Who am I?
Edward Dahlberg once reflected, “At 19, I was a stranger to myself. At 40, I asked, ‘Who am I?’ At 50, I concluded I would never know.”
Who am I? Who are you?
The Bible begins with a reflection on that question. In Genesis 1:27 God declares that human life is made in the image of God.
What does that say about who we are? What does it mean to us that we are made in the image of God?
Essential to understanding the nature of God are 1 John 4:8 and the doctrine of the Trinity.
1 John 4:8 announces succinctly, “God is love.” The doctrine of the Trinity reveals a God who lives forever in the realm of love. Throughout eternity, the Father has loved and will continue to love Jesus and the Holy Spirit; Jesus has loved and will continue to love the Father and the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit has loved and will continue to love the Father and Jesus.
When humankind was formed in the image of God, we were formed out of God’s eternal love, and we were formed for participation in that love. We are designed to enjoy the love God has given and received since before time began! We are designed to join in this love. We are designed for a loving relationship with God!
No wonder David proclaims in Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God.” We find our identity and our fulfillment in relationship with God.
And, being made in the image of the God, who gave His life for this world, we are designed to love others and to be loved by others. Personal identity and fulfillment are never found apart from loving others and being loved.
In the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul wishes them grace from God: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the closing words of this letter he prays for God’s grace for them: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
The letter begins with God’s grace and it ends with God’s grace. What fills the rest of this letter are treasures that grow out of the grace of God:
- Joy: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (1:4); “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord!” (3:1); and “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4)
- Hope: “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6); “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (4:19)
- Integrity: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27)
- Compassion: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (2:1-4)
- Forgiveness: Particularly in how Paul calls for the Philippians to welcome Epaphroditus back after he let them down (2:25-30)
- Peace: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7); “And the God of peace will be with you” (4:9)
- Contentment: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (4:12)
- Strength: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (4:13)
In Changes that Heal Dr. Henry Cloud describes grace as: “Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward people. Grace is something we have not earned and do not deserve. As Frederick Buechner says, ‘Grace is something that you can never get but only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream.’”
In Romans 5:8 Paul explains, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Lewis Smedes adds, “The gospel of grace releases us from the guilt of failure and opens new possibilities for a new effort. Moreover, it offers a new relationship with the Commander. He who pointed us to His design for living at Mount Sinai embraces us with His love at Mount Calvary.”
God’s grace toward us is what makes possible the great treasures we find in Philippians: joy, hope, integrity, compassion, forgiveness, peace, contentment, and strength. It is grace that makes these treasures available to us, for it is grace that enables us to be filled with the God of grace.