The core essentials of the gospel are forgiveness, new life in Christ, and the disarming of Satan who had become the “ruler of this world” according to Jesus (Jn. 12:31). Many believers struggle with the assurance of their salvation and therefore question their forgiveness. An even greater number have no clue as to who they are in Christ.
“Who are you?” Nothing more personal could ever be asked, and few can give a substantive answer. Thales of Miletus, considered one of the wise men of Greece, lived five centuries before Christ. When asked, “What is most difficult?” He replied, “To know thyself.”
How would you answer that question? Would you give your name? Your nationality? Your vocation? Several hundred average people were asked that question on the streets and in their work places. It was an informal study conducted by psychologists. Most were startled by the question, and didn’t know how to respond. Some got defensive, while others described their character, family , or job. One man answered, “Why I don’t know, I have never been asked that question before.”
I wasn’t in ministry very long before I noticed that most people don’t inherently feel good about themselves. Becoming a Christian didn’t necessarily change their self-perception. So I read some psychological books on self-esteem that were woefully inadequate to explain the essence of our being. Social scientists have probed deeper into the subconscious than ever before, but as to the question of who we are, they have only scratched the surface. Secularists can provide a psychological profile of your personality, but that is very different from the essence of who we are as human beings created in the image of God.
Self-help psychology may lead to some form of self-actualization, but it ends with mere humanity trying to make a name for themselves, which will soon fade in time. Stroking one another’s egos and picking yourself up by your own boot straps has no lasting effect on one’s self-perception. The world looks for social status, exemplary performance, or appearance to be somebody of worth, but that always crumples under hostile rejection or morbid introspection.
I was searching for answers myself when God called me out of the pastorate to teach at Talbot School of Theology. It was in my second year of teaching that I discovered who I was in Christ. I may have known that theologically, but now I knew internally and eternally in a way that only God can make happen. Then I observed that every defeated Christian that I was trying to help had one thing in common. None of them knew who they were in Christ, nor did they understand what it meant to be a child of God. If the Holy Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), why weren’t they sensing that? The apostle John wrote, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God (Jn. 1:12). Why doesn’t every believer know that?
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