Part 1: Introduction
It is amazing how easy it is for a person to create a false image of themselves and believe in that image.
What goes into this image?
From our early childhood onward, we develop an idea of who we are and who we should be.
Our parents and other family members influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.
Friends and acquaintances influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.
The media influences who we think we are and who we think we should be.
Religion influences who we think we are and who we think we should be.
Politics influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.
Social pressures influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.
What would happen if we stripped all of that away?
What would happen if we got to the roots of who we really are? What would happen if we got to the roots of who we really should be?
What if we could look at the unique person God created and really see that person, flaws and all? What if we could lay aside all of the world’s ideas of who we should be and looked to who God says we should be through Jesus?
Growing up, I was told that I was unlovable, unattractive, unlikable, selfish, cold-hearted, lazy, stupid, a liar, boring, weird, and so on. I could do one thing and it was wrong, then I could do the opposite and that was wrong too. Nothing was ever good enough. I caught the blame and punishment for the actions of others, I was singled out and compared to everyone else as lesser-than, I was falsely accused constantly, and I was made to question my reality and severely attacked any time I spoke up against the lies I was being told or that were being told about me.
When paired with all the unrealistic ideals about body image and relationships perpetuated in movies, television, and other forms of media, I was very confused. Pair this with a superficial Christianity that was mingled with other faiths and I was totally lost. I was dead inside. I did not even exist. I knew it, and I wanted death to be my reality. Jesus saved me from this and drew me to Him.
I carried this false image of myself for most of my life. I had no idea who I really was, other than a terrible person who was not worth any amount of kind treatment. I had little sense of self-accountability and no confidence in my ability to make good choices, causing me to question every move I made and over-rely on the opinions and feelings of others. Jesus taught me to rely on Him.
I felt like I had to fix the problems of others, even if it meant enduring abuse because that was normal. I was used to believing words including professions of love, even if actions did not match up, so I had no idea what real love looked like and I constantly questioned my better judgment. Jesus showed me what real love looked like and taught me His judgment.
I tried to gain ground and stability by over-planning and controlling every aspect of my life, yet my plans always changed according to what someone else thought. Eventually that transitioned into controlling others. Eventually my critical eye was not only inward, but outward as I saw the worst in everyone around me, fully expecting every single person to hurt me, betray me, or otherwise let me down. Eventually I became overly distant and overly self-reliant, unable to let people get close to me—or a very, very, select few. I was hyper critical, cynical, and cold. Jesus softened my heart.
After doing a few months of research regarding the cycles of what the world of psychology calls “narcissistic relationships” and after a lot of prayer, something snapped in me. I began sorting through all the things I had always been told about myself—the same things that I eventually began to see in everyone else—and I realized something. Most of these things are lies—or at least they were. Overtime, I became most of those things to one degree or another. I believed the lies and I became the lies.
When I look back over the course of my life, I can see a pattern. Every good thing about me was hated and destroyed, only to be replaced with an equal and opposite lie. I then believed the lie. I then became the lie. I then projected that lie onto others and they became the lie.
This had to stop.
I knew that Jesus would help and that He would use all this hardship for my good and the good of others. Jesus had been at work in my life but certain sins clung so tightly to the core of my character.
For me, a lot of the sin struggles I had were given to me through living in a world of lies. As I looked back and considered these things prayerfully, I found relief. There is still much work to do, because very often the lies we live have lasting effects on us—even changing our brain chemistry and affecting our physical health. However, in Jesus we have the truth—and the truth will make us free.
About the same time that I began to see who I really am—who God created me to be instead of the lies that the world told me and therewith corrupted me—I felt a strange conviction. This might seem like vanity, but there is a lesson in it and I feel compelled to share. I started caring for my hair.
My hair has always been a fluffy and unruly mess that was easily tangled and hard to deal with. I had awful cowlicks and I was never happy with it. I went through cycles of cutting it short then letting it grow, just to wear it in a ponytail or bun. I have always hated fixing hair.
