I had an interesting conversation with a dear friend at church who is a special needs teacher at a local high school. One of her specialties is teaching Art and she had mentioned a method of helping students who have difficulty in learning how to draw. She first asks a student to draw an inanimate object such as a chair or desk nearby. When they show signs of experiencing difficulty she asks them to draw anywhere the object isn’t, which works effectively for many of her students.
I thought about this same principle when it comes to discovering one’s true identity. Often, in order to define what we ARE, it is helpful knowing what we are NOT. Finding the answer to “Who am I?” can be answered partially by asking “Who aren’t I?”
We want to believe, and have others believe, certain things about ourselves. We do what we can to be seen by others in a favorable light and take great care in shaping and molding our identity that we project often at the expense of discovering who we really are according to what God says about us. If we don’t look to God‘s word to help shape our identity, we will be tempted to default to what the devil tempted Jesus with in the wilderness.
Matthew 4:3-4 – And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”
Bread mentioned in this passage represents anything we consume, as in anything which comes to us by way of one of our senses: taste, touch, see, sense, hear and smell. Food, for example, is used in our bodies for the strength and nourishment we need but can also be used for pleasure. This bread was to be used for sheer survival but was rejected by Jesus as an example to us that we are not known by what we consume.
I am not what I consume.
Matthew 4:5-7 – Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'”
This temptation Jesus experienced happened right before He would start His public ministry and Satan used this opportunity to tempt Him with some form of a publicity stunt as a way to get the people’s attention. It would have been a boost for sure, but not the kind Jesus had in mind. In essence, Jesus was telling Satan that He is not what others say.
I am not what others say.
Matthew 4:8-11 – Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.
Satan’s last failed effort at tempting Jesus to sin was a gift of all possessions. Having material things isn’t a sin because they are gifts from God to be enjoyed. The problem is when identity is formed by what we possess. Jesus defeated this last temptation by revealing our true nature is not in what we possess.
I am not what I possess.
If you are not what you consume, what others say or what you have, then who are you?
GOD’S ADOPTED CHILD
Ephesians 1:4 says we have been chosen “… in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world so that we may be holy and without blame before him in love.” Ephesians 1:5 says the reason for God’s love is according to the “pleasure of His will”. Simply put, because He wanted to.
A NEW CREATION
2 Corinthians 5:17 says if you are in Christ Jesus, you are a “new creation” where all things have become new and the old discarded. Paul goes on in the same passage (5:18-21) saying we are “ambassadors (regal representatives) of Christ” and “ministers of reconciliation” whom God uses to make His loving appeal to others.
THE BELOVED OF GOD
Just before Jesus was tempted, we find Him being baptized in a dramatic display of God’s presence, which was experienced by all who were gathered there. Matthew 3:17 quotes the Father speaking from the sky which had just been rent open like a broken suitcase, “This is my Son, The Beloved, in whom I am delighted.” Another translation says, “You are my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.” If you are in Christ, you are also the beloved of God.
The next time Satan tries to feed you another lie about who you really are, you can respond by saying…
“I am not what I consume, what others say, nor what I possess. I am a child of the most High God. I am a new creation and my life is hid with God in Christ. I am the beloved of God on whom His favor rests!”
Sources: "Henri Nouwen Being the Beloved Sermon 1 of 8." YouTube. Accessed November 23, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFWfYpd0F18. Nouwen, Henri J. M., and Roel De Jong. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society.