This video is from a Disciple Now conference in Batesville, MS. Please forgive the video and audio quality
This weekend we’re going to talk about identity. That’s what your leaders asked me to talk about, but what they didn’t know is that this was already something that’s been on my heart and that I’ve been thinking about. I’ve talked about it with the youth group at my church in D.C. quite a bit.
So why has identity been on my heart? Why do I think it’s so important to know who you are? Because if you don’t know who you are, you don’t know how you’re supposed to live.
Think about The Bourne Identity. This man wakes up on a boat and doesn’t know who he is. He finds a clue and goes to Switzerland. He gets in a fight and realizes he’s trained in combat. Wouldn’t that be crazy if you randomly found out you had secret ninja skills? For the rest of the movie he’s on a journey to discover who he is. He’s capable of things he didn’t even know about. But if he doesn’t know it, he won’t be able to live as he really is.
I don’t assume anyone in this room has secret ninja skills, but it’s still important for us to think about our identity.
How we perceive our identity has so much to do with how we carry out our lives. I mean, do you know who you are as a human being? What does that mean? Do you know why you’re here, what your significance is, what you’re capable of, what you’re supposed to be doing? Why do you even exist? Who are you? If we don’t answer these questions we could waste our lives, living as someone else.
It’s a shame when pro athletes get injured or have to retire, and then they’re lost for the rest of their lives. Because all this time they thought their identity was being an athlete. That’s how others treated them, and it’s what they embraced. So if that’s who they are, that’s what they’ll pour their lives into. And now that it’s gone they have nothing to live for.
And there are young ladies who go from relationship to relationship, who become obsessed with their appearance. Because they think their identity is summed up in being the pretty girl that the guys like. And when that popularity fades, they’re crushed. That’s where they found their purpose. If you’re confused about who you are, you’ll be confused about what you should be doing with your life—and that can have tragic results.
What would you say if I asked you who you are? Student or athlete or rapper or pastor? No, those are things you do. Who are you?
We cannot let the world define us. We can’t let our friends define us. We can’t let our parents define us. We have to let God define us because He’s the authority on the matter. If we don’t know who we are, we can’t live life the way we were meant to live.
I could have talked about a million things Scripture says about us, but I had to divide it into three. The first one that we’ll talk about in this session is that we are beautifully made, but broken. That’s the main point of this session: all of us are beautifully made, but broken.
And I want to look at Psalm 139 first. Turn there if you have your Bibles. While you turn I’ll give you some brief background.
This whole Psalm is about how God knows everything and is everywhere at the same time. He knows when David sits down and when he rises. He knows what he’s going to say before he says it. And he’s everywhere at the same time. He’s in heaven, He’s on the earth, He’s everywhere. And David praises God for that.
Then starting in verse 14 he praises God as the Creator. And he gives us a clue into who we are.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:14-16, NIV)
God made us. That’s the starting point of our identity, and we should live in light of that reality.
We Are Made by God
Now I’m assuming most people here tonight understand that God is our Creator. None of us created ourselves. Contrary to what many say, we’re not here by coincidence or chance. That’s so far-fetched and unbelievable. We were intentionally created by God. And that’s not an insignificant thing. It makes a difference in our lives and shapes our identities.
But I want you to imagine for a moment that God didn’t create us. You’re here by random chance. There’s no intentional purpose for your existence. Now try to answer that question, what are you here for? Our lives lose all meaning and value when they become a random accident. That means family doesn’t really mean anything, our morals are pointless, my hard times have no purpose. It’s a pretty depressing way to view the world. And fortunately, it’s untrue. Our Creator has shown Himself to us in His word.
Where you come from says a lot about who you are. So if I find a strange device and I can’t figure out what to do with it, who is the best person to ask? The person who made it. They can tell me what it is and what it’s for. We want to hear from our Creator, who made us.
In verse 14, David says he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” What does that mean?
What does it mean to be fearfully made? It means God didn’t just throw us together. It was important to him. He made us with great honor and awe. It wasn’t haphazard or random. Your blue eyes are on purpose, or your brown skin, or your long legs. All of it was on purpose.
