So, we know some things about God, but how do we really get to know him as the Creator he is? Well, the good news is, our Creator makes himself known to us because he loves us deeply.
We get to know God by looking at his son, Jesus. Why? Well, John, a guy who got to be a dear friend and follower (disciple) of Jesus when Jesus was alive and kicking, composed a kind of confusing and mind-blowing poem in the beginning of the Gospel that he wrote (named after himself). So, let’s look at part of that poem in John 1:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. . . The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him” (John 1:1-5, 14, 18 CSB).
Jesus is the Word of God made into flesh. Ok, but what in the world does that mean?
Think about it like this: Say your best friend has met another friend, Alex, that he wants you to meet. He goes on and on about how funny Alex is. He may have even told you stories about the funny things he has said and done. You haven’t laughed that hard yet, because you don’t know the guy (and you probably had to be there to think it was that funny). Then, you finally get to meet Alex and he is just as hilarious as you expected. You don’t have to rely on your best friend’s words anymore because you are experiencing how funny he is.
This is what happened when Jesus entered the scene. For thousands of years, people talked about how God was loving and faithful and patient and gracious and merciful—but many people didn’t always see or understand that. Sure, God did some pretty miraculous things to prove these qualities, but it was easy for people to forget God and drop their trust in him.
When Jesus entered the scene, people got to interact with God in human form. People got to see God’s love and faithfulness and patience and grace and mercy as he healed people, defied social boundaries, invited people over for dinner, and taught the crowds about the Kingdom of God.
And even though we aren’t living when Jesus lived, we get to see these things as we read the Gospel accounts in the Bible. We also get to experience the real Jesus for ourselves when we come into a relationship with him.
The Real Jesus
But, we are mentioned in John 1 as well and here’s where it starts to connect to our identity. This is where it can get uncomfortable, but it sure does explain some things. John 1:10-11 says, “[Jesus] was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
So, here we are, striving to understand Jesus because Jesus is the exact representation of God and we need to understand God to understand ourselves, but John tells us that we don’t even recognize him. Jesus comes face to face with the very people he created and they were all, “Who are you?”
And don’t try to say that the people who lived in Jesus’s day were the only people John was referring to, here. Yes, his own people—the Jews—were mostly blind to the fact that their long-awaited Savior was this guy named Jesus; however, this verse speaks to all of us who are completely blind to the real Jesus.
What if the Jesus you know isn’t the real Jesus at all?
We do this all the time with people in our lives. Think back to the funny kid, Alex. What if one friend actually hated him and thought he was boring? Then you’d be hearing all of this negative stuff about him and you’d never want to hang out with him. What if all of Alex’s friends were jerks? Then you’d really want to avoid him.
But what if you finally met Alex and he was hilarious and kind and a joy to be around? Which one is the real Alex? The one they talked about or the one you met?
Everything changes when you spend time with someone and get to know them for who they are — not just what others say about them or how their friends may act.
A lot of times we think we know who this Jesus guy is because we’ve spent some time in church or spoken to some Christians or watched how Christians lived. Maybe that made you want to get to know Jesus for yourself, or maybe those experiences made you run away from Jesus.
Would we recognize Jesus if he showed up in our lives right now? Ask yourself.
- He is in your life right now. Everywhere. Do you see it?
- If you knew the real Jesus, you’d be secure in your identity. Are you? Are you walking in freedom?
Knowing the real Jesus changes everything.
What About My Identity?
So, if we don’t recognize or receive Jesus, do you think we will recognize our identity? Not at all. That’s precisely why we search for our identity in everything else and always end up hurt, broken, confused, empty, dissatisfied, and alone. If we can’t even recognize Jesus, we cannot recognize our true identity and, to top it off, we won’t believe it when we hear it.
Jesus, on the other hand, knew exactly who he was. He was in close relationship with God as his Father and recognized God’s voice when he heard it. He listened to his given identity, he actually believed it, and then he let it shape his entire life. Everything he did (I’m talking ev-er-y-thing) flowed from his identity as God’s beloved son. Jesus was the only human (ever) to truly believe he was loved by God so deeply that it shaped everything he said and did.
Before Jesus had done anything miraculous at all, God said: “ ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased’” (Mark 1:11 CSB).
Number of miracles Jesus had performed? 0
Number of followers Jesus had? 0
Number of people who knew his identity? 0
Let’s pause there for a second.
We have lived our entire lives believing that our actions shape our identity. What we do determines who we are.
When I was in fourth and fifth grade, I became obsessed with soccer. I played select soccer and planned to go pro one day. But I didn’t just play soccer, I started wearing “sporty” clothes. I shopped in the boys section of stores and wore jerseys and Adidas and sweatpants and slicked back ponytails. I wasn’t girly. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a skirt. I hated make up. Fashion was stupid.
But something happened after I returned home from a week at summer camp. I came home asking my mom if I could buy make up and skirts. I started worrying about my hair and following cool Disney Channel stars in their “high fashion.” It was a drastic change. I can remember my best friend’s reaction as I stepped off the bus on my first day of sixth grade wearing a skirt and caked-on eyeshadow: “What are you wearing?” She asked, incredulously. Her and I were the sporty girls who hated annoying girly-girls. But suddenly, my identity had changed. She didn’t know how to be my friend anymore.
We live in a world that labels us by what we do, what we wear, what we like, what we say. Our perceived identities—who we believe we are—is always shaped after we act, after we live some life. You’re a cheerleader? You’re popular and stupid. You’re a football player? You’re probably a jerk. You like anime? You’re kind of weird. You don’t talk a lot? You’re the quiet one. You’re in honors classes? You’re the smart one. You’re in theater? You’re gay. You’re a Christian? You’re a goody two-shoes.
People think they know you because they see your interests, who you hang out with, how you dress, and what you’ve done in the past. We think we know ourselves because we attach ourselves to people and religion and clothing styles and sports and music and activities.
But this proclamation of Jesus’s identity came before Jesus did anything.
What happened right after this proclamation? Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by power and lies and food (who isn’t tempted by some good food?). Yet, he resisted! Why? He believed who God said he was and stood firm in his identity in the face of great temptation.
God’s identity spoken over Jesus was not a result of Jesus’s works, but rather a result of Jesus as God’s beloved Son.
Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking: “Great, so Jesus knew his identity because God just, you know, spoke out of the sky and told Jesus who he was. That must be nice, huh? It would be pretty easy to believe who I was too if God just spoke it out of the sky. I’d even be fine if he wrote it in the sky. But nope. He has to be all mysterious and complicated. I never hear from God. So what do I do? What about me?”
First of all, let’s stop making everything about us. (First and a half of all, let’s be real, who would live that differently if God spoke out of the sky that he loved us? We probably wouldn’t change much or we’d think we were going crazy). Second of all, great news! God speaking this over Jesus means he is speaking it over us.
Click here to head to part 3 of “Live Free.”