Who Am I?
There are a number of potential responses people can give to this very important question. They include:
I am what I eat, or my life is my physical existence, and the length of my life and the health of my existence is most important. Thus, I am what I feel, how I look, or how I compare to others in my sphere of influence.
Others, especially men (though this is changing some) will state, “I am what I do.” Their work or especially their title determines their relative worth. This distortion of true identity is not just seen in secular circles, but in the image enhancement demonstrated by local pastors who exhibit 9 or more letters after their names (B.A., M.A., Ph.D., etc.). Education is an important ingredient for successful ministry, but it should not be the primary basis of self-esteem.
Related to education as image enhancement is, “I am of worth because of who I know, where I live, how much money I have, etc.” All of these identity enhancers, if portrayed as a primary statement of worth, are fleeting at best. Yet, they are quite commonly the “masks” worn by many.
Finally, and this is especially true for men and women reared in dysfunctional homes, “I am” what has been spoken over me from times past. These “prophetic” words make up the “compensations” for the true identity which Christ will form in us and are the focus of the book. Our identity, or our core self-concept is primarily formed by age 8-10 years. If one has been told that they are ugly, stupid, inferior, whether in word or deed (or both), over a period of time, by a significant other (usually a parent and especially a father), that label becomes indelibly etched into consciousness. Essentially these negative prophecies when embraced, distort the Godly self-image causing permanent, if not irreparable damage. These images are reinforced through chosen (whether unconsciously or consciously) adult relationships, and patterns (especially co-dependent or dependent) develop.
Any one of the “I am’s” covered here will leave a hole in the soul that needs filling with something. The attempt to meet deeply felt and legitimate needs through self-medication, compulsive behavior, or passive avoidance will never work, but may give temporary relief from shame based (I am worthless, I will never make it) identity. The church must be prepared to minister to the core identity of God’s people, and bring more than symptomatic relief. The heart cry is for actual restoration of the heart or core of the person.
A second question which follows the first is “What is My Purpose?”
Productive and purposeful activity is one of the essential elements of a happy and well adjusted life. Somewhat related to one’s identity, or an extension of it, is a person’s unique purpose. “What is my life all about and what am I here for?” These are not merely adolescent questions, but questions of the aged as well.
Purpose is related to vocation. In secular terms, our vocation is that which will provide for necessary status, esteem, comfort, and security. As such, the greater one’s status, education, vocation, the greater their worth in this world. The Church of Jesus Christ has a distinctly different perspective.
Essentially, to the committed Christian, vocation means servant hood to Christ and His Body. A Christian’s avocation is that which we do to pay our bills. Within that purpose, the highest calling would therefore be that of five-fold ministry, or to other service (Elder/Deacon) in the local assembly. The church has strayed far from these lofty goals to accommodate the world’s perspective of worth.
A third question is “What Must I Do to be Safe?”
Since the vast majority of Western civilization has been raised in dysfunctional families, where boundaries have been severely violated, the desire for safety and security is a real heart cry. This need has been exacerbated since the tragedy of 9/11. The need for a sense of safety is necessary for growth and individuation or actualization. However, the traditional route recommended by most to attain this safety is diametrically opposed to the Word of God.
Conventional wisdom dictates that we must find ways to preserve one’s life, protect one’s space, conserve one’s energy, serve one’s own highest good. Whether through self-help groups (much good has come from them), outpatient psychotherapy, or self-help books, the focus has been on teaching a dysfunctional family member to love, nurture, and protect himself or herself, and reestablish boundaries where betrayal has occurred.
No doubt, self-acceptance is necessary, and healing from the wounds received is essential for growth to occur. However, dangerous self-preoccupation has frequently been the result. It is essential to grow beyond the goal of one’s primal safety, and to recognize the Biblical mandate for all believers. Christ has called all of us to follow the road that our Messiah walked, which included the sacrifice of His self (death) so that His resurrection life could flow through others.
A closer look at Christ’s plan for deliverance and restoration will provide clarity to this discussion.
