Who we are is of supreme importance. Where we get our information about who we are is of supreme important as well. Who tells us what, matters. I heard a talk, recently, in which the speaker, when talking with a young woman who had been molested by an uncle, said, “You’re listening to a lie from your past that’s louder than the Gospel in your present.”
Who we think we are, what we think of ourselves, comes from our parents, siblings, then friends and acquaintances. This understanding comes from what they tell us as well as how they treat us. As we grow, our self-awareness continues to come from these people, but because our world expands, we begin to receive important input from people outside our sphere. We watch movies, TV, Internet, news, etc. As we watch, even though the events we see are happening to other people, we imagine that we are living in those worlds with them, and we ascribe attributes from “those lives” to ourselves. Through the process, we become. We view everything through the lens of what we already know and what is happening around us.
We often assign motives and outcomes to others based on what we think of ourselves. A young girl buys a new hat that she thinks makes her pretty, until a little boy comes along and tells her she looks like a dork. She never wears the hat again. She is unable to appreciate the fact that the little boy is a fathead and his opinion is worthless and wrong. She still believes him, and believes she looked like a dork when she wore the hat. Though these kinds of things may be inaccurate, they help shape who we think we are.
Add to this the fact that when Adam sinned in the Garden, he plunged us all into a state of guilt and shame. Consequently, we all feel guilty and shameful much of the time, even if we haven’t done anything to earn those feelings. The Bible also tells us that we have all done those same kinds of things that Adam did. We are like our father Adam in that we don’t want God to have authority over us, and so we rebel and do “it our way.” Guilt and shame.
These things all combine to tell us who we are: what others tell us and what tell ourselves based on what they tell us, and what we’ve done ourselves.
If we live in a family where the parents love God and are striving to help one another to walk consistently with God, who we think we are will naturally reflect an accurate view of who we are. Our parents well be more interested in helping be godly than in getting from us things that will make them happy. Suppose little Johnny forgot to pick up his toys and when he walked through the room he stepped on one breaking it. In this scenario, his father will be more interested in Johnny’s eternal life than in how his breaking the toy affects his father. He did tell Johnny a hundred times to pick up the toy and put it away but he didn’t. Instead of going into a rage and yelling at him, Johnny’s father gently takes him into the other room, explains about how all this is related to serving God, loving his mother, and respecting him. Then he reinforces the whole lesson by disciplining Johnny in a calm, but firm way.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have another situation where Billy lives with his mother and her fifth husband, with lots of boyfriends in between. The current stepfather drinks a lot and is an angry drunk. When Billy steps on the toy and breaks it, Billy’s stepfather, flies into a rage, screams obscenities at him, grabs him by the scruff of the neck, and slams him into the wall. Billy’s stepfather is angry and wants everyone know that if you don’t want the brunt of his anger pointed towards you, you need to do what he says, when he says it.
Both these boys are getting a view of who they are. Johnny’s view is that he is respected, loved, cared for, and worth much. Billy’s view is that he is chattel, in the way, unloved, and worthless.
No one would argue that Johnny’s view of himself isn’t better than Billy’s view of himself. But how do we help Billy view himself more like Johnny views himself? This is why the world has “self-help classes.” This is why psychiatry and psychology is such a booming business. The answer to this question is the goal of most people on the planet. How do I think better about myself?
The Bible tells us that God is in charge of telling us who we are and who we should think we are. We need to believe him, instead of all those voices that have been speaking into our lives all of our lives. Everyone and everything that has gone before has been lying to us. God created us, he knows.
What kinds of things does he say about us? Who are we really? Here are a few examples:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Mt. 6:26).
God says we are valuable. Worth much. Certainly worth more than a bunch of birds.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Mt 18:10–14)
He loves us enough to leave the rest of the flock to come and find us. He doesn’t want us to die alone, and lost.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (Jn 10:28–29)
He holds us in his hand, he loves us, we are of much value to him. We can never be taken from him.
…he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Eph 1:5–6)
While we are not begotten of God, we were adopted into his family. We are respected, cared for, loved, make lovely, and precious in his site (Ps. 116:15)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)
God loves us so much that he sent his only begotten son to die for us so that we could have fellowship with him and pure fellowship with one another.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (Jn 10:11)
Jesus was in full agreement with the Father. He laid down his life for us because he loves us, cares for us, respects us, and wants the best for us.
What do you think of yourself? Are you believing the lie from your past, or are you believing the truth of God, the Gospel? Who do you trust?