Who am I really?
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question? I’m not talking about skimming over the idea of life; I mean really asking the question. At the deepest, most private, most intimate aspect of your life, who are you really? In the honest answer of that question did you find a discrepancy between who you are and who you should be? That, my friend, is the conundrum of character. Many can put on a facade for others about who they are, but a façade – or better yet – a reputation is not character. The early educator Horace Mann once said, “Character is what God and the angels know of us; reputation is what men and women think of us.”
A conundrum is defined as a difficult problem, a dilemma, or anything that puzzles. It is a word that is often used in regards to a riddle or a seemingly insoluble situation. Imagine that two people’s lives hang in the balance and you only have the ability to save one life. Which life would you save? There lies a conundrum. This question is not just an example of a conundrum; it is indeed, the reality of our own personal character conundrum. We have, warring within us two natures or two characters. If we are to become all that God has intended, one must live and one must die.
Character, according to the American Dictionary of the English Language (Noah Webster 1828), is defined as: “the peculiar qualities, impressed by nature or habit on a person, which distinguish him from others.” In the words of Pastor Frank Damazio, “Character is the inner life of man. It will reflect either the traits of the sinful nature (being influenced by the world) or the traits of the divine nature (being influenced by the Word of God).” Proverb 27:19 states, “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart (moral character) reveals the man” (emphasis mine). Character, by these definitions, is the true identity of a man. Who you and I desire to be is not our character, but rather who we are, right now.
I believe that if you break the Bible down into the most basic story line it would consist of two main characters, Christ and Adam. Everyone else is a type and shadow of these two. Christ is the divine nature of the kingdom, and Adam is the sinful nature of the world. For example, Egypt was a type and shadow of the world (Adam) in which the people were caught in bondage and sinfulness. On the contrary, the Promised Land was a type and shadow of the kingdom (Christ) in which the people were free and lived in a land that flowed with milk and honey. The desire of God was to redeem the Children of Israel out of Egypt and release them into the Promised Land, the perfect type and shadow of mankind’s redemption and re-birth. Just as the Bible is a narrative of two natures, Christ and Adam, so our lives are a microcosm of the same narrative. This is our character conundrum. We are Adam, and we are Christ. We must now choose with whom we will identify and become.
In 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being (an individual personality); the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit [restoring the dead to life]. But it is not the spiritual life that came first, but the physical and then the spiritual. The first man [was] from out of earth made of dust (earthly-minded); the second Man [is] the Lord from out of heaven. Now those who are made of the dust are like him who was first made of the dust (earthly-minded); and as is [the Man] from heaven, so also [are those] who are of heaven (heavenly-minded). And just as we have borne the image [of the man] of dust, so shall we and so let us also bear the image [of the Man] of heaven” (AMP).
Paul was clear in his understanding of the two natures of man. In this scripture, he was encouraging the Corinthians to not be bound by the earthly man (Adam) because there is now resurrection and new life in the heavenly man (Christ). Notice he said, “We have borne the image of the man of dust.” These three words together are from the Greek word, phoreo, which means “to bear constantly, to wear as pertaining to clothing.” It denotes the idea of a continuous or habitual condition. Now, the Bible is clear that we all have been born into the image of Adam, the habitual condition of sin. That is why Romans 3:23 declares, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” The good news is that we do not have to stay there! Paul went on to say, “So shall we also bear the image of the Man of Heaven.” These bold type words form the same Greek word, phoreo, again, meaning to wear as pertaining to clothing, continuously or habitually. This means we have a choice on what we will “wear.”
The context in which Paul discussed what to wear was focused on image – two images, earthly image and heavenly image. I remember there used to be a Sprite® commercial that boldly declared, “Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst.” Cleverly spoken, however it is a lie. The truth is your image will determine your thirst; therefore, image is everything! This is especially true in regards to the image Paul was speaking of. Image is the Greek word, eikon, (where we get the English word icon), which means “a figure or likeness.” In relation to this scripture it has the idea of not only resembling the likeness of Christ but also representing that likeness, not only outwardly but also authentically inwardly – which deals with moral character.
Let’s look a little deeper. Paul also wrote a similar, perhaps more defined idea to the church in Colosse. “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:8-10,12-14, NKJV emphasis mine). Notice the definition of the two characters; one established in Adam. The other established in Christ. If we take a simple personal inventory using the definitions that Paul used it will be clear with what image or character we identify.
I don’t believe the conundrum has much to do with how to align ourselves with the right character – put off one, put on the other – but rather recognizing in the first place that there are two characters in play. Most people struggle, unaware that one nature must die and one must live. Which one lives and which one dies, this is where the conundrum begins. Let me leave you with this final statement from Jesus Himself, “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me (Christ), let him deny himself (Adam), and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his (Adam) life will lose it, but whoever loses his (Adam) life for My (Christ) sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24 NKJV amplification mine).