Identity has always been a rubix cube kind of issue for all of us. We twist and turn ourselves, trying our best to find the right way to see ourselves and see each other. And yes, the rabbit hole on this topic can go quite deep and in various directions. However, the direction that this initiative targets is the most pivotal in my eyes: how God sees us. Imago Dei, which means the Image of God, is the main Rubix cube that many of us refuse to or cannot twist. Why? Many people do not know what it means and why it includes them while others do know what it means and the implications that come with it. Now, when I say ‘Image of God’, I speak of something intrinsic, given by God, not extrinsic, given by the government, etc. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” According to scripture, God made all of us as a direct reflection of him. We are patterned after him, mirror him, and are created to display his glory. Our very being and essence are supposed to point to one greater than us, God. This is crucial to know because no other creature on earth, though similar in some biological aspects, is made in God’s image. However, because of the fall of man and sin entering the world, we do not always see each other with that same lens nor act in a manner befitting of such a high calling. One foundational way this is expressed is through our words, how we speak to each other and what we call ourselves.
Exodus 3:13-14 contains an interesting dialogue between God and Moses: “And God said unto Moses, I AM WHO I AM, and he said, you shall say unto the children of Israel, I AM has sent me unto you.” God called himself ‘I AM’ and told Moses to see God through that clear lens as well as himself, a representative or mirror of God toward Pharaoh and the people. Not I WAS or I WILL be, but I AM. Not a negative I AM NOT, but a positive I AM. Not I AM because of so and so, rather, I AM WHO I AM - he is self-sufficient, needing no cause, and before every beginning. He is always present, despite our negligence of his presence. He is immutable, unchanging, never depreciating or needing to be altered, and our opinions, perspectives, or feelings about him cannot change him. I AM - period. He does not need to rise to our standard; we must rise to his. We spend most of our lives asking ourselves, “who am I?” We don’t know that our question and search is rooted in God’s very existence. This unique identification from God once again reveals God to humanity and raises a standard for humanity that we seem to resist and continuously try to change to suit our own lens. We normally respond like Moses, telling God to see through our lens and understand that we have an insufficiency, a stutter and cannot be or do what he tells us to do: speak for him - “I am slow of speech” (Exodus 4:10). That is our default answer. We can’t help but see through our tainted eyes and our filtered words. As Pastor Steven Furtick said in his wonderful book Unqualified, words like weak, dumb, poor, stupid, a failure, hopeless, ineffective, etc. usually follow our I AM statements, which are echoes of what society declares about us as well - as if all we are is determined by what others say. God had to let Moses, and us, know in the next verse that it is God that made his frail mouth in the first place and will help him, and us, do what we cannot do and be whom we were called to be in him. That last part is key.
Identity found in or from the world causes us to mirror its ever-changing character and live off of its dwindling power, treating ourselves and each other as if we are disposable and not valuable at all, as if our begging for validation is all there is to us and all there will ever be. Personhood and connection are traded for objectification and consumption in the world. We force ourselves and others to fit in and live in skewed and low images all because we have not or will not embrace a calling to come up higher to God's image. This is usually due to us believing that there is no one like us who can or has fully embodied, lived, and exemplified such an image it for us. Get ready for the shift. Not only does John 1:14 tell us that “the Word (Jesus) became flesh (like us) and dwelt among us,” but Philippians 2:6-8 tells us that “though he (Jesus) 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.” Jesus is not only our perfect example as human beings (1 Peter 2:21) but also the very image of God. Colossians 1:15 says “Now he (Christ) is the exact likeness of the unseen God, the visible representation of the invisible. He is the firstborn of all creation.” Here, we can now see ourselves in God through his perfect image, Jesus, who is like us, and through his words. He also references the name God gave Moses in the Old Testament when he spoke to the Jewish leaders in the New Testament in John 8:58 saying, “Truly, truly! I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” We can trust God with our identities because God through Jesus took on our identity first. Our identity in Christ and therefore in God, in the great I AM, in his finished work, wipes the smudges that we and society placed on ourselves and raises us up, declaring that ‘the weak can say I AM strong” - Joel 3:10.
Jesus has made and still makes it possible for all of us to clearly see who God is, whom he is calling us to be, what he is calling us to do and honestly embrace our weakness and shortcomings in order to walk in real strength. Why? 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in (your) weakness. Therefore I (Paul, you, and I) will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” The condition of our source for anything directly affects our condition as the recipient. Due to worldly culture (the source of identity for many) being so good at spotting rotting eggs but not laying good ones, we do that to our own selves. We see the bad easily but cannot find the good. Because culture has come to a realization (through its lens) that from where they stand, this type if life is the ‘best’ life they can live and such a hope is a luxury that cannot be entertained, the people connected to it follow suit. However, Jesus said in John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live.” This is the soil to which the I AM initiative blossoms. We aim to remove ways that block the light of the power of the gospel in people’s lives which creates authentic connections and identity by identifying who people truly are, who they can be, and their value by meeting specific needs. The I AM initiative is under girded by the Seven I AM declarations found in the Gospel of John that Jesus said, stating who he is in essence and who he is in relation to all people who believe and receive it. Every declaration points to a much deeper need and revelation of the human condition. As we are the body of Christ on earth, we follow suit. We are not watching or waiting while the world declares its own hopeless gospel. I AM/We are the extended arm of God to the world (by the leading of the Holy Spirit) with specific instructions to engage the Spirit, Soul, and body, as done by our example, Jesus, as declared in Isaiah 61:1-2 "the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me..."
“The Gospel road into people’s lives will be mercy. When you step into someone’s life with a cup of the cold water they need, no one is going to disagree with you. There is great need and people’s lives are filled with Gospel bridges, but sometimes we are just too functional to notice” - Rosaria Butterfield. James 2:15-18 declares “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” It is the Spirit of Faith that engineers this work, not human will or good works. We believe therefore we speak (and act in such a bold manner), not the other way around (2 Corinthians 4:13). Each opportunity and service freely offered and given has first been freely received by me and many others (Matthew 10:8) and targets different yet common areas in all our lives. There is nothing new under the sun, but all can indeed be new in The Son. We hope you will join in any way you are convicted and as always, Be about Business, Honor the Father, and Join the Family!