I Yam What I Yam

"I Yam What I Yam"

This line was made famous by a cartoon character named Popeye, who inspired children to eat their spinach to get strong muscles. However, unknown to us children, that squinty-eyed sailor with an accent was quoting the apostle Paul.

1 Cor. 15:8-10 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Paul came to know Jesus differently than the other apostles. The 12 disciples knew Jesus, ate with Him, heard Him preach, saw Him heal, and witnessed Him feeding thousands with a few fish and loaves of bread. They had front row seats with Jesus’ ministry. In contrast, Paul spent a good deal of his early life persecuting the Church of Jesus Christ. Paul hunted down Christians, whom he believed were heretics, and put them in prison.

Paul thought he was chasing after God and doing His will, but Paul didn’t know God. He was zealous for God, but he was deceived. One day while Paul was traveling to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him. Paul had finally caught up with God. However, he never quit chasing after Him—to know Him intimately. God can do great things through people who chase after Him.

Did God love Paul when he was persecuting the Church, and putting Christians in prison? Absolutely, yes! God loved Paul so much that He died for him. And He loved him too much to let him stay the way he was. God changed Paul’s character, morality, virtues, and world view. By the grace of God, Paul became what he was.

Likewise, Jesus died for us when we were deceived sinners. God takes us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to let us stay just the way we are. He changes us.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God wants to make us WHAT He wants us to be. He wants to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ, making us a person with His character. It doesn’t matter what we have been. What matters is that we belong to Jesus and God calls us His! When you become "His" you become a new creation and you are never the same again.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

R. G. Lee told about walking down the street and a drunk staggered up to him saying, "Hello, Preacher, I’m one of your converts." Lee looked at him and said, "Yeah, you look like one of mine. You certainly don’t look like one of the Lord’s."

Do I look like one of the Lord’s? Well, I am not what I want to be. However, I am not what I used to be. Furthermore, I am not yet what I am going to be by God’s grace. How do I know?

First, God creates us with His own hands. Psalm 119:73 Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Secondly, not only does God create us, God is continually shaping us as a potter shapes clay. We never reach a point when God is finished. If we are breathing, He is still working on us. We never wake up and suddenly realize, “This is it. I’ve become everything God wants me to become. I’m done. I’m a finished project!”

God creates us, God shapes us, and thirdly God purchases us. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

While I was growing up, I became my own god by determining my own purpose. I didn’t realize I was giving myself over to another power, another owner – sin and Satan. Long before I did those things, God chose to pay the ransom for my life that sin demanded – a blood sacrifice offered in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By believing in Jesus, repenting of being my own god and living in sin, by dying to self in baptism, and being born again of the Holy Spirit, I am now a new creation! I am a son of God! Does that sound arrogant?

Listen to what God says about us. 1Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

It may sound humble before men to say, “Oh, I’m not a saint. I shouldn’t like to say I am sanctified, a son of God.” The way we talk about our own incompetence is an insult to our Creator and a slander against the Holy Spirit. Say that before God and it means, “No, Lord, it is impossible for You to save and sanctify me, to make me your son. There are too many imperfections in my brain and body.” That may sound wonderfully humble before men, but before God it is an attitude of defiance and a lack of faith.

Again, the things that sound humble before God may sound arrogant before men. To say, “Thank you Father, that I am saved, sanctified, a saint, and your son”, is in the sight of God true humility. It means you have so completely abandoned yourself to God that you know this is what He has made you. Don’t worry whether the truth sounds humble before men or not, but always be humble before God, and let Him be the defender of His truth and the Gospel.

After all, who else should have the privilege, the permission, the power, and the right to tell me who I am, other than God Himself? God is the author of my identity. He alone gets to tell me who I am. It is God who created me. It is God who shapes me. It is God who has purchased me and to whom I have given my life. Therefore, God gets to tell me who I am! Regardless of what anyone else says about me (family, friends, foes, or Satan), I have an identity that I can entirely trust and always claim as true because it is an identity that comes from God Himself. I am what I am, because God made me so by His grace.

