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Who am I?
Man and Sin
God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Feel better? Christian or not, most people have heard that phrase. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life—it’s from a small evangelistic booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws. While that booklet isn’t the strongest tool for evangelism, most everyone agrees with that first law: God loves me–check. God wants me to be happy and plans for me to be so—check, check.
Therefore, God’s wonderful plan must include a spouse, a good job, role model kids, freedom from pain, very short trials that resolve in my favor. Oh, and money–enough that I don’t need to pray for it . . . enough that I don’t need to think or worry about it, and preferably enough that I can give generously to others and the church without really being hurt by what I gave.
In fact, the only disagreement is how to get that wonderful plan. Should we work for it? Should the government provide it? The American dream says that we are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And every day we have people telling us what that life should look like. If you listen to country, hip hop or pop music, it sounds like the goal of life is love or sex. If you read books on business, self-help or relationships, it sounds like the goal of life is success or peace. If you watch TV, it seems like the goal of life is to have other people watch yours.
The real problem with that wonderful plan that everyone is seeking is that nobody is clear on what God’s plan is. Do you know what God’s plan for your life is? Do you know why you were created? Do you know what the goal of your life is? Most people are unclear. They don’t have a good answer. Over time, you may feel like the goal has changed.
When you were young, the goal was to get out of your parents’ house . . . then you wanted to get into college . . . then you wanted to get out of college . . . then you wanted to find the perfect spouse . . . then you simply wanted to find a spouse . . . then you wanted to buy a house . . . then you wanted to have kids . . . then you wanted the kids to leave . . . then you wanted to quit the job you had and just travel . . . then you wanted to have the strength to travel like you used to. Right?
What we want in life seems to change with each season. But those are not God’s main priorities for your life. Do you know what they are? Why are you here? The competing voices that tell us what life is about all provide evidence that we don’t understand our purpose. We wrestle with our identity. Who are you? Why are you here? Where did we come from? Those are the things that we’re talking about today.
The hard sciences, psychology and pop culture all offer reasons for our existence. They all offer answers to the questions of who you are and why you are here? But the Bible says something entirely different. In contrast to what the rest of the world says, the Bible sounds crazy. When we tell others what the Bible says, we sound crazy. And this is just what God said would happen in 1 Corinthians 1:21, “In the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not come to know God,” and also verse 18, “the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
So today, I want to present to you what the Bible says about who you are and why you’re here. In the realm of theology, that’s called anthropology and hamartiology–which are just big fancy words for talking about man and sin.
Every week, you listen to radio, blogs, Facebook, movies, TV, and books that are explicitly or implicitly trying to sell you on their view of life. This morning, we’re going to take 30-45 minutes to talk about the Bible’s view of us–just to answer one question, “Who am I?” We’re going to look at four basic answers that the Bible gives to that question.
Here’s why it’s critical. You can only live out your purpose if you understand who you are. A quarterback can’t do his job if he acts like an offensive guard . . . the principal can’t do his job if he acts like a crossing guard . . . a mom can’t do her job if she acts like a bodyguard. You will live according to what you believe your purpose in life is.
So the question of “who am I?” is one of the most important we can ask. When you understand who you are, you will know why you’re here. So who am I? In answer to that question, the Bible says:
1) You are Created by God
Gen 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Contemporary science argues that the world has existed for millions of years. You evolved from less complex organisms and nature selected your features and capacities. We can learn about why we do things by studying primates and other mammals.
Isaiah 45:12 tells us, “It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands and I ordained all their host.” In answer to the question, “Who am I?” the Bible answers that you are the special and unique creation of God. He created man and woman, unique and different from all the rest of creation. You are not the product of chance. You did not come from monkeys. You are not self-existent. You are not a god or goddess. God Himself made you–He created you. And if this is true, this changes everything!
You are not alone. You sit in the desert or the mountains and stare at all the stars, and you feel your smallness. You wonder if there is other life out there. You stare out the airplane window and consider how many people live around us. You feel trapped and alone in your cubicle or kitchen each day. But the Bible says that you are created and known by God. He designed you–specially crafted you.
Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” This should end all depression. This should end all despair. The mighty God who is bigger than you can imagine knows you. He made you. Your beauty–it’s from God. Your intellect–it’s from God. Your disability–it’s from God. Your tattoo–that’s you.
Now think about this–if God created you and me and every other man, woman and child, then we do not live alone. We do not need to look for love or success or pleasure. We were created in love. We were created to find pleasure in God. Our identity and success are found in knowing and serving the Creator.
If you consider the major commitments of your life . . . if you think about the goals of your life right now . . . friendship, marriage, education, job, finances, church, and all the rest–are your identity and success found in knowing and enjoying the Creator? Are you defined by your walk with God?
Think of your dog. (Cats don’t count–just pretend, if you don’t own one.) You picked him up as puppy. You even fed him from a bottle. You watched out for him–he got all his shots, always had a full dish, and slept in the house. He loves you, follows you from room to room. He loves to be petted, loves to lick you–he brings you a ball to play with. This is why they’re called man’s best friend. He is fulfilling his purpose as a dog.
