If we would know how to live well and pursue our greatest and eternal happiness, we must know who we are, what we were designed for, and how to fulfill our created purpose. And to find the answers to those questions, there is no better place to go than the scriptures, inspired by the God who made us and who would still reveal his sovereign plan for our lives. Knowing Ourselves, while containing detailed outlines, brief introductions, and simple explanations, is composed largely of the simple text of scripture passages, which have been compiled and conflated for the purpose of laying out a unified picture of what God has to say about who we are, what various conditions or estates we may find ourselves in, and how he relates to us in each of those estates. Designed specifically for group study and discussion, this will make a useful tool for becoming more grounded in what the bible has to say about who we are, what God expects of us, and how he provides what he demands.
When Plato expressed the ultimate purpose and great imperative of philosophy with this command, “know yourself,” he had struck upon a valuable insight. If we would know our purpose in life, how we should relate to the world and to others around us, what our goals and dreams and desires should consist of, how we should spend our time, then we must know who we are. We must know how we were made and for what purpose, and we must know whether or not we are fulfilling that purpose, and if not, how we might do so. If we desire to order our lives according to wise and reasonable principles, then first a thoroughgoing self-knowledge is indispensable.
However, this command is not so easy to put into practice. Who really knows what he is like, deep down inside? Who can say from what mysterious inner workings of our minds come bizarre dreams, unexpected, random thoughts that defy all reason, moments of insight and creativity, moments of foolishness and lapses of judgment? Do we really know how our minds function? Do we really know what we actually want or need? If so, then why is it that, when we have finally accomplished or acquired something that we thought we wanted, we suddenly feel so empty and let down? Who has not felt the deep and inexplicable yearning for something more, and not knowing quite what it was or how to pursue it, tried to bury the yearning in a busy pursuit of professional advancement or entertainment or any of those other things that have always let us down before? If we are ever to rise above this condition, we must know who we are, what we were made to do and enjoy, why we are not doing and enjoying what we were made for, and how to pursue a soul-deep change.
But even here we must take another step back: for we cannot know ourselves until we know the One who made us. We cannot find out about our purpose or that in which lies our highest and eternal joy, unless we hear it from the very lips of our Creator. We cannot understand the miserable extent to which we have failed, unless we measure ourselves against his perfection. And neither can we encounter the only hope of a lasting solution, unless we measure our
failure against his proffered grace. In our first study, Knowing Our God, we spent some time examining who the Trinitarian God is, and how he has revealed his character to mankind. Now, we are ready to take up this daunting question, “Who are we?”. But since our hearts are “desperately wicked and deceitful above all things,” we stand in dire need of grace, as we search the scriptures in pursuit of an answer to this perplexing question. Spirit of God, uncover before us the truths of your word, show us who we were meant to be, and how we can find true joy and fulfillment!
Let us now examine the nature of mankind in four different conditions: Man Innocent, the estate into which he was first created; Man Depraved, the estate into which he was plunged in consequence of his rebellion against God; Man Regenerated, the estate into which God's grace brings him in this life, giving him a new, spiritual nature, co-existent with his old, depraved nature; and Man Glorified, the estate into which God's grace will bring him in eternity, causing his new, spiritual nature to triumph and destroying his old, sinful nature forevermore.