recognizing my continual need for God’s forgiving and empowering grace.
inviting the Holy Spirit to guide in my ongoing reflection and actions.
embracing cultural expectations that are aligned with God’s Word (the Bible) and replacing those that are not.
True identity is centered on God’s point of view, not on that of human beings.
Look: 1 Samuel 16:7
Memorize: “The Lord said . . .Do not consider his appearance or his height, . . . The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (NIV).
Who are you?
Read Jonah 1: 8; John 1:22. What are the questions in these texts that are related to identity?
“Who are you? . . . What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:22, NIV). The question “Who are you?” goes beyond your name and home address. Though what you see when you look in the mirror can be an introduction and summary of who you are, it is not the whole picture. The answer to that question goes beyond all the information on your personal ID card, regardless of how many of those you have—national ID, student ID, worker ID, bank ID, driver’s ID, etc.. “Who you really are” has to do with your background, your abilities, and most importantly, your personality and character. It has to do with who you are inside—especially when people get to spend time with you to know you better.
The question, “Who are you?” can be summed up in words like “identity,” “self-concept,” “self-worth,” and “self-esteem.” The answer to this question is a function for success in life.
You determine who you are based on three main viewpoints: that of yourself, the people around you, and God. Apart from yourself, what people say about you and what God says about you are major influences on your personal identity. Most of the time you and I are more concerned about the first influence—the influence of people and what they think about us.
Many young people do not like themselves because of their looks, size, height, social relationships, and habits, among other things. Many feel worthless and unimportant, especially when they think they do not meet the standard set by their society and the world. They compare themselves with the supermodels and artistes of the media world and do not fit in.
Apart from the influence of people through social media, there is the view of your parents, friends, and teachers about who you are. Many young people have a poor identity or self-esteem because these important people in their lives judge them based on their background, past performances, or deeds. Sometimes, in our personal lives, we are stuck between wanting to please these people and wanting to be ourselves. When we do not live up to their standards and expectations, they look down on us and that often leads to us feeling bad about ourselves.
Some youth feel they are not American Idol, America’s Next Top Model, or America’s Got Talent material and feel bad and inferior about themselves. Other youth feel that they qualify for one or all of the above and feel good and proud about themselves, feeling superior to those who do not qualify.
However, the real standard to measure and define who we are is God’s standard. He is the One who really knows, sees, and defines who we are—because no one else knows, sees, and defines us the way God does. He is the One who really knows who we are on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7). That is the part of our identity that matters the most.
What do the following texts say about God’s view of who we are? What is so special about our identity according to these verses?
Isaiah 43: 1a, 7
Evolution teaches by implication that human beings are nothing more than a chemical accident that happened by chaotic chance, therefore there is nothing special about our identity. But the Bible differs from this view of origin. The Genesis account presents a God who created everything—including human beings—by plan, order, and design (Genesis 1:1-31).
Your identity is rooted in your origins—where you come from. The Bible is clear that you are not a product of evolutionary chance but are intelligently designed by God, the Creator, Himself. Because of this, you have a special identity as a child of God created in His image. God has made you so unique that there is no other person like you in the whole universe! The fact that every human being, even identical twins, has their own DNA, fingerprints, and unique anatomical features testifies to how special and unique you and I are in all creation. No one else shares the exact same traits with you.
In addition, you are also special by creation because, unlike all other creatures of God, human beings are created in His image. You have the impress of divinity in your being.
But what does it mean to be created in God’s image? The Spirit of Prophecy states:
“Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator – individuality, power to think and to do…It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train youth to be thinkers and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought” (Education, p.17).
Your individuality is a central part of your identity. It is that part of you that shows you are created in the image of God. According to the quote above, God created you to be yourself in Him, and above everything else to follow His plans for your life, even more than following that of your parents, family, friends, teachers, or other human beings. When you live to fulfill God’s plan and accomplish His purpose in your home, neighborhood, school, or workplace by being yourself, contributing your own positive and creative ideas, thoughts, abilities, skills, talents, and unique methods, you bring glory to Him and reflect His image. God recognizes that no one can do what He created you to do as creatively or as uniquely as you can. No one does it exactly as you do. Your individuality is special to God. It is a reflection of His image in you.