In Isaiah 61 and Luke 4, the plan of God for our liberation from the bondage of sin is described. It is through the Anointed One (Christ) and the abiding anointing (the Holy Spirit) that mankind’s healing will come. An examination of the primary truths found in each passage is most appropriate as an explanation of God’s restoration and healing power for the body of Christ.
The Prophecy (Isa. 61) Fulfillment
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” (Luke 4:18-1).
In the prophetic pronouncement found in Isaiah 61, the prophet foretells of One who will come who has the full measure of the Spirit of the Lord upon him. His primary focus of ministry will include the proclamation of the Good News. The Good News is embodied in an Anointed One (set aside, sanctified, consecrated, also unction or flow of power) who has the power of God to proclaim the Good News. The Good News is that the brokenhearted can have their broken hearts mended, that those imprisoned by sin and the roots of shame, bitterness, rejection, etc., can be liberated and experience freedom. The prophet proclaimed that the year of Jubilee (freedom, rejoicing) is now and will forever be because of this Anointed One!
Further, Isaiah declares that all of mankind’s joy would be made full because of the justice of our God, including the punishment of the wicked (unrepentant).
This proclamation is so powerful, so full of excitement and so incredible, it almost seems too good to be true! But, for those who have ears to hear and a heart to receive, it is assuredly Good News.
When Jesus stood in the synagogue at Nazareth, He laid claim to and accepted ownership of the anointing Isaiah had promised. His life echoed the validity of this prophetic word. Jesus further identified His Messiah-ship by proclaiming a message of hope to the poor, and sight to the blind (physically, soulishly and spiritually). His statement concerning the downtrodden reflects Isaiah 61:2c-3 where He promises comfort for those who mourn.
The losses commonly experienced in life, the rejections endured, the betrayals too frequently suffered create a brokenness that remains buried within until release comes. For those who mourn, comfort is and will be provided. But for those who never mourn their losses – personally, in family or corporately (in their Church or nation) – there is no comfort to be received.
The promise to the down trodden, to those suffering from loss, is a garland (a wreath of victory) because of Christ’s triumph over death. It is the oil of gladness (the Holy Spirit as Paraclete or comforter), and praise which will sustain a believer as the grief process is experienced. Furthermore, as one progresses through their unique (yet common) hurts and bitter disappointment, a new identity (Godly self-respect, trees of righteousness) and a new root system emerges.
Instead of bitterness, a believer can be rooted and grounded in the love of God through Christ! This is His promise.
What continues in Isaiah 61 are the results of willing submission to God’s process of cleansing, deliverance, reconciliation and restoration. What a wonderful promise hinges upon the small word “then.”
Then will one see the rebuilding and repairing of the desolation (ruin, waste) brought upon this generation, a result of sin and rebellion.
Then will the world see the results of the handiwork of God in the restored’s life.
Then the formerly wounded will be called God’s priests and ministers, and enjoy His blessings instead of shame.
The restored’s joy will be double.
The shame and humiliation will be removed.
Believers who appropriate the promise of God found in this passage of scripture will possess the possession of God and experience their place as blood washed saints, wrapped in the robe of His righteousness, and take their rightful place, not a second hand Rose, but as part of the Bride of Christ, without spot or wrinkle. This gives to all hope instead of despair. If it were not for these precious promises of God, fulfilled in the risen Lord, there would be no hope for any of God’s creation.
Through Christ, all believers are able to experience, over time, this victory…a victory already achieved by Christ…for as He stated emphatically on the cross…it is finished!
First, comes the acceptance of the Good News.
Second, comes the mourning which leads to comfort.
Finally, comes the new identity which leads us to a total participation in life as God intended for us. The working out of this perfect provision of Christ is easier said than done, but for those willing to continue on the journey, Christ’s promise will be fulfilled.
The promises of God found in His Word are absolute, powerful and available to all His children. The appropriation of God’s promises to the “real world” is a difficult process, but, as will be presented in this book, can be appropriated through a consistent application of His Word over time. An example from a family dear to my heart will begin to illustrate the process.
Please leave your questions and comments… would love to hear from you.