By Gareth Maggs.
Last week we looked at 4 myths that psychology provides as plausible solutions to the problem of identity. The problem of self-esteem not only affects teenagers, it affects everyone as we all continually question who we are and how good we are at who we are. With every solution modern psychology provides, other psychologists find faults, rendering these solutions into myths.
So what does the bible have to say about it?
The great revelation
We’ve gone through all these myths and haven’t found a solution to our identity problem yet. I believe that the Bible though gives us the best solution: if you want to know how you should view yourself, looking at what you were created to be is probably a good start. Genesis 1:26a says:
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
The very first thing we learn about ourselves is that we were not created in our own image, we were created in God’s. This is monumental! It tells us that the problem is not our self-image, the problem is that we think we have a “self-image” in the first place. We don’t have a self-image; we have a god-image. We were made to reflect God and NOT ourselves.
What does this mean, how does it work out in our lives? Read next week’s post to find out.
Being made in His image means we share certain characteristics of God – like his creativity, his leadership, his ability to reason, his morals, etc.
Nowhere in the bible does it say that it was our job to create ourselves into the image he created us to be in. I want you to feel the joy in this; you weren’t created to create yourself into your image. God takes that burden from us, he builds us into his image.
How does he do this?
Look at Ephesians 2:
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
1. He loves you, even though you are dead.
Outside of Christ, you are dead. You might think that being a Christian is like someone drowning in a river; God jumps into the water to save them, and all they need to do is just swim a little bit up to him. No. You are a dead corpse at the bottom of the river. You are utterly incapable of saving yourself. You can try and do good things, but God won’t even see them, because you are dead to him.
Perhaps this idea is troubling to you, because you’ve always thought that Christianity was about being ‘good enough’ to get into heaven. But why then would Jesus have to die? Why would God sacrifice his own son if we could get into heaven another way?
Here’s the joy of this passage – God sees you in your sinful state and he builds your identity…
At the cross.
Verse 4 and 5 say that out of God’s mercy and love, He made us alive with Christ.
Perhaps you’ve never really understood what happened on the cross. I’m going to explain to you. When Jesus died at the cross, he did identity swap with you. He took all your sin and had it nailed on himself; and in exchange, he said to God; “See Gareth, see _____________, and everything that prevented him from being the person he needs to be to reach your standard, I have dealt with at the cross. Because I’ve dealt with it, God, I want you to see him as perfect as me. His sins are gone”
So, when Christ died, he dealt with our sin. When he rose again, we rose with him. While this doesn’t mean that we feel perfect now, we have been made perfect in God’s sight.
Christ has given you a new identity, and since God’s behind the craftmanship, you can never lose it!
What does this mean for you?
You live in the world with a humble freedom
- You still work in the world, you still go to university, you still achieve your goals, but those things don’t define you – God does – he builds your identity.
- Your boss does not define you – God does. This means you can have the meanest boss, but you are able to take what they say as constructive criticism and build yourself up. You don’t have to feel like you are the worst person, because God defines you.
- However, you also remain humble, because you know that your achievements in the office do not build your identity – God does. You might become the best employee, but that doesn’t impact your identity, Christ is the one who died to give you freedom.
- You’re not a failure if you don’t achieve your goals. You may feel bad, but you don’t have to feel despair. This does not define you – God does. This enables you to pick yourself up and try again. You’re freed from that feeling that you are not good enough.
- Your family does not define you – if you make mistakes as a parent, learn from them, but don’t feel like your status as a parent is ‘worst parent of the year’, BECAUSE IT DOES NOT DEFINE YOU – GOD DOES.
Lastly, we don’t HAVE to live for God, we GET to live for God.
If you look in verses 5, 7, and 8, you see that everything God has done in verses 1 – 10 is through His ‘grace’. Grace is a gift of God, and Paul tells us in verse 10 that part of being saved is doing good works. Jesus prepared good works for us to do.
Now why is good works a gift?
Firstly, most of the time good works get a bad rap because they are seen as what you have to do to be saved. But now that you are saved, the pressure and anxiety that works brings is no longer there! Now you can do them without fear of judgement and condemnation.
Secondly, imagine a society where everybody loved each other, where no-one stole, lied, or cheated on one another; where people were always kind and genuinely cared for one another.
This is the society that the Lord offers us. He says, “I want you to be these people, that’s why I gave you these laws. The joy is, you don’t have to follow them because I’ve saved you, but you get to follow them and that means if you make mistake, you can feel hurt for doing wrong, but you don’t have to despair.” It doesn’t define you – God does.