Over the summer, we're going to dig into some basic theology. This week, Paul Wong, helps us consider a basic doctrine of humanity, as he starts to answer the question 'Who am I?' Read, ponder, and rejoice!
Who am I? I am Paul - a Ministry Trainee, the grandson of Southern Chinese immigrants to Singapore, a Londoner, the husband of one wife and father to one daughter. All of the above is true - but who am I really? Why am I the way I am?
Throughout history, a host of pretenders from Hume to The Who to Jean Valjean have sought answers, with no consensus. If there is someone who can tell me who I am, surely my creator can. How does Jesus explain me?
A beautiful image - “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26). That’s a mind-blowing statement. I cannot even begin to plumb the depths of what it means for us to be made in God’s image. Who am I? I am the image of the master of the universe, the pinnacle of God’s creation, the height of his handiwork. The Psalmist writes,
'what is man that you are mindful of him,and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.' Psalm 8:4-5
Not too shabby. Have you ever wondered how valued you are in God’s eyes? Or why we are sometimes capable of such good? Now you know – each of us is wonderfully precious, and has great inherent dignity.
A marred image - But of course, Genesis 1 precedes Genesis 3: Eve chomped on the forbidden fruit while her responsibility-abdicating counterpart stood watching squirrels. The result of this foolishness was death, and a devastating legacy of anarchy against God. Who am I? I am a sinner; a rebel against my maker. It is in my very nature to hate him and his perfection. Those of us who have studied Romans this year will not forget God’s disastrous verdict on us:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12)
Devastatingly accurate, but not easy reading. Here is the explanation of the world around us: why the centuries have gotten ever bloodier; why our capacity for evil seems relentlessly unending. Here is the explanation for the way we are: why people always disappoint; why I sin constantly; and why sin’s pervasiveness mean our “good” works will never be good enough for God.
An image being restored - So thank God for Jesus. Do it now. Through the atoning death and resurrection of his Son, God has rescued Christians for a restored relationship with him. The result is forgiveness, and radical transformation. The marred image is gradually being restored: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18). In the meantime though, my lingering sinful nature rages against the Holy Spirit who lives in me (Romans 7:21-25).
When Jesus returns, I will be sinless perfection with a brand new body, just like him: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49).
So, who am I? John Newton wrote in 1856: “though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; and I can heartily acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am.” Amen and amen.