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The Gospel of God and the Self-Esteem of Man
By David A. DePra
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:13-14)
The other night one of the regulars on TBN made a statement that represents so much of the thinking today among Christian leaders. He said, "Jesus Christ was crucified to release OUR greatness." Yep. Thatís an exact quote. And he meant it because he prefaced this statement by saying that it was wrong to make repentance into something that makes people feel bad about themselves. So there is no misunderstanding here as to his meaning.
This issue needs to be addressed because I believe that that one statement sums up the gospel of the antichrist. Iím sure that might sound like Iím over reacting and being dramatic, but once you get behind it, you will see that this is a fact. More and more today the focus is shifting to OUR value to God, OUR potential, realizing OUR dream, getting OUR miracle, building OUR churches, and as mentioned, finding the release of OUR greatness. Robert Schuller started much of the modern version of this stuff with his book, "The Gospel of Self-Esteem." Today people like Joel Osteen have recycled it with books like, "Your Best Life Now." In addition, we have, "The Purpose Driven Life."
Let me, to begin with, say a few things so that I am not misunderstood. First of all, it does not matter what body of false teaching you are talking about, you are going to have some truth in it. This is a given Ė because this is the only way that the error can be passed off as truth. Furthermore, Bible terms will be used. But they will be made to mean something other than God means by them Ė they will be molded to fit the particular error being taught. But the overall message will be error Ė bits of Truth here and there non-withstanding. Secondly, I donít know the hearts of those who teach these errors. I donít NEED to know them to know that what they teach is wrong. Certainly, when everything is said and done, anyone who not only teaches consistent error, but defends it, has a big problem between themselves and God. Thirdly, pointing out error never hurts unity in Christ. Rather, it hurts unity in error. And that is good. And while I donít believe that a ministry ought to be focused upon continually pointing out everything that is wrong, this is often necessary if we are ever going to be clear about what is RIGHT Ė because the wrong that is passed off as the truth needed to be exposed.
One other fact: It is true that much preaching for many decades has been negative. People have been condemned, beaten, and given little hope. They have been made to feel bad about themselves. This has been used to control people, and is often used to get them to supposedly accept Christ Ė as if He is, "fire insurance." This is wrong, and not the true gospel. But is the solution to go to the opposite extreme and tell people they arenít really all that bad? And that Christ did not die for their sin as much as He did to release their greatness? What is the answer here?
Natural thinking provides two options to the human condition Ė high self-esteem or low self-esteem. Or, to put them another way, feeling good about yourself, or feeling bad about yourself. We know nothing else but these, and so it is predictable that this natural thinking would offer a gospel geared to one or the other. Thus, we have the gospel of fear. Some call it, "the gospel of fire and brimstone." Associated with this gospel is the need for repentance as sinners, and the need to acknowledge that we are nothing before God. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the more modern gospel, "the gospel of self-esteem." This gospel avoids mention of the Cross, sin, the need for repentance, and humility. Rather, it focuses upon OUR potential, OUR lives now, and OUR greatness. And of course, this gospel credits God for all of this Ė what else would we expect?
So what is the Truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ? Did Jesus die, "to release our greatness?" Or, is Christianity a morbid, depressed, fear religion?
There is a very clear answer. And as usual, it is not found by beating people up, nor is it found by building people up. It is found completely outside of those two options. To cut to the quick on it, Jesus did not die, "to release our greatness." He died to put our greatness to death through His Cross. But that isnít the end of the story. He also died so that we would see and embrace and come to experience HIS greatness.
I am not going to take the time to quote the dozens of scriptures that openly state that unless you repent, you cannot be saved. In answer to the question, "What shall we do?," in Acts 2, the first thing Peter said to the crowds was, "RepentÖ." And the gospels say that the gospel that Jesus himself preached was, "Repent and believe."
So the question isnít whether we must repent. Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish." Rather, the question is, "What is repentance?"
First of all, we need to rid ourselves of the notion that repentance is something that we do, "simply because God says so," and once it is done, then God is appeased, and lifts from us His wrath, resulting in salvation. This type of thing, while it seems silly when it is put down on paper, is what many Christians think repentance is all about. Usually it comes from imposing upon God the way we treat each other. When someone offends us, we often hold a grudge, and try to exact payment from them Ė even if the payment is nothing more than our grudge itself trying to hurt them back. If they say they are sorry, then we feel that justice is served, and then we donít hold the grudge anymore. To us, this is forgiveness, and is something we do once a person admits to us that they were wrong. But there is really very little comparison to repentance towards God.
