God Claims Me!

Dear Friends,
 
The philosopher Immanuel Kant’s lifelong research revolved around four questions: “Who am I?” “What am I?” “What can I do?” “What can I know?” The only unanswerable question of those four, he said was: “Who am I?”
 
“Who am I?”
In the Bible, Moses asked it, David asked it, Jeremiah asked it. I would think Mary asked herself that question from time to time as she came to terms with being the mother of our Lord.  Throughout the ages people have asked the question, “Who am I?” Many people do not know who they are or why they exist. They try all sorts of philosophies, treatments, religions and sometimes even drugs to find themselves. It’s the one question we all keep coming back to – that we all want the answer to – in the big picture – in this big world – who am I, in the midst of it? That’s the question we focus on this morning as we kick off our five-week series called, “Claimed: Wildly Loved by God.”
 
While I’m in no position to debate the intricacies of life and life’s meaning with a world renowned philosopher like Immanuel Kant, I am pretty certain, that what he believed to be an unanswerable question, is answered through faith in God and Christ Jesus. Let’s look a bit closer to find out why.
 
How do we answer the question, “Who am I?”
It depends on what, in our lives, influences our answer to that question. Let’s get philosophical for a moment and consider some of our life influences.
 
Who am I?
Am I what I do?
Am I what I have achieved?
Am I defined by what I’ve done right or done wrong?
Am I defined by my grade point average?
Am I defined by the things I possess?
Am I defined by talents and/or abilities? By my weaknesses?
Am I defined by my physical appearance? By the clothes that I wear or by the way that I dress?
Am I defined by what others think of me?
Am I defined by the friends that I hang out with?
 
These are only some of the influencers that can and do define so many of us and thus, determine our answers to the question, “Who am I?” When we remove those influencers, the masks that we wear to work, to school, sometimes at home, and even to church, who are we beneath them or behind them? Who is hiding behind the influences of our lives? This is such an important question to ask, and to find the answer to, because knowing our identity determines how we live our lives. 
 
Knowing who we truly are, determines how we feel about ourselves. And feeling good about ourselves ultimately determines how we treat others.  I can understand why Kant believed this question was unanswerable. While not impossible to answer, it is very difficult. Because to answer it means to stand firm in the face of and against the influencers of our world. Which is not easy and not always socially accepted.
 
Think about it with me for a moment. I have two questions that will help us, I think. What are some things our culture, society and the world in which we live say about us? Page through any magazine, browse through the pop-up adds on most websites, notice the photos shared on social media and it won’t take long to hear loud and clear that our value, that our success, that our worth is based on our own human condition and/or circumstance. In other words – our jobs, our levels of education and success, our looks, our cars, our homes, our vacations, our number of friends or “likes” or “followers” – are all extensions of our own human condition and they are influencers of our world that are constantly saying things about us and determining, if we let them, our own value and worth – which some days, most days, by such standards, is not very much.
 
Do you see how hard it can be to find our identity in this world?
The second question now, is what are some things God says about us? Page through, not any magazine or newspaper or social media timeline, but your Bibles. When we page through God’s Word, we hear that, despite our fallen, human, sinful condition – we are loved, we are forgiven, we are special, etc. We hear that, though the world says we don’t measure up according to its standards, God says we measure up, according to His. In the pages of the Bible, we hear loud and clear that our value, that our success, that our worth is found in Him and in Him alone.
 
This leads to a third question: “Who will you let define you – the world or God?” If we continue to let the world determine who we are, we will continue to define ourselves by our achievements and will only keep doing more and more to find our worth and our value – often unsuccessfully. If we continue to let the world determine who we are, we will keep thinking that our identity is defined by others’ opinions of us, and so we will do anything to please others. Letting the world continue to dictate who we are can become problematic. The problem with finding our identity in our current circumstances, material possessions or other people, is that the answer to the question (Who am I?) will keep constantly changing throughout our lives. Which is why letting God and God’s Word define and determine who we are, is the better and healthier choice. Because in the end, what really matters, is the unchanging identity we have been given by God.
 