In May of this year, I got the conviction to cut part of my hair, to start wearing my hair down, and to let it grow, which I though strange because Christianity is not about outer observances. Even so, I obeyed and wondered at the meaning. I later realized that this was a kind of symbol to me for an inner work that He was doing. We were getting to the root of who I really was (pun intended).
Shortly after I started paying attention to my hair, I realized something about my hair that I kind of knew, but not fully. My straight yet frizzy hair is actually curly. I saw this somewhat when my hair was short, but I always let it grow out because I hated spending money on haircuts, then it was soon tied back because my hair grows fast. So, I never really knew what my hair was like. My whole life I thought it was something it was not.
When cared for properly, I had totally new hair. I had my real hair that God created me to have, and now I actually enjoy wearing it down—except on those very hot days! There is a lot of symbolism in this, and I’m still learning what it means.
Yes, this is strange. I get that and I understand false accusations that might result, and it feels weird to do this. However, I want to—and think I should—share this with others and encourage others to get to the roots of who they really are, lay it all bare before Jesus, and throw out false self-images in favor of who Jesus says you are.
Idolatry takes many forms, but few are as harmful as a false self-image.
Let’s lay aside our false images. Let’s approach Jesus truthfully and repentantly. In so doing, we will learn who we really are.
Of course, none of us are perfect. We are all sinners. We all have flaws. Yet, how much of who we have become is the result of living a lie?
As children of God, though we sin and struggle against sin, we are created in His image and we all have a place and purpose for good. Who did God create you to be? What lies are getting in the way of that? Tear that image down because what God has in store for you is so much better.
In this series, I want to further explore the problem of false self-image. Some of this might be difficult to hear. We have to let go of self-affirming culture of “you’re enough” and the like. We have to let go of racial pride and national pride. We have to let go of gender pride.
We have to let go of all of the parts of our self-image that are contrary to the ways of Jesus and the person God uniquely created us to be. I have a lot of work yet to do, but Jesus is my way. He can be your way too, and I’m excited to share this journey of finding our true selves together.
Part 2: Identity
To identify something, we must understand the qualities of the object we want to identify. What about identifying the self? What makes up the self?
In the scripture, we see that a person is body, soul, and spirit.
Is our identity wrapped up in our physical self, including appearance, race, and gender? It certainly seems that these attributes are important to many people.
What about spiritual identity? What is spirit? We are told in scripture that man became a living soul after receiving the spirit of life from God (Genesis 2:7). Spirit is what animates a person (John 6:63). I believe that a person can be of many spirits. The spirit of a person might include aspects of personality, belief systems or ideologies, and perhaps abilities. There also seems to be spirits of sin, such as murder, envy, and pride.
A spirit can be shared among many individuals. There are “spirits of the times” and ideologies that possess entire groups of people. All Christians with the Holy Spirit are of the Spirit of God, though in different measures. Only Jesus had the Holy Spirit in fullness (John 3:34).
What about the soul? The soul seems to be the core and unique aspect of the individual. The soul cannot exist without body and spirit. When the spirit of life is divided from the soul, the soul and body die (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Many believe that the soul is immortal. That is not true. God only has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16).
What does all of this have to do with identity, and why does it matter?
This matters when we consider the idea of eternal life.
First, we consider that which is passing away.
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:15-17).
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:15-17).
8 Charity (love) never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away (1 Corinthians 3:8-10).
There are many things that do not have an immortal nature. Physical identity, race, and gender do not have an immortal nature. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) There are also many spirits that are passing away, such as social ideologies that are against the teachings of Jesus, as well as spirits of sin and spirits of antichrist.
Now, let’s consider that which is everlasting: Jesus Christ—the Word of God.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35).
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
When Jesus returns—when the Word returns—all that is of a dead nature will be “destroyed by the brightness of His coming.”
What happens when a person’s identity—a person’s core self and soul—is attached to that which is passing away? Can the soul live?
I think it is natural for people to attach their sense of self to things like politics, social movements, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or other forms of classification. We want to find our place, and that which we identify with becomes our sense of security and fills a need for order and connection with others.
