Trip Lee led a breakout session at The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 National Conference in Indianapolis titled “Incredibly Normal: The Shocking Truth About Who You Really Are.” He addressed the identity of believers and what it means to be a Christian on a planet filled with more than 7 billion other humans. The reality is that God made us in his image for his own purposes, knows each of us intimately, and loves us in a way that only he can, making us unique in the world. We are also incredibly normal—unexceptional—when compared to the greatness and glory of God. Therefore, our identity must be rooted in Christ, not in ourselves, lest we fall to either side and either become entitled or feel inferior. Both are distortions and keep us from focusing on who God made us to be.
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Trip Lee: Father, we come before you in Jesus’ name and we thank you God for your goodness to us, God. We thank you for your word Lord and we thank you for speaking to us in your word. Not only about who you are but who we are. Father, I pray you to help us to hear from you. To think well. To have good conversation. God, give us humble hearts to hear from you God and give us grace not for this just to be your time to hear more human thoughts and wisdom. God, help us to be able to hear from you. We ask that in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I want to tell you all just a little bit about myself. My name is Trip. That’s my nickname. Don’t worry about my government name, that’s not necessary for you to know. I grew up in Dallas, Texas. That’s where I currently live. I just moved back to Dallas about a year ago and just so you know why I’m passionate to stand up here and talk about these kinds of things. I grew up in Dallas. Dallas is a wonderful place filled with things like the Dallas Cowboys which is a national treasure and if you don’t believe me just google America’s team. Tell me what comes up. Your team doesn’t come up, mine does. Dallas Cowboys.
I grew up in Dallas, and Dallas is a super churchy place and so that colored the way that I began to understand who God was, what Christianity was from a young age because it was just a very churchy place. I remember when I was in sixth grade was the first time that I heard somebody say that they were not a Christian. It was very confusing because everybody I knew said they were Christians. So this kid, we was in maybe history class or something and he was like, oh yeah, well I’m not a Christian. My family’s Buddhist and it was the needle scratched and all the other kids just [inaudible 00:02:59] like we didn’t know these non-Christians were real.
I knew people who said they were Christians who loved Jesus, and I knew people who said they were Christians who did not love Jesus or care much about him at all. And I knew people who said they were Christians who went to church every week and people who said they were Christians that never went to church. And I could go on and on. Everybody said they were Christian so I was a little bit confused by what it meant to be a Christian.
And when I was really young, I repeated a prayer after a children’s pastor. I had to be five years old or something. Afterward, we got done doing whatever kids do in church. Color pictures of animals on Noah’s Ark. And when I went, I don’t know about how often me and my family would go but we went enough that I had heard about Jesus a number of times. Not enough for me. I felt left out. I didn’t know all the songs and the hand motions. I didn’t know everything that they were doing. All the hand motions that kids tend to do when they sing songs to Jesus.
But when we got done with those things, the children’s pastor was like hey kids, do you all want to go to Heaven where you get to live forever and you get a new body and any loved ones that have passed away you’ll get to see them again and you get to ride on the backs of cheetahs and you can probably teleport and just unlimited supplies of cookies and Kool-Aid and you can play one-on-one basketball with Jesus forever. Or do you want to go to Hell where you’ll burn forever? I was like oh my goodness. I like the first one. That sounded good.
It wasn’t that ridiculous. It was how my five-year-old brain interpreted it. So I repeated his prayer and they said hey, you’re a Christian. I said it a few more times to make sure it worked. In hindsight, I do not think I was a believer because I did not understand anything about who God was, how holy he was, the ways that I had sinned against him, what it meant for Jesus to stand in my place, what it meant for me to repent and believe. I hadn’t understood any of that. Those words even though I said them sincerely… Hey, can you give me a paper towel? I just spilled my water on my iPad. If you all want to just pray for me and accede for me right now. I’ll try not to be distracted.
I repeated his prayer and it meant nothing to me. There were empty words. Might as well have been reading a newspaper out loud. I assumed I was a Christian though and then when I was about 13 or 14 same church, I get dragged there on a Sunday. There’s a signup for some youth retreat. My mum was like hey, there’s a signup. I’m like I’m not going to that. I’m not going to sign up for that and then I looked over and there were some cute girls. I’m like I’m going to go sign up for that and then I did. I had bad motivation. God had better ones for getting me there.
