Who are we? That’s a question for which we need to have an answer before we can share our hope with the world. Jesus, in Mark 8:27, asks His apostles who they think He is. He wants them to think about their perceptions of Him, and what those conclusions imply. We have the same responsibility toward ourselves.
Our family names, occupations, levels of education, genders races – these factors and more provide certain assumptions about us. Beyond these, who are we spiritually? What terms define our spiritual lives to ourselves? How do others perceive us in this regard? Our actions inform others of who we are – our morals, our decisions, our associations, our priorities. These qualities contribute to our character, and our character will determine the reputation we have with others.
Defining Our Spiritual Identities
We may call ourselves Christians, the redeemed, members of the church. In John 13:34, Jesus says our identity is defined by the love we demonstrate toward others. He says this love identifies us as His. Our character, then, should reflect Christ’s love. Galatians 5:13 begins a description of how love compels us to a life of service, just as Jesus exemplified when washing His apostles’ feet. In Colossians 1:9, Paul tells us we should be gaining spiritual wisdom to follow His example and bear fruits of good works.
Romans 7:4 says we belong to God so we may work for Him, and Hebrews 10:23 calls upon us to encourage one another, stirring up love and good works. Titus 3:1 instructs us to stay ready for opportunities to do good, and Paul goes on in this passage to tell us to avoid quarreling, to speak ill of none, to always be gentle. He speaks of good works as something to which we should devote our lives, refraining from things that tear us apart. Verse 14 says to be watchful for the needs around us and again to be fruitful.
It’s Not Of This World
Sometimes we allow our pasts to make decisions for us. Matthew 3:8 has Jesus speaking about fruits of repentance, but He warns His listeners against relying on their history. He speaks to personal accountability in verse 10, and Matthew 10:37 indicates that our ties to Christ should be stronger than those even to family. We cannot let our past or our ties to this world ultimately guide us. Instead, or identities are defined by the fruits we bear. All we say and do contributes to our spiritual reputation.
Who do others say that I am? More importantly, who does God say I am? I John 3:18 instructs us to be active in our love and that we cannot hide our true selves from Him. To the seven churches of Revelation 2-3, Jesus says to each that He knows their works. He acknowledges their reputations, but He knows who they really are underneath. Our manufactured reputations cannot hide our inner selves from God.
Back in Mark 8, after the apostles share their views about Jesus and Peter makes his confession of faith, Christ begins to reveal the true nature of His mission and the suffering He will endure. Peter, his mind set on the things of this life, rebukes Jesus. In the upper room, Peter can’t wrap his mind around Jesus’ example of service because it challenges his world view too much. We cannot let our identity get tied up in the things, the cares, or the praise of this world. Our self-definition should be spiritual in nature, and it should reflect that name we wear at all times.
lesson by Dawson Guyer