However, many things we attach ourselves to are dead things. What will we do when the true nature of the dead thing we are attached to become exposed? Will we feel personally threatened? People do. This is natural, though it is dangerous.
Thankfully, we serve a wise, patient, and kind God. Jesus understands our frame, and He works on us according to His perfect timing and methods. It is true that the Word is sharp and powerful, able to divide soul from spirit. His Word can kill. However, His word can also make alive, and He knows precisely how to cut away the dead things from a person without destroying them.
This is an amazing thing to consider.
Through faith in Jesus, His blood cleanses us of our sins so that we are freed from the final consequence of sin which is death. Through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, the things we identify with that are harmful or contrary to the teachings of Jesus are stripped away over time, and we are given a new identity. We even receive a new name—if not during this present life, then in the life to come.
However, though we perceive ourselves as “new,” to God we are coming into our true selves. As we walk more after the Spirit and less after the constraining labels of the flesh, we begin to see who God created us to be. Before we were formed in the womb, God knew who He was creating.
This is a fearful thing but also a reassuring thing. Jesus loved us before we loved Him, and He knows exactly what He made and who He will make. We can approach Him safely, as a child with a good parent, knowing that our God intends everything for our good and He is kindly disposed towards us in our sinful struggles. This is especially true when we are honest about our sin and desire to do what is right. When we approach God in this manner, He is safe and we can trust in Him.
We all want to find our place in this world. However, we do not want to overly identify with the things of this world which are passing away. Jesus provides us with a better place—an everlasting habitation—that is free from the sinful constraints and labels of this world. That is so freeing.
Mankind can be very merciless, and it can feel impossible to escape the labels of our past. It is not so with God when we put our faith in Jesus. We are created again new. We are not bound to our past but freed from it so that we can live and pursue a better way in Jesus.
This is an amazing gift and opportunity that was bought with the precious blood of the Son of God. Let us really consider and lay hold of this. How great is the salvation we are given? How miraculous, merciful, kind, wise, and perfect?
What dead things do we need to divest ourselves of? What life in Christ must we put on? We need to find our identity in Jesus. Who did God create us to be? What purpose do we have in His kingdom now and to come?
As mentioned in the first article within this series, there are many forces in this world telling us who we are and who we should be. In Jesus, we can begin to strip all of this away. These things do not matter. These things are not alive, but dead.
Jesus will strip away the parts of our identity that do not fit in with His Kingdom so that He can create us again in His image. He will cause this to happen, and there is nothing we can do to get in the way of His work. We are His work, and all freedom from this world we experience is His work in us.
However, in order to prepare our hearts for His work, we must repent. We must look at ourselves honesty and with humility, so that we can see our deprived state and understand our dependence on Jesus for our salvation. This brings us to the topic of the next article in this series: self-affirming culture.
Many people try to free themselves from their painful past, negative labels, and a toxic self-image through positive affirmations like, “you are perfect just as you are,” “you are enough,” and the like. This is understandable, but this is not the most effective way. This is not the Christian way. There is a better way in Jesus, and we will discuss this in more detail.
As a side note, I plan to get back to the Considering Proverbs series once this series on self image is completed.
Part 3: Positive Affirmations
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
First, what does it mean to be rich in spirit? I think this has to do with the spiritual attachments of a person. As mentioned previously, a person can be of many spirits, and the more consumed a person is with the spirits of this world the more their soul—the core self—is also attached to this world.
We know that this world is passing away, so we do not want to overly identify with this world and the spirits of this world.
A person who is rich in spirit feels a sense of contentedness with the things of this life and with themselves.
A person who is poor in spirit is not content with this life and with themselves. They know that something is missing from their life.
Can a person who is rich in spirit find the kingdom of heaven? If a person is content with their life, how can they give their life over to Jesus? If a person is content with themselves, how can they repent of sin? How can they seek Jesus to be healed if they “don’t need the physician?”
16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:16-17).
The scribes and Pharisees were the religious authorities in the days of Jesus. They did not think that they needed to hear His teachings because they were whole already. They were rich in spirit.
