Knowing Yourself (Part I of IV): Identity…
Your Identity, Value, Purpose, & Potential
Lesson I: Identity
Rhetorical Question: Who are you?
Not just your name—who and what are you?
When you look in the mirror, do you see someone who is important, who matters?
Why or why not? How do you know?
For the next four lessons we are going to be looking at the Bible to try and understand ourselves better—
we are going to specifically try and figure out the
of each human being.
Why, you might ask? Because we must understand who we really are before we can:
Treat ourselves with the respect we deserve,
Love others with the love they deserve,
Do what God made us to do, and
Be who He made us to be.
Illustration: How many of you have ever stomped on an ant before? Why did you do that?
I have done that before, unfortunately, and I have done it because I thought, “Come on—it’s only an ant!”
And I certainly do not lose sleep over the guilt of having stomped on an ant before (though I don’t do it anymore).
And yet I would never stomp on my daughters’ artwork or photos of my family—and they’re just paper!!!
Here’s the point:
When we understand what something really is,
when we understand what it is worth,
when we understand its great purpose, and
when we understand how great it can be,
We treat such things with more care, attention, love, and respect—just as God wants us to!
So for the next four weeks we will be doing just that…with the help of God, the Bible, and each other!
Question: Thousands and thousands of people for thousands and thousands of years have been trying to figure out the answer to some pretty important questions, questions like,
“Who am I?”,
“Am I important?”, and
“Do I matter?”
These are questions that have baffled some of the smartest people on this planet—
—and this morning, we are going to respond to these questions!
Now, before you start getting too impressed with me, just remember that I am not going to respond to these questions; the LORD is, the God of the universe. He has responded to and answered these questions (and many others!) already through His Word, the Bible, and that is exactly the tool we are going to use to get the answers that we seek.
Tools: Whenever you want to understand life and yourself better, God has given us the most important tool: the Bible!
Another fantastic tool to have is a dictionary.
Okay okay—I know a dictionary might be kind of boring, but it is super helpful in understanding things, because if we don’t know the definition of a word, we can neither understand the meaning of the word nor the meaning of the sentence in which that word is used…
…And misunderstanding words can be very dangerous, for example, when we
-See a stop sign when driving a car
-See a sign at the zoo that says, “Do Not Climb Into the Tiger Cage”,
-See a bottle of bleach that says, “Poison—Do Not Drink.”
So let’s open up the dictionary to start understanding the word “identity”:
Question: What does “identity” mean?
“The condition of being oneself or itself, and not another;
Who a person or what a thing is” (www.dictionary.com).
Question: So who or what determines something’s identity?
How do we know what something is?
Interesting—we’ll come back to those questions in just a minute…
But let’s look at some ways that some people try to answer those questions…
Human Perspective #1: People determine their own identity—we are simply mammals, just another part of the food chain (like really big ants!).
This view claims that humans are in fact animals, like dogs or lions, and we aren’t any more special than any other animal. We are at the top of the food chain now, and someday thousands or millions of years from now, some other animal will be the most powerful.
Human Perspective #2: Again, people decide their own identity. What we do—our jobs, careers, and how we contribute to society—determines our identity, who we are.
Illustration: As you get older, you will realize something: When adults meet each other for the first time, they usually do two things—they tell the other person their name and what their job or profession is. We have thirty seconds with a new person and this is the information we choose to tell. And we do this because, well, many of us believe that our jobs and careers define us, they help us to know who we are.
Question: What is the problem with this?
Response: The problem is, if our jobs determine our identity, certain people become more important than others—
e.g. the celebrity verses the person who does the dishes at a restaurant…
the politician verses the janitor…
the professor verses the person who bags your groceries…
Personal Example: When I was a 6th grader, I almost always treated my teachers with respect.
But I sometimes treated the substitute teacher with less respect than the regular teacher…
I sometimes treated the lunch lady with less respect than the substitute teacher…
I sometimes treated the janitor with less respect than the lunch lady…
And why? Because I looked at their jobs and subconsciously thought:
“If their job isn’t that important, then they must not be that important”…
Now of course, I know now that their jobs are extremely important—but still, their jobs are not as flashy or exciting as others, they do not get as much attention or money as others.
Question: But then how do we find out our identity—who we are, if we matter–if not from our jobs or f?
Answer: The creator decides the identity of the creation.
The person who invented the paper clip tells us, “This is a paper clip!”
The person who invented the IPod tells us, “This is an IPod!”
But if we don’t know that and we treat an IPod like we do paper clips—tossing it around and treating it carelessly—then the IPod will eventually break and will not work well…
The same is true with human beings!!! So let’s see what God—our Creator—says about us:
Another Opinion—God’s: The Truth About Who We Are—from the Beginning.
Scripture: Genesis 1:26-27, 31 (NIV & The Message)
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (NIV).
Another translation of the Bible phrases these verses like this:
“God spoke: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.’
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female” (The Message).
Scripture: Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
My friends, we are made in the image of God. We are more similar to God than we realize!
We’re like cats, and God is like a lion. Lions are totally bigger and more powerful than cats, but they are part of the same family—they are both felines. They have a lot in common with each other that other animals do not (e.g. a cat and a bird, or a cat and a fish).
We too share a lot of things in common with God that other creatures do not:
-We are made to take care of and be in charge of the world (just like God);
-We have the ability to choose to do good or bad—we are not robots;
-We have the ability to think about and seek truth, to know that we know stuff;
-We were made to live forever, not to become worm-food when we die.
God made us in His image—we have his fingerprints all over us…
We are masterpieces of God, and He wants us to treat ourselves and others with love and respect because of this…
…Regardless of our jobs, careers, or accomplishments.
Closing: Find a mirror in your house somewhere. Please walk over to one of the mirrors and look at yourselves for a moment, not at what you look like but rather who you are. Think about that God made you in His image, that you reflect His nature. Think about that what you see in the mirror is not just another animal, but a human made in God’s image, a human so important to God that He would die on a cross for you…
Closing Song: “Who Am I” by Casting Crowns (please click HERE). What does this song teach you about who you are?
1. How would you describe yourself—who you are—to someone else? What would you say?
2. How would God describe you?
3. Why is it important that we know our true identity, who we really are?
4. Why should we go to God and the Bible to figure out who we are?
5. How will you treat other people—family, friends, and strangers—differently now that you know their true identities?