And it was a good youth pastor at this church. I mean we didn’t just do fun stuff. He opened the Bible, and he preached the gospel of Jesus and as he preached the gospel, that stuff I hadn’t understood about who God was, about who I was, about what Jesus had done, what it meant for me to repent and believe. That stuff started to click and the Lord saved me from my sins and he gave me opportunities. As I would learn stuff in the word, I wanted to help other people see what people had helped me to see and so that’s what I’ve tried to give my life to. And it especially shaped the way that I began to think about who I was as a teenager.
So I’m 14 years old and the way that I see myself is starting to change drastically. These questions about who we are are incredibly important. They shape what we do with our lives. They shape how we make decisions. They shape how disappointed we are about water on our iPads. Good thing I got Apple Care. Yeah, we’re good. Thank you. They shape so much of everything that we think and we see and we do and so that’s what I want us to talk about. Few more other things about me. You’ll hear me refer to my kids a lot. I have two kids. They’re cuter than your kids. Six-year-old son. Four-year-old daughter. I have a wife Jessica. Been married for 10 years. Almost 10 years, it’ll be 10 years in May. Got married when I was eight. Just playing. Some people were concerned.
So that’s me and this is why I’m passionate about talking about this issue of identity. As we begin to think about this issue of identity, I just want to tell you about an interview I saw recently that I think kind of sums up a little bit of why these questions are important and how we think about them. I saw this interview with Oprah. Oprah Winfrey. Somebody asked her what did you learn from all those years of doing that show. What did you learn from all those people you got to interview? You interviewed presidents. You interviewed musicians. You interviewed actors. You interviewed all kinds of people, and she said this that after every single interview, no matter who it was. If it was somebody who nobody knew about. If it was Beyoncé. If it was President Bush. That every single person after that interview would ask the exact same question of her and the question that they would look at her and ask is how did I do? Did I do okay?
You can understand someone doing that if they are somebody who doesn’t do interviews often but the President of the United States was asking Oprah hey, did I do okay? And I found that really interesting because I don’t think that question is unique to interviews and people who are being interviewed. We’ll do this all the time. It may be a game. It may be an interaction with somebody. Whatever we do, we’ll always ask someone or we’ll ask ourselves how did I do and sometimes when we ask ourselves that we’re trying to evaluate how worthy we are. How valuable we are.
The question that I think is behind that how did I do question is am I worthy? Do I matter? Am I significant? Because we always want to know how our performance was. We want to know what people think about it but it’s because we’re trying to wonder, we’re trying to ask the question am I worthy? Am I significant? And the problem is we often are looking in the wrong places to find that answer. We’re asking the wrong areas of our life for that and if we look in the wrong places then we’ll always come up with distorted and wrong answers. All of us want to know if we’re worthy. All of us want to know if we’re valuable. But if we ask our job performance or our personality type or our conversations that question, am I worthy, then we’ll be deceived every time.
So what I want us to do is I think it’s a fine question to ask. To try to figure out what our worth, what our value is rooted in. I just want us to ask the question in the right place. So that’s part of why I want to talk about identity and who we are. The right answer is yes that we matter but it has nothing to do with how you perform on any given day or any given week. Which is hard for us to grasp, isn’t it? I was just talking to somebody about this the other day. When I end the day and I feel like I got a lot done I feel wonderful about myself. There’s nothing that anyone can do to make me not feel good about myself.
If I go through a day and I don’t get a lot done I just heap all kinds of shame and guilt on myself. That we base so much of it in what we do. So I want to look at Psalm 139 to help us think about this a little bit. And here’s what we’ll do. We’ll start looking at Psalm 139 and we’ll think about how we get to figure out who we are. We’ll look at Psalm 8 a little bit too, and we’ll land at one way I want us to think about who we are. Any questions as we keep moving? All right. I will say this as you turn. Who am I is a weird question to ask and it’s a weird question to ask because we feel like we should be the experts on who we are, right?
So I don’t know if you’ve thought about how ironic it is that I’ve never met any of you and we’re doing this workshop and I’m about to try to tell you who you are. That’s a little strange. Because we feel like we should be the experts on who we are. When someone meets you they begin to ask you questions about yourself and they don’t try to challenge it either because you know who you are. You know what your name is. You know who your family is. You know where you’ve been. You know all of these things. Psalm 139 I think is going to give us a little insight into learning about who we are from someone other than ourselves. Psalm 139 starting at verse 13.
