What Defines You?

Pastor James
May 12, 2022

Many define themselves by their job--a lawyer, a doctor, an artist, etc. Some are defined by the awards they've won—a Nobel laureate, an Olympic medalist, etc. We're also defined by our relationships as so-and-so's child or sibling, etc. College students are often defined by their school, their major, or their GPA. We even define ourselves by our problems—"I'm too short"; "I'm shy"; "I'm a victim of this," etc.

But can these things really define us? If we feel like we are more than the sum total of these outward characteristics, it’s because of what is in our hearts. People may only see a waitress working hard at a restaurant in L.A. But her real passion may be to become an actress. As far as she is concerned, what defines her is not her temporary job as a waitress but her desire to be an actress--like the butterfly somewhere hidden in a chrysalis, yet to break out and fly!

Who are you in the heart? "The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love" (Henry Scougal). Doesn’t it ring true? What do you love and care about? What do you think and dream about? But this is where we find trouble. We don't find our hearts to be well-ordered and virtuous. Our hearts often feel like a stormy sea, turbulent with conflicting desires, confused thoughts, paralyzing fears, and unrealistic hopes. Our hearts don't always seek what is good, true, and beautiful. We take delight in what is shameful and perverse. Think of all the crude and dirty jokes we find funny!

The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it" (Jeremiah 17:9)? Changing our external behaviors is hard enough but changing our inner desires is so much harder. Jesus said, "What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matt. 15:17-19).

This inner corruption cannot be cured by a new, better set of laws, or by all the self-help books that tell us how to improve our life, or by any religious ritual, however elaborate and rigorous. Our problem is not that we don't know what we ought to do; our problem is that our hearts desire something else.

Jesus once told Nicodemus, an exemplary Jew, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Jesus didn’t say he just needed to try harder; the problem of his heart is not something he can just improve or fix. Even this exemplary Jew must be born again just to see the kingdom of God!

How can we be born again? Being born is a totally passive event: we cannot will ourselves to be born again. Only God can bring this about. And He does this through the preaching of God's Word! (That is why we are here week after week!) When you hear the gospel preached or read it, and you are convinced of its truth, then God has given you a new birth! So, I would urge you to get a Bible and read it. Better yet, start attending a Bible-believing church and avail yourself of the teaching that is faithful to the Bible.

Our new birth is possible because a great exchange has taken place—Jesus died for sinners so that sinners can be born again as God’s children! Regardless of how others defined us, or how we defined ourselves, the ultimate Judge of all declares the believers to be His precious children! This entitles them to the richness of God since He is now their heavenly Father! Our new identity does not just give us hope for the future; it also gives meaning to whatever pain or trauma we went through in the past as the path to our new identity as God’s children. We hope and pray that the Word of God would cause you to embrace this gospel and to begin your new life as God’s child!