I remember being in art class in middle school, and everything I made was horrible, but not on purpose. There’s this bowl my mom still has on the shelf in our house. It is the ugliest thing you’ll ever see. It’s not that I wasn’t capable of doing better. It’s because I didn’t care enough about it to really give time to it. I just wanted to hurry up and finish so I could talk with my friends. God didn’t randomly throw us together. He did it with great care. He carefully crafted you. Think of a skilled sculptor, carefully chiseling away until his masterpiece is beautiful.
And David says he was “wonderfully made.” It means he did a great job. We are wonderful creatures. Human beings are incredible.
He goes on to say, “your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” He praises God for His wonderful works. God is an amazing Creator. He’s done amazing things. And we are among those wonderful works of God. In fact, we’re the most wonderful of all of them.
I wonder if you’ve been giving God the glory he deserves for his wonderful works? Human beings are incredible. Doctors are still trying to understand the complex system that is the human body. A few years ago I had a tear in my lung and couldn’t breathe. I lay in a hospital bed, and doctors didn’t have to do anything because my body was already taking care of it. A few days later I was fine. We are amazing. We are broken, but still amazing.
Of course, people may mention things animals can do that we can’t, like animals that can run faster or have more strength. How do we know we’re the most wonderful part of creation?
We’re created in His image! No animal, or plant, or piece of land, or planet is created in God’s image. He made us to be like Him! God created everything to show off His glory, and we’re the part of creation that gets to show it off most clearly, because we’re the part that’s made like him.
Now think about that. That’s your main purpose in life: to show off God. I read one author that compared us to statues. We’re like statues of God in creation. We’re not God, but we’re like him. We represent him and we get to show a lesser picture of him. I like that image.
So what? Our culture is constantly teaching you to be discontent. You need this. You’re not pretty enough, buff enough, skinny enough, handsome enough, smart enough, or athletic enough. Well you’re not perfect, but you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I want you to find contentment in that. The guys or girls may not think you’re attractive, but you know what you’re fearfully and wonderfully made. You may not be the smartest, but you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your jokes may be corny, but you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a wonderful, amazing, incredible creation of almighty God. And nothing can take that away!
Some of us think too little of ourselves. We think we’re nothing. That’s a lie. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. What God thinks matters a lot more than what you or others may think.
Some of us think too much of ourselves. Think about Kanye West. He gets in a lot of trouble, but the thing is he says the things that everyone else already thinks. He has a song called “I Am a God.” So many people think this highly of themselves. But you are just a creature. God alone is creator.
This also has implications for how we see others. Nobody is worthless. Nobody is insignificant. Each person is fearfully and wonderfully made. When you pass that homeless guy on the street, remember he’s not a nobody. There’s no such thing as a nobody.
We Are Known by God
Does anybody in here babysit? I have a young son, and when my wife and I want to go on a date we have to schedule like three years in advance so we can get a babysitter. But we pay people to care for our son while we’re gone. Babysitters keep their eyes on the things that are in their care. Well all of creation is in God’s care. And He keeps His eyes on all of it, including you.
God didn’t just create everything and then let it go. God is intimately aware of everything that’s going on.
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.” (Psalm 139:15-16)
He’s saying that even when he was in the womb God saw him. Of course while he’s in that womb no one else can see him. They don’t know much about him yet. But God sees him, even when he was just the size of a peanut. God is caring for him, sustaining him, knitting him together.
When my wife and I found out she was pregnant, we went to the doctor the next Monday. And we could already hear a heartbeat. He was so tiny, but God loved him and was making him. God saw his little unformed body. There is nothing that escapes the view of God.
If God forgot about you, you would know. He keeps our hearts beating and lungs breathing.
None of us are invisible. God sees us and is deeply interested in our lives. This should be a comfort to us. There is nothing that we can go through that God is not aware of. There’s no challenge or hurt. God cares about the things that hurt you. You don’t have to fight for significance—you’re already significant.
What if your favorite singer called your name out on TV, wouldn’t that be amazing? Even if you never got to shake their hand, it would be enough that they just knew who you were. How much more amazing that God knows who we are. Shouldn’t that be enough?
