involves thinking with our heads, feeling with our hearts, and doing with our hands. We're to think God's thoughts and agree with his truth as revealed in Scripture. We're to feel God's feelings, such as hating injustice and oppression, loving people, grieving sin's devastating effects, and rejoicing in redemption. We're to join God's work using our hands to serve others—Christian and non—with acts of compassion and generosity. When we reflect something of God with our heads, hearts, and hands out of love for him and others, we do what we were created for. This is joyful for us, helpful for others, and worshipful toward God.
As image bearers of a trinitarian God, we're also made for friendship, community, and conversation. Much of what God designed us to do must be accomplished in and through community. This is why in Genesis 2:18, God said it was "not good" for us to be alone even though sin had not yet entered the world, and why he made another human so our first father, Adam, would have our first mother, Eve, with whom to image God.
When God created Adam and Eve, he spoke to them, explaining that they were free to enjoy all of his creation with only one exception—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God spoke to them not because they were sinners—the Fall had not yet happened—but rather because they were human. As humans, and even more so now as sinful humans, we need to hear from God so we can know who we are and subsequently what we should do and not do.
God's enemy and our adversary tempted our first parents to sin by creating an identity crisis. The father of lies implied that their eyes were closed to their true identity and that their "eyes [would] be opened, and [they would] be like God." Tragically, the Bible then records the dark, devastating, damning, destructive day when sin entered the world.
Here is the truth: God made us with our eyes open in his "likeness," which is our true identity. But Satan and people like him, with the same sinful motives (much like Leonard's friends in Memento), lie to us about who we are in order to serve their own plans. And here is the lie: we will be "like" God if we'll base our identity upon someone or something else other than God and the grace God bestows upon us. Adam and Eve fell for it. Rather than simply believing that they were already "like God" because God made them in his "likeness," our first parents disbelieved their God-given identity and instead sought to create their own apart from him. The result was the first sin and the Fall. We humans have had an identity crisis ever since, seeking to construct an identity ourselves while forgetting about the one God has already given us.
I'm a Worshipper
God created us as worshippers, and worship, rightly understood, begins with the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of Image. In his magnificent book on worship, Harold Best describes the Trinity as the uniquely Continuous Outpourer who continually pours himself out between the persons of the Godhead in unceasing communication, love, friendship, and joy. We, then, created in God's image, are also unceasing worshippers and continuous outpourers. Best says:
We were created continuously outpouring. Note that I did not say we were created to be continuous outpourers. Nor can I dare imply that we were created to worship. This would suggest that God is an incomplete person whose need for something outside himself (worship) completes his sense of himself. It might not even be safe to say that we were created for worship, because the inference can be drawn that worship is a capacity that can be separated out and eventually relegated to one of several categories of being. I believe it is strategically important, therefore, to say that we were created continuously outpouring—we were created in that condition, at that instant, imago Dei [image of God].
Worship is not merely an aspect of our being but the essence of our being. Best synthesizes his thoughts on worship by saying, "I have worked out a definition for worship that I believe covers every possible human condition. It is this: Worship is the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god."
Our worship never starts and stops. It's not limited to a building in which we attend sacred meetings and sing worship songs. Rather, our entire life is devoted to pouring ourselves into someone or something. Saying it another way, we're "unceasing worshippers." We aren't created to worship, but rather we're created worshipping.
Everything in life is sacred, and nothing is secular. It's a lie from Satan that life can be compartmentalized in such a way. Everyone—from atheists to Christians—worships unceasingly. In the eyes of God, our choices, values, expenditures, words, actions, and thoughts are all acts of worship. They make up our identity. The only question is, what is your object of worship?
All of humanity can be divided into two categories: those who worship the Creator and those who worship created things. Because of sin, we're prone to worship anyone and anything other than the God who made everyone and everything. That is idolatry.
Idolatry is when we make a created thing a god thing, which is a bad thing. Idolatry is so destructive and pervasive that biblical counselor David Powlison has rightly said, "Idolatry is by far the most frequently discussed problem in the Scriptures."
Whatever we base our identity and value on becomes "deified." Our deified object of worship then determines what we glorify and live for. If our object of worship is anything other than God, we're idolaters worshipping created things, including the fallen angels whom God created. This is precisely what Paul was getting at in Romans 1:25, which speaks of idolaters "who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." To put it simply, underlying our sinful false worship is the fact that our identity has become rooted in our idolatry. Therefore, it's vital that we learn to know our identity idolatry.
