Editor’s Note: Becky Kiern shares with us a piece inspired by her new study published with CDM: Our Light and Life: Identity in the Claims of Christ.

Some of my most treasured childhood memories are of the post-dinner stories my grandfather told. Most of the time he was a man of few words, but without fail, after he finished eating, his pushed his chair back, linked his fingers together, and rested his hands on top of his post-retirement pot belly. As a smile spread across his face, he looked at us and asked, “Did I ever tell you about the time . . .”

Through his stories, he transported us back to 1940s Jackson Square, to the French Quarter beignet shop where men in tuxes and women in ballgowns dropped white sugar all over their carnival attire. He took us on grand adventures such as sleeping under picnic tables while hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon and working odd jobs on the home front while older family and friends fought across Europe and the Pacific.

It’s been fifteen years since I heard him tell a story or seen his full-bellied laugh, but I can remember those precious moments like they were yesterday. Those stories taught me my family history, and later in life his stories helped me understand parts of who I am.

Knowing Ourselves by Knowing God

“Who am I?”  Is there a question more central or universal to the human experience? These three little words, this tiny question, can take a lifetime to unravel. For generations, poets, songwriters, sociologists, and anthropologists (just to name a few) have attempted to romanticize or research their way to a deeper understanding of human and personal identity. For those of us who are Christians, the question is also warranted. God invites His people to freely ask identity questions, knowing in His kindness He already gave us the answers in His Word.

As we study God’s Word, as we begin to digest God’s divinity, His story and promises, we are invited to understand the fundamental truth: there is no real knowledge of self without a knowledge of God. And at the core we cannot truly answer the question “Who am I?” until we have answered, “Who is He?”

So, who is God? The four gospel books were written to help the Church know and understand the person and work of Jesus Christ. But the Gospel of John is different from the other three books (the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in that John writes his book not simply to recount Jesus’s life, but to help explain Jesus’s identity and unique relationship with God the Father.

Jesus’s “I Am” Statements

John was raised in the synagogue and studied the Torah and the other scriptural texts. He recognized the thread of God’s covenant promises running throughout Jesus’s teaching. Nowhere was this connection more evident than in Jesus’s “I Am” statements. Jesus used these carefully chosen statements to express His redemptive and protective relationship with God’s people. Each identity claim is rich in meaning and when we study them in relationship to the Old Testament passages to which they correspond, the steadfast identity of God is further revealed.

Here are a few of Jesus’s “I Am” Statements in John:

The Bread of Life: Jesus faithfully sustains God’s people with words of true nourishment and life (Jn. 6:47; Deut. 8:3).

The Light of the World: Jesus overcomes the darkness of this fallen world with His holiness and justice (Jn. 8:12; Isa. 9:2; Jn. 1:5).

The Door and the Good Shepherd: Jesus is the protective and righteous leader of God’s people (Jn. 10:9, 11; Zeph. 3:1-3, 14-20).

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus was gathered with His disciples in the upper room. There He declared “I am the True Vine and my Father is the vinedresser…abide in me and I in you” (Jn. 15:1, 4). When we abide in Christ— when we live out our union with Him— Christ’s character becomes our core identity. Though we maintain our individuality as God’s unique creations, “Who am I?” can be answered by every Christian: I am one loved by and united to Christ.

Through my grandfather’s stories, I grew to understand my family identity. Through John’s writing, I grew to understand my core identity: a beloved daughter of the king, called, redeemed, and united to Christ. I pray Our Light and Life provides a helpful guide through Jesus’s identity claims and helps you grow in belief and in a deeper understanding of your identity in Christ.

Want to learn more about Becky’s new study? Visit the PCA Bookstore or where you can preview sample chapters.

About the Author:

Becky Kiern

Becky Kiern is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary who has served in staff and lay leadership roles in multiple churches. Currently living in Nashville, TN, she enjoys teaching the Bible at retreats and conferences, developing church leadership and writing Bible study curriculum. She is the author of Our Light and Life: Identity in the Claims of Christ. Her other works include contributions to Co-Laborers, Co-Heirs: A Family Conversation, Christ in the Time of Corona and Beneath the Cross of Jesus: Lenten Reflections. Becky has also been an adult cardiology RN for nearly 15 years. Above all her favorite roles are that of friend, sister, and auntie.