To see the Truth about repentance towards God, we need to go back to manís CONDITION. We are born into this world with a sin nature. THAT is our condition. The main characteristics of our sin nature is that we want to belong to ourselves, be our own boss, and we do so in complete ignorance of God Himself. All of this results in enmity towards God. Few people even realize their condition. Because it is our NATURE, these things just come NATURALLY. To us, they are NORMAL.
We might lump all of these characteristics into one word: UNBELIEF. Man, by nature, does not want God. He cannot want God. I speak, of course, of manís condition -- IF left to himself. There is no material in man that makes it possible for him to do a thing about himself, including find God.
This is manís spiritual condition. Man is spiritually dead. Consequently, all of our ACTS of sin are nothing more than our NATURE manifesting itself through our conduct and attitudes. A bad tree can produce only bad fruit. That which is born of flesh IS flesh. A sin nature results in SIN Ė even if the sin is self-righteousness, nice looking, or clothed in a good temperament. It is still SIN.
Now, if you see the Truth about our nature, you will see that we did not choose it. You and I did not choose to be born in Adam. You didnít exist before you were born, but you simply became the product of a fallen race. Consequently, God does not hold us personally responsible for being born in Adam Ė for having the sin nature.
But before anyone panics, and thinks that I am saying that we really arenít sinners, or donít have to repent, let me continue. I have stated, and the Bible reveals, that we are not personally responsible for being born in Adam with a sin nature. But just as clearly, we are personally responsible Ė ONCE GOD HIMSELF BRINGS THE LIGHT Ė for turning to Christ as sinners, and for turning to Him for deliverance from our sin nature.
It is here that we begin to see the Truth about repentance. Probably the clearest passage on this matter is found in John 3:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:16-21)
Most people focus on John 3:16 because it is a clear summary of the gospel. But reading the entire passage really opens up the Truth. John tells us that Jesus Christ died for us Ė not to beat us over the head with condemnation. In other words, God doesnít say to us, "Jesus died for you! Now, believe on Him or Iím going to send you to hell!" Now, donít misunderstand. If you knowingly REJECT Christ, hell is where you end up. But the gospel isnít a threat of punishment by God upon us. Rather, He says, "You are already on your way to hell Ė because you have been born in Adam. Jesus Christ has come to give you LIFE; to save you. Repent and believe."
But wait. Repent of WHAT? Didnít I just say that we arenít personally responsible for being born in Adam Ė for being born into a spiritual condition that is fit for hell? Sure. So how can we to repent of THAT? Well, really, we canít. You canít repent of your nature Ė in the sense of taking blame for it. So what are we to repent of?
In order to receive Jesus Christ, we are to repent of ONE sin: The sin of refusing to receive Christ -- once we know we need to be delivered from our sin nature. Or, to put it another way, we arenít to blame for our sin nature, but we are to blame for staying IN IT, and for affirming it through sin and unbelief. You were born in Adam, and that is not your fault. But the moment God gave you light on your fallen condition, and showed you the way out in Christ, you became totally accountable Ė not for being born in Adam, but accountable for staying that way, and for not coming to Christ.
It is one thing to be LOST. The Bible never condemns the LOST. They are LOST! -- they don't yet know where they are! They haven't rejected Christ. They have yet to meet Him. But it is an entirely other matter for God to find you, begin to draw you to Christ, and for you to step back into the darkness, and refuse to be exposed as helplessly lost. It is then that we are to blame, and flirting with condemnation.
This is clearly spelled out in the passage from John 3. John says, "THIS IS condemnationÖ." He is about to tell us what we are to blame for, indeed, he is going to tell us the ONE sin that will condemn us. He says, "This is condemnation, that LIGHT has come into your world Ė but you refused light, and chose darkness." And why do people do that? "Because their deeds were evil."
Nothing could be more plain. John is telling us that THE REASON people wonít come into the LIGHT of God is because they refuse to be exposed as sinners. They will not have that, and consequently, they are saying that they love the darkness instead of the light. Now, people that refuse the Light donít say this, mind you Ė it doesnít work itself out so clearly. What they do is maintain themselves. They wonít allow the conviction of God to come in and expose them as sinners. They push away conscience, and rationalize, and justify themselves. Yes, as RELIGIOUS people. Some who do this profess to be born again Christians.