You were created by God and have been cared for by Him since life began. You were meant to know God and to enjoy God. This is what pleases Him–it brings Him glory. Isaiah 43:7 says, “Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Dogs know how to do this. Do you? Do you find your joy in God?
God made you for fellowship with Him and to walk with Him. You were created by God to find joy in Him. When you flip the relationship and think that God exists for you, your life will spin out of control. When you assume the role of God, you want to control everything–your spouse, your kids, your job, your finances–even God. And when things don’t go your way, you move towards wrath or despair.
But you are not the creator. You are created by God. You are to live in submission to Him, and find joy in your role under Him. But even more uniquely than being created by God is:
2) You are Made in the Image of God
Only man and woman are made in the image of God. We read in Genesis 1:27, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” But what does that mean? The verse before it explains what it means to be made in the image of God.
Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” To be made in the image of God means that you were made to be like God and to represent God. You have His attributes, creativity, ability to rule, spiritual nature and are even made to be everlasting. Scripture uses the same language in Genesis 5 for a father and son—verse 3 says, “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.” A son is not identical to his father, but is like him in many ways. As you grow older, you see more and more of your parents in you. For better or worse, you see them in you. Your spouse or your kids may even point it out. You say the same things, you’ve got his hair (or lack of it)–you see them in you.
In an even greater way, you are made in the image of God to be like Him. He created you. He formed you from the dust of the earth and gave you a body. He breathed into you and gave you a soul. You represent Him.
Who are you? You are created by God to bear His image. As amazing as the universe is, as special as the angels seem, as wonderfully diverse as the animal kingdom is–man is more like God than all the rest of creation. You uniquely and specially were made by God to represent Him. This should give you a profound sense of dignity and significance. If you have any knowledge of the greatness of God, this is amazing! No matter your station in life, no matter how people treat you–you can walk with head held high because you were made in the image of God.
And really, it should affect how we view everyone else . . . the elderly, the terminally ill, the foolish, the retarded, the unborn. Whatever the condition, the race/ethnicity, the language, the socioeconomic status, the political view, the sexual orientation . . . they bear the image of God. No matter how marred that likeness may be, that person has the imprint of God on them.
It is easy to argue for assisted suicide when man is simply a higher form of animal. It is easy to be comfortable with abortion when life is defined by higher functions. We can slander our political opponents when we see nothing of God in them. But if every man and woman bears the image of God, then we should act differently. We should live with compassion and grace toward others.
James 3:9 says, “With [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.” James goes on to say that’s wrong–it should not be this way! Why would you curse someone who is in the likeness of God? Being created and made in the image of God should change how we live and think and treat others.
Even our marriages are a reflection of being made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says that men and women were both made in the image of God, and Genesis 5:1 to 2 repeats this. When you get along with your spouse–not the grudging, ride-in-silence-in-the-car get along, but the sweet fellowship that you share when you think alike on something, and when you feel totally knit to the other person. That type of marital harmony is a reflection of being made in God’s image.
The way He made you equal in importance, but different in role is a reflection of being made in God’s image. And when you try to be the same in role . . . and when you try to be different in importance–that’s a distortion, a disfiguring of the image of God in you. You were created by God–you were made in the image of God. But, as you’ve noticed again and again in life . . .
3) You are a Rebel against God
When God created the world, it was good. Man and woman were made without sin–there was no issue. But ever since the Fall in Genesis 3, every person born on earth was born a rebel against God. Our 1½-year-old’s favorite word–no. She’ll say it and sing it, “No, no, no, no.” We are the same to God. Though He created us and cares for us, we are rebels against Him. Isaiah 1:2 to 3 says, “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. 3 An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.’”
That dog you own–the one you got as a puppy and cared for so lovingly? He’s not interested in you anymore. He wags his tail at you, but only for food. He’s tried to bite you. He barks at you instead of strangers. He sheds hair everywhere. He does his business on your carpet. Though you have cared for him since he was a pup, he does not love you. If you had an animal like that he’d go to the pound or be put down.
Yet each of us acts like that toward God. Every man has the knowledge of a creator inside of him, but we suppress it. We deny God. We act like there is no God. This is the confession of David in Psalm 14:2 to 3, “The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
No one does good–not you, not your grandma, not the Pope, nobody. All our actions, even the good ones . . . all our thoughts, even the kind ones . . . all our motives, even the ones we feel good about–they’re all tinged with rebellion toward God. The theological name for this is total/utter depravity. It’s not that we are the worst possible people that we could be, but that everything we do, everything we think is naturally in rebellion toward God.
