Who Am I


Elder Phillip N. Conley

Garbage in garbage out; ask the wrong question, and you're bound to get the wrong answer. Two old clichés, but points well-made nonetheless. As an engineer by vocation, I work with data quite often, and bad data is sure to yield faulty results or an erroneous conclusion. What's the point you ask? That, my friend, is an excellent question, for the question that titles our piece this evening generally follows one of the two statements that led this piece.

Some of the earliest writings of human philosophers manifest that this question occupied much of their thinking. Modern day culture is no different. One of the struggles that present day sociologists deal with is generations of people that have what they call an "identity crisis." Follow your dream! Seize the day! See the world! Be what you want to be or all you can be! All of these and more are the banners flying on the masts of the ships in people's lives. Sadly, these mottos with nothing to ground them or found them ends up shipwrecked on the reefs of life's disappointments. Why? Generally speaking, people ask the wrong question and then wonder why their lives shipwrecked on them, not honestly considering that they manned the wheel that wrecked the boat.

While the question "Who Am I?" is not completely baseless, it cannot be the primary and driving question that directs our lives and thinking. The Psalmist plainly stated that just a cursory glance through the heavens and God's creation dwarfs man and his supposed importance. (Psalm 8:3-4) If the creation of God's fingers dwarfs the stature of man, how much more the Creator, who can hold it in the palm of His hand? The first and driving question of our lives should be: "Who is He?" The more we know and can answer that question, the better suited we will be to drive our boat correctly without being marooned on an island or treading water in the sea.

To figure out who He is and qualities about Him would take more space than we have before us. Surely the eternal God that never slumbers or tires would cause the greatest orators and penmen to shake their heads to declare Him. Just His acts of love are so vast that Paul references the height, depth, breadth, and length of them to pass knowledge and understanding. (Ephesians 3:18-19) One of our beloved hymns puts it in frame through beautiful poetry and rich verse:

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Tho' stretched from sky to sky


Surely now, the kind reader pauses and says, "But I have another question, what does the vastness of God and the richness of His qualities have in common with the original question? Aren't the subjects on different ends of the spectrum?" Good questions, yes! Thanks for the inquiry, as they take us to our collection point. If the question of our own identity with no grounding or anchor is sure to lead to shipwreck and the vastness of God's own identity is beyond man's fullest comprehension, do such different beings as man and God connect in this fashion? Yes, they do. In the beginning, God created man in His own image and likeness. (Genesis 1) Paul even referenced Greek poets that stated we are God's offspring. (Acts 17:28)

Therefore, if our identity is tied to God through creation, surely the better an understanding we have of Him, the better suited we are to know who we really are and what our purpose is. Have you ever considered the similarities between pride and pity, though they seem to be polar opposites from each other? After all, a vain and arrogant person looks and acts differently than one who is eaten up with guilt, depression, and sorrow. But in the end, they are very much the same. Whether driven by guilt or arrogance, pity or pride, the focus and thought patterns are in the same place: self. The more we think about ourselves - no matter the reason - the less we are thinking about Him. Since His eternal nature is so vast and deep, there is more to consider with Him than us. Telling my life story does not take long, but declaring His glory will take the redeemed family of God an eternity of worthwhile effort to declare.

Who are we? The creation of God. Better yet, the only part of God's creation deemed in His image and likeness and the people by which the Eternal Son of God would be joined to as a real man of flesh and blood during His Incarnation. What is our purpose and duty? To glorify Him by doing what He commands us to do. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) The two oldest questions that philosophers have asked are: 1. Who am I? and 2. What is my purpose of being? Friends, those two questions are plain enough from Scripture to answer quickly, but the focus of the answer will take a lifetime of effort just to scratch.

Let's take roll. Who would like to declare Him fully? Any takers? In case you're wondering, my hand is not raised to answer the question. I trust that I can as Peter did say that the Son of man is the Christ the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16) and as the eunuch declare, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts 8:37b) However, my own brashness and hypocrisy only goes so far. It would be the height of foolishness, arrogance, and/or ignorance to say that I could fully declare Him. So, what is the answer? Do we have enough good data to weigh a proper conclusion?

If the more we learn and glean from His word about His own identity in point of fact leads us down the correct and anchored path of our own identity, then it stands to reason we should root our time in learning more about Him. When I first started reading the Bible regularly about 30 or so years ago, He was big then in my eyes. The more I've learned, the bigger He has become. While His boundless stature has not really changed, my eyes have beheld more beauty of the King. The bigger and more glorious He gets in my eyes, the smaller I become in my own eyes. When Saul was appointed king over Israel, he was little in his own eyes, but his troubles came when he thought more his office and power than the One who appointed him to it. He became bigger in his own sight and thereby shipwrecked his life and the future reigns of his heirs after him.

Attending His church all my life and joining it some 28 years ago, He was rich then.  He's even richer now in my view.  Why have these things shifted so much?  The more I've learned about Him, the better suited I am to see things clearly and have my perspective more aligned with reality.  It astounds me that One so vast, great, rich, powerful, and glorious would have such love, grace, and mercy to such little ones as we are.  The more astronomers discover about the vastness of the heavens, the more it makes me ponder, "Just how big is He?"  And yet, He cares for us! (I Peter 5:6-7) WOW!  That, kind reader, is worth more than the unrooted question of self-identity and supposed self-worth many times over.