To help you understand idols, think of them in terms of items, Duties, others, Longings, and Sufferings.
What we own is our public way of projecting our desired image. The examples are endless and include such things as our vehicles, wardrobes, technologies, homes, jewelry, furniture, and more. Consumerism is now essentially the American religion. Consumer culture is so pervasive that we take it for granted, and almost no aspect of life is untouched by it. Everywhere we turn, we run into advertising telling us to buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't know.
There are three main characteristics of the phenomenon of consumerism in America today. First, consumerism isn't just a behavior but is, in Christian terms, a worldview that tells us who we are. If possessions define your identity, then the brand name on your clothes and the maker of your car are vital.
Second, consumerism is often driven by the desire to gain status and prestige with one's peers. Sociologist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption," articulated this idea at the turn of the last century. Veblen argued that the chief way we obtain social prestige and power is through conspicuous displays of leisure and consumption. Social prestige is connected to wealth, and we demonstrate our wealth by flaunting it.
Today, with television tours of the world's wealthiest people's homes, we no longer compare our possessions to those of the generations before us or our neighbors but rather to the elite's. The results are coveting, overspending, and debt fueled by advertising. Some sociologists call this "competitive consumption," which forces average people and families to work harder, spend less time with those they love, and live more miserably enslaved to debt in an ongoing effort to prop up some false sense of identity and personal value.
Third, products are not simply valued for their usefulness but rather play a central role in the cultivation and maintenance of our identity. This is a powerful explanation for why consumer goods are so much more than objects we use; they are things for which we will fight and sometimes even kill.
The point is that in today's consumer culture, our goods are carriers of meaning. They define us, send social signals to others, and construct our identities. Subsequently, wearing non-designer clothes, driving an old car, and using anything but the latest technology somehow devalues us as human beings. Put bluntly, when consumerism is your religion and stuff the object of your worship, "the things you own end up owning you," to quote Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club (1999).
The problem is not in the mall but rather in us. It's not a sin to purchase items or even to appreciate and enjoy them. But when those things become the source of our identity, we become guilty of idolatry.
Life is filled with duties, starting with chores when we are young, then homework in school, job requirements in the workforce, ministry obligations in the church, relational duties in marriage, and parental and grandparental duties in our families. Our duties can rightly be a way we worship God or wrongly be a god we worship.
If you find your identity in the achievement of your duties, you'll have many troubles. First, you'll always search for something to excel at in an effort to outperform others and demonstrate your superiority. Once you believe you've found that "thing," you'll become overly committed and possibly even obsessed with mastering it. Other people and things (like your health) will no longer matter much to you and will instead be placed on the altar of success to the god of achievement. Soon you'll become so competitive that winning is all that matters. The more you win, the less compassion you have for others. In time, this will turn into disdain for those who are hurting, struggling, or failing. As you succeed, you will become proud and unpleasant to be around, with all your boasting about your accomplishments—even if it's only by subtly moving conversations toward you and your achievements while fishing for compliments. When you fail or lose, you become depressed, panicked, and devastated, which makes you both miserable and miserable to be around.
The truth is that you're not what you do. You have God-given natural talents, Holy Spirit–endowed gifts, and unique abilities. You also have duties, but these duties do not define you, because your identity is not determined by what you do. Rather, who you are in Christ helps you faithfully pursue your duties and use your abilities without them becoming the essence of your dignity and identity.
God made us for friendship and community. It's good to have others in our lives. But like all things, this good thing can become a god thing if others become the source of our identity. This happens broadly in our identification with a collective tribe of people, and narrowly in our individual relationships with others.
Your tribe is the greater community with which you most closely identify. Its members can include not only your family, but also people from your city, school, class, and sports team. Your tribe can also include those having the same nationality, race, gender, ethnicity, culture, income level, hobby, political party, theological affinity, sexual orientation, and more. While it is good to have community, we often turn this good thing into a bad thing by basing our identity on and idolizing our tribes.
If you idolize your tribe, you will also demonize other tribes. This explains why there is often unnecessary and unholy hostility between nations, cities, genders, races, schools, classes, cultures, sports fans, churches, political parties, educational systems (e.g., private, public, homeschool), and even Christian denominations.
Excerpted from WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? by MARK DRISCOLL Copyright © 2013 by Mark Driscoll. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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