Knowing Who You Are

Almost 2000 years ago, a medium-sized sailboat with 276 men aboard (Acts 27:37), set sail from the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea towards Rome, which was about 10,000 miles away.  Among the men were a few prisoners, one of whom was the Apostle Paul (Acts 27)

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Knowing Who You Are - Christaian Ambassadors

From the quarterly newsletter:
My Brother's KeeperVolume 11, Number 2, April-June, 2006
Christian Ambassadors Prison Ministry

Knowing Who You Are
© Copyright 2003 - David Todeschini.
Originally published by Christian Ambassadors Inc.
Article by David Todeschini

Posted by: WebPastor David Todeschini
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Almost 2000 years ago, a medium-sized sailboat with 276 men aboard (Acts 27:37), set sail from the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea towards Rome, which was about 10,000 miles away. Among the men were a few prisoners, one of whom was the Apostle Paul (Acts 27).

When Paul was a younger man, his name was Saul, and his job was like a Bounty hunter. He went around arresting Christians, people who followed Jesus Christ, and he would throw them in Jail. He treated his prisoners badly, and even allowed some of them to be killed (Acts 9:1-2). All of that changed one day when he was on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3-20), and the Lord knocked him off his horse and asked him: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4). Getting up, he found that he was blind, and his buddies had to help him into town to meet a man named Ananias, who touched him and restored his sight. From then on, Saul’s name was changed to Paul, and he went around preaching about Jesus Christ.

But now, Paul himself was a prisoner, not for hurting people, or for persecuting the Christians, but a prisoner because he was preaching about Jesus.

As the boat sailed, it came into a wicked storm: rain, heavy winds, lightning, and big waves that tossed the ship around like a rubber duck in a bathtub. The storm’s winds were so bad, it was impossible to use the wind to sail with, so the crew took down all the sails. They even gave up trying to steer the ship. The waves were so high they came over the deck. The ship was falling apart, so the crew tried to hold it together by not trying to fight the storm. On Paul’s advice, because the Lord had spoken to him (Acts 27:22-25, 38), everybody ate as much food as they could so that they would be strong; and all the rest of the food was thrown into the sea with the rest of the cargo, to make the ship lighter. The ship ended up crashing into the rocks off the shores of the island of Melita[1] (Acts 28:1) and everybody swam to shore.

The people on the island saw what happened to the ship. Since the water was very cold, they built a big bonfire to help the men swimming see where they were going, and also to warm them up once they got to shore. Paul had told the crew that the Lord had spoken to him, promising that none of them would die in the storm. True to his promise, all of them made it safely to shore.

While they were all on the beach warming up and getting dry around the big campfire, Paul went and got a big bundle of brushwood, and went to throw it into the fire. He didn’t know it, but there was a poisonous snake inside that bundle of twisted branches (probably curled up, sleeping). When the snake felt the heat of the fire, it jumped out and bit Paul on the hand (Acts 28:2-3).

The natives, being superstitious people, knowing that Paul was a prisoner, reasoned that “this must be a murderer” because the snake bit him. They figured that Paul was being punished for all of the terrible things he must have done (Acts 28:4). But Paul pulled the snake off his hand, and threw it into the fire (Acts 28:5). He didn’t die, and he wasn’t even hurt! The people then knew that what they started to believe about Paul wasn’t true (Acts 28:6-7).

You see, when Paul was young, and was known as Saul, he did do evil things. If he personally didn’t kill anyone, he didn’t do anything to stop someone from killing a Christian, which is just as bad. The “old” Paul (Saul), the young man, did not know who he was, before the Lord knocked him off his horse on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3-4); that’s why he did the evil things he used to do. When Saul met the Lord, he realized who he was. He wrote about it later:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new Creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” – (II Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)

Paul was protected from the storm and the snake, because he knew he was a child of God. Paul knew he was made in the image and likeness of God, so whatever people said about him, really didn’t matter. It didn’t bother him at all.

You and I are God’s children, too. Did you know that? Well, it’s true. What that means is that our souls, the part of us that is really us, is like God, because we are created in His image - which means we are “just like” our Father in heaven. If God is perfect, then you must be good. If God knows everything, then you have to be smart. If God can move a mountain, then you must be strong, too. If God loves all of us, good or bad, then you and I can love each other and our neighbors with the same kind of love. God made us this way, and we learn not to remember, or we are taught to believe lies about who we really are, by other people who don’t know who they are.

Sometimes we say to ourselves: “I’m no good”, or “I’m too fat”, “I’m too skinny”, “I’m not smart enough”, or “I can’t do that”. Sometimes we hear it from other people -- teachers, parents, and friends. Like the natives of Melita did to Paul, people will sometimes call you names, or call you by the name of something you may have done wrong a long time ago. But, if you have Jesus in your heart now, you know who you are. Like Paul, the “old man” Saul is dead. You are a new creature; a new identity. Who are these people talking about? They’re trying to tell you who you are, and they don’t even know who they are!

You see, my friend, who you are is not your name, and it is not the names people call you. Who you are is not what you do to earn a living, and it certainly is not the name of any sin or crime that you may have committed. Jesus took care of all that! It’s not your fault that others don’t know this, and perhaps you can explain it to them.

When you know who you are, you can’t be tricked or talked into believing something about yourself that just isn’t true. When you hear those things, or when you start having doubts about the real you, just remember Paul’s story. Know that you are a unique and very special child of God, and nobody - not even you, can change it by what they say, what they think, or by what they believe about you. When you know you’re God’s child, you start to act like it, just like Saul, who started to act like a Christian instead of a hoodlum when he met the Lord on the Road to Damascus. Saul’s behavior changed so much, that the Lord changed his name! Everyone who met him afterwards, was truly amazed. They recognized his face, and were surprised at the change that had come over him. When you love the Lord, the same good things happen to you.

Concluding Thoughts: The message of our identity in Christ has common threads in all of scripture. It is a lesson that is most imperative for a child to learn as early as possible, for him or her to understand it. Children, especially very young, can be very critical and cutting with their tongues, especially in school where they are searching for their own identities. A child knowing his lineage in Christ, is much less vulnerable to attacks and slander against his identity, if that child knows the truth; knows that he/she is basically good, and created in the image and likeness of God. I can think of no better thing to teach a child growing up, or for an adult to learn later on. Like Saul changing into Paul, knowing this truth in one’s heart can change your life dramatically for the better.

Suggested Reading: Acts chapters 9, 27, and 28

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[1] Melita – currently known as the island of Malta.