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How do you learn who you are? This lifelong pursuit of “self-knowledge” helps us to become the best possible version of ourselves. We discover who we are, what we can become, and how we can reach those goals. It seems we can learn who we are by looking up to God who made us or by looking inward and outward from ourselves to discover what we can become.

For many people self-discovery begins by looking inward to themselves and outward to new experiences. Especially as we go to school—especially college, and as we discover opportunities to explore ourselves and the world around us. These times can be helpful, fun, and enlightening. In this interesting time of self-discovery by exploration, it is vital—the world says—that there can be no infringement upon our self-discovery and actualization. No “liberty” can be infringed in the individual’s pursuit of becoming whatever identity might seem most attractive.

This model sounds normal to us doesn’t it? It is only when we reach the method’s inescapable end of complete self-determination that the results become uncomfortable. Carl Trueman in his book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self as well the abbreviated version Strange New World. Dr. Trueman has provided an excellent study of the world’s view of self and of self discovery. Dr. Trueman built on the work of Charles Taylor, in his book Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity where he noted the modern view of what it means to be a self. One of these key factors is “a focus on inwardness, or the inner psychological life, as decisive for who we think we are.” With this method you can become anyone or anything with any gender, purpose, or role you choose.

Have you considered that God, as your Creator, has already shaped your identity? If this is true, then we must look to him to discover who we are. You may feel this robs you of some freedom. As you yield to God—rather than yourself—as your sovereign his will and purpose will take precedence over your own. But if there is a God and he has made you especially for himself and for his purposes, shouldn’t we look to him to discover who we are.

Notice the implications of Paul’s speech in Acts 17:26-27, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” God made each of us in a particular time and place so that we can fulfill his purpose—to find him, enjoy him, and worship him. In this model of self-discovery, the quest is to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives rather than our own self-expression or self-determination. Adam and Eve enjoyed Edenic perfection as they rested in God’s design and purpose for their lives and identities. When Satan offered the illusion of “being like God” and determining good and evil for themselves, they suffered the consequences of self-discovery without God and self-determination instead of God.

This biblical view offers us two great realities upon which to build our view of ourselves: 1) there is a God, and 2) we are not God. We could summarize it this way: God has made us for himself, and we cannot be God for ourselves. In this way we can discover who we are and who we should be. We also are blessed to find God as the unending fountain of good and perfect gifts (Js. 1:17). He blesses and gives when we trust and obey. He knows the weaknesses his people suffer and then glorifies his people.

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