There are thousands of professing Christians in our churches today, some of them are in church leadership, and even in the pulpit, who, over their lifetime, have thoroughly trained themselves to refuse the LIGHT of God upon their own nature. They have trained themselves to sidestep Godís conviction Ė and many develop all kinds of internal religious tactics to do so. You see it in peopleís attitude, and in their duplicity. They are hiding in the darkness, and everything they are betrays the fact.
What we see here is that the condemnation that John describes is not the result of a ONE-TIME sin. No. Thank God it is not, for every one of us is guilty of resisting the Light at one time or another, and some of us for extended periods. Rather, John is describing a LIFELONG sin. He is saying, "Light has come into your world. But you have spent a lifetime loving darkness instead of the Light. Why? Because you would not be exposed as a sinner. THIS is your condemnation."
So what does all of this tell us about repentance? It tells us that GOD must take the initiative to bring us to repentance. Sure. No man can come to Christ unless the Father first draws him. (see John 6:44) But it also tells us that once God DOES take the initiative to draw us to Christ, that we must respond by coming into the LIGHT.
Here we see that the very first step for salvation is to come into the LIGHT Ė we must be exposed as sinners. Can you see that? If we donít come into the LIGHT, when God brings it, then we are, by default, loving darkness RATHER than Light, just as John said. Not only is salvation impossible at that point, but we are actually hardening ourselves IN our fallen nature. We now SEE, and could come into the Light, but wonít.
I said earlier that we are not to blame for being born in Adam. We are not to blame for being lost. But we are to blame for staying that way once we see the Light. THAT is the sin that John is describing, and we are ALL guilty of it. We were guilty of NOT coming to Christ once we saw the Light, and guilty of lingering and dragging our feet. Indeed, even after we are saved, donít we continue to resist the LIGHT? Ė donít we tend to linger in the darkness because we donít want to be exposed? Sure. Even as saved people we do this.
Well, this is the sin of unbelief. Unbelief is the sin of refusing to believe. Notice how it is the opposite of faith. Faith means I trust and rely, and surrender TO, Jesus Christ. Unbelief means I donít Ė but in the face of KNOWING that I must Ė refusing to come to Christ is then MY FAULT. I am choosing darkness over the Light.
This is really the ONE sin that I must repent of in order to come to Jesus Ė I must repent of the sin of refusing the Light; of refusing to come to Jesus. Now, if you see the logic here, you will see that if I repent of the sin of unbelief Ė repent of the sin of refusing to come to Jesus Ė if I repent of that, what will I do? Well, I WILL COME TO JESUS!
Or, to put it another way, if I repent of UNBELIEF, what will I do? I will BELIEVE.
Herein, we see the Truth about the gospel command to, "Repent and believe." I must repent of WHAT? I must repent of the sin of UNBELIEF Ė of the sin of not believing. And if I do repent of the sin of not believing, what will I do! I will BELIEVE! Consequently, it is morally impossible, according to Godís definitions of the terms, to repent without believing.
Repentance means, "a change of mind." But not in the sense of thinking or of changing our brains. "Mind," means ATTITUDE, or direction of INTENT. So I am to completely change my attitude and intent. Towards what? Towards sin? Well, actually, comes later. Repentance is towards God HIMSELF. Thus, if I repent, I change my entire heart attitude towards GOD.
Of course, if I do that Ė if my attitude changes towards GOD Ė this is going to result in a change of heart towards sin. It has to. I am turning TO God, but away from sin. The two go together. That is why I said that there is only ONE SIN I need to repent of Ė the sin of unbelief; the sin of not believing. If I repent of the sin of unbelief, I will believe by surrendering myself into the hands of God through Jesus Christ. And once I do that, then ALL of my acts of sins are going to be addressed and taken care of by His Blood.
We see this in actual experience. When you gave your life to Christ, you didnít sit down and list every sin you ever committed, and you didnít have to individually repent of each one. God didnít require you to do that Ė because you have no way of knowing about the secret sins of the heart, and you donít even have the memory to list all of the overt sins. What you did when you gave your life to Christ was repent of the ONE SIN Ė you confessed to Him that you belonged to yourself, and were living as your own god. Once you repented of that ONE SIN, you surrendered to Jesus Christ as your NEW LORD, all of your sin came under the Blood. But isnít it true that for the rest of your life, the Holy Spirit has shown you areas of sin, and places in your heart that you need to forsake? Sure. But these sins donít UNDO your salvation, do they? No. In fact, the potential for them, if not the presence of them, were in you when you were saved. But it was your surrender to Christ that now makes it possible for you to be set free from them.
