I am Thor, a paladin, the colour red, a Labrador, Sherlock Holmes and Raphael (the turtle, not the painter). At least that’s what Facebook quizzes tell me. Obviously most of us who take these little personality tests don’t attach too much weight to them, but they’re incredibly popular anyway. Presumably, part of the appeal is they allow us to relate our heroes, or to show something off about ourselves (the qualities attached to the results of these tests are always positive, for the same reason fortune cookies never say ‘Your best days are behind you’), but they’re also a way to further answer the question ‘who am I?’
We live in a culture that is obsessed by identity; who you are matters: I am rich. I’m married. I’m a mother. I’m a foodie, muso, creative, sporty. Apple knows this, it’s why they did those old “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” adverts with David Mitchell and Robert Webb. To have a Mac is to have a particular identity – you don’t own a Mac, you are a Mac-user. They’re not the only ones. Marketing isn’t about advertising products anymore, but selling identities. Advertisers are in the business of telling us we’re less who we want to be if we don’t have their product. It’s a question we ask ourselves. We spend huge amounts of time and money trying to answer the Great Question ‘Who am I?’
It’s the Great Question because ‘who you are’ and ‘what you do’ are so interlinked. Think about it; if someone asked you ‘who are you?’, what would you say? Many of us would say ‘I’m a builder,’ as if our identity is in our work, or ‘I’m a mum,’ putting it in terms of relationships, or maybe even ‘I’m an artist,’ putting our identity in our activities.
We think what we do defines who we are, but actually the reverse is true; who we think we are defines what we do. This is true at a simple level (musical people listen to music, sporty people play sport, Dads make bad jokes, etc) but also at a deeper level. What we place our identity in shapes our lives. If it’s in our jobs, we’ll pursue career above all else. If it’s in relationships, we’ll bounce from one person to another as we find that no one can quite meet the need inside us. If it’s our country, we’ll become tribalistic, xenophobic and insular. And, of course, ultimately, this source of our identity will let us down, and we’ll have a crisis. No one understood this better than Paul.
Paul’s understanding of who he was and who God is played a big part in what drove him to be the great theologian and evangelist that he was. He recognised that our identity in Christ is the core of who we are, not just a facet. It’s for that reason that his epistles are full of truth about our identity. He based his teaching to the churches he wrote to on who we are in Christ, and what that means, knowing that their actions would flow out of that understanding.
That’s why this year’s Students & 20s teaching series is so important, and so exciting. Drawing on some excellent preaching, and a wonderful book from Mark Driscoll, Philip, Jason and I will be preaching through different attributes of being in Christ. We’re covering, among other things, what it is to be adopted, reconciled, gifted, heard and victorious. It’s hugely important to understand our identity in Christ in our formative years (and there are few so formative as the years between 16 and 30), not just so we avoid placing our identity elsewhere, but because when our cornerstone is in Jesus, when our identity is in who He is, not what we do or have, we can move even more in the things of God, accomplishing great things in His glory and getting greater revelation from Him. So join us this month, and every month, to find out Who You Are. It’s going to be life-changing.
Picture Credit: Universal Thor by JD Hancock (Creative Commons)