Who am I? What is my identity? These are two massive questions that our world seems to be wrestling with. As one would expect, the world tries to answer this question by looking within the individual, it’s the “I am who and what I want to be” kind of attitude. But the Bible presents a completely different idea, instead of looking within ourselves to find out our identity the Bible calls us to look to God, our Creator, to find out who we are.
Thinking about identity from a Biblical perspective is the only right way to think about the topic because it was God who made us, so who better to ask the question ‘who am I?’ of than God?! He is our Creator, He made us and He knows why. He created this world with a blueprint and a plan. He created an orderly world which was good and mankind was the pinnacle of that creation. Therefore, humanity is not insignificant, we have an identity and we have a purpose. But what is it? Here are two very very helpful books that wrestle with the identity of humanity…
I’ve read so many books on the topic of identity over the years, but this one is different, it uses the Bible to show us what the true identity of humanity is whilst at the same time pointing out the flaws in some of the ways that people try to justify their own sense of identity. Starting in the beginning in Genesis, this book speaks of the glory of God that humanity was created to be part of, but then we see in Genesis 3 that the world, and humanity, was tarnished. We chose to reject God and His glory in an attempt to be like Him.
“The great irony is that if we exchange the glorious humility that the Lord has given us for an insignificant self-importance, we become far less. Our attempts at enlarging ourselves leave us diminished. The pursuit of self-glorification turns out to be degrading… To reject the crown of glory the God has given us is to make ourselves less and miss out. We will live diminished lives as we try to create a purpose for ourselves which is far inferior to the one God has given us”
The main point of this book is that we do not and cannot choose or create our own identity, but that our identity is God-given. But that is not a message that people want to hear today…
“In rejecting God, many in the modern West have turned to an alternative “gospel” – by that, I mean a truth which people look to for happiness: a big philosophy to live by. And one of the biggest “gospels” our culture sells us is the gospel of self-esteem: “Look within to find out who you are: what you find is wonderful””
This leads to a world that is focused on the individual and finds its identity not in facts, not in our purpose, not in God, but instead in feelings. Some would argue to that find your identity in God and in the revealed Word of God is silly and old-fashioned. But the reality is that they don’t understand God or the Bible if this is their view. God is not a mean man with a stick poised to smack our wandering hearts, He is a loving Father who has given us a blueprint to follow which will help us flourish in him.
“God’s word gives freedom. When we reject him and his boundaries, we end uo uncertain of where we’re meant to be heading and we struggle for cohesion in our communities. But when we embrace the boundaries that our good and loving Creator has given us, it gives perfect freedom”
This book is a wonderfully introduction to the polarising topic of identity. It is short, to the point, challenging and whimsical at points. I would highly recommend this enjoyable read for anyone who wants to start to think about the issue of identity and how it effects the way we view church, gender, sexuality, relationships, community and social media.
Matt Fuller is the Senior Minister at Christ Church, Mayfair in central London. Before working as a minister Matt was a secondary school teacher teaching history and politics.
When authors write about the topic of identity they can take different approaches; the can go from creation to New Creation, or pick up on some of the themes found in Scripture to describe a person, or they use the ‘buzzwords’ that the world uses to describe who we are as people. This book does none of that, instead Paul Mallard walks through a selected passages of Ephesians to unpack the new identity of the Christian.
If you think of Ephesians as the treasure chest of the identity of a Christian, then this books acts like a secondary aid, a map, to help you plunge the depths of truth about who Christians are in Christ. But why start here? Well since Genesis 3, when one was promised to come who would free man from the cycle of original sin and reunite us with God, God has been at work restoring people and making them more into the likeness of His Son.
“God’s purpose is to restore the image that has been so badly defaced. Christ’s work is one of glorious renovation. The Holy Spirit’s agenda is to recreate the image of God in us. This process is at work in those who have put their faith Christ”
In this book you’ll delve into the depths of Ephesians and be surrounded by marvellous truths that should blow our minds eery time we consider who we are in Christ. Mallard has a wealth of experience as a Pastor and you can almost see him, at the beginning of the book, anticipate the objection ‘why even bother with the Bible when we think about identity?’
“In the Bible, God – who make use and knows us best – has given us a definitive and perfect reflection of our identity. The bible is God’s accurate and unerring account of the true origin, nature and identity of human beings. This is the mirror into which we must look if we truly are to know ourselves and what we are meant to be. However, this mirror is designed to not only inform but also to transform. If we merely look into the mirror and then walk away, it will never yield its treasures to us.”
The book is split into 4 parts;
1. I am what God has made me
2. I am part of a new community
3. I am a stranger and a pilgrim here
4. I am shaped by what I pray for
I could fill a whole post with quotes from this book, but I won’t, instead just go buy the book! You won’t regret it. This is a bit more in depth than the above mentioned book, it is still a short and enjoyable read (under 200 pages) which focuses on the book of Ephesians. An Identity to Die For is still an introduction, how can it not be with under 200 pages and such a massive topic, but it is a great book that you should read. In fact, just go read any Mallard has written, he is a great author!
Paul Mallard is Senior Minister at Widcombe Baptist Church in Bath, England and a speaker at national events. He is a former President of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. His wife Edrie’s story is the theme of his first book, Invest Your Suffering (IVP).