So who are you? By creation, you are God’s child, made in His image with a special and unique personality and individuality that no one else has or shares.
A New YOU!
As mentioned earlier, apart from what others think about who you are, what you think about yourself is very important. One of the reasons why we do not like who we are is our sinful moral make up. The bad character traits in us, the wrongs we do, the mistakes we make, and the guilt we feel after a bad temper outburst, lies, lust, among others make up major reasons why we do not like who we are. In all of us, there is a mix of good and bad. We love the good, virtuous character traits in us and we hate the bad defects and deeds that we manifest. Sometimes these defects and deeds are seen by others and they hate who we are because of them. But even when people may not see the manifestation of the bad in us, we know how bad we are deep inside our hearts and consciences. It can be a pretty depressing struggle (Romans 7: 15-24).
The Bible explains that though human beings are created in God’s image, the original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, caused us to become sinners (Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:6; Romans 5:12). This has marred the original image of God in us and, as a result, we are all born with a fallen and sinful human nature (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10, 23). Therefore, God’s image, likeness, and divine character in us, which has been marred by sin, needs to be restored. We need a new moral identity—better than the fallen sinful identity we had from birth.
What is God’s solution to the negative character defects that make up our identity?(To be answered from the Bible verses/passages below. Try to involve all participants in this activity).
Psalm 32:1, 2
Psalm 103: 12
1 John 1:9
Through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, God made forgiveness available to us to cover, cleanse, and purge us from our character defects and sins that lead to death. Accepting God’s forgiveness personally by believing in and making Jesus Savior and Lord is a very important part of receiving a new identity in Christ (John 1:12,13).
Apart from God’s forgiveness, which pardons and clears the guilt of our sins, God also makes available and possible a transformation process from our sinful human nature to the godly, Christ-like character He originally intended us to have. This begins with the new birth experience (John 3:3, 5, 8) and continues after baptism as sanctification. Sanctification is a daily, continual growth process that involves consciously permitting God, through His Holy Spirit, working through our choices, to give us victory over our sinful character defects. It involves doing away with old, sinful habits and character traits and spending more time investing in good, healthy, Christ-like character traits and habits. It is described as “putting off the old self—the old identity” and “putting on the new self—the new identity in Christ” (Ephesians 4:23-32; Colossians 3:1-17). This begins with a new “heart” (mind) given by God at the beginning of this process (Psalm 51:10-12; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; Psalm 40:8; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16) and results in “the transforming of the mind” as the process continues (Romans 12:1, 2).
The result is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)—a new person with a new orientation, perspective, and worldview on life. A person who no longer lives a life controlled by the natural impulses of the fallen human nature, but instead lives a life controlled by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-17 Galatians 5: 16-26). Through this process, God redeems our identity from its fallen state. Through the new birth and sanctification, we are redeemed and have a new identity in Jesus Christ.
The good news is that, even though sin has messed up your moral identity and continues to do so, God’s plan of salvation has made provision to transform you and restore His original image in you. His grace is available to save you from the power of sin and to change you into an individual with a godly character. Though sin is part of who you are at birth and by nature, you are saved by grace and recreated for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14). Through this available grace, you are accepted by God in the Beloved and you are complete before God in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:5, 6; Colossians 2:9, 10, KJV). This is your new identity in Jesus Christ.
Accepting God’s plan of salvation through Jesus makes you part of a new community—the church, God’s family on earth. Through Jesus Christ, you receive a new identity as one of God’s saints, as part of His people, part of those who have accepted God’s plan to restore us to His original image. You become part of His special people on earth to make known His light in this world’s darkness through your character (1 Peter 2:9, 10). The church of God, where there is love and unity in diversity, becomes your new family (Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 2:19-22; 4: 4-6; Colossians 3:9-11). This new family becomes part of your new identity as well.
So who are you? In Christ, you are a redeemed saint—a sinner saved by grace in the process of transformation into a godly character and restoration to God’s original image. You are a member of God’s family, His church. You belong to God by redemption and recreation (Isaiah 43:1). This is your new identity.
