Who are you? What terms would you use to describe yourself? What relationships do you have that define who you are?
Each of us is many things at the same time. For instance, I am a man, a son, a husband, and now a father. I am also a pastor, a friend, and an employee. In each of those relationships, I have duties and responsibilities.
Yet I don’t always feel like I am all those things. Usually I act as only one of those things at a time. For instance, when I’m talking with my dad on the phone, I am acting as a son. When I go out for a date with my wife, I am acting as a husband. When I preach on Sunday morning, I am acting as a pastor.
But when I am preaching, I am still at the same time a husband and a son. All those realities are still present in my life. And I need to be constantly aware of my responsibilities in each area, lest I fail in any of them.
Each of us also, as a Christian, has a relationship with God. But our relationship to God is infinitely richer and more multi-faceted than any of our relationships. In any relationship, I am usually only one thing to them – a husband to my wife, a son to my father, and so on. But this is inverse in my relationship with God – I am many different things at the same time with Him, because He is many different things at the same time to me. God uses a multitude of images to convey this powerful truth to us in His Word. And I am required to live in the way implied by each image – all at the same time!
For instance, the Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23:1). Therefore, I am His sheep – an object of His care, without a single lack. Jesus Christ is also the true vine, and I am a branch (John 15:1, 5). Therefore, He is the source of my life, and I must “abide” in Him, trusting Him to work in me and strengthen me and sustain me (John 15:4-7). God is also my Father (Matt. 6:9). Therefore, I am His child, loved, cared for, provided for. Christ is the groom, and the whole church is His bride (Eph. 5:23-25, 29-30) – and I am part of His church. Therefore, He loves me tenderly and faithfully, and feeds and cherishes me (Eph. 5:29), and I must submit to Him (Eph. 5:24) and love Him alone. God also describes me as a soldier (II Tim. 2:3). Therefore, I am to endure difficulties like a soldier in the trenches, and single-mindedly serve Him, that I might please my General (II Tim. 2:3-4).
So who are you in relationship to God? What would you answer? Would you choose only one or two of the images I listed above, with others not even in your mind? I would encourage you not to view your relationship to God through only your favourite lens. Perhaps you love the image of the church as the bride of Christ, but the image of the Christian as a soldier of the Cross is not often in your mind. But if you want to understand and live the Christian life in all its God-intended fullness, you must inform your mind through each Scriptural image. So take some time today and meditate on what it means to be a Christian, using an image that is uncommon (to you). This will help you to fill in a gap in your understand of the fullness of the Christian life and your responsibilities to God, and – not least! – God’s promises to you.