- Religion and Philosophy
Who am I? - a Biblical Perspective
Being a full person; Physically and Spiritually
Who are you really? A Biblical Perspective.
Everyone searches for identity. You formulate a picture of yourself from the feedback you receive from others. In the Social Sciences, the question of the development of the person hinges on nature and nurture. From your parents at conception you receive the genetic makeup that will, to a large extent, determine a lot about who you are and what you will become. At the same time as you begin to grow, even within your mother’s womb, outside influences begin to shape your life. No one lives in isolation and so you are shaped by the environment in which you live.
So as you grow up you become the person who you are today. This person has a physical and emotional side with certain abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Your fingerprints and DNA indicate you are a unique individual living in your own personal world, being influenced by others and at the same time influencing those around you. The first years of life are crucial, as you watch, explore and learn from the significant others in your world.
Yet it must be realized that as an individual you have choices. Ultimately you decide what you are going to do with your life. Outside influences and genetic makeup is very powerful but the message that Jesus brought into the world is one of potential change and taking charge of whom you are and who you will become.
In John’s Gospel (John 3:1-21), the writer records the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus, that gives an interesting insight into this other aspect of life. Here this Jewish leader, a member of the powerful Sanhedrin, comes to Jesus at night to ask him some questions that are worrying him. He had obviously been following the events that had been taking place as Jesus burst onto the scene and wanted to investigate them himself.
He respectfully addresses Jesus as Rabbi and then asks him the question we all should ask; “Who are you and where do you come from?” This is a question we should all ask and pay careful attention to the answer. Jesus gives an interesting and challenging reply when he says; “unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) This answer is puzzling to the scholarly Pharisee who knew the Old Testament Scripture but was now entering into new uncharted territory. “Can a man again enter into his mother’s womb?” he asks. The answer is surprising and ground breaking in that is introduces a new element into human life, the spiritual. Nicodemus knew that the creation account spoke of Adam and Eve being made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27) who is spirit, but until this moment had probably not understood what this meant.
Jesus answers the question by stating that a person has to be “born of water and the spirit or he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Here is reference to another side of the question; who are you? Most people in today’s world are ignorant or simply confused about the spiritual element of human existence. Somewhere along the road of life this part of the person was neglected or ignored and so life is lived on a physical/emotional level, but misses out on what is the most important; the spiritual/eternal element.
Later on Nicodemus is seen to defend Jesus when the Jewish leaders are plotting to have him arrested and killed (John 7:50-52). After the crucifixion it is Nicodemus who asks for and takes care of the body of Jesus (John 19:36). It seems obvious that he took to heart the message that Jesus had shared with him.
On the day of Pentecost, when Peter stands up in Jerusalem to preach the first gospel sermon as recorded in Acts chapter 2, the people present ask the important question; “what must we do?” and Peter answers in Acts 2:28; “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. The invitation is to enter into a new relationship with God and enjoy the promises that come from that relationship
The theme of spiritual life and how it impacts on the life of a believer is chronicled in the pages of the rest of the New Testament. In Galatians 5:16-24 the life in the Spirit is contrasted with the life lived under the influence of the flesh. In Romans 6:1-4 the Apostle Paul explains to the Christians in Rome about how this spiritual life is started and lived. All who have been baptized into Christ Jesus can now walk in newness of life, he explains to the Romans then and to us today.
The question that every person must then ask is: “What about my life?” It would be sad if, like the successful farmer described by Jesus in Luke 12:16-21, you and I spend our lives in laying up treasure for self and neglecting to be rich towards God. Jesus calls such life foolishness. To be a complete person in every sense you have to live life to the full; physically, emotionally and spiritually!