Since it is God in me, the Holy Spirit, who is transforming me, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. Because I know Christ, I have wisdom. I know better how to handle the good and the bad of life. I know better how to relate to all people, better how to live in my marriage, better how to raise my children. I know who I am wherever I am. I know these things—not because I’m arrogant, but because I know the author of my identity. So, since I know who I am—a son of God—I should act like one—not arrogant, but humble, loving, and as an obedient servant like Jesus.

Philippians 2:3-8 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And God has more instructions for His children. Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The Bible is the story of God, and the stories of His people struggling to recognize Him in them and among them. This is our family history. Learn from it. Learn where our family of faith has grown, learn the lessons of our victories and defeats. Learn where we have consistently failed or let someone else determine our fate. Learn how God spoke to His people of faith in the past. See how God authored their identity. 

People thought Moses was just a murderer who ran away from his crime. God declared that Moses was a deliver and a liberator, and empowered him to lead God’s people out of slavery. David’s family saw him as the youngest and smallest in a line of sheep-herders. But God saw a king and made him one after God’s own heart. Andrew saw his brother as a fisherman and a bad one at that. But when Jesus saw Peter, He saw the rock of the church and made him a fisher of men. When the church saw Saul, they saw an enemy. But Jesus saw a man named Paul, who would suffer much for the Name of Jesus and become the greatest missionary of all time.

Read and study our family history. How can we understand what God wants us to be, if we don’t know how He thinks, what He’s done, or where we as a family have been? How can we go into our neighborhood and live out our identity if we haven’t spent anytime trying to discover who we are?

Also, if God is the Author your identity, quit degrading yourself with your negative words about yourself and un-Christ like actions. Rejoice in the uniqueness of your identity in God. There are no spiritual clones. God works in you and through you in a way in which He will never do in the life of another. Fulfill your purpose with every word you say and everything you do. Use the gifts God has given you.

 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

There are all kinds of people, well meaning enough, who will gladly help you decide who you are. The company you work for would like to define your identity. Your friends at school or in the neighborhood would like to let you know who you’ll be – if you’re going to be ‘shunned’ or ‘popular’ or ‘politically correct’ according to them.

So ask yourself, am I letting someone else tell me who I am? Do I act differently to please different people? Do I change who I am to make others happy? Am I a different person in the office than I am at home? Am I different person at school than I am at church?

Satan would love to take control of the authorship of your identity, to tell you who you are – according to his accusing, lying, and hate-filled nature. For example, he might tell you that you are no good and never will amount to anything. Or, he might tell you that you are better than other people and you shouldn’t associate with them.

We have to reject his lies and remind him and ourselves of who we are in Christ Jesus. We are not to think less of ourselves than what God has made us. Neither are we to think more highly of ourselves.

Romans 12:2-3, 10 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned…10  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

If God is the author of my identity, I can accept that I am what I am and feel good about God’s purpose for my life. He wants everyone else to receive their identity from Him, too.

Therefore, in giving us His identity, God has made us His ambassadors, His representatives, to tell others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ—how they can be born again and become a child of God. We can’t tell them what their life story will be, for we are not the author. But we can tell them the story that God has written in our life. Refer other people to the Author by letting them read the story He has written in your life. Use words when necessary. God will equip you to tell people what He’s done for you.

This season of the year, there are many people with no reason to celebrate. People are open to hearing the Gospel. The Gospel is the best gift you can give anyone. Take advantage of this opportunity. God is looking for people who are willing to let Him write on their hearts and make them living testimonies of His love and grace.

Perhaps some of you here don’t like the story of your life. You’ve been doing what was right in your own eyes. You have been acting like your own God, and it is stressful and doesn’t produce the satisfaction you hoped. Now you are tired, and no amount of spinach or any other self-help idea produces strength, peace, and joy. You’ve tried them all, except Jesus.

It is good that you are tired. You see, you have to be tired of running your own life before you will let God run it. You have to get to the point where you say, “Lord, that’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands no more.” When you are at that point, you are ready for a savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus has already purchased a new life for you. All you have to do is believe Him, repent of being your own god, and give Him your old life by dying to yourself in baptism so you can be born again of the Holy Spirit. You will be revitalized, strengthened, and empowered to live a new life for Jesus Christ because He will be living in you. With Jesus as your God and Him in control, this intimate relationship will bring love, peace, joy, and strength to your soul.