By Alan Walker
All references are New International Version unless noted otherwise.
Have you ever had this discussion with God? “That guy isn’t a very nice person. Lord, I am pretty sure I don’t like him.”
The Lord responds, “You don’t know what that person has been through in life. If you had his experiences, you might act that way too.”
You know what I mean. Loving God, your family, and your friends usually isn’t too hard. But some of those other people . . . . So we try, and then we read the next scripture and become deflated again.
In Matthew 5:44-45, 48 Jesus says, But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Scripture tells us to love God, love everyone else, and be perfect like the Lord. If it is that simple, why is it so hard to do?
I believe that the short answer to this complicated question is that we all have an identity problem. We ask ourselves from time to time, “Who am I – really?”, because we really don’t know.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are perfect. While it seems impractical to believe in our perfection, Jesus sets a standard that we can aspire to. Too many religions have focused their flocks on obedience to a set of rules, without understanding about God’s love and grace when we stumble. Surrendering isn’t about giving up when we fail; it is about giving in to Jesus. He was human like us, but without flaws. He understands our shortcomings and wants to help us to become more like Him.
When we have the desire to be like Jesus in our hearts, life is to have fruit like His. Galatians 5:22-24 says The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
The sinful nature is supposed to have been crucified.The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Galatians 5:19-21.
I can accept Jesus’ perfection, my imperfection, and a desire to be more like Him, but my search for the answer to “Who am I – really?” just leads to more questions. When Jesus walked the earth as a man, at the foundation of who He believed Himself to be, was a “knowing” that He was unconditionally loved and accepted by His Father.
When He was baptized, Luke 3:22 explains that God said You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. If Jesus needed to be affirmed, and God desired to do it, our need must be so much greater. In John 5: 19-20 Jesus says I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.
Jesus’ confidence and purpose created an indifference to what anyone else thought about Him or his actions, other than His Father. As a human, He had a complete sense of His identity, self-worth, destiny, and importance to the world because He truly knew who He was in God. “Who am I – really? I am God’s Son” was His answer, and His actions proved it.
What troubles me is that if I am a son of the King of the universe, why do I not have a stronger feeling of identity, worth,and importance that comes only from Him. Why do I, and most individuals that I know, still seek these things from the world, the church, and from other people? Is it our imperfection, or are we just looking for love in all the wrong places?
Some of the ways that we look for identity and affirmation come from our career, family roles, church responsibilities, natural gifts, spiritual gifts, “good works” in serving God, or how we value our material goods, status, or perceived power in the world.
Jesus received His affirmation from God, who is eternal. We see no evidence that He sought or received it from a temporal world. If we are attempting to model Jesus, perhaps we should look to the Lord’s Prayer for some guidance.
Matthew 6:9-10 says Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
When Jesus walked among us 2,000 years ago, heaven came to earth. Perhaps we can think about it this way: When we die and go to heaven, we will all be 100% confident of our value and worth to God. In paradise, we won’t be married, have careers, church activities, material wealth and status, or other things that we rely on in order to obtain our feeling of value, identity, or importance. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it 1 Timothy 6:7. We will be completely secure in knowing Him and His love for us. The question, “Who am I – really?” will not be on our lips.
While we walk the earth, the Lord wants to correct our understanding of who we are. All of humanity has this misconception, but when we give our life to Jesus, it sets us on the road to discovery of our true identity. If heaven is perfection and earth is not, is it possible to bring heaven to earth so that we don’t have to rely on the supports we use to make us feel valued and important? Are there ways that we can be more emotionally whole so that we only care what God thinks?
Four keys that I have found to answering these questions are:
1 – Focus on the One who is perfect
Hebrews 12:2* suggests Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. The Lord put people on the earth to be our cheerleaders and to love us, but they were never supposed to replace the supernatural unconditional love that comes from the Father. Our sense of identity, importance, and destiny can only come from Him.
2 – Keep things between you and the Lord
Scripture gives this example in Matthew 6:6: When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. God knows our destiny and how we are doing. Why not just thank Him for an opportunity to serve? This will feed our sense of identity in the Kingdom.
3 – Glorify God
Let someone else praise you. Jesus replied, If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. John 8: 54. Letting God commend our efforts, directly or through others, will enhance our feeling of worth.
4 – Stay close to the Lord in your spirit
We can talk to God with our minds and feel connected, just as if we were standing beside a friend speaking to him. We can also connect our spirit with God’s spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, Pray without ceasing ** This would be impractical with our minds, but not when our hearts are connected to God’s heart. It may be the best way to embrace perfection.
We can aim to be like Jesus, not by trying to be perfect in our human strength, but by letting Him into our lives. It is in His arms that love, healing, and strength come. In this imperfect world, one of our goals should be this: To know who we are in Christ – really – and to feel 100% secure in Him so that we don’t seek our affirmation from any other source. If we are growing daily in Christ, we will better love God and the world, including our enemies, and serve as the Holy Spirit shows us.
Who am I – really? I belong to God the Father, try to model Jesus the Son in my life, and am led by the Holy Spirit. Nothing that the world offers can compare to being loved and affirmed from Heaven. My identity is rooted there.
*Life Application Bible
**New American Standard
This article was published by the Morningstar Journal in October 2011.