Especially as we enter a new year, a lot of people are filled with hope for a fresh start. We want to better ourselves, to become the “best version” of us, to lean into our purpose and to find fulfillment. And I think one of the most practical ways for us to begin any of that is to have a right view of ourselves.
I did a mission trip one summer and spent day after day talking with people on the boardwalk about life and spirituality. And the most common theme that I heard was a belief that people would go to heaven if they hadn’t killed anyone. That was it. The majority of people thought they were entirely good enough on their own.
We all want to be good enough. We all want to be accepted. I think we were made for that. I also think that at some point, when we try to do life our own way, it stops working. We become exhausted, we’re filled with shame and regret we didn’t expect, we sense a conviction for something different… somehow we find disappointment. And we face a choice. We can keep pressing and continue striving, or we can sink into the truth of God.
But what does that mean? Where is an anchor? In a world that is overflowing with ideas and individual truths, how do we navigate?
We can look to the one who made us, who made all things. We can look to the Word of God, the Word who became flesh and lived among us. Jesus. We look at the things He has said.
What does the Bible say? Who are we?
- For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23
- Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. – Colossians 1:21
- Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
- As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air… we were by nature objects of wrath. – Ephesians 2:1-3
- Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. – Ephesians 2:12
- At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. – Titus 3:3
- For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. – James 2:10
Stay with me – Because, I know, these are the verses that no one highlights, the ones I don’t ever see on coffee mugs or t-shirts. And still, these are exactly the kind of verses and foundation that we need to start with to understand the magnitude of beauty and compassion of our God.
In America, the culture is that we feed this over-inflated view of ourselves: we are all good people who have within us what it takes to be great.
But it’s completely opposite to the Bible that categorizes us all as sinners and declares an outcome of death and wrath.
Part of the reason I write is to remind us that Satan is a liar. Sin and self amplification seem great a lot of the time. A lot of sin is fun and feels good and seems to be rewarding. But if the Bible is true, then in the end, anything apart from God leads to death.
But I also write because an accurate view of ourselves and our sin amplifies our view of God by exposing the depth of his love and sacrifice for us. We are all wicked, hopeless sinners. And we all need a savior. We need someone to take away the bad for us. And we need someone to fill up the good works for us. And that someone is Jesus. He takes our place and erases all the bad things so those verses can now describe the old us. And He, in his goodness and generosity – makes us new.
Upcoming posts will describe in greater detail the character and salvation of Jesus, the eternal identity we find in Him, and the purpose and confidence that gives us as believers. There is hope, and there is real encouragement. There is life available, for all people, for all eternity.
But for now – I challenge you to lean into these verses. Whether they are new or familiar, take some time to read over them, to consider the reality of our original position before the Almighty God, to repent of our sins, and to praise Him for his greatness and for still choosing us.
Process: What are some initial thoughts or feelings that came up when you read through the verses? Write a few things down. How does your view of life and morality compare to what the Bible says? What is difficult to digest or understand? Talk with someone this week about it.
Read: Exodus 20
Matthew 5:17-37, part of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”
What comes to mind when you read some of the law and commands of Jesus? What do you think about the height of the bar that is set?
How does it affect your view of bettering yourself?
What are your thoughts around being “made new”?
Ironically, I think most people could all agree that Moses, King David, Paul who had been Saul and wrote most of the New Testament… that these people are all in Heaven. Except they were all murderers.
All lives are created equal by the same God and of the same insurmountable value. But the point is that the greatness of God far surpasses the greatness of our sin. We are never outside his reach.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. – Proverbs 14:12
“The gospel says that you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hoped.” – Tim Keller
Sing: King of Kings – Hands down, this is the most played song in my home and car. And running. With my eyes closed and arms raised. Yep. It’s just such a powerful presentation of the Gospel and the authority of Jesus.
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