Implications of Identity
What do these Bible verses say about characteristics of a good, healthy identity? Match the letters with the appropriate options below.
Jeremiah 31:34; Micah 7:19; 1 John 1:9; 2 Peter 1:3, 4
Daniel 3:16-18; Acts 5:32
Galatians 3: 26-28; Ephesians 2: 19-22; Col 3:11; 1 Peter 2:9
_____ Focusing on building /developing inner qualities (character/virtues) by God’s grace
_____ Identifying and celebrating spiritual gifts and talents—using them for God’s glory and to build up /serve others, especially in the church
_____ Positive peer pressure – belonging to and identifying with God’s family, His people (the church), where there is the celebration of unity in diversity
_____ Being humble and willing to learn from others in areas where they excel better than you – always willing to learn (humble yourself without feeling inferior)
_____ Being patient, tolerant, and forgiving of others as Christ has been to you—loving others as God has loved you
_____ Not afraid or ashamed of being different – of doing what God says even though it is against popular culture
_____ Depending totally on God’s grace—accepting God’s love and forgiveness when you fail or fall and receiving His power to rise out of failure and overcome
_____ Not comparing oneself to others—knowing that each one’s style and story is different
Not comfortable in your own skin; not happy to be you. Always wanting to be someone else (feeling inferior)
Happy to be “you”
Hating yourself – magnifying your personal
problems, seeing personality in a bad light,
from a negative perspective (self-pity)
Loving and appreciating yourself;
Always seeing yourself from a positive perspective
Negative peer pressure- following the crowd to do evil- Bullying, Drug addiction, sexual immorality, etc.
Positive peer pressure. Surrounding yourself with godly people who provide influence and support to do good, not evil
Depending on popular culture to determine
true worth/self-image (people pleasers)
Depending mainly on God for true worth/self-image (God pleasers)
Fear and Cowardice
Faith and Courage
Pride, Arrogance, feeling superior, looking down on others
Humility – knowing one’s limits
Bad health (Depression)
Good health (Celebration)
After you have been recreated in Christ, the result is a healthy identity that is manifested in your relationships with others, especially by the way you treat them. Apart from the examples stated above, the key manifestation of a healthy identity in Christ is love for others. This love is manifested in a number of ways: humility, patience, tolerance, appreciation, and forgiveness towards others. The basic point here is that you treat everyone as God in Christ has treated you. God’s love for you, which you have enjoyed, is shared with others. Your love for God is manifested in your love for others (Matthew 18: 21-35; Ephesians 4:32; Col 3:13; 1 John 4: 7-12, 19-21).
In addition, your view of your identity greatly determines and affects how you live your life. As seen in the examples above, a new identity recreated in Christ brings a lot of benefits in this life, while your old identity without Christ has a lot of disadvantages for life. When you have a healthy identity in Christ, you live a successful life, full of meaning, purpose, significance, and fulfillment. Most importantly, a healthy identity in Christ helps you to live here on earth the kind of life God created you to live in the very beginning. Through this identity, you manifest, reveal, and reflect more and more the restoration of the image of God in you.
Identity for Eternity
You are so special to God because He created only one of you. There are no two identical people in the world/universe. Each one is unique. Imagine a mother with ten children. If she loses one of them in death, you cannot comfort her by saying, “Don’t worry, you still have nine other children still alive with you.” No matter how many other children she still has, she will always remember and treasure the uniqueness of her deceased child. Just as a mother knows each child, God knows all His children and appreciates them. Each one is so important to Him that He gave His life to redeem each one from sin. Even if there was only one sinner to be saved, He would still have died to redeem that special one. Yes, Calvary is the true cost of the soul. It shows God’s infinite value of one soul.Here are some quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy:
“One soul is of infinite value; Calvary speaks of its worth” (Gospel Workers, 184; Messages to Young People, p 207).