Thus, we see that repentance is the result of God bringing the LIGHT of Christ into us. We choose, not to stay in the darkness and hide our sin, or hide our hopeless condition. Rather, we come into the Light and allow ourselves to be exposed as someone who has lived our lives independent of God Ė we are exposed as guilty of THE SIN of unbelief. And then, once exposed, we open ourselves up to God and surrender to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Ok. Now, I have gone through all of this to get to a vital point. I will frame it as a question: How, given the Truth about repentance unto salvation, could it be possible to be saved unless we are FIRST EXPOSED AS SINNERS Ė and confess it? How could it be possible, unless we see we need DELIVERANCE from sin, that we will want to be saved? It is NOT POSSIBLE, is it? Nope. For why would you repent Ė change your mind towards God Ė if you think you are already right with God? Why would you think you need a Savior if you donít know you are a sinner?
I do realize that there isnít a person sitting in church today that would not readily say, "I am a sinner." I realize that many people have all of the teachings and doctrines of the Bible so totally memorized that they think that their knowledge of these teachings equals conviction of the Holy Spirit, repentance, and faith. It is so easy to think knowing a true doctrine equals coming into the Light of the Truth. But the two arenít the same at all. In fact, it is easy to become so proud over my knowledge of the Bible, that I donít realize I have obeyed NONE of the doctrines I have memorized.
Todayís modern gospel of self-esteem, which pushes aside the need for repentance, the reality of the Cross, and the conviction of sinners, is not simply an, "out of focus gospel." It is an outright DENIAL of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It is, in fact, the gospel of the antichrist, for what it offers us is greatness, wholeness, and even salvation Ė without the need to, "repent and believe." Indeed, it offers us God Himself on OUR terms.
The Goodness of God
Or do you despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Rom 2:4)
A wonderful part of this verse states that it is the GOODNESS of God that leads us to repentance. This is so true. But letís understand what this means. First of all, it certainly means that it is NOT the wrath of God that leads us to repentance.
This is an important point, because as I mentioned earlier, there has always been this perception that until we get afraid enough of God, we wonít accept Christ. Thus, people are told that, "unless they believe in Jesus, God will send them to hell!!í The gospel, in that case, becomes nothing more than a threat of punishment.
But this is not what this verse says. It says that the goodness of God Ė not His wrath Ė leads us to repentance. In other words, if we really saw the Truth, it would mean that there we would see something so POSITIVE about God, that it would motivate us to want to repent Ė to forsake ourselves and come to Him.
And yet you will notice something here. We dare not miss it. This isnít simply a matter of us seeing God as great, and then doing some math, and figuring out that coming to Christ is the best deal we can cut. No Ė although some messages today make it sound that way. Rather, REPENTANCE is the result of seeing the goodness of God.
This verse is telling us much of what we have already seen. The goodness of God leads us to repentance because once we see the goodness of God, we automatically see our badness, or our helplessness. It just works that way.This is another way of saying that LIGHT has come Ė for God IS light. And once it does Ė once we see God Ė we see ourselves. The two go together.
They always do. Read the Bible. Every time someone sees God, they feel dirty. Sure. But part of seeing God is seeing REDEMPTION. So the result of truly seeing God is not going to be that I feel condemned, hopeless, and on the outside looking in. Rather, once I see God, yes, I am going to see how bad I am, and how helplessly lost I am, but I am going to see how GOOD He is. And part of that goodness is that He invites me to repent of my badness and enter into His goodness.
Let me put it this way: If you feel condemned, fearful, and rejected by God Ė you have NOT seen the Truth. You have not seen God. You have not seen the goodness of God. And the chances are, you have yet to fully repent. I say that because if repentance is based solely on being afraid of what will happen if you donít repent, you really arenít repenting of sin against God. You are simply Ė unwittingly Iím sure Ė cutting the best deal for your survival. This isnít repentance.
