What is our true identity? How do we find our true purpose? Does a particular job, image, ethnicity, sexual orientation, temperament, or social status determine identity?
If we define identity as a simple list of personal characteristics, we ignore the issue of why we are here on this earth. There is no infinite purpose attached to a hollow and malleable definition of identity.
If you believe there is more to this life than whatever image we create for ourselves, you can look beyond this finite existence and peer into eternity — into some eternal identity. If you have an infinite existence — an after-life — surely your identity is fastened to something beyond this world and your natural life.
When we focus only on how we appear in this life, we can become enslaved to the superficial and limited pursuits adorned by media, culture, and society which have no real lasting or satisfying meaning. Our invented images are poor substitutes for addressing our true needs.
The old adage, “You can’t take it with you when you go” is a phrase that begs the question, “What can you take with you then?”
There is only one lasting constant which transcends all boundaries from this finite, natural life to the next life — a relationship with the eternal and infinite God. God created us in his image to enjoy relationship with him and reflect his image. When we image ourselves after his son, Jesus Christ, we enjoy God’s promise of love, joy and belonging. Enjoying relationship with God gives us a meaningful purpose and defines our true identity as his children.
But when we reject God and turn to other sources to define ourselves, we hurt him and break our relationship with him. Our imperfection and shallow images can never be good enough nor can we do enough to satisfy God’s holiness; we cannot find pure relationship with God through our own effort. The result we experience is spiritual death. We need someone to restore that broken relationship so that we can reconnect with God and live out his intended purpose for us to know him. Then we can find spiritual life and be transformed to be more like him and reflect his image more clearly.
God hurts to see us missing out on our true identity as his children and living misguided purposes; instead we live as orphans, struggling, wandering, searching for belonging and purpose. In his love, he sent his son Jesus to earth to live a life that exemplified solid identity. Jesus’ clear sense of his identity allowed him to be at peace with God, himself and the world around.
Jesus knew his identity and was never swayed because he derived it from the God who never changes, even in suffering an undeserved and brutal death on our behalf. Even as he was tempted to question his identity and even as he was mocked and condemned to death for saying who he really was, his solid sense of identity allowed him to endure. He overcame death and came back to life to restore our relationship with God, so we could enjoy the spiritual life by securing our identity as his children and renewing our purpose to know him as our heavenly Father. You may have heard this claim before, but have not experienced this relationship.
This relationship promises solid identity, and its purpose is free to every person who receives it. Jesus said “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). This statement is an analogy of an ongoing invitation for us to have a relationship with God. This relationship is what we are all longing and searching for because we were created for it.
Reading materials and articles, and having discussions are inadequate in convincing us of what appears to be such an intangible, but reachable, reality of knowing God personally. There is no substitute for experience — a relationship with Jesus is not a one-sided affair. God shows himself to those who search for him — those who truly desire to find him. Pursue Christ and you will find him; he will become real to you.
God seems to have no desire to force himself on anyone. God’s insistence on our free-will requires us to make the decision to pursue him. We have the freedom to ignore him and pursue whatever we want. We cannot force anyone to love us; God has not forced us to love him. A relationship with God is a life-changing and life-giving experience. It changes what you value and who you are as God grows you into the person he purposed you to be.
Those who follow Jesus look to him for their identity and purpose. They follow his ways because of the life they find in him. Jesus exemplified the perfect life that pleases our father in heaven. We continue to learn from this God-man who has had more impact on the direction of human history than any other.
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak; They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds but Thou alone. —Edward Shillito
The quest for relationship with God is a lifelong commitment and challenge. It is a life of pursuing God and his unconditional love. This pursuit is not hollow or finite. This life is a gift so grand and awesome that we can hardly comprehend the magnitude of it in this present reality. Our access to this gift was made possible through the death and life of God’s own son Jesus Christ.