The Ugly Lie of Self-Identity
When Satan entered the Garden of Eden as a serpent, he used his craftiness to confuse Adam and Eve about their identity. After casting doubts about the Lord's Word, creating confusion over what God had actually said, and casting aspersions on the Lord's character, Satan then cut to the chase. Eat from this tree, he told them, and "you will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). He was telling them to determine for themselves what is good and evil, right and wrong.
Satan is surely foisting this lie with great effect on this current generation. Consider five common ways people are trying to be like God today.
Be like God and create your own identity. God alone is self-existent. His covenant name of Jehovah, translated as LORD in most English Bibles, means "I am who I am." As such, "He made us, not we ourselves" as the 100th Psalm testifies.
Yet so many lost souls around us, denying the essential truth that they were created by God, believe instead their identity is self-wrought. Our culture believes that who you are is determined by you alone. That's why every commencement speaker tells graduates to "follow your own dreams." In our individualistic culture, people are blasphemously telling themselves, "I am who I am." Social media such as Facebook and Instagram reinforces this misconception. People put up images and share the facts about themselves they want others to see, leaving out the areas of their lives they do not want known. Like a Picasso painting, their social media identity is a composite of distorted parts of who they really are.
Be like God and be your own authority. God alone is the Lord of all. His Son, Jesus Christ, possesses all authority in heaven and on earth. Every earthly authority derives its power from Him. We are to live under His authority and for His glory.
Yet our age believes that man's chief end is to glorify himself and enjoy himself forever. How that message resounds through music, movie, and media. Make yourself happy. It is your body, so do with it what you please. Do not be yoked by parents, teachers, or other authorities. When I was a kid in the 70's, one of my relatives gave me a hippy pillow with purple fringe framing the message in the middle: “Do Your Own Thing”. And I did to my own ugly shame and harm until Christ redeemed me.
Be like God and determine your own gender. "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). Our gender is determined by the One who made us. Being a father of six children, with three boys and three girls who alternated as they came, what a joy it has been to watch them grow up and live out either their maleness or femaleness.
Yet that most fundamental truth of identity is not a given in this age. Whether or not someone thinks he or she is a man or woman is no longer determined by biology, whether your chromosomes are XX or XY. Rather, it's whether you feel like a boy or girl. I recall hearing an interview where a reporter took as legitimate the claims of the man who was "gender fluid" - transitioning between a man and woman many times in one day. What was known as gender dysphoria and considered a mental illness is now cutting edge news worthy of a breathless interview.
Perhaps you have seen this video of the short, white guy doing interviews on the University of Washington campus. When he identifies as a woman, the interviewees readily accept his self-designation. When he says he is a Chinese woman, they pause but again acknowledge his right to be so. But when he asks about being a 6'5" Chinese woman, they struggle to grant that to him. Too bad they do not hold up the same type of yardstick against his gender and ethnic claims that they do to his stature. But in a day when parents are raising "theybies”, children being left to themselves to decide whether they are a boy or girl, what should we expect?
Be like God and determine your own age. The Lord is the author of life (Acts 3:15). He is the one who has written each of our days in his book (Psalm 139:16). He has given breath and life to mankind, having determined their allotted times (Acts 17:24-27). Yet in this age of self-identity we want to self-identify even our age.
Emile Ratelband is 69 years of age according to his birth certificate, but this Dutchman believes that he has the body of a 45-year-old. So he pursued legal means to have this younger age be official. Though denied by judges (for now), Ratelband argues somewhat convincingly in this ageless age that if transgender people are allowed to change their sex, he should be allowed to change his date of birth.
Some people go even further than Mr. Ratelband (my apologies for the insensitive masculine title). There are adults who dress and act like babies, some even believing and acting as if they are infants trapped in adult bodies. They even have groups for them called ABDL communities – Adult Baby Diaper Lovers. I refuse to put a link to this, for unfortunately I once saw a news article with a picture of a grown man in a diaper and will not subject anyone else to it. Talk about ugly.
Perhaps we could laugh at all of this vanity if it were not so tragic.
Be like God and take your own life. The Lord not only has the power to give life but also to take it away. When Job’s wife saw the sum total of his afflictions, she told him to curse God and die by taking his own life. Yet Job responded by faith when he said, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"(Job 2:10).
In our day, suicide has become the second leading cause of death among youth. The suicide rates of 15-19 year olds has risen 75% in the last decade, and among 10-14 year olds it has increased a shocking 190%. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, blames smartphone use for much of this rise. Writing in The Washington Post, she states that “some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental-health issues may have slipped into depression because of too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.”
In the midst of all these ugly lies and the ugly lives they produce, how we need to recognize something twisted up in Satan's lie. The awful part of Satan's ugly lie is how close it is to the beautiful truth. For since we were made in God's image, we are to be like God. No, not by creating our own identity, but by receiving the identity and reflecting the glory of the One who made us. How is that achieved? By looking at, learning from, and living in the One who is the very image of God (Colossians 1:15). In becoming man, Jesus, the image of the invisible God, was made like us so that we could be made like Him. In that is our true identity.