In the scope of life many of the adolescents in America deal with consequential ideologies such as identity, purpose, and direction. Young teens and adults are asking foundational questions which point to their core and essence in making up humanity. Though these questions are monumental many of the answers are not rooted in the core understanding of biblical orthodoxy. Yet at the foundational establishment of the individual biblical wisdom gives us a great understanding of the self and can guide humanity toward a fuller and more satisfying engagement with these ideologies. The centerpiece of mankind is the overarching reality that God created humanity in the imago dei to oversee and exercise authority over creation.1 In the ability to comprehend identity mankind is not to observe or intersect intrinsically, rather they are to focus their attention and energy in pursuing an illuminated cognitive approach in knowing God. Mankind’s image came from the trinitarian God of the Bible and to assimilate themselves to that very image God, or theology of God, must be the focal point of understanding.2
What is theology? Within the Christian context theology “is a discipline of study that seeks to understand the God revealed in the Bible and to provide a Christian understanding of reality.”3 In the framework of understanding identity, the study of theology will be focused on the doctrine of the trinity. What is doctrine? Doctrine is to be understood in light of theology. Simply conveyed doctrine is “the result of the process of doing systematic theology with regards to one particular topic.”4 Doctrine becomes sub-points to the theological framework of understanding a particular area of study. Therefore in understanding one’s identity within the natural created order of the universe one must trace back to the origin of creation within humanity. Biblically speaking the genesis of mankind is rooted in the image of God. In order to cognitively embrace the image of God as an identity mankind must look at the doctrine of the trinity to find their origin of existence.
The Trinitarian God:
In the nature and person of God we are to understand Him as persons. His relational attributes are extremely vital in understanding who He is. By definition the trinity “is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons — Father, Son, and Spirit — who are each fully and equally God in eternal relation with each other.”5 Now the term “person” is not to be defined as each person of the Godhead becoming human rather “each member of the Trinity thinks, acts, feels, speaks, and relates because they are persons and not impersonal forces. Further, each member of the Trinity is equally God, which means that they share all the divine attributes, such as eternality, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.”6 In the nature of God’s trinitarian existence the bible proclaims that “God is love.”7 The proclamation of God’s identity connected to love means that He is “the definition, example, and source of true love.”8 This is congruent with His nature in of Himself in that each person of the Godhead continuously pours Himself into the other. The understanding of His nature in this perspective will give guidance in understanding the overtone to the nature of humanity and their identity.
Another perspective that will assist in continuing this thought process of the trinitarian God pouring Himself into the persons of the Godhead is the biblical proclamation of how Jesus seeks to glorify the Father as the Father seeks to glorify the Son9 while sending the Spirit whose ministry is to exalt and magnify the Son.10 How are we to understand the term “glorify?” Simply put to glorify is to praise, enjoy, and delight in the object of your affections. In relation to the study of God “to glorify someone is also to serve or defer to him or her. Instead of sacrificing their interests to make yourself happy, you sacrifice your interests to make them happy. Why? Your ultimate joy is to see them in joy.”11 In the nature of God, the Father defers to glorifying the Son while the Son defers to glorifying the Father. Simultaneously the Father breathes forth the Spirit who engages in the dance of divine love and glorifies the Son who in turn pushes forward that glory onto the Father. In understanding the nature of the Godhead “the Trinity is characterized not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love.”12 Ultimately God is the “Continuous Outpourer who continually pours Himself out between the persons of the Godheads in unceasing communication, love, friendship, and joy.”13 At the root of God He “really has love as His essence.”14
John 14:17 ESV, “17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
The Remedy — Jesus Christ:
The image of God, which He infused onto mankind, has at its nature a drive and desire to continuously pour into the life of others for the Glory of God. The movement to serve, give, sacrifice, love, and comfort is rooted in the person of God. Yet through the fall of mankind sin has corrupted the fabric of humanity’s DNA and has given mankind a bent toward self-centeredness. The result of the brokenness through sin has caused mankind not to orbit around the all-giving and sacrificial living God, rather has given birth to a demand to have the world be centered around the self. It should come to no surprise that all of the horrendous sins listed by the Apostle Paul such as the “sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers”15 finds its rootedness in self-centeredness. Yet within redemptive history God has seen it fitting to send His Son not only has an example to true humanity but to be an atoning sacrifice for the penalty of sin, which is self-centeredness. In the incarnation of Christ, “in Jesus’ own humanity, in what Jesus does and how He acts, that we see the nature, character, and actions of the one holy God made manifest and concrete.”16
In studying the doctrine of the trinity it makes perfect sense in gaining the perspective of the meta-narrative that Jesus would call His followers to die. The aim of Christ was not to serve the Israelites’ erroneous prescription of the messiah, restoring Israel’s rule, but to call the world to death. For it was in death that true life would be birthed; in surrender where true freedom would be experienced; in losing where genuine triumph would be obtained. Jesus understood it as “if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”17 The call to faith embodies a fullness in commission, servanthood, and discipleship. These values and concepts find their root in the selflessness of the trinitarian God.
