THE FATHER HEART OF GOD
Who Are You?
My mom is so nice, if Saddam Hussein came to our door tonight and wanted dinner, she would say, “Saddam, come on in. We’re making some cornbread and ice tea. Have a seat.” She’s that kind of lady. She’s a very gracious woman. And perhaps you love your mom; you have a special place in your heart for your mom. It’s interesting when you watch all these college football games and pro-games on TV, “So-and-so just had an interception,” or, “They ran a touchdown,” or something like that, and they always say, “Hey, Mom!” They rarely say, “Hey, Dad!” We love our mothers. But despite this fact—that our mothers are great—we receive our definition, our identity, from our fathers. You are who your father says you are.
There’s a story in Genesis about Jacob and Rachel, and Jacob had a whole slew of kids, but his and Rachel’s last birth was a tragic birth. As a matter of fact, Jacob and Rachel produced a boy that cost Rachel her life. In the story it says in the final throes of labor, that are mixed with the pains of childbirth, Rachel gave birth to a baby boy that she called Benoni, which means, Son of my sorrows. Can you imagine going through your whole life being named Benoni? I mean, it’s a bad enough name as it is, but what Benoni means…it means, Son of my sorrows!
Many of you have been Benoni in your life. You’ve been given a name like Son of my sorrows. Many of you were like Benoni—you are someone who has not been named by your father. And I believe that is a problem with our generation. The problem with our generation is that we have raised a whole group of young people, of young men and women, who cannot find their fathers. We have workaholic fathers, we have alcoholic fathers, we have absentee fathers, abusive fathers, perfectionist fathers, passive fathers, and businessmen fathers who were so busy and so distracted that they never took time to lay their hands upon you and to tell you who you are.
What happens to us when we go through this life nameless? What happens to you, what happens to me if we are not named by our father? If you’re not named by your father, then you’ll wander through the rest of your life, aimlessly searching for your name. You’ll be a part of every click; you’ll be a part of every group; you’ll join a fraternity or a sorority, and you’ll do this for it and you’ll do that, you’ll wear this, you’ll say this, you’ll seek to find a reputation in this business…and all you’re doing is searching for a name. You’ll go to bed—have sex with someone—and you’re really not wanting sex; you’re simply wanting a name. You’re saying, “Hey! Tell me my name! Tell me my name!”
Nameless men and women cannot communicate—nameless men and women cannot connect with one another. If you were raised as a nameless baby, then you will probably have a tough time with intimacy. Nameless babies grow up to be nameless men who abuse and beat their wives. Nameless…searching for their father’s name.
Do you ever ask yourself the question: “Why are things messed up like this? Why do I feel so weird? Why am I always asking myself the question: Who am I?” I mean, just think about it. Your dog or cat doesn’t have that problem; they don’t have identity issues like we have. A tree, the grass…they know who they are; they know what they’re created to do. But we wander around, looking for a name, looking for an identity because many of us didn’t have our fathers lay hands on us, bless us, affirm us, and give us a name—affirm us in our masculinity or affirm us in our femininity.
Why are things this way? Basically, things are not the way they’re supposed to be, right?. We’re not who we’re meant to be. We have to go all the way back to the book of Genesis and look at the story of Adam and Eve to discover what we were supposed to be. Because, you see, God created us in this idyllic environment we know as the Garden of Eden. He made Adam, and He made Eve. He created them to be sons and daughters of the living God. We were created to have this perfect relationship with God. Flowing out of that perfect relationship with Him as our Father, then we could relate with one another and understand each other and connect with each other and understand the world and the nature of things around us. That’s the way God designed it in His original plan.
Adam and Eve—they were naked, and they were unashamed. The Bible says in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 that they were created in what? In the image of God, which means they were created as a reflection of the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. If we could grasp that one truth, of what it means to be created in the image of God, that would completely revolutionize our lives and, I believe, bring revival to our country and our land. So God is relational by nature. God exists in an ever-growing, every-replenishing relationship. He’s always existed in Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. He created us in His image. So we are relational…like a cord—you are who you are in relationship to others. And we were made in God’s image.