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
My dad used to say all kinds of things to me that drove me crazy. For one thing, he would turn every statement I made into some kind of threat. But another thing he used to say is, “Boy, I know you better than you know yourself.” It would make me so mad. But then one day I realized it was true. Why? Because my little kid brain couldn’t comprehend things. But my dad knew.
God knows things about us that even we don’t know because we’re not Him. Our little human brains can’t comprehend everything.
He says God knew everything He would do before He was even born. God controls everything and He knows EVERYTHING. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He knows what you’re thinking right now. He knows what you’ll do tonight and tomorrow. Only God could know so much about all seven billion people on earth.
This is why we should look to the Bible to tell us who we are. Because God is the One who made us and He can tell us. He knows us better than we do
This is praiseworthy! He’s not like us. God has never found something out. He’s never been wrong. He’s never been surprised. He’s never had to look into anything. He’s never made a decision before getting all the facts. He knows everything!
Doesn’t this make you want to trust Him?
It should. But as I’ve already mentioned, some of us think too highly of ourselves. And that’s largely because we forget this third part. We forget that we’re also broken.
We Are Broken
We’re not only wonderfully made; we’re also broken. The Bible says we were created by God in His image. We were flawless and perfectly connected to God. But when sin entered the world, it affected all of us. And while we used to be whole, now we’re broken. Our fall is like a beautiful crystal sculpture being dropped. It’s in pieces. Now there’s disease, death, and worst of all sin.
I just got this iPhone not too long ago. It works well. But before I got this new one my iPhone was terrible. I dropped it all the time, so the screen was cracked. It was really slow. It always crashed on me. I didn’t want to spend the money on a new one yet though. Every now and then I would catch myself complaining about how terrible my phone was. But then I’d remember back to how cell phones used to be. The first cell phone I got was one of the first ones with color screens. I thought it was amazing.
But my messed up iPhone was a million times better than that first phone I got. I would realize it may be messed up, but it’s still amazing. It may be slow and cracked, but you still see glimpses of its amazingness. I can still take good pictures on it. I can still get on the Internet with it. I can still download stuff on it. I have apps and games on it. Apple did an amazing job on that phone. That phone was wonderful, but broken.
In a similar way, God did an amazing job on us, but we are broken. If you look at us, you can still tell we’re wonderful creatures, but it’s also clear that we’re broken. We don’t last forever. We get sick and die. We hurt our ankles. We don’t always remember stuff for tests. We get hurt by others. And we sin against God.
Do you ever think about that reality that you’re broken? Most of us go through our lives assuming we’re just fine. We get fooled because we don’t seem any different than anyone else around us. But the truth is, all of us are broken. I want to look at two primary ways that we are broken.
First, we’re physically broken. When we’re young we live under the impression that we’re doing just fine. And we’re able to assume that because we don’t see any signs of our brokenness yet. Maybe small signs, but we ignore them. It’s like when my wife was driving our Ford Explorer. It started to make noise, but she just kept driving it. A few weeks later we were driving back from Chesapeake Bay and the wheel almost broke off. Instead of ignoring the signs, we should be aware of them.
One person in the Bible who was made intimately aware of our fallen world was Job. Everything was taken from him. In the middle of a lament about his situation he reflects on the state of all mankind. Here’s what he says:
“Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.” (Job 14:1-2)
Job is saying that our days are not infinite. We don’t have an infinite number of years to live. We will all die some day. We may come out beautiful like a flower, but we will wither. When he talks about us withering, he means our bodies will gradually shut down on us. Our beauty will fade and deteriorate. They’re not always going to work as well as they do now. And eventually we will die. And when he compares us to a shadow, he’s communicating that this life isn’t permanent. It comes to an end.
I read a Time magazine article today entitled: “Can Google Solve Death?” The article talked about the ambitious company and how it likes to shoot for the moon. There’s no amount of science and technology that can solve the problem of death. It happens. Death is a reality that Google cannot solve.
So yes, we are wonderfully made. We’re the most amazing part of creation, but ever since the Fall we are also broken.
Our brokenness reminds us that we’re not God. We shouldn’t assume that our young bodies that work so well now are what we’ll have forever. This is a good reason for us not to wait until later to serve God.
So the first way we’re broken is physically. But we are also broken spiritually.