Through the work and person of Jesus Christ He has become the example to which Christians based their life, ambitions, and existence toward. In Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit believers cease to pursue roads of least resistance and engage in trials, hardship, and sacrifice in pressing the Gospel forward because God has illuminated their eyes to see that life is not about the self rather about God and serving others. Regenerate believers, through the Christus Exemplar, begin to “rejoice not in the pain but rather in what it can accomplish for the Gospel so that something as costly as suffering is not wasted but used for God’s glory, our joy, and other’s good.”18 The Christian life begins by cementing itself in “the goodness of God, the normativity of Jesus, and the working of the Holy Spirit, giving it a concrete triune shape and purpose. The Christian life is about becoming more whole and holy in the image of the trinitarian God.”19 The Creator God “did not create people in His own image for passivity. He is not a passive God.”20 As image bearers of God humanity is “made to center our lives upon Him, to make the purpose and passion of our lives knowing, serving, delighting, and resembling Him.”21 Being conformed into the image of the Son “has an important visible, bodily dimension, just as God’s holiness does in the incarnation . . . becoming holy involves patterned ways of seeing and living with God and others.”22 Ultimately when believers of Christ “reflect something of God with our heads, hearts, and hands out of love for Him and others, we do what we were created for. This is joyful for us, helpful for others, and worshipful toward God.”23
The elusive search for identity, purpose, and call is planted in the surrender to the cross and resurrection of Christ. Society is calling young men and women to be all that they can be, yet Jesus is commissioning believers to truly find life in the search for death — death of the self. God is calling His people to “stake everything on His power and presence in their lives.”24 As affectionate believers it should not be a surprise that “the road that leads to heaven is risky, lonely, and costly in this world, and few are willing to pay the price. Following Jesus involves losing your life — and finding new life in Him.”25 It is through the understanding of the Trinity “that reshapes our notions of goodness, our understanding of wholeness and holiness, and the purpose of our existence. The Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — now becomes the means by which we pursue and participate in the Good by participating in the very life of God.”26 To this end a “man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately and forever.”27
1 Genesis 1:28 ESV, “28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
2 Genesis 1:27 ESV, “27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.”
3 Millard J. Erickson. Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 17.
4 Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 25.
5 Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 13.
6 Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 13.
7 1 John 4:8 ESV, “8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
8 Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 16.
9 John 17:4 – 5 ESV, “4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
10 John 16:14 ESV, “14 He [the Spirit] will glorify me [Jesus], for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
11 Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead, 2008), 223.
12 Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead, 2008), 224.
13 Mark Driscoll. Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), 5.
14 Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead, 2008), 225.
15 1 Corinthians 6:9 – 10 ESV, “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
16 Jeannine K Brown, Carla M Dahl, and Wyndy Corbin Reuschling. Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 130.
17 Matthew 16:24 – 26 ESV, “24 Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’”
18 Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 275.
19 Jeannine K Brown, Carla M Dahl, and Wyndy Corbin Reuschling. Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 131.
20 John Ortberg. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 149.
21 Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead, 2008), 228.
22 Jeannine K Brown, Carla M Dahl, and Wyndy Corbin Reuschling. Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 132.
23 Mark Driscoll. Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013), 4.
24 Francis Chan. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2009), 121.
25 David Platt. Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call To Live (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2013), 11.
26 Jeannine K Brown, Carla M Dahl, and Wyndy Corbin Reuschling. Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 131.
27 A. W. Tozer. The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine (Camp Hill: Wing Spread, 2006), 19 – 20.