God’s word says this: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
That’s God’s word. When I was a kid, my dad used to say something to me that would drive me crazy. He would always say, “Boy I know you better than you know yourself.” That drove me crazy because it didn’t matter what I said. I could say, “Dad, I don’t like meatloaf.” And he would be like, “You do like meatloaf and you’re going to enjoy it.” I was like, “What.” “I know you better than you know yourself” or, “Dad, I know. I’m not too tired to drive.” “You are too tired to drive. You’re going to crash and die. You’re not driving.” I’m like, “How do you know?” “I know you better than you know yourself” and he would always say this and it would drive me crazy.
I have to admit he probably did because he was old. He was around when TVs were invented and I wasn’t. He had a little advantage over me but in the same way the reason that my dad would say that is because there’d be some times when I would be confused. When I didn’t really understand who I was. I would act like I was in control. I would act like I was in charge. I would think that I knew a lot of stuff that I didn’t, and my dad would say that in order to kind of put me back in my place. And here’s exactly what God is doing in this text. He wants us to understand who we are and the fact that he knows us better than we know ourselves. My dad, the reason he knew me better than myself is because I was a kid and he was an adult and he had wisdom and he had knowledge that I didn’t have.
God knows us better than we know ourselves because of course, he is eternal. Not only that but he created us. So a difficult thought is this that you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do. One of the ways I know that is we misread our motives in situations. Don’t we? Sometimes we feel certain. You know what, if I go to this place, I know I won’t be tempted to do A-B-C and then we still are even though we said we wouldn’t. Or we tell ourselves, I’m never going to do that again and we still do. Or we tell ourselves I’m going to just watch one more episode then I’m going to go to sleep. Then you know what I’m saying, you know what happens. Some of you all are tired right now because that happened.
It’s something that happens all the time and we just don’t know ourselves perfectly and so God wants to put us back in our place. God does know us better than we know ourselves. This whole Psalm, Psalm 139 is about how God knows everything. God knows absolutely everything especially about us. The word for all knowledge omniscient. He has all the knowledge and one of the first lessons we’re taught in our whole life is that we don’t know everything. I have to constantly remind my son don’t act like a know-it-all or nobody will like you. And he needs to know that. Well, there’s one being in the history of the universe who it’s okay to act like a know-it-all because he actually knows it all and that’s God himself.
It’s not strange, it’s not arrogant, it’s not annoying for God to act like he knows everything because God actually does know everything and that includes us. He knows us perfectly. Better than we know ourselves. There’s nothing that we could tell God about ourselves that he didn’t already know. There’s nothing that we could say or do that would surprise God as if he didn’t know anything about us. God knows everything and so what we see one of the reasons we can trust God is because we were made by him.
I’ll read verse 13 again, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” One of the most basic truths about the universe and us is that we were made by God and what does that have to with God’s knowledge of you?
Let’s say you found an iPhone on the ground. Let’s say this. Let’s say just go back to 1985. Let’s say somehow an iPhone X made it to 1985 and someone just found it on the ground and they picked it up. What do you think they would think that was? A magic mirror. They’d be like, “Man, this mirror is terrible. Can’t see nothing.” They wouldn’t know what to do with it. And how would they go about trying to figure out what it is and what it does? They could just try some stuff out. Maybe they treat it like a mirror. Maybe they treat it like a coaster. There’s a lot of stuff that would happen that would not even closely resemble what it’s actually for. And in the same way, we think we can just arrive at ideas about what human beings are or who we are, what we’re supposed to do just by trying some stuff out and we may land on some stuff that’s true and it’s good but if we really wanted to know what this iPhone is we would probably ask the person who made it.
What did you make it for? What does it do? Tell me its capabilities. Tell me how it works. And of course, the one who’s created us is God himself as it says in this text. So if we really want to know who we are, the place we want to start is with the one who made us. So as opposed to taking the phone, shaking it, looking around at it we should ask the one who made it. Time and time again we come up with bad answers about who we are when God has already told us clearly. But it’s not just that he made us it’s also how he made us. Verse 13 says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Have you ever seen somebody knitting before? That is not something that’s thrown together. That’s probably why you don’t see young people knitting. Just don’t have the patience for that. This is something that is very intricate. It takes a lot of time. Maybe your grandmother gave you a knitted sweater or something and maybe a breeze got through some of the holes but it was the thought that counted because it took a lot of time and it was very carefully planned. Knitting is something that takes a while. I have a sweater that’s knitted and there are just thousands of places it seems like on the sweater where different pieces of fabric meet each other and it’s really closely intertwined and you can tell that it took a lot of time and thought and care.
