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I Am What I Am

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

It is wonderful to be together again as we have the privilege to look into the Word of God and to apply the Words of God to our lives and to witness the truth to others.   The title of our message if “I AM What I AM” and our text comes from the New Testament book of First Corinthians chapter 15 and verses 9 and 10.  Listen to the Word of God:

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

This is the word of God; may he add his blessing to the public reading of his word.

Many of us are familiar with the popular movie and cartoon series: “The Pink Panther”.  The original lead actor was a British actor and funny man Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers stared as Chief Inspector Clouseau, who often didn’t have a clue what was going on.  Peter Sellers was a successful actor-comedian who starred in many movies.  He was interviewed and had this to say about himself: “As far as I’m aware, I’m nothing, have no personality of my own whatsoever, I have no character to offer the public, I have nothing to project.”  Peter Sellers had a glowing professional, public image but privately, personally he had a very poor self-image, evidently low self-esteem.

Many people have the same problem, publicly, outwardly, they seem happy, stable, seemingly with good self-esteem but privately, inwardly they struggle with low self-worth, a poor self-image.  The Bible has many benefits for those willing to search and seek God’s principals and precepts, to know God’s will and truths for each of us, individually, especially deep down in our hearts and spirits.  Even as Christians, we are prone to all kinds of insecurities, sometimes low self-worth.  God cares about each and every one of us; especially as Christians we are the sons and daughters of our Father, God.  He has meaningful counsel, encouragement, teaching to help us to see ourselves as God sees us.

The apostle Paul struggled at times with his past and failures, yet he also emphasized God’s grace, God’s favor in and through him.  Paul wrote of himself in First Corinthians 15:9 “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  Paul later wrote in Ephesians 3:8 “…Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me…”  Again, later in his life in First Timothy 1:15 “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”  Yet this same Paul also wrote in Philippians 4:12-13 “…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…”  In verse 13 “I can do everything thru him who gives me strength.”

Saul the persecutor who had been arrogant in his prideful, puffed-up, overly high self-image (the other extreme) found humility, understood and accepted the grace of God in his life; which in our lives also can change everything.  In spite of our past, in spite of our failures, God’s grace can transform us into people well-balanced in our hearts, minds and spirits.  Recognizing, emphasizing God’s grace and favor in us above all.

Paul affirmed this truth in his life.  From First Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”  Yes, God’s grace or underserved favor of God was mighty, was powerful in Paul’s life as he surrendered fully, as Paul put his obedient faith in Jesus Christ, and grew in faith and knowledge in Jesus Christ.  Paul knew who he was, a sinner but saved by God’s grace.  He accepted God’s grace, his favor abundantly into his life.  Paul had a proper, balanced view of himself.  “I am what I am.”  Not in a negative, self-abusing way.  Instead in a positive way, “I worked harder” giving the glory to God and God’s grace working in and through him.  No longer was Paul the selfish, puffed up, self-centered Saul the Persecutor.  But Paul the humble, proclaiming the gospel who served God’s will in his life and even in a  growing fashion.

We can do the same.  God desires we live our lives abundantly, to the full, full of his grace as we surrender to him and have a proper, balanced view of ourselves.  We are all sinners but we all can be saved and strengthened by his marvelous grace, his favor working in and through us as we bring further glory to God.  We still need to work hard, apply ourselves.  We have accountability, responsibility as believers.  We also can so be and can “be content in any and every situation…and can do everything thru him who gives me strength”, of course everything in God’s will for our lives.  It’s about the degree of our surrender and our faith in our God.

God’s word is full of his counsel regarding who we are, what our mindset should be.  We’ll use the word “secure” as an acrostic, each letter in the word secure helping us to remember how to be secure in “I am what I am” by the grace of God. Let’s look at this acrostic together.  “S” is for “start” with what God thinks of us. As in Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  From this text we should accept and realize that every single human being has great worth, value to God.  All have spirits, minds, as God does.  Along with the other that comes from God: creativity, we have the ability to choose, we have free will.  God doesn’t make junk!  Each and every one of us is a unique, special, every human being is the pinnacle of God’s creation.  We need to start with how God sees us.  “E” is for “Entrust” ourselves totally (physically, mentally, spiritually) to God.  Paul entrusted himself to God “I am what I am – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”  We need to believe it, live it out!  Acknowledge it, accept it and entrust ourselves to God.  “C” is for “cease” thinking, feeling inferior, incompetent, incomplete.  Cease comparing yourself with others.  Everyone single one of us is different, unique.  Cease unjustified self-criticism.  In Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything thru him who gives me strength.”  As believers, we can by the indwelling Holy Spirit who empowers us.  Paul was flesh and blood, just like us. “C” is we need to see us the way God sees us.  “E” is we need to entrust ourselves totally to God.  “C” is quit thinking of ourselves as inferior.

“U” is for “use”.  We need to use the physical talents, spiritual gifts we do have, work it out.  We need to be involved, engaged.  All have some God given abilities.  Paul wrote about himself in First Corinthians 15:10 “… I worked harder than all of them.”  Forget self-pity and self- apply ourselves to that which we can do.  The God given abilities we have been given.  “R” is for “Restrict” our expectations to realistic attainable goals.  Don’t overload.  God’s grace is there for us, for you and me.  Look to God for his enabling grace.  “E” is for “Eject” self.  If we really want to mature in our self-image don’t focus on just ourselves but on our Savior.  Receive Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord.  Paul had it right in Galatians 2:20 “…I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God…”  That’s a mature mindset.

We all can be “secure” in Christ Jesus.  And that includes a proper, balanced self-image.  An independent, isolated from God self-image can invite insecurity.  A self-image built only on the physical, mental, emotional will inevitably, eventually disappoint us.  If we focus on who we are in Christ, understanding and accepting “By the grace of God – I am what I am.”  We can find God’s proper, balanced image of who we are: “Precious in his sight.”

Peter Sellers, famous in the public eye, saw himself as “Nothing, no personality, no character” in his own mind.  He died prematurely at age 54.  Quite possibly his evidently deep, poor self-image contributed to his demise.

It does not have to be that way, especially for Christians.  Some of the last words Paul wrote were as in Second Timothy 4:6ff “…the time has come for my departure.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day…”   When he died, Paul had no sour grapes, He knew he had lived a life well lived in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit!

That is a secure believer because his confidence, his image, is in his personal Savior and Lord by the grace of God.  That’s what we should all have as our mindset because “By the grace of God I am what I am.”


David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10