Who am I? There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t asked this question on multiple occasions and with good reason—our understanding of our identity changes directly affects how we think, speak, feel and act.
It’s no wonder then the Scriptures repeatedly remind us of who we are in Christ. And yet, we seem to have a problem. We ask the question, “Who am I?” and all too often come up with the wrong answer. “We’re continually forgetting who we are in Christ and filling that void by placing our identity in pretty much anything else” (2).
Who Do You Think You Are? is Mark Driscoll’s attempt to correct what he describes as a tragic error.
This world’s fundamental problem is that we don’t understand who we truly are—children of God made in his image—and define ourselves by any number of things other than Jesus. Only by knowing our false identity apart from Christ in relation to our true identity in him can we rightly deal with and overcome the issues in our lives.
Drawing from the book of Ephesians, Driscoll identifies 15 elements of our identity that Christians need to understand. These range from the fundamental of being united with Christ and made new, to being gifted for ministry and truly forgiven and blessed by Him.
Of all the strengths of this book—and there are many—the greatest is Driscoll’s evident love of the gospel. Readers can’t go more than a few pages without the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection being revisited. Reading this reminded me how good Driscoll’s work can be when he’s focused on the most important things. There’s conviction in his words—they actually matter to him.
Where the book shines is when you can feel his conviction and a genuine pastoral care come through. Among the chapters most strongly exhibiting this are chapters two (“I Am in Christ”), three (“I Am a Saint”), and eleven (“I Am New”). Each of these offers a significant corrective to the reader, one that certainly left this one encouraged, rather than condemned. I’ll share a few examples quickly.
First, on the relationship between identity and our actions:
God knows that what you do flows from who you are. As Christians, we live from our identity, not for our identity. We are defined by who we are in Christ, not what we do or fail to do for Christ. Christ defines who we are by who he is and what he’s done for us, in us, and through us. Understanding this information is the key to your transformation. (19)
On viewing ourselves the way God does:
Rather than sinners, the Bible overwhelmingly calls us “saints,” “holy,” or “righteous” more than two hundred times. Biblically, then, the primary identity of a believer in Christ is not as sinner but as saint. While we still struggle with sin in this life, as Christians, our identity is not found in our sin but in Christ’s righteousness. (35)
On our identity as adopted sons and daughters of God’s impact on our behavior:
Our identity as adopted children of God also means transformation in our behavior—obeying our Father and living a life imitating our big brother Jesus by following in his footsteps. We put off the things of the past life (the old man) and turn wholeheartedly to those things that reflect the life and character of God (the new man). God doesn’t bring us into his family only to turn around and punish us with constricting rules. Rather he sets up family rules for our good. Our flesh wars against our spirit, telling us that true life only comes when we indulge our fallen desires. God knows better. True life is only found in the holy joy, love, and peace that flow through us by the work of his Spirit. In this life, we must continually choose the things of God, obeying our Father, the source of lasting joy and life. (178)
These are just a few examples of the really wonderful truths Driscoll shares with readers of this book. And they should be accepted with thankful hearts.
As much good as there is in Who Do You Think You Are?, there are a few things I found a bit curious. None of them are deal breakers, but do merit a mention.
The first comes with chapter five, “I Am Appreciated.” The significant issue I have here has less to do with the content—there’s a wealth of encouragement for readers in it—than it’s basis. The chapters begins quoting Ephesians 1:15-23, yet the content is only loosely based on Paul’s saying how he gives thanks for the believers at Ephesus in his prayers (Eph. 1:15).
This is a repeated pattern with Paul, something Driscoll is right to draw our attention to. However, I’m not sure it’s the strongest place to build a clear case for God’s appreciating us. Unless I’m misreading it, the verse speaks more strongly to the need for pastors to appreciate the people God has entrusted to their care. Does God appreciate us in Christ? Sure. But the passage in question really doesn’t speak strongly to that (indeed, I can’t think of one off the top of my head that speaks to it at all).
Second is a bit of what seems to be needless hairsplitting in chapter eight, “I Am Afflicted.” There, Driscoll lists 14 different kinds of affliction he sees in the Bible—Adamic, punishment, consequential, demonic, victim, collective, disciplinary, vicarious, empathetic, testimonial, providential, preventative, mysterious and apocalyptic. However, in reading his description of each, I had difficulty discerning a significant amount of difference between many of them (providential and mysterious, consequential and disciplinary, among others). The categories come across a bit like the theological version of the seven signs of aging.
The final less than stellar element of this book has to do with format. Because the book is, essentially, a collection of sermons (albeit ones that are only now being preached), each chapter fully stands on its own. As a result, there’s a great deal of (arguably unnecessary) duplication of material, and a book that could have been around 150 pages comes in at close to 250 (for example, the chapters on reconciliation and forgiveness could have been merged sinc the two concepts are interconnected). This is a concern not limited to Driscoll’s work, but with many books today, and it’s something I’d love to see publishers and editors push to improve.
All that said, Who Do You Think You Are? is the most promising and helpful material I’ve seen from Driscoll in a long time, and arguably his strongest book yet. While there are some things that need to be taken with a grain of salt, readers are sure to benefit from a careful reading.
Title: Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ
Author: Mark Driscoll
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2013)
Buy it at: Amazon