“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. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:11-18)
This passage is in the book of Romans where Paul starts off talking about how everyone has sinned against God. And here, here’s basically telling the Jews, yes even you. All of us.
“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
Now the reason we usually think we’re good people is the standard we measure it by: one another. So of course compared to other people I’m a good person. I don’t kill people. I’m not a terrorist. Therefore, I’m a good person, right? Not according to the Bible. From the human perspective, sure you can be a good person. But what we should really be interested in is God’s perspective.
And as we go through, we really can’t argue with him. It’s all true.
And you notice that he’s making the case that every part of us is messed up—understanding, throat, tongues, lips, mouth, feet, eyes—all of us! We’re not good people who do bad things sometimes. We’re sinful people who sin often. We have sick hearts.
We’ll often say we understand this truth, but it doesn’t show up in the way we live our lives. We say we know we’re broken, but we’re unwilling to admit we’re not right in a situation. When someone accuses us, our first response, instead of self-examination, is always to defend ourselves. Maybe we just argue, or maybe we blame them instead. If we understand we’re broken, then maybe we should just examine ourselves first. You’re flawed, which means you can be wrong.
Or how about this—we look down on other people in their sin. As if each of us isn’t broken and in need of the same Savior. Nobody can say they’re better than you, and you can’t say you’re better than them. They may commit worse sins than you, but we’re all broken sinners in need of a perfect Savior. Even worse, we depend on ourselves to get to heaven.
We have a heart condition and the heart is where everything comes from. So it’s almost like a pitcher of water that gets poisoned. Every glass you pour it into will get poisoned. So imagine that the different glasses are your thoughts, actions, desires, and decisions. All of it is polluted.
We’re so used to sin that we don’t think it’s a big deal, but it is. Sin is the thing that keeps us from God. Sin is the thing that will keep us from eternal life. We may think scary people or bad situations are our worst enemy. Our real worst enemy that can do us the most damage is our own sin. Other things can harm us for a season, but because of our sin we may be punished forever. It’s sin that makes us an enemy of God.
Some of us think we’ve never committed a serious crime. But the worst crime in all of the Universe is to sin against God. He’s much higher than the authority of a police officer, or the president. He’s God! And even if we haven’t murdered, the fact that we’ve lied is still a heinous crime against God.
We’re like a broken mirror. We reflect God’s image, but not like we should. That’s what we were made to do. Instead we show an ugly distorted picture. Love turns to lust. A desire to provide turns to greed. Commitment turns into idolatry. It’s all sin, and God hates it.
We Are Needy
That’s the bad news. What’s the good news?
We think only good people go to Heaven, and it’s true in a sense. But none of us are good. So we need someone else to give us their goodness. That person is Jesus.
This means we can’t put our hope in our physical or spiritual selves. They’re broken and will let us down. We’re not good enough. We need Jesus to put us back together.
If we were just spiritually broken or just physically broken, maybe it wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal. Just physically, it’s fine because when we die we’re good. Or just spiritually, we’ll never have to face God because we’ll never die. But either way we’ll stand before a holy God who is displeased with our sin.
Do you know you’re needy? Well the good news is that you can be saved. There’s a Savior who meets our greatest need.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Jesus is the only one who can restore what is broken. He’s the only one who can reunite us with God. He’s our only hope. Because he died for our rebellion. He rose from the grave. We’ve racked up a bill. Jesus paid it all.
So to recap: who are you?
God cares about us because he made us. He looks down and still recognizes us as the crown of His creation. But sees that we are terrible broken. We’re in need of a Savior.
You shouldn’t assume you’re a Christian here today because you’ve gone to church. If you haven’t really acknowledged that you are broken, that you’ve offended God, that you need a Savior. If you’re not turning from sin. If you’re not trusting in Christ, then you’re not a child of God.
In the next session, we’ll talk about how God adopts us into his family. Let’s pray.
1. How does the fact that God made us change our lives? What difference will it make this week?
2. How does it change your life knowing that God sees all? What difference does it make that God knows us intimately?
3. How does it make you feel to know you’re going to die one day?
4. How does our spiritual brokenness show up in our lives?
5. Does the fact that none of us are good mean we just accept it and live that way?
6. What does it really mean to repent of sin and believe in Jesus?