Who Am I? Whose Am I?
All of us ask a very important question somewhere along in our life: "Who am I?" Unfortunately the life never seems to provide an adequate answer. Some things in life do begin to give us an identity: Our parents and family, our culture and language. As life goes on our identity is formed by our work, experiences Ė the good things as well as the bad things, relationships Ė friendships, the person we marry, or the children that God gives us. However the problem is that these things never quite answer the question: "Who am I, and how do I fit into this world?"
Some people frustrated with the question just give up trying to find an answer. They become complacent, and they accept life as it comes to them. This is all there is, and we might as well try to enjoy it as much as we can. Others work against it. They try to overcome it. They keep trying to find their identity. Both ways have the tendency to play right into Satanís schemes. He wants to distract us, confuse us, and finally destroy us. He doesnít want us to know that we are Godís. We were created by Him, and we belong to Him. Satan will do anything to keep us from believing this fact. He wants to keep us separated from God.
When the first colonists were sailing to America, Pastor John Winthrop warned them, "If we pursue our pleasures and profits, we will surely perish from this good land." If we only live for the things of this life, we never going to realize what life is really all about. We arenít going to know our true identity and how we fit into this world.
Back in the 1600s King James of England (the famous King James, who authorized the King James translation of the Bible) gathered together his scientists, and asked them a question: Why is it that when you place a dead fish into a jar of water that is filled to the brim, the water overflows? But if you place a live fish in the jar filled to the brim, the water doesnít overflow? I use this question from time to time with my 8th grade students, and you should see their minds turn this problem over and over. They bat around all sorts of possible explanations until I tell them the real truth: The water spills out no matter what Ė whether the fish is alive or dead. The problem is that the question is flawed. It has a built in false premise. No one will ever figure out the answer because there is no answer.
We have a similar situation when we ask the question: "Who am I?" The real question we should be asking "Whose am I?" or "To whom do I belong?" Let me take you to Galatians 3.26-27: "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Here St. Paul shows us our true identity. The blindness and confusion is taken away. We are brought back into a relationship with God.
A long time ago a man by the name of Augustine was struggling with his identity. He was a young, aspiring speech teacher. His mother was a fervent Christian, and his father was a pagan. His father died when he was 16 years old, and from that time Augustine threw himself into the pagan lifestyle. Despite all the pleasures he was seeking from the world, he knew he was still lacking something. He grew restless. One day his mother invited a newly converted Christian to their house. The young Christian brought along a book Ė the letters of St. Paul Ė and he urged Augustine to read it. Augustine brushed off the invitation. Later while he was thinking in the back enclosure of the house he heard the voice of a little boy on the other side of the wall crying out: "Take and read, take and read." Augustine gave it a try. Some of the first words that he read came from Romans 13.13-14: "Not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Augustine said at that point he realized his search was over. His true identity was not in the immorality of the Roman world but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Later he would pen the famous saying: "The heart is restless until it finds its rest in God."
Isaiah tells us about our true identity: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine" (Isaiah 43.1). I donít know what 2004 will bring to us Ė to our families, to our nation. But I do know who will be with us. Isaiah continues: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior" (Isaiah 43.2-3).
Martin Luther often used a very interesting phrase to remind himself of his true identity. He would not say, "I was baptized." Rather, he said, "I am baptized." Baptism was not a past event. It was Godís point of entry into his life, and it was Godís continued presence in his life that gave him his identity. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Luther would go on to say that there is no temptation or trial that Satan can throw at you that can stand up to that little sentence: "I am baptized - I belong to Christ." There is nothing that Satan or anyone else can do to change that. God is faithful. God keeps His promises.
So the question is not "Who am I?" but "Whose am I?" "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Amen.
Pastor Michael P. Walther
New Year's Eve
December 31, 2003
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2003
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