And this is how God talks about creating us. That God didn’t just throw us together in a haphazard way but that God knit us together. That he was thoughtful in the way that he made us. He says verse 14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.” He’s saying God did a good job when he made us. He’s saying I’ve seen your work, God. You do wonderful things. Your works are wonderful, and I acknowledge that I’m one of your works. So to say we are fearfully made that means that God did it with an amount of reverence and awe when he made us and he says I’m one of your wonderful works. David is an appreciator of the things that God has made.
The thing about this, I want you to just think about who your favorite musician, who your favorite artist is. And I know many of you are thinking Trip Lee. Great. No. But just think of somebody that you really love. One person for me Stevie Wonder. I think Stevie Wonder’s amazing. So this would be like if I loved Stevie Wonder’s music. I loved all his albums. I was blown away by all the stuff he had written and produced and the instruments he plays and all of that. And then I find out that Stevie Wonder knows who I am. That I’m very significant to him. What to say I found out he liked my music and he loved my music and he was watching my career from afar. I would feel like I could retire. I’m like I made it. I have nothing left to accomplish. Stevie Wonder knows who I am.
This is kind of like what’s happening with David here. So not only is he saying God, you’re my favorite artist. Your works are incredible. He’s also saying I figured out that I am one of your masterpieces. I’m one of your works so when I look at a zebra and I see this incredible black and white striped horse with fringes and I think man, somebody creative made that and when I see mountain ranges and I think man, somebody creative made that I can also look at myself and say man that same genius creator made me and not only that, he didn’t just make me but he knows me.
He knows who I am. He knows us personally. His favorite artist is the one who not only made him but who knows him and the fact that we’re fearfully and wonderfully made tells us that everything about us is on purpose.
That your brown eyes or your blue eyes are on purpose. Or your dark hair or your light hair is on purpose. Or you being tall or you being short is on purpose. All of it is on purpose and here’s what we do sometimes. We look at these features of ourselves that we don’t like and when we think like that we think that at the most maybe we’re not being fair to ourselves. But what we’re really saying is God, I know you said you fearfully and wonderfully made me but I don’t think you did a great job. When he’s fearfully and wonderfully made us and it’s on purpose and his works are wonderful.
Question for you all. What are some of the things that have us in that place sometimes where we don’t appreciate ourselves as fearfully and wonderfully made by God? What are some of the things in our lives that can make us feel that way?
Birthplace. Yeah, there are all these things that can pop up in our lives. Things that are genuinely difficult or things that can be genuinely discouraging but none of those things cancel out this truth that we’re fearfully and wonderfully made and that God makes masterpieces. Now of course sin has come into the world and so maybe we have health issues. Maybe we have sinful hearts that make us want to compare ourselves to other people, but we want to guard ourselves against making that have us think too lowly of ourself. Thinking too little of ourselves because we have inherent dignity because we’re made by God and we’re made in the image of God. So it’s not just that you’re amazing in itself. It’s that you are made in the image of God, and we’re known by him.
Verse 15 says, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” He’s saying God you were watching me that whole time. When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we found out she was pregnant on a Sunday. Sunday morning. We were very excited. We had been trying for a while, and we’d been praying and the Lord… The pregnancy test was positive so we were super excited. And then we went to the doctor on Tuesday, quickest appointment we could get just to make sure she was pregnant. And on that day we heard our son’s heartbeat. Found out on Sunday. Go to doctor Tuesday. We can already hear his heartbeat and then we go through this journey, through this pregnancy.
We had this little app that would tell us what’s happening developmentally at every stage. Like today your baby is the size of a quarter. It’s like that’s weird. But all right. Today your child is the size of an apple. All of these different things that are happening size wise and we’re imagining what they’re like and it’s kind of hard to really know they’re really there. Especially for me because I don’t have any connection. I don’t feel him growing or anything. But here’s what’s happening. That whole time while we don’t see him, while we don’t know exactly what they’re going to look like. While we don’t know exactly how development is going and we’re kind of trusting in an app and this grainy sonogram footage which if you said you can make your baby out in the sonogram you’re lying.
