Many of us echo the sentiments of retired Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, the VP running mate for Ross Perot in the 1992 Presidential election. In a debate with Dan Quayle and Al Gore, James Stockdale introduced himself by saying, “Who am I? Why am I here?”
Have you ever asked yourself those questions? Just who are you? Not everyone is who they seem to be, especially on a Sunday morning at church. Who are you? Who am I? I have asked that question of myself several times over the course of my very young life. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my identity?
Is my identity determined by my ethnicity, my marital status, my education, my vocation, or my location? Sure it is, to a certain extent; even my accent defines a part of who I am and where I’m from, but there is a whole lot more to who I am than all that stuff. So who am I? Well, you can discover a lot about me from examining my wallet. Since there is no money in my wallet you can determine that I’m married with children. You can get some basic info on me from my Driver’s license; you can tell from my Ivy Tech Community College ID that I’m a student, former student, or and employee (actually it’s all the above), and you can infer from my YMCA card that I’m moderately interested in fitness. But those ID's don’t tell the whole story either; there is more to me, and you, than what is typed onto a laminated piece of plastic.
Who are you really? Our culture muddies the water in the area of identity because, for the most part, society values style over substance and perception over reality; we live in the “image is everything" era. How you look or what you have is more important than who you are. In fact, it doesn't matter who you really are; the important thing is who or how people perceive you to be. And that type of thinking is apparent in Christianity and in our churches. How many times have you come to Church, or a Church function, with your "Christian face on", but you spent the whole car ride over arguing or yelling at your wife and/or kids? Or you spent the entire day viewing Internet porn, lying to a client at work, and so on.
Are you guilty of wearing masks; good church member mask, good husband/wife mask, good father/mother mask, good son/daughter mask? Do your coworkers have the same impression of you as your fellow church members? I think that pastors can be guilty of being the "holy man of God" at church, but a holy pain in the neck at home. I pray daily that my wife and my boys will see in me what they hear from me. They hear me preach about patience, about love, about forgiveness, about mercy, about self-control, but I want them, and you, to see patience, love, forgiveness, mercy, and self-control in my life.
While our culture may value style over substance and perception over reality, you can be sure that God Almighty does not! God is not impressed with your style and panache; He is not fooled by false perceptions. God sees through the masks; He digs beneath the surface. Are you familiar with 1 Samuel 16:6-7? Samuel, the old prophet and judge of Israel, has been instructed by God to anoint King Saul’s successor. He hasn’t been told specifically who that successor will be, he’s just knows that the next King of Israel will be one of Jesse the Bethlehemite’s sons.
And it came to pass, when they were come, that he (Samuel) looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him. But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t just tell Samuel that David was the one to be anointed? I believe it was to teach us all a lesson, the lesson that God is not impressed with or fooled by appearances. To Samuel’s eye, Eliab had “the look” of a king; the problem was Samuel couldn’t see what God was looking at, and from God’s vantage point Eliab didn’t have “the look.” Image is not everything to God, but the condition of your heart is, and God knows your heart; He knows the hearts of all men, John 2:25 says that He "needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man."
You will never honestly be able to answer the question "Who am I?" until you do this one thing: see yourself as God sees you.
How can you see yourself as God sees you and not as man does? James 1:22-25 will help you discover how to see yourself as God sees you.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
The Bible is a mirror that enables me to see myself as God sees me; showing me the inward man, enabling me to see things on the inside. God's mirror, the “perfect law of liberty”, can reveal who I really am, what I need to change and how to change, what my purpose for living is, and what my eternal destination will be.
That’s some mirror wouldn’t you say?!
Now, James introduces this analogy of the two mirrors by making a simple yet profound statement, "Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." Hearers and doers, which designation describes you? Let me explain each type to help you reach a conclusion.
The hearer is the pastor who is all preach but no practice; the church member who has heard all the sermons but has taken few to heart. The hearer listens to the Word, but doesn't live the Word. The Bible says this person has "deceived himself". The prophet Ezekiel ministered to people who were hearers only. Listen to what God said to Ezekiel in Ez. 33:30-33,
Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.