Jesus knew this, so He did not bother much with the scribes and Pharisees. Instead, He spoke to the publicans (tax collectors) and “sinners.” The scribes and Pharisees were also sinners, but they could not see it. They justified themselves in their legalism and hypocrisy while condemning others. They felt themselves superior.
Jesus comes to those who are “poor in spirit,” and He makes them whole. A person who is poor in spirit is one who can receive the gospel. A person who is poor in spirit is one who can receive the Holy Spirit. A person who is poor in spirit is one who can continue to grow in the faith. It does not matter how long you have been a Christian. You still need the physician. There is still room to grow.
Knowing these things, should we support self-affirmation culture? Should we seek to have a positive self-image or a high self-esteem?
There are understandable reasons why a person would be attracted to the idea of positive self affirmations like, “you are enough,” “you are perfect just as you are,” “you are strong,” “you are independent,” and so on.
People cling to these things because they are poor in spirit and they are looking for something to fill themselves. However, if we fill ourselves with more “self” and not Jesus, then the void only worsens. Instead of being filled as we should be, we become desolate (empty and void of life-giving substance).
The ideas of positive self-esteem and self-affirmation culture are harmful lies that have invaded Christianity. This is a tool of flattery that makes a person fat and lazy in spirit. Jesus does not flatter, but Satan does.
There are few idols more harmful than the idol of self. There are few idols more harmful than the idol of mankind’s sufficiency. These are satanic in nature, and they rob you of the real wealth you could experience in Jesus. These lead to a mindset of “I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.” Because of such ideas, many do not know that they are “poor, bloody, and naked.” (Revelation 3:14-22).
There are many Christian churches and teachings that perpetuate worldly prosperity. This includes measuring God’s blessings in financial wealth, popularity, and promoting a positive self image.
How is it that many do not see how deranged this is? Don’t we know that God wants to pull us out of this world, not make us comfortable and complacent in it?
It is amazing to me how many believers are of the prosperity gospel mindset, and some do not even recognize it. They even deny the prosperity gospel, but in their daily lives they welcome it. Their words betray them when they indicate God’s favor through money, career, popularity, or a positive sense of self. This is not good.
Let us consider this.
I know this life is hard and this world can be so cruel. We want to find our place. We want to be accepted. We want to be loved for who we are and not for what others think we should be. Many of us are carrying around deep shame that stems from childhood or abusive relationships. We want to believe that we are enough for someone.
In Jesus, you can come to Him just as you are no matter how sinful. However, He will not leave you unchanged and this is a blessing. He will fill you with Himself, and you will find your place of acceptance.
However, you will not find place and acceptance in the things of this world. The things of this world are in opposition to the things of the Kingdom of Heaven. This world might even despise you, but you will not care because you found a place that matters more. You found a love that matters more and sustains more than any person could, least of all your own self.
When He loves you, you are safe. He knows your flaws and He helps you overcome. He heals you, and though you are never good enough to live forever, He gives you everlasting life. You can trust in Him. He is your strength, sufficiency, and place. He provides you with a new nature, a new identity, and a new purpose in His kingdom.
You do not need self-affirmations or positive affirmations. You need Jesus.
If you are Christian and you cling to self-affirmations, then maybe you should consider. Are you still poor in spirit? That is good. Seek Jesus more.
Are you making yourself rich in spirit by filling yourself with more self and more of this world? That is not good. That is desolation. Repent and recognize your poverty so that Jesus is what fills your heart. You cannot have it both ways, and Jesus is not going to make you rich in spirits of this world. He will make you rich in His Spirit, but that requires poverty of the self and often poverty in this world.
Here are more scriptures to consider:
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isaiah 56:15).
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:17).
16 The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. 20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
22 The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. (Psalm 34:16-22).
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
8 For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
There are riches in spirit to gain in Jesus Christ. In Him we have joy, even during times of trouble and suffering. We trust in Jesus and not in the flatteries and dead things of this world. We praise Jesus alone, and not ourselves or others. In so doing, we are filled with the abundant riches of His Spirit, and there is nothing to be compared to what He has to offer us now and in the eternity.
