One look at our culture and it becomes plain that we suffer in the area of personal identity. It was Erik Erikson, a psychologist, who coined the term Identity Crisis in his work on life development in the 70’s. Erikson beleived that the identity crisis is the most important conflict that human beings encounter as they go through the developmental stages of life, and I find it hard to disagree with his assessment.
However, when we come to that all important time of conflict over who we are, where will we turn? The options abound in this culture and we can seek to define our person and existence in one of multiple ways. We can turn to religious leaders, scientific scholars and spiritual gurus but how much of that truly defines us in a lasting way and definitive way. We need a source that speaks with authority and finality on the issue of human nature and the reality of the soul.
This morning I read a passage from the Gospel of John where Jesus’ public ministry had just begun. He had turned water to wine in miraculous fashion at a wedding, which was the first of Jesus’ miracles recorded in the Gospel of John. After this His zeal for the purity of the Temple of God compelled Him to drive out dishonest and exploitive business owners. Then, the text says that, “Many beleived in his name, when they saw the signs that he was doing.”
What struck me was not the strange series of events inaugurating Jesus ministry, but His response to those who had begun to believe in His name. His response was that He didn’t believe in them! It seems to be a play on words that many people were believing in his name (Jesus, which means God saves); but Jesus was not entrusting himself to them. Both of these words come from the same root word pisteos which generally means to have faith.
So, while people were believing in Jesus, He was not believing in them. Why? Because, “He knew all people…and He knew what was in man.” He did not entrust himself to them or trust them because He knew that what was in them was a corrupted nature that did not have the will and work of God as priority. Finally, the source we have been waiting for. Here is a man of miracles who knows what is in man. Here is God Incarnate, which I know is a point of contention for non-Christian persons, who speaks finally and definitively about the natural state of man and true state of the soul. So, what does he say about us?
In a conversation with Nicodemus in the next chapter, Jesus lays His assessment on the line for all the world to hear, if we have ears to do so. He says that the light has come into the world(which is a reference to himself), but the people of the world have loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. Therefore mankind stands condemned and doomed to perish unless they are born from above or born again.
If the goal of the Christian life is to walk the narrow path following Christ alone; then I must first come to understand where I start from. The starting line is that we must undergo a radical change of heart and mind that is solely a work of God and apart from that Great Change of regeneration we still do not know who we are or where we are or where we should be going.