I haven’t seen her new video, but folks tell me that in Alanis Morrisette’s new video, she’s singing and she’s naked throughout the whole thing. And they’ve done a kind of fuzzy thing, where they kind of fuzz out the bad parts that would not be appropriate for TV. But I think her video and that depiction simply reflect a yearning or a desire that all of us have to go back to Eden. We want to go back to the Garden—we want to be naked and to be unashamed. We want that perfect relationship with God again, and we want to have that perfect relationship with others.
So how do you go back? Can we go back? Because now, what’s happened? Things are not the way they’re supposed to be. Things are messed up. We are not who we are meant to be. We know the story: Adam and Eve blew it. They messed up, didn’t they? They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and when they ate that forbidden fruit—when they rebelled against God—there was that gulf, that chasm, between God and man.
The perfect relationship that they had with the Father—the knowledge of being a son or a daughter of God, of walking with God in the garden and hearing His voice and having this perfect fellowship—was lost forever! And it’s affected every single one of us. And we can see the way they responded to the situation; it’s the same way we’ve responded in our lives a thousand times over. We see the Adam and Eve or the fall cycle repeated again and again and again and again and again. Adam and Eve sinned—they blew it. But what happened? All of a sudden they realized they were naked! And they experienced what? Guilt. They experienced real guilt from breaking God’s law.
Also, they experienced shame because they were not what they used to be. They had an identity crisis—they couldn’t see God as their Father anymore. They didn’t have that name, that assurance, and they felt shame and remorse. So what did they do? First thing they did was deny it, right? We’re great at denying, aren’t we? “It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault! It’s my environment’s fault. I wasn’t educated right. I was born in the wrong country, the wrong gender, had the wrong parents…this, that…it’s teacher’s fault, coach’s fault, dad, step-dad, mom, sister…it’s not my fault; it’s somebody else’s fault!” That’s what Adam and Eve did—they denied it, and they started blaming other people. Then, they started to fig-leaf it. They were out there naked and said, “We’d better get some fig leaves here to cover it up.” We’re always fig-leafing it, aren’t we? We’re fig-leafing it, looking for a name.
Who are you? Who am I? For a long time I was a basketball player. That was my core identity, believe it or not. I mean, I lived to put a round ball through a hoop—that was my whole life. That’s who I was—that was my identity. Another time in my life, my identity was to be a radical Christian—to be more spiritual than anyone else. That’s where I got my identity from—I was fig-leafing it. And we fig-leaf with different identities—the gang that we hang out with, the club that we’re in. We had different groups. We had the jocks, we had the freaks, we had the gel heads…we had all these different groups. You have the computer people…maybe you’re fig-leafing it behind your knowledge or your brain. But all we’re doing is this fig-leafing—we’re running from God, and we’re looking for an image, an identity. We’re looking to a place where we belong. We’re looking for the hand of our father; we are looking for our name.
So from then to now, we can see that cycle—we see the cycle of Adam and Eve. They felt shame, they hid, they concealed, they denied, and they ran away from God. And what do you see God doing? God’s running after Adam and Eve and pursuing. That’s been the story of my life—messing up, hiding, concealing, and God revealing and pursuing.
So that’s why things are not the way they’re meant to be. It’s because we live in a fallen world. And that’s what happens with sin in our lives. Sin alienates us from God. It alienates us from God. We’re supposed to be God’s children. We’re supposed to know that God is our Father and to know ourselves as someone who is a son or a daughter of the living God. But, instead, we’re confused, and we’re now hostile enemies of God. We’re enemies, we’re rebels, we’re radicals, and we’re running away from Him. We should be enjoying God’s presence, but instead we flee from Him. And to add insult to injury, many times we are running from the only one who can help us overcome our fear, overcome our guilt, overcome our pain and suffering. We run from Him and we hide!
