For quite a while now, identity has been near the forefront of my mind. As I’ve been learning more about who I am in God and who He says we are, the desire to put it in writing and share with others has grown. Consequently, I finally began to write what is tentatively called: “Identity: Image-bearers of God.”
Here is the introduction to it. Please tell me your constructive feedback–do you agree or disagree? Did this bring up any thoughts? I really appreciate your help in this endeavor.
Identity. The core question of humanity: “Who am I?”
From childhood through old age, the search for a suitable answer plays a large role in our actions and emotions. High school and college grads travel the world, hoping to find an answer in the exotic. Middle-aged business people buy expensive cars and try to look decades younger, hoping to find an answer in affluence and youth. Retirees, unable physically to do much of what they once could, either seek an answer in new hobbies or relationships or sink into depression, still unsure of who they are at the end of life.
It struck me recently that even our most basic conversations contain this question. When meeting someone new, inevitably one of the first questions asked is, “So what do you do?” Who are you? What makes you human, what makes you you?
Interestingly, we usually seek to find our identities in things that we do. For example: I run, so I’m a runner; I write, so I’m an author; I don’t eat meat, so I’m vegan or vegetarian; I go to school, so I’m a student; I earn X amount of money, so I’m rich/middle class/poor. When we don’t find our identity in our actions, we find it in our relationships: I’m a father, sister, aunt, son, wife.
Yet all of these things are temporary. Though we hope not, any of them can be snatched away at any second. What is more, all of them are external. They all depend on something or someone outside of ourselves. As such, can they really define who we, at our very cores, are?
In an ever-changing world, the one place we can look for the truth is the Lord—and He has given us an answer to the question of our identity. In fact, it’s one of the first things He tells us in His love letter, and it develops slowly throughout the whole Bible.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness….’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Who are we?
We are images of God.
Some historical context is helpful right here. In the ancient Near East, “image” was a rich idea. An image was believed to contain the essence of the thing it represented. While the image was not on the same level—and hence a statue of Zeus wouldn’t quite actually be Zeus—it did the work of its original. For this reason, Greeks might carry a statue of Ares into battle, so that their god of war could give them victory through the image. This is also why kings would erect statues of themselves in places they conquered: To assert their authority and dominion in their absence.
So we are images of God. We contain the essence of who God is—His character, His nature. Just as an image was not quite a god, so we are not divine, and so we are under God. We were made to carry out His work and embody His character.
This idea continues in the New Testament. When talking about the Lord’s glory and goodness, it says, “Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). We can participate in the divine nature—we can share the character of God. We can be the people we were created to be.
If you’re at all honest with yourself, you know that we are far from living that divine nature. If that is true, why are we so ungodly? The answer lies in the Fall.
Humans were perfect images of God. Then the serpent tempted us. “You desire knowledge and truth,” he said. “God, who is the source of knowledge and truth, is not the only place to find it. Come, seek satisfaction for your needs elsewhere: In the fruit of this tree” (Genesis 3:1-5).
To our shame, we did, and in that moment something inside us was terribly marred. To use the common metaphor: If before we reflected God like clear mirrors, in the Fall the image we present was fractured and is not hideously skewed. As statues, we were smashed to bits and thrown into a basket. We are not who we were made to be.
Can we ever reclaim our intended identities? Yes—by the grace of God, we can.
God tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old self—the shattered mirror, the broken statue—is gone, and now we can be new. Through the glory and goodness of Christ, He has given us the ability to participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4). Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, because of the surpassing greatness of God’s love and grace, we can once more be who we were made to be.
Who exactly is that? Well, that is the purpose of this book. Together, we will explore some of what it means to bear the image of God and try to understand better who He is and who we are as new creations.
This does not mean we have to strive to become this: No, the Spirit is already at work in us, transforming us by the renewing of our minds. I have found that much of life is a strange combination of my effort and surrender. While we should make every effort to take hold of our identity, we also need to surrender to God bringing that identity out in us. So this book aims simply to help us better understand the work of God in us and the life He offers in Jesus.
And so, if we are image-bearers of God, the first question, the most important question is this: Who is God?
There you have it :) Please leave your comments below.