Self-Knowledge That Comes From Faith
All of us have a basic human need to understand who we are.
When we are young, many of us are inclined to identify ourselves with our hobbies, our schoolwork, or our friends. As we get older, we may identify ourselves with our job, our family, or our religious values. Whether we are young or old, though, this sense of identity is one of the most important parts of our life. In fact, it is the primary source of our direction, energy, and motivation, and when it is gone, we find that we fall into aimlessness, apathy, and despair.
This need for identity is God-given. The fact that we have it and that we look for things to satisfy it is entirely in order. Nevertheless, the Gospel teaches us that, because we are imperfect creatures, the views we form about ourselves in response to this need are only partial views. We must be careful, therefore, never to confuse the little that we think we know about ourselves with the whole of who we are, for this is something that only God can really know about. Paul writes: We know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears… Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (I Cor. 13:9-12).
Most of our behavior comes out of what we think we know about ourselves. For example, we may take on a job because we feel qualified for it, or we may reject a job because we don’t feel qualified for it. We may enter into a relationship because we feel that it fits who we are, or we may be dissatisfied with a relationship because we feel that it doesn’t fit who we are. The same reasoning can be applied to the place where we live, the place where we go to school, or the church we attend. In fact, we spend a good deal of our lives starting, quitting, and restarting all kinds of thing based on our own estimation of who we are. The only problem with all this is that our own estimation of who we are is nothing more than a partial reflection; God alone is the one who fully knows us. To be sure, our smattering of self-knowledge has a legitimate role to play in the decisions that we make, but if we are to live godly lives, then our decisions must be about more than just what seems compatible with what we think we know about ourselves. Indeed, the fact that our self-knowledge is always changing means that, if we live our lives in this way, we will end proving a faithless people.
Why? Well, because the keeping of commitments requires that we take hold of something stable in the midst of life’s changes. Flexibility is good, but there is such a thing as too much flexibility. Man was not made to be a jelly fish, but a creature with a spine. Even secular culture realizes this to some extent. “Knowing who you are” is considered a sign of maturity, wisdom, and strength, and “being who you are” is considered the sum of all wisdom. But the emptiness of this philosophy is evident when we consider that we never have perfect knowledge of ourselves, and that a person who simply wills to be whatever they feel like at any given moment is only unchanging in the sense that they are unchangeably narrow and selfish. The unchangeableness of which the Bible speaks is an unchangeableness of good character, and that is only possible for the one who lives by faith in an unchangeable God. True self-knowledge does not consist simply in “knowing who you are,” but in knowing the one who knows you. Faith, then, is the spinal column of spiritual life.
Thus, while many of the decisions we make will of necessity be based on our own limited self-knowledge (for that too is a part of life), the hope and integrity with which we persevere in them is not. The one who lives their life on the basis of faith will suffer as all human beings do, but they may rest secure in the providence of an unchanging God. And they need not sell their integrity for power, or pleasure, or any of the other things people sell their integrity to get, for the God who is unchanging does not sleep and will reward those who by faith persevere in righteousness, and more importantly—love. There are many kinds of love in the world, but there is a special kind of love that only comes from faith, and it is a love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, and never fails (I Cor. 13:7-8).
Pastor Chad LewisNovember 1, 2018