EMBRACING WHO YOU ARE
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JULY 26, 2014
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).
My birth family took to heart what Paul said in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.” The way they did that was to put themselves down and point out their own flaws. I was never sure if they really felt that way, or they were hoping someone else would tell them not to think that way, or possibly it was so that they said it before someone could say it to them. Anyway you slice it, I grew up knowing that I had to put myself down to fit in.
God began blowing my poor self image into dust when He baptized me with the Holy Spirit, for when I realized that He now lived inside me, I could no longer continuously blame myself for real and imagined failings. He has on-goingly urged me to look to Him, rather than to myself for justification. When I married Lenny, he would have none of my whining, reminding me when I made a self deprecating statement that God called His creation “Good,” and when He created Adam (in whose loins we all were), God said, “It was VERY GOOD” (Gen. 1:31). That statement melts away the bad impressions you have of yourself, especially when you know that Christ took all sin, past, present, and future to the cross.
Religion has made a lot of money, caused a lot of guilt and shame to fester in its followers by reminding them constantly of guilt. Yes, Paul said that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), but keep reading, folks. Verse 24, gives the end of the story: “they (we) are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” In an attempt to keep the flock in line, some pastors conveniently forget that, unless they use it to spur the faithful to repentance, good works, or whatever other action they are trying to engender.
Paul said he was chief of sinners because he persecuted the body of Christ. He was not wallowing in guilt or shame, but rather, making the point that grace overcomes and nullifies ALL SIN, no matter how horrible! “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). That’s my personal mantra after thinking about my own shortcomings and flaws for all these decades. It’s absurd for any of us to say we have no sin, because anyone observing us can see right away that this is a statement of facts not in evidence. The Apostle John declared, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
This writing wasn’t to be a primer on sin, for all of you know these scriptures as well as I do, but it’s good to be reminded, especially those of us who grew up in church, which sadly not only held us accountable for our own sins, but those of our children as well. If our kids turned out badly, it was our fault. How many times did I hear my mother say, “I will have to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give account for how I raised you.” That was sobering then, and more so when I became a mother.
In my trek through the Old Testament, a treatise on sins and the consequences for sins, I rediscovered the guilt relieving truth that, “…The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezek. 18:20).
Still, leaving behind old habits is impossible to achieve without the Spirit’s help. Some people carry around the guilt of past sins like a blanket, fearing that if they drop it, they will probably end up committing the same sin again. What a sorry way to live. When Job was in the grip of God’s cactus patch, he saw much truth, including, “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). Bearing that in mind daily is a tried and proven way to get over ourselves.
Some people try to elevate themselves by comparing themselves to others and concluding, “I’m better than that; I have a closer walk with God than he does.” Putting others down never elevates our self esteem. It merely coats it with the muck of pride and in the end becomes something else we have to confess, surrender to God and ask Him to take it from us.
Those of you who have been reading what God gives me, know that I believe we cannot achieve ANY of the virtues elevated in the Gospel unless He does them through us. If we could, Christ would not have had to suffer and die.
I had a sign in my home office for years which read, “Please be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.” And He still isn’t finished with me. That relieves the need to grovel in shame. In Old Testament times, when things went very wrong for the individual, he would tear his clothes and pour ashes on his head, and then fall on his face before God begging for mercy.
We no longer have to beg for mercy or grace. They are continuously free flowing from the heart of our Father, and the more help we need, the bigger the endowment of mercy and grace and unconditional love He provides for us.
In church long ago, we sang the grand old hymn, “Standing on the Promises.” Doing that very thing helped me through many a rough patch. No matter how bleak my life looked and it did look bleak many times, the promises of God held my head above water. Here are a few of them:
In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). We are “seated in heavenly places with Christ” (Eph. 2:6); we are “holy and blameless in Him” (Col. 1:22); we are “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17); it is “not I but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20); “Christ in us is our hope of glory” (Col. 1:27); “… in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Cor. 5:21). There is “one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6). I printed these precious scriptures on 4” x 6” cards and taped one on my fridge, one on my bathroom mirror, one on the dash of my car, and carried one in my purse, so that when I felt like I was being swamped by my inadequacies, I could read the promises printed there.
But what about our feelings, you ask? And well you might, because our feelings are quite often the vehicle that we ride down into despair and even depression. I remember thinking, “I don’t FEEL like I’m seated in heavenly places; I certainly don’t FEEL like the righteousness of God.” When those thoughts would flood over me, I would ask myself, “Self, who do you believe, your own puny mind or the power of Almighty God which inspired the scriptures?” When put that way, light began to glimmer in the East and I saw my way out of the morass of the feelings trap.
What I’ve come to is that since only God can deal with my feelings, they rest in Him. And carrying that to its glorious conclusion, God is the only one who can hurt me, because He is the only one whose feelings about me concern me right now. That doesn’t mean I’m insensitive to other’s feelings and needs, but what they think about me doesn’t really matter in the cosmic scheme of things. God is the only one whose opinion of me matters. He is quick to give me course correction when I need it, and of course, I often do, but He is also quick to tell me He loved me enough to die for me and what did this person whom I allowed to hurt me do that equals that? Nothing. It is on the basis of His opinion and His alone that I can embrace myself, warts and zits and all. If He loves me, how can I do otherwise? Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself!” If you don’t love yourself, you certainly will never really love your neighbor, which is the goal of all of us.
Father, You are a marvel, a cosmic role model, and the best friend any of us will ever have. Thank You for loving us even when we didn’t love ourselves. Show us how to love one another in meaningful ways that Your light will shine through us to others stumbling in darkness. Remind us when we forget, that The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth. Amen.