“He who gave His life to redeem man sees in every human being a value that exceeds finite computation. By the mystery and glory of the cross we are to discern His estimate of the value of the soul. When we do this, we shall feel that human beings, however degraded, have cost too much to be treated with coldness or contempt” (Ministry of Healing, p.162).
“Christ gave Himself for sinners. With what anxiety for the salvation of souls we should be filled as we see human beings perishing in sin. These souls have been bought at an infinite price. The death of the Son of God on Calvary’s cross is the measure of their value” (Testimonies, vol. 8, 28).
“The value of a soul, who can estimate? Would you know its worth, go to Gethsemane and there watch with Christ through those hours of anguish, when He sweat as it were great drops of blood….At the foot of the cross, remember that for one sinner Christ would have laid down His life, you may estimate the value of a soul” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 196).
“If God cares for a sparrow…how will he care for the purchase of the blood of Christ? One soul is worth more than all the world. For one soul Jesus would have passed through the agony of Calvary that that one might be saved in his kingdom. ‘Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows’” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 3, 1892).
If God values your personality and individuality, what happens to it after death? The Bible clearly states that after death, the soul (person)—that special divine creation of dust and breath from God (Genesis 2:7; Psalm 139:13-16)—ceases to exist. At death, the dust returns to the ground and remains in the grave (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7) and the life of the person—all the activities and achievements on earth—ends (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6). The Bible is also clear that everyone who has died awaits resurrection in the grave (Job 7:9, 10; 14: 10-14). Since death is like a sleep (Ps 13:3; 2 Kings 2:10, John 11: 11, 14), resurrection is the judgment received after waking up from the sleep of death (Hebrews 9:27). At the resurrection, each one will receive judgment—a reward either to eternal life or eternal destruction (Daniel 12: 2; John 5:25, 28, 29). However, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy make it clear that after resurrection, the personality and individuality of the resurrected person is preserved and restored. This is evident in the examples of resurrection in the Bible such as the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24), the Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4: 17-20, 32-37), Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5: 35-42), the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17), and Lazarus (John 11:1-44). This is particularly clear in the appearances of Jesus after His resurrection. On the road to Emmaus, the disciples recognized Jesus by His usual way of blessing the food (Luke 24: 28-35). They touched and recognized His physical features and His kindly, gentle, and loving personality after His resurrection (Luke 24: 36-43; John 20: 10-21:17). God values the special uniqueness of who you are so much that He preserves and restores it at your resurrection. Even death does not destroy your personality and individuality—your identity.
Here are some quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy that support this fact:
“As Jesus arose from the dead, so those who asleep in Him are to rise again. We shall know our friends, even as the disciples knew Jesus. They may have been deformed, diseased, or disfigured, in this mortal life, and they rise in perfect health and symmetry; yet in the glorified body their identity will be preserved. …In the face radiant with the light shining from the face of Jesus, we shall recognize the lineaments of those we love” (Desire of Ages, p. 804).
“Our personal identity is preserved in the resurrection, though not the same particles of matter or material substance as went into the grave. …The spirit, the character of man, is returned to God, there to be preserved. In the resurrection every man will have his own character. God in His own time will call forth the dead, giving again the breath of life, and bidding the dry bones live. The same form will come forth, but it will be free from disease and every defect. It lives again bearing the same individuality of features, so that friend will recognize friend” (Manuscript 76, 1900 quoted in SDA Commentary vol. 6, 1093).
“As the wicked went into their graves, so they come forth with the same enmity to Christ and the same spirit of rebellion. They are to have no new probation in which to remedy the defects of their past lives. Nothing would be gained by this. A lifetime of transgression has not softened their hearts. A second probation, were it given them, would be occupied as was the first in evading the requirements of God and exciting rebellion against Him….In death these experienced no change. As they come up from the grave, they resume the current of their thoughts just where it ceased. They are actuated by the same desire to conquer that ruled them when they fell” (Great Controversy, p. 664).
Wonderful! So remember that you have a special identity in God’s sight—an identity that He will love to preserve for all eternity. If you refuse His love and salvation, He will miss you and your special individuality for all eternity. He will miss that special personality that He created and died for like a mother misses her deceased child.