So sin alienates us from God, therefore, it alienates us from our true self, our true identity. And we wander around, fig-leafing it. We wander around looking, looking, looking, looking for a name! “Tell me my name! Tell me my name! Tell me my name! Who am I? Who am I?” We search and search and search. Our identity is so crucial in our life because you and I will not live beyond how we see ourselves; that’s just the way it is. You are not going to live beyond how you see yourself. Somebody may have handed you a script in your life. They said, “You’re going to be this way,” and perhaps they gave you a name. Your name is Performer. Performers will perform. Your name is Failure. You’re a failure, incompetent. You’re going to fail. Your name is Rejected. You’re always going to see yourself as one who’s been rejected.
So many of us have these scripts that have been handed out to us in our lives, and we’re simply living out these scripts. We’re fallen. We’re not who we were meant to be. And then we have people in our lives who are also not who they’re supposed to be either. They’re just dumping amongst the dumping that’s already on us. Many of you have recorders in your mind and in your hearts that just play that same tape over and over, “You’re stupid. You’re ugly. You don’t fit in this crowd. You’re not good enough. You’re never going to amount to anything.” And we play these tapes in our minds over and over and over and over again.
But there’s good news: God is real. God is there. And God has spoken. God has revealed Himself to you, and He has revealed Himself to me in the person of Jesus Christ. He’s had mercy upon us. He’s had grace upon us. And He wants you to know who you really are. He wants you to know the name that He has given to you.
Turn to Galatians—this is our passage for tonight. Galatians chapter 4, verse 4 and following. You’ll see the correlation between who God is and who we are. And to understand who God is, we understand God’s name—that God is “Father God.” I mean He’s not like the distorted image you received as a kid, or maybe He’s like that image that you had (if you had a good dad), but it’s even more so when you understand what God the Father is like. Then, and only then, will you understand who you are and hear what your true identity is. All right? So it’s a reciprocal relationship.
Look at Galatians chapter 4, verses 4:7, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son…” That’s a reference to the pre-existence of Christ—the Deity of Jesus Christ…“God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…” He is God, and He is man; He is the God-man…“born under the law…” He was born under the law of Moses, and He perfectly fulfilled the law…“in order that He might redeem…” that means to buy back…“those who were under the law…” That’s us, we’re under the law, we’re under the curse of Adam and Eve; we are not who we are meant to be…“that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”
This is who you are—you are a beloved child of the living God. If you have received the Son, if you have trusted in Jesus Christ, you are a beloved child of the living God. Do you see the Trinity working in this passage? God the Father sent His Son to buy us back, and then He sent forth His Spirit, the Spirit of His Son, in our hearts—the Holy Spirit—which enables us to cry out and to see that God is our Father and say, “Abba, Father—Daddy, God!” Did you see the Spirit? It’s the Spirit of His Son. As Jesus cried out to the Father when He was on earth, He gives us that same Spirit. The same love that God has for Jesus is the same kind of love that He has for you and He has for me.
And it says He’s adopted us into His family. Isn’t that amazing? God has chosen you; He has chosen me, before the foundation of the world, to be in His family—to be in the family of God. He has done that out of free love. I don’t know why, I can’t figure it out. I just know that God loves me through Jesus Christ. I know that He has chosen to bless me; He has chosen to invite me into His family. Isn’t that great?
You know what? He’s done that despite all the junk in my life. That’s our greatest fear, isn’t it? I mean, our greatest fear is if someone really got to know us they would reject us. “If you really got to know the stuff that I was struggling with right now, then you wouldn’t accept me.” Let me tell you something: Nobody would make it. No one. God could come into this meeting tonight and shut anybody up. All they’d have to do is put one little photo on the screen—that something in my life—and I’m out of here. Anybody that’s ever lived.
So God knows us; He knows everything about us. He knew everything about you and everything that was going to happen in your life before you even came on the scene. He knows what you’re thinking right now, He knows what you’re struggling with, He knows what you’re happy about, and He knows the plans that He has for your life. He knows us. It says that even the hairs on our head are numbered. He doesn’t just have the total—each hair is numbered! This is hair number ten thousand one hundred…every hair is numbered! God knows us—the best of us and the worst of us—and God loved us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And He died for us why? To bring us back to our original family.
