Genesis 1:27: Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’ So God made mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them. Male and female he created them.
Romans 8:29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Imagine yourself at a social gathering. You bump into someone you have never met and politely introduce yourself. They respond by sharing their name and then this person asks you a question, “so, tell me who you are?” You start to tell him what you do for a living but he stops you and says, “no don’t tell me about your job, tell me who you are?” A little confused, you decide to play along and begin to share with him that you are a parent, a spouse, a resident of the city in which you live, but he abruptly stops you again and demands, “no, don’t tell me about the roles you play in life, I’m really interested to know who you are.” Pretty unnerving isn’t it?
What our awkward social guest is getting at is how you define yourself. In our texts above we learn that our primary identity is as an image bearer of the God who created us. Since that original image was marred in the fall, and we have been redeemed in Jesus Christ, we are in the process of being conformed to his image. That, too is our identity. From this sure and certain identity as a child of God being conformed to the image of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit we will live, act and work in a certain way. Paul, in Ephesians tells us that the good works we do are part of God’s greater plan.
The point I want to make here is that of direction. When we consider the relationship between who we are and what we do, Scripture tells us there is only one acceptable direction. Our identity is in Christ, whose image we bear as a witness to the world. As we live out that identity we will perform work in ways that reflect that image. We can label this as a “who to what” direction. What we do is an outflow of who we are.
Now here’s the challenge. We live in a world that labels us and defines us more by what we do than who we are. We live in a “what to who” world. Tell me what you do and I’ll derive from it a level of value to your life. As followers of Jesus we can fall into this trap all too easily. We can begin to find the definition of who we are in the roles we play, the titles that we hold, and the outcomes we produce. We can even allow the wealth we possess and the stuff we amass to define us. The world values power, prestige, possessions, and praise. People pursue these things with a passion believing that in them they will find their identity as a “successful” person.
But for a child of God, the process is exactly the opposite. If there is success to be had in this world, it comes solely from the extent to which we have submitted ourselves to Jesus Christ allowing him to live in us and through us. As that spirit conforms our spirit to the image of Christ, then excellent, effective and life-changing work will flow from us. But that work never defines us. We are a child of God, redeemed through Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, period.
Take a moment and complete the following sentence, using every title and role you can think of:
I am a _____________________, _______________________, ________________________, _______________________, _________________________, _______________________, ______________________, _______________________, _________________________, _______________________, ______________________, _______________________, _________________________, _______________________, ______________________, _______________________, _________________________, _______________________, ______________________.
Now think through this meditation, re-read the texts, and answer the question posed by the annoying guy at the party who asks, who are you?
Lord God, heavenly father, I confess that as I read this I realized how often I have identified myself with what I do and not by who I am in you. It’s so easy to be labeled by a job, how much money I make, the car I drive, and the influence I have. I acknowledge that the world has pressed on me its values and too often I have accepted them as my own. Help me, through the power of your Holy Spirit, to reclaim my sole identity as a child of God being conformed to the image of Christ. I know that from this identity you can work through me to do good and great things in this world. I thank you for that. But never let me shift my identity to my work, or I will fall back into the same old trap that I’m already in. My identity is in you. Let me affirm that rich and wonderful truth every morning before my feet touch the floor. Help me to live each day in the privilege and challenge of bearing your image in this broken and hurting world. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.