As Christians, we need to glorify the Lord, Jesus in all that we do. If we are glorifying self or others, then there is a problem and we need to repent. Self is desolation. The world is desolation. Man is desolation. We need to recognize this. We need to stop glorying in man and filling others with flattery. We need to honor Jesus alone.
Self is an idol that needs to be removed. Do we worship this image? We should not. In the next article, we will consider other idols that we use to find our sense of place, purpose, and self. We will contrast these with the only ideal we should focus on: Jesus.
Note (inserted a few hours after original posting):
I try to be careful with my words, but sometimes I become aware of things that could be taken the wrong way. As for the prosperity gospel mentioned in the above article:
Just because a Christian is prosperous financially or in career or socially does not mean they support the prosperity gospel. God has a unique plan for each Christian. For some, wealth is a blessing so long as wealth does not distract from the Kingdom of Heaven. Others, like myself, who are prone to “cares of this life and deceitfulness of riches” are best in poverty. At least for a time.
I know Christians who I consider to be very prosperous financially, in career, and socially who seem to be very zealous for the faith also. They give thanks to God for their prosperity (as is fitting) and they are also very generous. There is a lot of hatred in this world for those who prosper in the world, and we do not perpetuate that. Many are covetous, envious, and hateful towards the rich. That is not the Christian way.
We do not accuse our brethren of belief in the “prosperity gospel” just because they are prosperous or give thanks to God for prosperity in this world. However, the prosperity gospel is a real hindrance towards riches in the Kingdom of Heaven. Each person can seek Jesus and evaluate their own hearts. We do not have that place or that right to accuse people, especially the wealthy who thank God and have a giving heart.
We should also consider that the poor in this country are wealthy when compared to other countries. My poverty is also wealth. Do I believe in the prosperity gospel? No. After considering what I wrote this morning, I felt the statements I made about the prosperity gospel to have an accusatory tone because the full idea was not made clear. It was not meant that way, and I don’t want the writing to be used in that way.
Part 4: Ideals and Idols
An ideal is anything, such as a person or idea, that represents that which is suitable or perfect. The ideals we hold vary depending on what is most important to us. The severity of attachment to our ideals can also vary from harmless to deadly.
There are many ideals. Here are a few:
- There are ideals that encompass the perfection of some hobby or interest, such as an ideal sports team or artist.
- There are lifestyle ideals that encompass the perfect career, social status, or family life.
- There are personal ideals of a physical nature such as race or an idea of what is physically attractive.
- There are personal ideals of an inward nature such as personality or morality.
- There are ideals pertaining the world around us including politics and economics.
What ideals do we carry, and how harmful are they?
Once we have honestly evaluated the things we identify with, we can consider what that says about our ideals.
For example, if we strongly identify with our race, does race become an ideal that we look to? Do we consider what it means to be of that specific race then do our best to embody that image? Do we begin to destroy anything that seems to oppose our ideal, either within ourselves or others?
Herein lies one of the biggest problems with ideals: we will destroy anything that stands in the way of our ideal—especially if our sense of self is strongly attached to that ideal. We might even lay our own life down in protection of an ideal.
The possibility for destruction obviously depends on the nature of the ideal and our attachment to it. There is also a spectrum of destruction, ranging from personal attack through name calling, slander, and false accusations to murder of an individual or mass genocide.
Many are killed for the ideal of race. Many are killed for the ideal of gender. Many are killed for the ideal of female body rights. Many are killed for the ideal of sexual orientation. Many are killed for the ideal of social equity of outcome. Many are killed for the ideals of politics and economics. Many are killed for the ideals of money and power. These are extremes.
Many are also killed (usually spiritually, though sometimes physically) for lesser ideals like the ideal man or woman, the ideal lifestyle, or the ideal career.
Every person holds a wide variety of ideals, and it is impossible not to. Each person should have the liberty to hold whatever ideals they choose.
However, if we are willing to kill ourselves or others for an ideal, then that ideal becomes an idol.
That idol becomes our god.
