Daily Devotional

Soli Deo Gloria

Ephesians 2:10

"For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

In my conversations with teenagers and young adults, two themes that often come up are identity and purpose. Identity is my answer to the question, “Who am I?” My identity is what defines me, what gives me value and worth, what “makes me special.” Purpose is my answer to the question, “Why am I here?” or, in a more familiar form, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  My purpose determines my goals and my aspirations, and it gives me a sense that my life has meaning. Finding a sense of identity and purpose is critical to mental well-being, but it rarely happens overnight. If you’ve spent a lot of time around teenagers, you’re probably familiar with the existential angst they emit as they try to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their life.

But how easy it is to look for identity and purpose in all the wrong places. We humans derive value from all sorts of things. Pleasure. Power. Wealth. Reputation. Achievement. Approval from friends. A relationship. A skill, like music or athletics. A character trait, like diligence or kindness. We can even make an identity out of being a religious, spiritual, or moral person. And our list of self-invented purposes is as varied: to make money; to have a good time; to be admired, respected, well-liked, or popular; to be successful; to please a spouse or children; to enlighten; to inspire; or to make the world a better place.

But in this short verse in Ephesians, Paul sets forth a beautifully different idea of identity and purpose. To the question “Who am I?” Paul responds, “God’s workmanship.” Ground zero for understanding your identity is realizing that you are the creation of Another. You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:20). You do not create your own identity; any more than a piece of clay can demand its shape from the potter (Romans 9:20-21). But what peace, what freedom is found in this truth! My value, my worth, rests in nothing I do, in no merit of my own, but solely in the love of my Creator and Savior. I am an image-bearer of God, fearfully and wonderfully made, a sinner saved by grace, a saint washed in the blood of Christ, a child of the King, and an ambassador for Christ, none of which is because of me. Paul’s identity was completely wrapped up in what Christ had done for him: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Likewise, your identity is in Christ. Your life is not about you, but about Him.

Then to the question “Why am I here?”, Paul responds, “for good works.” Just as we do not determine our own identity, neither do we determine our own purpose. Our good works have been “prepared beforehand” by God. And these good works are not about you. As Jesus states in Matthew 5:16, the goal of your actions is “that [others] may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The best word to finish the phrase, “My purpose is to…” is “glorify.” As Paul says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I am not stuck waiting for a magical beam of light to reveal some hidden life purpose. I am free to do good works, acts of love and worship and sacrifice, in whatever way God has equipped me, with the sole aim of glorifying Him. What joy, what freedom, what an adventure!

So where do you find your identity? Would the rest of the sentence “I am a person who…” be about you or about Jesus? Is your purpose, your hopes, your life’s meaning, wrapped up in yourself or in glorifying your Maker? May God free us from our sinful, self-conceived senses of identity and purpose. May He gently remind us that our identity is His workmanship, and that our purpose is His glory.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.