I had a friend I had discipled for some time, and he always used to pray that way, “God, thank You that I’m in Your family.” That’s the way he’d open up his prayers, “I thank You, God, that I am in Your family.” Do you every think about that? Do you ever just take time out to think about who God is as your Father and to think of yourself as a beloved child of God? Does the Holy Spirit ever well up inside of you, and you just want to cry out: “Abba, Father! Father, God!” Do you have that kind of relationship with the Father?
It’s interesting when you look at the progression in Scripture—the different metaphors that are used to describe our relationship with God. We start off as a lump of clay, right? We’re the clay; He’s the potter. We move up the food chain a little bit, and we’re sheep—dumb, stinking sheep—moving around, wandering off, doing our own thing. Psalm chapter 23 says what? He is our Shepherd. Then we move on a little bit longer, and we discover we’re slaves—I’m a servant—and He is our Master. You know what? A lot of people stop right there. They never move past God being the Potter or God being their Shepherd or God being their Master.
They never move on and take it to that next step that Paul talks about here in Galatians chapter 4. Because then there’s this huge quantum leap now. We move from a slave-to-master relationship, all of a sudden, to a beloved child of God; and we are a daughter, we are a son of the living God. By God’s incredible grace, He adopts us into His family. He is our Father. We are His beloved children. We’re in His family.
The Bible says God gives us a new name. Isaiah chapter 62 says that no longer will your name be called deserted and desolate, but you shall be called holy, you shall be called redeemed, you shall be called pursued, you shall be called rescued, you shall be called a son or a daughter of the living God. He gives us a new name; He gives us an identity. Adoption in the Bible means returning to our original family. It means that at the same time that we’re totally sinful and messed up, we’re totally forgiven and totally accepted. That’s what it means to be in God’s family. It means that someone who is totally sinful can be totally forgiven, totally accepted in the person of Jesus Christ. We’re adopted; we go back to our original family.
It gets even better than that! Revelation 2:17 (also Revelation chapter 13) says that God has a very special name for you. Isn’t it awesome? It says for those who’ve overcome, “I have a special name written on the stone just for you,” and when we go to be with Jesus Christ, He is going to reveal to us the secret name, that special name that God has for each one of you that are in Christ.
Do you know who you are? Do you know who you really are? Do you meditate on the fact that the Almighty Holy God Yahweh is also, through Jesus Christ, your Father? He knows you, He loves you. Are you taking time out to simply bask in the love that God has for you in Jesus Christ? Do you know who you are?
Someone asked Thomas Merton, “Who are you?” He said, “I am one beloved by Christ.” I am one beloved by Christ—that’s who I am at my core identity. Do you remember Jacob and Rachel? Baby Benoni—son of my sorrows? I didn’t tell you the rest of the story. Rachel obviously had a very painful, very difficult childbirth and dies. As she was dying, she was like, “This is Benoni, son of my sorrows!” Jacob, the father, hops back into the tent, and he sees the nursemaid pulling this baby boy from the cold, rigid and dead arms of his mother. And Jacob says, “What’s the boy’s name?” And the nursemaid said, “She called him Benoni, son of my sorrows.” And Jacob said, “His name shall not be Benoni, but his name shall be called Benjamin, which means son of my strength, son of my right hand.” And out of the tribe of Benjamin came the kings and the royalties of Israel because the little baby boy grew up to be who his father said he was.
We desperately need our father’s name. We desperately need to be named by our father. Any guy knows when you join a football team that you run faster, you do better, when your father’s in the stands yelling for you, saying, “Go, boy, go! That’s my son! That’s my daughter!” We need our father’s name. Do you know your name? Have you ever felt the hand of your Father? Has he blessed you, and has He told you who you are?
[Ben leads in a closing prayer.]