False idols and false gods are not acceptable because of the destruction they bring to self and to the world around us.
Are we willing to kill for a dead god—a god that only brings destruction?
As mentioned in a previous article, all things of this world are passing away. If we are overly attached to the things of this world, which is an attachment that results in murder of self and others, how can we expect to live once that attachment is severed at the coming of the only One who is everlasting: Jesus Christ?
Wouldn’t it be better if we attached ourselves to Jesus instead of our dead idols?
Jesus provides a replacement ideal for every idol of mankind.
The idols of mankind are spirits of destruction in this world.
The Word of God severs soul and spirit with Truth. When all dead things—all lying idols—are destroyed, who can stand? It is better to know what is true by He who is True. We cannot do this if we do not know Jesus and what He stands for.
Murder—in spirit and in the flesh—occurs every day because of our idols, and Christians are not immune. Many within the church have ideals that replace knowing Jesus, what He really stands for, and how a Christian ought to order their life. They have their ideal denomination or doctrine, their ideal teachers or pastors, or their ideal positions within the church.
As with all ideals, there is a measure of liberty so long as that ideal does not bring murder. When that ideal brings murder, we have an idol.
There are many idols in the church.
Many are killed (as of now usually in spirit). Many are slandered, accused, and cast out from their congregations. Many are bound by legalism that creates illusions of Christ but does not bring Christ to the heart.
Many Christians embrace idols of this world also, such as those mentioned in the list above.
Thank God for His mercy and the blood of Jesus.
Even the most devout of Christians will struggle against ungodly ideals—even idols—and we need to be careful in judging this. If we are given the proper insight and judgment of God, we can judge what is right and what is wrong in a systemic sense. However, when dealing with individuals, we cannot judge. We do not know the inner struggles a person might face. We do not know the torment a person endures as they fight against an ideal that runs their life or tempts them to sin.
As we get to know Jesus better, He will remove our idols from us. He will replace these idols with Himself, and He does so with patience and wisdom as one who knows our frame and is merciful towards us. If we trust in Jesus, we are saved. We are forgiven of the destruction we have brought, and we are saved from the destruction of all dead things.
However, as we follow Jesus more, we will also learn what it means to “take up our cross.” We might even lay our own lives down in faithfulness to Jesus. In whatever manner we die, we are raised from the dead by the only One who brings Life.
Let us consider our ideals that have become deadly idols, replacing Jesus with another god. Let us get to know Jesus better so that we can identify these dead idols and replace them with Christ.
Let us consider what Jesus has to say concerning all dead things—and in contrast what Jesus has to say about the ways of life. The scriptures teach us if we will pay attention to them and seek Jesus above man (including our idols within the church).
We need to recognize our poverty in spirit and seek Jesus in all things.
If we recognize our poverty in spirit, He will give us understanding of what the scriptures teach. If we love the Jesus we find and seek to keep His ways, we will again recognize our poverty in spirit because we know that we can never perform that which is pleasing to Him. If we seek Jesus in this, He will send the Holy Spirit to work on us. He will free us from all dead things overtime according to the purposes of God for each individual.
As we continue to learn and approach Jesus for more of His Kingdom, we will continue to see our poverty in spirit, though we also rejoice in the riches He gives to us—which is the richness Christ and not this world. We will rejoice in Christ both in this present life and in the Kingdom to come. When we are raised from the dead at His coming, we will find full release from all dead things and we will live forever.
There is no idol worth dying for other than Jesus Christ because He is Life.
All dead idols will be destroyed. The dead things of this world will consume this world, and many will die. However, all things are for the good of the children of God. Jesus loves us, and He will chastise us as sons. As a result, many Christians will suffer because of their deadly attachments. However, many will also find mercy at the resurrection of the just through the blood of Jesus.
All Christians will suffer for the name of Jesus, either in defense of His name or as we die to this world and grow into Him. It is better that we suffer for righteousness sake than we suffer because of our dead idols.
If we must die for the namesake of Jesus, let it be in defense of Him not because of chastisement.