So let’s do that – let’s take a moment and turn to God’s Word for today – Psalm 139. This Psalm is the answer to, and a powerful reminder of, who we are from God’s perspective – the only perspective that ultimately matters. It describes David thinking about himself and his relationship to God. It is one of the most well-known Psalms as it brings us face to face with the unbelievable and incredible majesty and power of God. It begins by praising and proclaiming how God knows everything, is everywhere, and can do anything. Not only does the Psalm offer a glimpse into the nature of God, but also into our relationship with God. Throughout the Psalm, the answer to Kant’s unanswerable question, begins to emerge.
 
The first verse of Isaiah, chapter 43, only affirms and solidifies our God-given identity as we reminded that we are created, claimed and known by God. We are called his children – valued and worthy Children of God. Valued so much that he gave his only son for us! Worthy enough to die for. In fact, just like the Bible says that in death, we find life, it is also because we unworthy, that we are made worthy. We come to God’s table of grace not because we are worthy of it – but because of the fact, that as sinners, we are unworthy of it. The world’s definition of what or who is worthy, has kept far too many people from coming into the presence of God – the very presence that can and does make them worthy. When we see ourselves in the same light that God sees us, our identity is no longer about us (our achievements or what others think), but rather, it’s about our relationship with God. Seeing ourselves as God sees us, finding our worthiness and value in Him, determines how we live our lives. Our lives become living for and living like Jesus. Our lives become lives that live for God, lives that love God and lives that love our neighbor.
 
There’s a great song by Christian singer and songwriter, Matthew West, called “Hello, My Name Is”. The song gives a voice to a young man named Jordan dealing with drug addiction. West explained Jordan’s story: 
 
“‘Hello, my name is Jordan and I am a drug addict.’ That was the first sentence of this young man’s story that he sent to me. He went on to tell me how for years that was how he identified himself. A two sport all star athlete in high school, Jordan received a college scholarship to run track and play football at a university in Kentucky. But during his sophomore season, Jordan broke his ankle. That is when he received his first prescription to Oxycontin. He wrote about how addiction quickly took a hold of his life and sent him spinning out of control. After two failed drug tests, the university kicked him out and removed his sports scholarships. Jordan had lost everything he had worked for. He landed at a place called Teen Challenge in North Carolina. Teen Challenge is a Christian rehabilitation center in the business of restoring lives with the hope of Jesus Christ.” “Jordan said it was during his time in Teen Challenge that he began to realize that God wasn’t done with him yet, and that all of those defeating titles like ‘addict,’ didn’t have to be attached to his name the rest of his life,” West continued. “His story is far from over. He told me that in the years since his recovery, he went back and got his master’s degree from the very college that kicked him out. Now, he is a teacher and a coach and a newlywed. And he has recently felt God calling him into full time ministry. He closed his story by saying, ‘These days I introduce myself a little differently than I used to. Hello, my name is Jordan and I am a child of the one true king!'” “What a powerful example of God at work in someone’s story,” West concluded. “I read Jordan’s story and couldn’t help but wonder how many people in the world are walking around defined by the defeat and the regret of past mistakes, believing the lie that they will never be able to kick an old habit or move on from yesterday’s mistakes. Jordan’s story is powerful proof that we are not defined by our past. God can restore, redeem, and renew our hearts and lives. He can set our feet on a new path that will lead our lives to a destination far greater than where we used to call home.”
 
Listen to some of the lyrics to this song:
 
Hello, my name is regret
I’m pretty sure we have met
Every single day of your life
I’m the whisper inside
Won’t let you forget
Hello, my name is defeat
I know you recognize me
Just when you think you can win
I’ll drag you right back down again
‘Til you’ve lost all belief
These are the voices,
these are the lies
And I have believed them,
for the very last time
Hello, my name is child of the one true king
I’ve been saved,
I’ve been changed,
and I have been set free
Amazing grace is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true king
I am no longer defined
By all the wreckage behind
The one who makes all things new
Has proven it’s true
Just take a look at my life
Hello, my name is child of the one true king
 
Our God knows you and loves you, more than you can possibly imagine. Our God claims you as His own and is calling you to know, love and claim one another as the Child of the one true King they are, too. We are no longer defined by the wreckage we leave behind. Or as we’ll now sing, we are no longer slaves to fear, to our wealth, to our fame, to our appearance, to our success, to our work, to our world. We are a Child of God. That’s the answer to Kant’s unanswerable question – We are a Child of God.
 

Thanks be to God! Amen!