God was watching my son. God was knitting him together. God cared about every hair on his head. Now, what does that tell you about us? That not only are we made by God but we’re known by God, we’re valued by God and here’s a weird thing, despite that we still go other places trying to ask how did I do, how am I doing to arrive at some kind of value. We’re going to other people for affirmation as if God himself hasn’t affirmed us. As if God himself didn’t knit us. You know there’s some paintings sometimes that someone will have in their house and it’s worth nothing and then someone discovers that it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci. All of a sudden that painting is worth a whole lot more because of who crafted it. So we can look at ourselves and think man, maybe my worth and value isn’t this or that but when we remember that we are made and known by God that should change that completely.
Verse 16, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book.” That brings some comfort that God not only made him and saw him and knew him but knows him now and I want to stop right there and see if anybody has any questions. And can you tell me your name when you ask your questions?
Joe: Yeah, Trip hi. My name is Joe.
Trip Lee: Hey Joe.
Joe: From the ministry. I’m curious in working with non-believers how does this conversation of identity work with somebody who doesn’t have their identity in Christ and we’ve burned God’s image on them without giving them false hope. How does that conversation go?
Trip Lee: That’s a good question. I think it’s helpful to start here because of course there’s some very unique things that change about our identity when we believe in Jesus. And we often talk about our identity being in Christ. People don’t know Jesus they’re not in Christ, so they’re not a new creation and they’re not forgiven of their sins and the things that we think about our new identity but the starting place for who all of us are is that you’re made in the image of God. And there’s evidence of that all throughout creation.
Trip Lee: This is why even the worst of people you still see little things that look like the fingerprint of God in their life. So sometimes people will be confused like people who’ve done terrible things like O.J. Simpson who’s done terrible things and people will be confused like man, but he was also charming. How could he be both charming and warm and also a terrible person who murdered somebody? How could that exist in the same person because even in our brokenness and our sin we are made in the image of God?
Trip Lee: People say, man, Hitler even painted. How could there be any ounce of anything that seemed like something good? He was made in the image of God. He was broken. He was far from God. He needed to be reconciled to God. He needed to be freed from slavery to sin but he’s made in the image of God and that fingerprint is on every single one of us and I think that’s important for us to see because otherwise, even the way that we treat our non-believing friends has to be shaped by the fact that we know they’re made in the image of God.
Trip Lee: They do not have to believe in Jesus to be valuable and worthy. If we treat people who don’t know Jesus in an inferior way then we have bad theology. We don’t just have bad ethics; we have bad theology. Our value is placed on us is we’re made in the image of God and so as we talk to non-believers about this we want to say you may not believe in Jesus but I want you to know you have inherent value and worth in the God that created you and here are some ways that we see this in people.
Trip Lee: Here’s why it’s so clear that we’re made in the image of God. And try to just point out to some of those obvious things.
Audience Speaker: As the world and especially the western world becomes more open to changing one’s identity, both physically and mentally. How would you approach that and respond to that way of thinking? You were talking about how each identity is given to us by God and planned. Every detail was made by God. How would you approach the subject of changing that identity?
Trip Lee: He was just asking me in this day and age when people are more and more open to changing their identities how do we talk to people about our identities being given to us by God. That’s a faithful representation of your question Makai?
Trip Lee: That’s a tough question man. I think what I would want to do is I would want to walk with somebody, and I would want to help them to see the beauty of who God created them to be. I would want to help people to find significance and value because here’s what can happen. We do this thing in our mind where we think I will feel valuable and worthy when this thing happens and if I can just get to this then I’ll feel valuable and worthy. Then I’ll feel better about myself. Then things will go well, and we just do this thing where we just set these mile markers all the time and then we reach the mile marker and we realize we’re not satisfied and we still have issues with our self-worth and we set a new one.
Trip Lee: In just the average person’s life it may be man, when I finish high school then I go to college then I’m going to get to be on my own and then I’ll feel good. Oh, but just wait till I get married, then I’ll know I’m loved. Oh, just wait till I have kids then these kids and I’m going to see myself in these kids. We just keep moving the mile marker from when we’re going to feel valuable and worthy and I would want to take a step back and say hey right now as you are you have value and worth. You don’t have to do anything or change anything to achieve it. It’s just on you.
