In many situations I have been in lately I have run into the very common statement of “just be yourself.” And that statement has been for some reason just stabbing at my gut. This flinch that I feel from within. The statement started really bothering me. The natural question I had to ask was “Why?”.
The harsh reality that I came to is…
I imagine many struggle with that. But “be yourself” might actually be one of THE MOST unbiblical messages we can give someone. Because we are not supposed to “be ourselves” we are supposed to DIE to ourselves.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.-Luke 9:23
Don’t be yourself. Be Christ.
And the immediate response one must give is “But I can’t! That’s impossible!”
As Jesus put it “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
I just finished the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis and he said it like this:
The command “Be Ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him-for we can prevent Him, if we choose-He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a small scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said.
“Take up his cross daily…”
It’s made clear that this is a daily shaping by God. So you can be safe in not expecting an overnight change. But as Christians we have to realize what we are saying when we claim we are Christians. If you claim to be a Christian then you died to yourself. You are alive in Christ. So are you going to let him work in you? Or do you prefer to be a zombie. Being the dead you living. (Some kid is like DUDE THAT’D BE SO COOL!!!)
Christ is at work in you. If you want him to be. See that’s a true Christian. Someone who is actually letting Christ work in them. And gosh do I constantly struggle with this. And this is the hardest…THE HARDEST struggle for man. Being able to say your way is actually better than my way. Not preventing Christ from conforming us to his image because we would just rather wait till a later time in life to do that. “I’ll get to that later because right now I’m just having too much fun drinking, cussing, fooling around with my boyfriend/girlfriend.” Not doing things your way but HIS way. We can keep doing things our way and call ourselves Christians but by very definition you are contradicting yourself.
Now to address the thing that is probably going through several peoples minds. “But I was made in his image!”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
People use that as a way of saying “There’s nothing wrong with me.” They use that to get off the hook.
Yes. You were created in his image. But sadly you were born into sin. (blame Eve.)
You are not perfect otherwise Jesus had no reason to die. Do not insult his death by using that verse. For every time we justify our sin we are saying Christ died for nothing.
Pick up your cross EVERY DAY.
It’s an every day thing. Constantly getting rid of the “you” and becoming more of the “Him.” This is a daily thing. And it is as hard as Jesus carrying his cross up to the place where he would die. It’s that hard.
Because following Jesus is risky.
It means some people won’t like you. It means saying no to temptations. It means listening to that inner voice that says “Don’t do that.” It means ignoring that impulse that says “Do this. It’ll make you feel good.” It means having to say you were wrong. It means having to say they were right. It means not ignoring people you don’t like. It means loving your enemy. It means helping that stranger on the side of the road. It means not defending only the truths you are comfortable defending but those other things as well. It means doing things the way Jesus said not the way the world says. It’s hard to do and some people might even hate you for it.
People hated Jesus for it.
When Peter is confronted in Acts by these people who are telling them to do something against God (which includes any sin) he replies “We must obey God, not man.” This statement almost cost him his life then…and eventually did.
We must obey God.
Sit on that. And I mean actually think about what that means.
So to be redundant. I ask you to think of a caterpillar.
It’s this chunky slow moving leaf eater. Kinda boring really. But then comes this moment. (We’ll call it the caterpillars baptism for giggles). This caterpillar is wrapped up in a cocoon. And eventually that caterpillar pushes and struggles and fights his way out of his cocoon and now he is something entirely different. In fact he is a new creation. You could hardly even say he used to be that caterpillar. Because now he has wings, and colors and a beautiful design and he flies. This chunky slow moving leaf eater becomes this beautiful graceful flying creature. Now the butterfly never goes back to being the caterpillar, that’s what he used to be. There is no going back. But the new creation is better. In fact you forget about what it used to be because it is now something so beautiful that what it used to be doesn’t even matter.
You are a new creation.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I’ve quoted this before:
“Somewhere in you is the you you were created to be.”
God’s image for you is perfect. Because God’s image for you is Christ.
Be THAT self.
LOSE YOURSELF IN CHRIST.
In Second Peter it is written:
” 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Lose yourself in Christ.
For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders-no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings-may even give it an awkward appearance.-C.S. Lewis
It takes time. It is a process. But strive for it.
Lose yourself in Christ.
God is in you. He lives in you. He sent his spirit. Shaping you. Helping you put off your old self and become more like him. This verse I’m about to post might be the verse that hit me harder than any other verse in the Bible.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
There is no YOURself. You are not your own.
Christ died for you. You were bought at a price.
There is no more caterpillar.
Nothing in you that has not died can ever be raised from the dead.
Bust out of your old cocoon. And dry your wings off.
Butterfly, go ahead…
This clip below is from the show Lost. The character Charlie is addicted to drugs he keeps choosing the drugs. So this character Locke took the drugs from Charlie and told him that if he asked for them back three times he would return the drugs. He can choose to give up his desire, or choose to stay with them. And Charlie is struggling with letting go of his desires and he is struggling greatly. And though the clip involves a moth and slightly insults my butterfly imagery….the message is beautiful. May it give you hope and peace to live the life you were called to live.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitudes of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.“-Ephesians 5:22-24
God’s image for you is perfect, because God’s image for you is Christ.