Daniel, one of the most morally righteous men to walk the earth, said this, in Daniel 9:5, “We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.” And a few verses later in 9:8 to 10, “Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; 10 nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”
Do you own this? You were born with a nature that was enslaved to sin. From the day of your birth, you have never been able to do anything other than rebel against God. Every good thing that you did . . . every kind act . . . every gift given–they were all tainted by sin. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”
We tend to look at the blatantly evil and think that they are the sinners. Those who steal and kill and vote differently than us–they are the wicked. When we hear a salvation testimony where somebody was on drugs or enslaved to some immorality, then we think–what a miracle of God to save such a sinner! When you think, “How I got saved is nothing special like that,” you show that you don’t understand the doctrine of sin. You don’t get how utterly sinful your morality without Jesus was.
A person who lives ethically and is nice is counting on their lifestyle being adequate to please God. You were a rebel against God. You were created by God. You were made in the image of God, and you are a rebel against God, which means . . .
4) You are Deserving of Wrath from God
God’s righteousness demands that He punish all sin. If He did not punish sin, He would not be a righteous God, and there would be no ultimate justice in the universe. But all people desire justice. This is why you love it when movie villains get what’s coming to them. This is why you look for a cop when someone is driving badly around you.
The image of God in us makes us look for justice in the world. God is just. When sin is punished, when God pours out His anger toward acts done in opposition to Him, He is showing that He is righteous and just and fair. Exodus 15:7 says, “And in the greatness of Your excellence You overthrow those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning anger, and it consumes them as chaff.”
And David says in Psalm 21:8 to 9, “Your hand will find out all your enemies; Your right hand will find out those who hate you. 9 You will make them as a fiery oven in the time of your anger; the Lord will swallow them up in His wrath, and fire will devour them.” This is not the cold, calloused acts of an abusive father. This is not the crazy, vindictive orders of a tyrant megalomaniac. This is the pained, but righteous anger of one who has been abused and sinned against, over and over, for years and years, without any remorse. That is how we’ve acted toward God—wrath is what we deserve.
Romans 2:5 to 6 says, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds.” And it will be terrible. It will be fierce. It will be unending. No one will escape . . . no one will have excuse. It doesn’t matter what you did on earth. It doesn’t matter how much you made. It doesn’t matter how much other people respected you. No one will be able to stand before the great wrath of God.
Revelation 6:15 to 17 tells us, “Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” That is the natural destiny of every created person, because everyone one of us is a rebel against God.
You were created to serve God. You were created to enjoy God. But since the fall of man, that relationship has been severed. Instead of enjoying and serving God, you now enjoy and serve His creation. You naturally worship the creation and rebel against the Creator. We are jealous of what others have. We disregard the image of God which dwells in others. We boast in ourselves. We find hope in our smarts and our stuff. That’s me, and that’s you.
John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” And all that awaits us is wrath–the boiling, white-hot fury of God. Are you glad you came to church today?
Now rather than leave you in depression, let me give you some hope from Proverbs 11:4, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” Here are the two great hopes of man to avoid judgment—riches or righteousness.
The unreligious believe that wealth and power are the greatest things to gain. They sacrifice their health and their families to acquire riches and prestige. But wealth will be worthless on the Day of Judgment.
The religious believe that their own righteousness will matter more–after all, it is righteousness that delivers from death. But they confuse the type of righteousness God is looking for. Many religious people read this and then work hard to be righteous enough, to be good enough that God will overlook their sins and be pleased with them. If that’s you, then you’ve misunderstood how God works.
Any sin you’ve ever committed is enough to send you to hell. Any act of rebellion, of which you’ve committed many, is deserving of wrath. There are no cosmic scales that weigh out the good and bad of your life. You’re either all good or all bad–and you are all bad. So then how does righteousness deliver from death?
Here is the secret—it is not your righteousness, but the righteousness of another. We already read how your best deeds are like filthy rags in God’s eyes. They are all tainted by sin. But because God desired to be reconciled to sinners like us, and He wanted to renew the corrupted image of God which dwells in us, He sent His Son, Jesus, to live the perfect righteous life that we never could. He lived completely free of sin, and then was put to death so that He would experience the wrath of God on our behalf. The result is that His righteousness delivers us from death. And in His death, He absorbed the full, unmitigated wrath of God for us.
Romans 5:8 to 9 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” And again, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 says, “Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” When you believe this, when you genuinely believe that Jesus’ righteousness is your only hope to be delivered from God’s wrath, then you will be. You will be delivered by Jesus from the wrath of God, and you will be reconciled to God, and renewed with a desire from the heart to find your joy and meaning in the Creator, rather than the created.
Through Jesus, your rebellion is forgiven. Through Jesus, God’s wrath is satisfied. Through Jesus, the image of God is made new in you. Through Jesus, you are a new creation. How does all this happen? By believing that Jesus lived a perfect life, that His death paid the price for your sins against God, and that He was resurrected on the third day, triumphing over death. And when you believe that, you know who you are and you know why you exist.
You are created by God, made in the image of God. And though a rebel, deserving of God’s wrath, God saved you through Jesus. And now you live to enjoy Him and you find more pleasure in obeying Him than you do in the things of the world. That is who you are as a Christian. God does love you, and He does have a wonderful plan for your life. But it’s not free of pain in this life. There’s no guarantee of riches in this life. But it is good, and it gets even better once you see Him face-to-face!