Trip Lee: I want people to know that the most important thing about you is not what’s unique about you. It’s something that’s true of every single person that’s ever existed. The most amazing thing about you is not even what’s unique about you. I think this is part of why we have identity issues now is we want to find our value and worth in what’s unique about us. Something we’re better than somebody else at. Something that sets us apart from others and God is saying your inherent value and worth was stamped on you by me. And so I would want to walk with people and help them to see the beauty of who God made them to be and just kind of take it from there. I wouldn’t want to start with hey, stop trying to change your identity. God made you like this. I would want to start with trying to show them the beauty of who God made them to be.
Trip Lee: Yeah, let’s keep moving. I want to look at Psalm 8. So Incredibly Normal again the title of this session. The reason I say incredibly normal is because we’re made in the image of God. Fearfully and wonderfully made. We’re incredible but we’re also normal. So you are incredible made in the image of God. You are unique in all of creation. Also, it’s like seven or eight billion of you walking the earth right now. You can do incredible things and be like God in ways that none of the rest of creation can. Also, after you die there’s going to come a time when nobody even remembers you. I don’t know if you’ve read Ecclesiastes but Solomon basically says hey stop trying, everything sucks. But just fear God, though. Fear God. Keep his commandments you’ll be good, but everything is trash. All your money somebody else is going to spend it. You’re going to work hard and nobody is going to remember anything you did. There’s nothing new under the sun. Basically, this is all not great. But fear God and keep his commandments.
Trip Lee: And if you think I’m lying or exaggerating read Ecclesiastes. It’s worse than what I just said. It sounds worse than that. Psalm 8, we’re incredible but we’re also normal. David says this, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” So verses one and two he’s basically just saying God is really big and God is really glorious. You set your glory above the heavens. You’ve established strength even through babies and infants.
Trip Lee: Verse 3 he says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” So he’s saying man God you are big. You’re amazing. He said but when I start to look at the heavens and I look at the stars you put in place and the moon and the sky and all of that he says what is little old me. You ever watch something about space and just thought man, I am really small. This is what David is doing right now and he’s saying when I think about how amazing you are and the amazing things that you’ve done and you’ve created, who am I?
Trip Lee: Isaiah 40 says we’re grasshoppers in God’s sight. David is saying you’re really big God and because I see how big you are that makes me feel really small so he’s saying you’re responsible for all of that yet you pay attention to us. That God is like the owner and the manager of everything that exists in the entire world yet he also cares enough to keep your heart beating and your lungs pumping oxygen through your body at every moment. That right now as you blink God cares enough to keep you blinking so that your eyes don’t dry out. That God knows all of your thoughts. That even now God through his holy spirit is working his word into some of our hearts. That God cares about us even though he’s really big and all of this is his and yet he cares about us.
Trip Lee: You all remember MTV Cribs? If there was a MTV Cribs episode for God, it would just be a bird’s eye view of the whole earth. This is me right here. Everything is his and yet he cares deeply about us. And so when we remember that it helps us to keep ourselves in perspective because it’s very hard to forget how small we are. When we do something good and someone praises us we just feel like we are the man or the woman. Like if a kid recognizes me in the airport is like hey Trip Lee, I love your music. People are looking who is that I’m like it’s me Trip Lee. And if I think about it for three minutes it’s like how foolish is that. That God put the stars in the sky and knows them by name, and I made a three-minute rap song and I think I’m doing something.
Trip Lee: One of the ways we stay humble is to look at God often because when we look at ourselves in light of God it’s not that we should think lowly of ourselves like we don’t matter. We are incredible. He’s made us that way but compared to God it’s incredible that he would even give us the time of day. And so the thing that this does, when we think too highly of ourselves we become entitled. Entitlement is the opposite of gratitude. I know sometimes we think the opposite of gratitude is silence. So like if someone gives my kids something and they don’t say thank you. I’m like hey, slap my son on the back of the head, say thank you. He says thank you.
Trip Lee: But the opposite of gratitude isn’t silence, it’s a heart of entitlement that thinks that the things that we get are things that we just deserve just because we’re us. But when we remember ourselves in light of who God really is, that yeah we’re incredible. God made us. Yeah, we do all these amazing things that he created us to do. We’re also really normal, and we’re small compared to him. It keeps us with gratitude because we understand that everything we have as James 1 says is coming down from the Father above. From the Father of lights. With him, there’s no change or shifting shadow. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. When you know that you’re needy and you’re weak you more appreciate the things that God gives us and when we see ourselves in light of God it helps us to do that.