These Jewish exiles had no intention of obeying the Word of God. They liked to listen to the Word, but they weren’t going to live the Word; they appreciated the eloquence of the preacher, but not the reality of his message. And when it comes to knowing who you really are and what your purpose for living is, the important thing is not how much Bible you have studied or learned, but how much you have loved and obeyed. The bottom line of true spiritual life is not a momentary feeling or compliance or commitment but a long-term obedience to Scripture. The Lord said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth (God’s Word, that “perfect law of liberty”), and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
In contrast to the hearer is...
The doer not only hears the Word but also heeds the Word; learns the Word AND lives the Word. The doer just doesn't read, respect, and revere the Bible, but obediently responds to it. The doer doesn't listen to a sermon, or read his Bible, and think, “Yeah, so and so really needs to hear this.” No, the doer keeps his heart open to the Word of God, and realizes that he is “so and so.” The doer puts the Word into practice in his life, because enjoying the Word is more than a momentary experience; it is the lifetime application of truth. The Bible says that this person “shall be blessed in his deed."
Which person do you see staring back at you, the hearer or the doer? Do understand that you are in here. Have you taken a good look at yourself the way God sees you?
You could look like:
Satan reeled her in hook, line, and sinker; she was tempted and easily succumbed to temptation. Is that you?
Here is a guy who was always placing the blame on someone else. He just would not own up to his mistakes, and he didn’t have the guts to do what was right. When God confronted Adam about his sin he turned and blamed it on Eve, and he even went so far as to blame God. “The woman whom thou gavest… me”
Noah was as obedient and faithful as they come; for nearly 100 years he was busy building the Ark and preaching repentance, but after all that obedience and faithfulness to God he got drunk and disgraced himself. Do you know anybody who has served the Lord faithfully for years, and then all of the sudden are gone? Maybe that's you, or maybe you're headed that way.
Balaam was a false prophet who taught the people of Israel to compromise. Are you a compromiser? And I don’t mean a “peacemaker,” but someone who compromises himself sinfully.
Faithlessness, Sarah didn’t trust God’s plan that she would bear Abraham a son. Do you trust God?
Jonah hated the people to whom God called him, and in rebellion he ran from God’s will. Anybody here like him? Hey, don't think that your problems will be solved by running; you might just run yourself into a "great fish" like Jonah did!
Joshua was a great leader. He was a godly man, but he stopped short and didn't complete the work that God gave him because he failed to run all the Canaanites out of the Promised Land. Do you finish what you start?
Saul was marked by impatience, jealousy, and stubbornness. Is that you? He is another one of those guys who started better than he finished.
Samson was a great man who pursued small things; squandering incredible opportunities. This man was born with tremendous potential; he had it and lost it all. Samson was a man of contradictions; he possessed awesome physical strength, but an awesome weakness for women. He was a man who possessed the Holy Spirit but was fascinated with trivial things.
The Bible calls David "a man after God's own heart". He had tremendous amounts of faith, humility, wisdom, courage, and he was so talented and gifted. But he was weak in the flesh and slept with a married woman, then murdered her husband. He was a great friend and king, but he was an awful husband and a poor father. However, when his sins were confronted by God’s Word he always would repent.
David's father overlooked him and was blind to his youngest son; unable, or unwilling, to see God working in the life of his own child.
Nicodemus had questions, he was searching for answers, but he also had a reputation to uphold and most of his fellow Pharisees were very critical of this Jesus fellow. So Nicodemus came at night to see Jesus. Nicodemus was also blinded by religion; Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.” He was speaking about salvation, the spiritual birth, but Nicodemus thought only of a physical birth. The situation is no different today. When you talk with people about being born again, they often begin to discuss their family’s religious heritage, their church membership, religious ceremonies, and so on. Is that you?
Samaritan Woman at the Well
This lady had a past, a messy past. She had a cynical and hard heart. Life and relationships had not been very good to her, but by the grace of Jesus Christ this woman trusted the Lord as her Savior, and her life and her town were forever changed as a result!
He said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian.” Probably the most pathetic and most unfortunate statement in the Acts, “almost persuaded.”
Almost just doesn't cut it.
Do you see yourself? In order to answer the question "Who am I?" and in order to understand your purpose for living, you must see yourself as God sees you. You must take a look into this perfect law of liberty, and when you honestly and humbly look into the Word of God you will see two things: your own sin and the sinless Savior. When you see and respond to Christ; when you obey His Word, when you are a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, then you will be blessed.