Who do You say that I am?

(to listen to a podcast of this teaching, click here)

What defines me?

What I wear?

Where I’m from?

What I know?

Who I know?

What I do?

What I’ve done?



These things shape me, and more interestingly,

They reveal what defines me.


All of us live as a result of what defines us.

It drives everything we do. And most of us don’t know who we are, what defines us. Or we have a false sense, an untrustworthy definition.


I live as a result of what defines me.


A Saturday Story

One Saturday, I sat in a room of leaders.  My calling is to eradicate isolation and burnout so that leaders bear much fruit.  My insecurity was stunning that day.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone, make any connections, do anything other than just sit there and keep to myself…isolated. [clever, no?]

It defined me.

“Not enough” defined me.

It told me who I was and it told me what to do.

Mr. Insecurity.  Mr. No One Will Like Me.  Mr. No One Cares About Me.  Mr. Shut Up And Keep To Yourself.  Mr. Eradicate Isolation was Mr. Isolation.

But there is another lonely leader in that room.

There’s a church who needs to be led by a leader who walks in Godly authority.  There’s a leader who’s caught up in trying to make the church he leads match the thriving church down the street – so intent on doing so that he has forgotten about what God already told him to do.

There’s a leader who is overwhelmed by the pressure of life, family, ministry…that tomorrow, she’ll give up.


Somewhere in that room is Rescue.  Is Victorious.  Is Conqueror.  But right now, he’s Mr. Insecurity.


See, our lives are a gift to each other.  We were designed in God’s image, we were defined by God’s definition.


And when I live by some other definition, it’s not just me that loses out, it’s you, it’s the world.


That Saturday, the Spirit of God prompted me to ask Him a question.  A question that Jesus had asked His disciples.


Let’s look at Matthew 16.  Jesus has this way of asking an easy question and then flipping it to go deep into someone’s heart.


Matthew 16:13-19 [NIV]

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”


People are always trying to define you, or at least understand your definition, because it reveals who you are, how you will act, what you will do.


If Jesus wasn’t settled in who He was, He may have made an OAK tree grow out of his hand or changed the color of His hair.  Instead, He reveals the strength of His identity by rebuking them.


Then in verses 7-11, He’s basically saying “You don’t understand yet?! What?  Don’t you know that I’m defined by being more than enough?  The strength of my identity is more than enough and that means that around Me, you’ll never have to worry about…having enough bread.”


That’s how identity or definition works – it always gets lived out.  That’s why it’s so important.


Then in verse 13, “Who do PEOPLE…” and then “Who do YOU…”

Hear Jesus’ response to someone who understands His definition:  18b  “I will build My Church on that revelation…!”  There is power at stake when someone understands their identity.  What happens when you know who you are?  Everything happens!


And it’s really important, before we begin to work really hard to figure out our definition, our identity, that verse 17 clearly tells us that it’s not from human revelation, but by the Spirit of God.


So that Saturday, I pulled a “Jesus move” and flipped His question around and asked Jesus “Who do You say that I am?”  And everything changed.


Since that day, I’ve asked Him on various occasions to answer that question.  I’ve heard: Victorious, Conqueror, Warrior General, Winner, Son, Confident, Shepherd, Strong, An honorary Aspen, but really an Oak, Builder, a true David, Faithful Steward.

And the story goes on... Keep reading.

Another story

I was planning a worship set, feeling crushing pressure and tension. I was completely stuck. I thought, “I’m a worship coach, it shouldn't happen to me!”

So I posted a question on my blog.

I read one of the responses: “to obsess over this, as if the future of the Kingdom rested on my ability to hear God for the perfect list” and realized that I wasn’t worried about the Kingdom, I was worried about the opinion of a pastor.

I read "Clear my name, God" from Psalm 26, and I realized that I had attached my name to the leading and that was one of the main reasons for feeling the pressure. I repeated that phrase over and over, letting God's forgiveness wash over me.   I said “God, I take my name off of the leading for these next two Sundays. Forgive me for constructing my identity from my leading, my style, my creativity, my track record.”

Then I still had struggles as I read over my yellow pad notes.

I re-wrote with a sharpie who God says that I am.   

The Identity Triangle

Let me give you some very freeing context. I was lost in utter darkness, ‘til You came and rescued me!

(Scroll down to the bottom to see a helpful graphic)

If you work at being obedient through the Law, you’ll try to define your Identity by your Good Works. If I pursue Obedience before knowing my Identity, my good works (obedience) become my identity rather than who my Father says I am.

As C. J. Mahaney explains in The Cross Centered Life:

“Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God. In other words, a legalist is anyone who behaves as if they can earn God’s approval and forgiveness through personal performance.”

I John 3:1

Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

If I pursue Obedience before knowing my Identity, my good works (obedience) become my identity rather than who my Father says I am.

“I’m a good Methodist. I’m a good Christian.” No, you’re a son. You’re a daughter. Now go do good Christian things. BECAUSE you are a son or daughter, not to BECOME a son or daughter.

Is this Biblical?

You might be saying: “I want to please You. I want to do everything I can do for You…and hope that it’s enough.” Let me share what I believe is God’s pattern in this:

Matthew 3:16-17 (NIV)

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

When Jesus was being baptized [before He had done ANYTHING], God gave Him His stamp of approval, His Identity and His blessing. He hadn’t healed anyone. Hadn’t prophesied. Hadn’t cast a demon out. Hadn’t raised the dead. Nothing. By the way we live, it would seem like that moment would’ve happened more like this: “This is my son, whom I love; He’s really got potential. He may do great things. I’ll let you know in a few years if He amounts to anything. He’s new in ministry, but give Him a few years to prove Himself. But no, He says “I AM WELL PLEASED.”

So it’s in the context of being drawn to the Father, knowing that we’re sons and daughters, dearly loved and pleasing, that we should obey, know what good works we can be doing, and journey forward as worshipers!


Marks of living from who God says I am


1.  I know His voice

a. My sheep know my voice. Say “Baaaaaa” – John 10:27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…”

b. Listening for 8 things

2. I’m fearless

a. Worship starts being scared => “say what you need to say, no fear of man.”

3. I will be “toward” each other

a. No longer comparing. “I felt good about my life until I checked Facebook.”

b. I’ll look for ways to partner, to walk in community

c. I won’t posture myself to look good, be first, get noticed, or win the opportunity

4. I will be unique and bold about it

a. (Honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions. –Proverbs 28)

b. Romans 1 talks about Jesus saying “The sacred writings contain preliminary reports by the prophets on God’s Son. His descent from David, roots him in history; his unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, setting him apart as the Messiah, our Master.

c. No longer just trying to fit in

d. It’s like John records in the famous verse on worship in John 4:24 – God is seeking worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth, or as The Message says it “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

5. I’ll take risks

a. I’ll actually believe that I MUST do who I am

b. I’ll live as though I actually believe the Bible is real. Think about it. If I don’t trust what He says about me (or even know what that is), will I not also question His revelation through scripture?

6. I’ll stop looking over my shoulder for approval

a. I’ll walk in authority

b. My prayers will shift from “please help John” to “I release healing to John”

c. I’ll have nothing to prove

7. My life will be marked by rest

a. Cease striving and know that I am God [Psalm 46:10]

b. Because I will no longer have to strive to define myself by my good works and performance

Take a few minutes to ask the Lord, “Who do You say that I am?”