You most likely have pondered that very question at least once, if not numerous times throughout your life. You have probably also asked yourself the companion question, "Why am I here?"
These two questions seek to identify two critically important truths: identity and purpose. Identity and purpose are not the same thing, but they can be so closely related that you may try to determine your identity by your perceived purpose. In other words, you may think who you are is defined by what you do.
In only considering these simple examples, it is not hard to see why so many people go through life lost and hurting, desperately seeking direction and significance in life. Perhaps you are one of these people.
In the Bible, God's Word of Truth, the very first verse of the first chapter of the first book states this very important truth: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). Vital to understanding why we are here is the knowledge that the reason anything is here is because God created it.
Unique among the creation of the land, sea, sun, moon, stars, fish, birds, and animals, however, is the description of humans in Genesis 1:27: "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." You, as a human being, are distinct from the rest of creation, because you bear the divine image of God. How is that for an identity?
Furthermore, from the very beginning , God blessed mankind and gave us a purpose: "And God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" (Genesis 1:28).
You can see that every legitimate calling in life serves to fulfill God's purposes for His created world by performing one or more of these functions: We fill the earth by bearing children and raising families, we subdue the earth in cultivating its resources, and we rule over the earth by establishing order in it and protecting the earth. And so the first chapter of the Bible answers these great and foundational questions of the human experience, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?"
Who are you?
You are a human being: created by God, created in His image, created for the purpose of serving and bringing glory to God. That's good news!
But ... if only the Bible ended after Genesis Chapter 1, this would be all the good news you and I need. Just three chapters into the book of Genesis, the good life which the first two humans, Adam and Eve, enjoyed in God's created world was tragically destroyed by the introduction of sin.
In the Garden of Eden, where God had placed Adam and Eve, there were two trees of particular importance: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Although Adam and Eve were free to eat of any other tree in the Garden, God specifically commanded them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil - but they disobeyed.
The fruit was pleasing to the eye, and the Devil - in the form of the serpent - was there to deceive and tempt Eve into eating the fruit, but no matter how many excuses Adam might have come up with, he still made a willful decision to disobey God by eating the fruit. This disobedience of God's commands is called sin, and when sin entered the world, so did death.
The effects of Adam's sin were far and wide, encompassing all of creation, as God told Adam: "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.... By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:17, 19).
What's true of Adam is true of his children, and you and I are both descendants of this first human being. Because Adam sinned, his life became difficult and he died. Because Adam sinned, your life has had its own difficulties and you, too, will die, as it says in the Bible: "Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men" (Romans 5:12). If you think that it is unfair that you should have to suffer the consequences of Adam's failure, you need to realize that you, also, have had your opportunity to measure up to God's standard... and failed, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
In reality, though, you never really had a chance. As David, King of Israel, truthfully wrote, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). Like David, you have known sin your whole life, since you were born. Sin has had an effect on every part of your life: your work has been frustrating, your relationships have been strained, your hair falls out and your bones grow brittle, and you struggle to find meaning and fulfillment in your life because these can only be found in God and your sin has separated you from God.
Sin does not simply prevent you from leading a fulfilling life, however. Much worse than that, sin makes us enemies of God, or as the Apostle Paul says, we "were by nature children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). The wrath he speaks of is the wrath of God, which we rightly deserve on account of sinning against and offending a holy and righteous God who created us in His image.
Perhaps you are thinking that this is all good and well for those who need a guilty conscience to motivate them to do good things in life, but that it's not for you, and you are confident that you are good enough already. After all, you're not a bad person, are you? Yet even the people whom you think are pretty bad probably do not think of themselves as bad people, either. If you have even once lied, cheated, stolen, looked lustfully at someone, held angry thoughts towards another, or put anything or anyone in a position above God, you are guilty before God, "for whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (James 2:10).
Who are you?
You are a sinner, deserving the full wrath of God. That's bad news.
But ... this is still not the whole story. The Bible doesn't only tell of our fall into sin and the punishment of God. The Bible also speaks of God's mercy, and of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who "came into the world to save sinners" (I Timothy 1:15).
As Romans 6:23 tells us, "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Because of our sin, the only thing we have earned and rightly deserve is death. But what you can freely receive in God's grace is the eternal life which Christ has earned.
How can this be? Because Jesus is God in human flesh - fully God and fully Man - and during His earthly ministry He succeeded everywhere that Adam (not to mention you and I) failed. Jesus is the "One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
And what did Jesus receive in return for His life of total obedience to God? He received the punishment deserved by many for their sins by dying on the cross and enduring the wrath of God: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - for it is written [in Deuteronomy 21:23], 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13).
Even death could not defeat the Son of God, who rose from the grave three days after being dead and buried. And so Jesus' words were proven true: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).
Your greatest need in life is not a family, a career, or a name for yourself. Your greatest need is to be reconciled to God by appearing righteous - not guilty of any sin - before Him. Because you cannot do this by your own deeds which are all tainted by sin, you have no hope but to trust in the righteous deeds of Christ, and to receive His righteousness by repenting - or turning away - from your sins and believing in Jesus as the Holy Son of God.
So let me suggest to you that the most important question to answer in your life is not "Who am I?" or "Why am I here?" Rather, the most important question you will ever answer is, "Who is Jesus Christ?" Is he just a moral teacher, pointing out one good way among many? Is he a figment of someone's imagination, leading several thousands of people astray? Or is he the Son of God, who died and rose again, to be Lord and Savior?
These three answers cannot all be right. If one is true, the others must be false. Only one answer carries the promise of salvation: "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9).
Who are you?
I don't know, only you can answer that. What I do know, is that if you are reading this, you are being confronted with the truth of Jesus Christ. There is salvation for all who repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's good news!