Part 5: Seek Jesus
The purpose of this article series has been to encourage myself and others to evaluate our false self-images so that we can find a new and better identity in Jesus Christ.
It can be difficult to peel away the layers of identity we put on over time—either as a means of conforming to what this world says we are or should be, or as a means of protection against the cruelties of this world.
The difficulty is greater when our sense of self is attached to strong ideals, especially once that ideal becomes a kind of god to us, controlling our thoughts, emotions, and actions—even encouraging us to destroy other people who attack our ideal because when that ideal is attacked, we feel personally threatened.
It can be difficult to look at ourselves honestly because we might think ourselves to be worse than the average person. Maybe we think that something is especially wrong with us, and we would rather hide from our darker selves and believe in the persona we have created for others to see.
However, there is a place where we can begin to do this hard work, and the reward is immeasurable.
There is One knows us already. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our every thought and every deep intention of our heart. He knows what motivates us, what hurts us, what limits our ability to grow.
He knows exactly what we need to find freedom from the emotional and mental pain we carry. He knows how to divide us from the damaging things of this world and replace these things with a life-giving substance: Himself.
In Jesus we can be true with ourselves. There is no need to be anything else. In Jesus we can find a place of real purpose and contentment. In Jesus we can find what love really is. In Jesus we can find security in a hurtful and confusing world. In Jesus we can find life—even everlasting life.
Whether you have been a Christian for years, or if you are a new convert or an unbeliever, If you struggle with issues of toxic identity, I hope you will consider what Jesus can do for you.
I’ve been there. I was never allowed to be myself because myself was always degraded and replaced with what everyone else said I should be. I became those things—most of which revolved around the negative labels that were fed to me for most of my life. One day I realized that I did not even exist. I was an empty shell of a person with no real identity.
It took a lot of time and work to get to know who I really am, and I am still learning. This began by looking at my faults honestly and realizing that I am a sinful person. Then I realized that everyone else is too, and that is why we need Jesus. From there I began to learn about Him and His teachings, I sought the Holy Spirit for two years and He came to me.
From there I continued to learn through exposure to different challenges as necessary for my growth, and now I am continuing on a new work of stripping away all of the aspects of myself that do not fit in with His Kingdom—and I have learned that a lot of these aspects of self were engrafted into my heart and mind through abuse.
I know this is the case for many people, though not always. I think most people can relate to the ideas mentioned in this series, simply because we live in this world and there is nothing we can do to prevent the things of this world from getting into us and molding us.
In Jesus, I am finding out who I really am, and this is not an identity of flattery or man-pleasing, nor is it an identity of toxic self-hatred. This is an identity that is beginning to know the person that God created.
This is a place and purpose in an everlasting Kingdom that is free from the ideologies, hatreds, and all variety of constraints in this world. There is still work to do in divesting myself of this world and waiting to see what Jesus will replace that with, and I expect this to be an ongoing journey until this life is over.
I feel so sorry for people who struggle with self-image or feel as if they have no place in this world. I am the same, but I know that Jesus is near the brokenhearted, and if we struggle in these areas then that means we are poor in spirit and that is good.
If we recognize our poverty of spirit then we can go to the One who created us and who can show us what our life was created to achieve in a new and better Kingdom than this dead world.
Do not make up for self-image or self-esteem issues by filling yourself with flattery or with the ideologies of this world. Do not make up for a painful life with destructive behaviors, drugs and alcohol, or pursuit of wealth and popularity. The things of this world only make a person fat in spirit and hinders growth in something better. However, our state is never too far gone for Jesus to deal with. I know this from personal experience too.
Reach out to Jesus, even if it feels strange at first. Call on His name and talk to Him. Talk to Him about your pain. Give it all to Him. Talk to Him about your struggles with destructive behaviors or desires that you wish you could overcome. Ask for Him to show you the truth in this confused world. Keep seeking Him and maybe He will answer.
How will He answer? Maybe He fills you with a desire to read the scriptures, or maybe He sends someone into your life who will help you learn and grow. His ways are perfect for each person because He knows precisely what and who He made. When He reaches back, you will know.
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