Trip Lee: This is part of why David is marveling. If all the living presidents just showed up at my house one day and it was like hey Trip, we just want to hang out. We just want to watch a little Dallas Mavericks game with you. I would be blown away. I’d be like man, you all are important people and you all thought enough to come to my house and hang with me and I would take a selfie that would get so many likes. And it would feel special because of their status of importance. Much greater than any president and any artist, any person we can think of. God knows us and watches us and cares about us.
Trip Lee: One of the reasons I think sometimes we forget that we’re even valuable though is that we think that value comes from rarity. We think that something is only valuable or beautiful if it’s rare. It’s why diamonds are valuable. This is why some of the Air Jordans I like are valuable. Because they’re not a lot of them out there. But when you look out your window and you look at a sunset or a sunrise isn’t it beautiful? Happens every single day in a lot of places all over the world. Sand on a beach is beautiful. There are millions of little grains of sand, but it’s still beautiful and it will take you millions of hours to get all the sand off you as well. That’s why I don’t like the beach but it’s beautiful.
Trip Lee: So this is part of what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to help us grab the balance of seeing how incredible we are but also how normal we are because we want to root our incredibleness not in a sense of pride but in the fact that we are created by God. And we want to see our normalness in light of the fact that we see ourselves in light of God and who he is. David goes on to say this is verse 5 and then we’ll stop for questions, “Yet you have made man a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Trip Lee: He says that God has given us dominion so that God is the uppercase K king and we’re like little lowercase kings. And God has allowed us to rule on his behalf. One of the things that kings used to do in the ancient world. They used to put statues of themselves in their kingdoms so that you would walk by and you would see something, a likeness of them and when you saw that likeness of them you would remember who was in charge. You’d be reminded to obey. You’d be reminded who the ruler was. And we are like those statues that God has placed all over creation not because we are the king of kings but because we’re lowercase kings given dominion to manage and steward his world and we’re not meant to rule with our own authority, we’re meant to be a representation of the one who actually rules.
Trip Lee: So part of the reason you’re incredible is because you are a lowercase king or queen. You’ve been given dominion by God. You’re incredible, but you’re not the king himself. You’re normal. So when we think too lowly of ourselves, we discredit God and we have the bar way too low. If we think too lowly of ourselves, we’re not made in the image of God. We don’t have incredible purpose that God has created us for. We’re not made for his glory. Then the way we make decisions changes. Who cares what I do with my life? Who cares if I sin? Who cares if I destroy my body? It’s just me over here but if we understand that we have dominion, that we’ve been made in the image of God. That we’re here to represent him. That we’re here to rule on his behalf then that changes the way we make those decisions. It changes everything. The bar goes a little bit higher.
Trip Lee: When we have too high a view of ourselves, we can sin just because we think we have all the autonomy in our lives and then that can lead to a low view because when we find all of our identity and some success we’ve had and we think so highly of ourselves as soon as that success is gone then our world crashes around us. You notice every day where people who get famous real quick and then they say one wrong thing. Everyone loved them yesterday and now everybody hates them deeply and so we have to build our identity, our value, our worth not on the stuff that we do but on the fact that we were created by God. We’re made in his image.
Trip Lee: I want to stop here. We have a few more minutes left. Four more minutes left for questions before we finish up.
Ed: Hi, I’m Ed.
Trip Lee: Hey Ed.
Ed: How much should a Christian find satisfaction in being valued by God? Is there a danger to that meeting some sort of imbalance of self-love or something and does that put it at odds with finding value in God?
Trip Lee: Can you ask the question one more time?
Ed: There’s a part of what you say is attractive in my heart, my soul. To be loved by God and be valued by God. There’s sort of real joy that comes from that but is there potentially a danger that you can find too much emphasis on God loving you and improving me and sort of like the soul be focused on God himself. Are those at odds at all?
Trip Lee: Sure. He was asking is there a danger to thinking so much about God valuing us and God loving us in a way where we focus more on God’s love for us than God himself. Of course. Of course, we can take any truth, most false teaching is just overemphasizing one part of scripture and ignoring something else. That’s almost what false teaching always is. Pick anything. Prosperity teaching. Jesus purchased for us no more pain, no more suffering. Emphasize that in a way that forgets about the fact that it’s just not right now, it’s in all of eternity. You can just emphasize it and ignore all the others stuff scripture says.
