“I AM . . .”
Today’s Scripture Reading
At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.
However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.
You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.
The first two words of Wesley’s prayer are inextricably linked and undeniably essential to understanding the prayer in its entirety. Without a profound examination into the words I am, we may potentially dismiss the prayer as distant and vague or perhaps even determine that the prayer is meant for others, not us. When in actuality, the words I am can only be seen as deeply personal.
Wesley’s prayer demands that we associate the prayer with us, personally. This does not mean the prayer is void of a shared or communal aspect; it certainly is. Rooted deeply within the communal commitment to enact the prayer, however, is a personal and intimate expression of self, “I am.”
To some, the words I am may seem regular or ordinary. However, the words are extraordinary, for they convey that we, all human beings, are created in the image and likeness of God. Without God’s intentional act of love—creating us each uniquely, yet connected to others through spiritual and emotional understanding, physical resemblance, and social relationships—we are merely matter void of purpose and meaning. However, each of us is, in fact, deliberately created with purpose and meaning. One way to think about purpose and meaning is to think about purpose as our reason for being, objectively. Meaning, then, is the values and beliefs we associate with or assign to our reason for being, subjectively. In other words, purpose tells us who we have been created to be, and meaning tells us the significance and worth we find in the repetition of living out our purpose. When we live according to purpose and meaning, we find peace.
For me, personally, purpose can be summed up in three primary reasons for my being. One reason for my being is simply to worship God. When I express my awe and love of God through prayer, fasting, song, attending church, studying Scripture, giving, serving others, or sharing my faith, I worship God. A second reason for my being is to represent God to all those I come into contact with, reminding them that God is a loving God who has not forgotten them. This means that I am determined to fill my heart so full of love that there isn’t room for anything else within it. When people come around me, my hope is that they sense a love for God and others. This love then compels them to explore God in meaningful ways. Finally, a third reason for my being is simply to help people become deeply committed disciples. This is why I serve as a discipleship director at my church and teach, mentor, organize small groups, and plan retreats, so that people can become more devoted to their faith through events, experiences, and environments that lead them down the pathway toward being deeply committed. If someone were to ask me, “What is your purpose?” I would respond simply by saying, “My reason for being is to worship God, love God and others daily, and to help people become deeply committed disciples of Jesus Christ.”
I find meaning in my purpose when I have opportunity to feel and see that my purpose-driven efforts are working. When I feel inspired through worshipping God, I know I am living into my purpose. When I can help the people around me feel God’s love, I know I am living into my purpose. When I watch people grow in their faith and develop an insatiable desire to learn more and practice more of the Christian faith, I find meaning and feel worth and significance.
Simply said, when I live into my purpose or exercise the reason for my being, I find value, worth, and usefulness in my reason for being and it compels me to be more Christlike.
Therefore, to be created in the image and likeness of God, with purpose and meaning, is to be created for the reason of reflecting God’s glory or to represent God. We represent God best when we understand that in “I am,” we are spiritual, relational, and moral beings designed to present to the world around us the main subject of God, which is love.
We are spiritual beings in that we are people who reason, possess a will, and act with complete freedom: a freedom that allows us to love God (or not) by choosing to submit to God’s ways. We are relational beings in that we have been created to be in community and to live in God’s good creation with a longing for the well-being of all of God’s creation, other human beings and the beautiful world around us. Finally, we are moral beings. This means that we are capable of knowing, loving, and serving God—to be filled so full of love, there isn’t room for anything else in our being.
In the Wesleyan theological tradition, we call a heart so full of love that there isn’t room for anything else “Christian perfection.” This perfection is not a static state in which we live free from sin or any other flaw or defect, of course. Christian perfection is, however, the dynamic process of experiencing God’s grace in which we are moving on to maturity. I like to describe this dynamic process as increasing the frequency and duration of the holy moments in our life. In other words, how often and for how long can I consistently express a love for God and others.
It is important that we do not move too swiftly or read too quickly past the first two words I am. In those two words, we find a rich and robust understanding of who we are and the worth that we find and possess in our being. Ultimately, Wesley wants us to know that God is love and, in that love, we are God’s representatives of God’s love. We ought to symbolize God’s grace, mercy, and justice to all whom we come into contact with, wherever we live, work, study, or play. This means that wherever God has directed our paths, there we are intended to be an icon of God’s great love for all of God’s creation.
I encourage you to remember the Great “I Am,” God, who in God’s self-existent, eternal, and self-sufficient being is the source and sustainer of all of life and, therefore, is worthy of all worship and honor. We are alive because the Creator and Sustainer of life, the true source of existence, created us for a loving relationship with God and others.
What is my purpose for life?
Where do I find meaning for life?
Based on today’s commentary, how would you describe what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God?
Describe the specifics of your spheres of influences. (Think: places in your life where you have an opportunity to make an impact.)
What would you say is the main idea of this part of the prayer?
God, help us to remember who we are and whose we are—and to represent you as an emblem of love wherever we live, work, study, or play. Amen.
Today, at least three times, within your sphere(s) of influence, choose the best method and course of action to represent God to others. The best way to do this might be to take action once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening.
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