Trip Lee: So of course we can read this and we can think of God and only value God because he values us. But I want it to be the other way around. I want to say because we value God, we understand he’s the creator. That all things are built on him. That he holds the universe together by the word of his power. The fact that he created us gives us value and the fact that he loves us should be enough so we don’t have to go around chasing it. Because he is who he is. And yeah, I think that’s a good question and we want to hold those things in balance but and I think this is something that especially us reformed types can do is we can feel really… It feels a little strange to talk about our value and worth sometimes because we’re like but aren’t I a worm who deserves nothing?
Trip Lee: And again that can happen when we’re overemphasizing one thing to the detriment of something else. So yes, we are depraved. Yes, we’re in desperate need of salvation but even when we’re far from God we have dignity and value and worth because we’re made in the image of God and what Jesus came to do was to restore that image of God in us. That it’s been broken. That it’s deformed. It’s kind of like a broken mirror. Like you can see yourself but your image looks all weird. That we are made in the image of God to reflect him. We don’t reflect him perfectly. We’re broken and what Jesus came to do is Jesus came, lived the perfect life. He paid for our sins, and he’s conforming us to the image of God very slowly and then we’ll look like him perfectly. One day.
Audience Speaker: How do you reconcile…?
Trip Lee: Can you tell me your name?
Steven: Oh yeah, Steven.
Trip Lee: Hey Steven.
Steven: How do you reconcile some of the more difficult passages like [inaudible 00:45:10] against the idea of a universality of …?
Trip Lee: That’s a good question. I appreciate you bringing up the most difficult texts in the Bible in the last few minutes. The quick version is I think in Romans 9 is God is talking about those who are his people and those who aren’t. He’s talking about election. I think the way he’s talking about loving Jacob and hating Esau has to do with his purposes for them. I think it has to do with more of an… So I don’t think it means that there are some of us who don’t have inherent dignity and value and worth.
Trip Lee: But I do think scripture teaches really clearly that God predestines what will happen to us and God does predestine some of us to know him and to walk with him and others of us not and how that works with us making actual free choices is hard for us to work through sometimes. But we know both of them are true and so instead of throwing one out because again this is where false teaching comes from. So we don’t want to throw out the fact that we make real choices with real responsibilities. We’re responsible [inaudible 00:46:13]. We also want to throw out the fact that God elects and predestines. Both of those are true and so I’m going to continue to pray God will help me to understand how those two things work together.
Luke: My name is Luke. I was really curious about [inaudible 00:46:31] celebrate the fact that we’re made in God’s image [inaudible 00:46:36] so that you also said [inaudible 00:46:38] we find value in uniqueness. So how do we celebrate uniqueness [inaudible 00:46:45]
Trip Lee: Yeah, he’s asking how do we celebrate our uniqueness even though that’s not the thing that’s most important about us and I would say just that. The most important thing about all of us is we are made in the image of God. For those of us who are believers also that we are adopted by God into his family and there are other things that also matter so that doesn’t mean that other things don’t matter and can’t be celebrated.
Trip Lee: So I am a black man. That means that my blackness is part of a particular reflection of the image of God. God made me like this on purpose because he wanted his image to be reflected in me and my blackness because God made me like this can be celebrated and rejoiced in. It is not more important than the fact that I’m made in the image of God. It is not more important than the fact that I’m adopted by God.
Trip Lee: So we can celebrate those differences. We can learn about each other’s differences so we can walk together well but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of realizing the most important thing about us and something we all have in common and I think sometimes we hit a crossroads in some of these discussions because we think it has to be either/or. There is neither slave nor free therefore I don’t need to acknowledge what’s different about you than me and that is just foolish and not in the Bible but again it’s emphasizing one thing against another instead of understanding how those things work together.
Trip Lee: I think that’s a good place for us to close because that kind of hits it the reason I’m saying incredibly normal is we are incredible made in the image of God but we’re also normal and we want to hold those two things together and I walked through Psalm 8 a little bit just so you could see Trip you’re crazy to hold these things so closely together. That’s how scripture talks about us. How David talks about us. We’re kings. We have dominion but what is man that you would even think of him? We want to hold those two things together. That’s the only way we’ll be able to be faithful to God. See ourselves as we actually are.
Trip Lee: Let me pray. Father, thank you so much for your goodness. Thank you for your word, God. Thank you for speaking to us about who you are and who we are. God, I pray for my brothers and sisters in this room. That you would help us to live in light of who you’ve made us to be. God help us to find joy and satisfaction in you and in who you’ve called us to be. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.