Repentance is impossible unless I see Jesus Christ Ė and see myself in comparison to Him. I have to see my desperate condition or I wonít really repent and come to Christ. I said earlier that the gospel message is not, "Believe in Jesus or God will punish you by sending you to hell!" Rather, the gospel says, "You and dead in sin and already on your way to hell. Jesus came to give you LIFE. Repent and believe." In other words, if we really saw the Truth, we would run to God in repentance Ė because we see His forgiveness, goodness, and love.
Get that contrast: Many people think that repentance is a hiding place from the wrath of God Ė an escape hatch from His punishment of death. Rather, it is a running to God for refuge, away from death, away from sin, and away from ourselves.
In this we see that, yes, we must repent of our sin and badness before God. But we also need to see how hopeless we are, and how desperately we need DELIVERANCE.
It is one thing to need to be forgiven FOR sin. But it is another to need deliverance FROM sin. Forgiveness is for our acts of sin and our unbelief. Deliverance is for our condition -- the one into which we were born. Christ saves us from all.
The goodness of God leads us to repentance because it is the goodness of God that exposes the fact that we have NOT been good to God, and that He loves us anyways. God's goodness also leads us to repentance because we will come to see that even when we didn't know we needed to be delivered, God sought us out.
Now, can we see that it is NOT the goodness in any of US that brings us to repentance? No. It is the goodness of God that brings us to repentance?
Can we also see that Jesus Christ was NOT crucified to release OUR greatness? No. Rather, Jesus was crucified to release Godís greatness to US? And really, Jesus was crucified, not to release our greatness, but to set us free from trying to be great?
High self-esteem means that I feel good about myself, which is nothing but another way of saying that I have confidence in myself, and trust in myself. In a world where man lives independent of God, it is said to be a healthy condition. Low self-esteem mean that I donít feel good about myself. It means I have little or no confidence in myself. It is a miserable condition.
It is a fact that most personal problems of temperament and personality can be traced back to how much self-esteem I have, or lack. How we feel about ourselves really does run much of our lives. Thus, it is only natural that the goal of high self-esteem emerge in Christian teaching. And it seems SO RIGHT because high self-esteem makes you happy. Surely, it must be Godís will.
And yet when we read the Bible and discover manís true condition, and the need for repentance, and of humility, many cannot reconcile this message to the need for high self-esteem. After all, is high self-esteem SIN? Does God actually want us to feel BAD about ourselves Ė to walk around depressed and morbid, because we are such awful failures?
It is from this enigma that statements like, "Jesus Christ was crucified to release our greatness," emerge. It is because people recognize that there is something wrong with people, and much of it attributable to low self-esteem, that such teachings arise. More and more today, the gospel of self-esteem is coming to the front. We see it everywhere.
How is it possible for a person to truly see himself as a dead sinner, as someone who needs to repent, as someone totally helpless and lost, and yet how is it possible for that person to be happy and filled with the fruits of the Spirit? Very clearly, it is possible because the things of the Spirit are not based on how we feel about ourselves. They are based in God.
What we need to see here is that the problem of man is NOT low self-esteem. Sorry, but it isnít! Neither is the solution high self-esteem. Nope. The problem is SELF Ė period. And the only solution is to be delivered FROM SELF over into another condition Ė that of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I want to say that again, because we must see it: The problem with us is not low self-esteem. Neither is the solution high self-esteem. The problem is SELF Ė period.
I do realize that if everyone had a healthy high self-esteem that we would all be happier, and that there would be less problems in this world. But what we would have in that case is nicer flesh, and a more comfortable darkness. It would not solve the problem.
Do we realize that low self-esteem is nothing more than a focus upon self, and a reliance upon self Ė but one that is frustrated through failure and disappointment? Sure. On the other hand, high self-esteem is the same focus and reliance upon self, but with seemingly GOOD results. Both are the result of how we view ourselves. Now ask: Do you really believe that how you view yourself has any relationship at all to the truth about yourself? It doesnít. Why? Because you are viewing yourself WITH yourself! You have no material to work with except self. It is a dead end.
I also realize that to know you are LOVED is a great need for each of us. And I don't think this is wrong. It is the way God made us. But when people make statements to the effect that Christ died to release our greatness, it suggests that the reason God loves us is because we are so LOVABLE, and potentially great in His eyes. Sorry. Rather, God loves us because God is love -- that is what He does. And His love does bring us into a wholeness. But it is a wholeness that makes it possible for us to embrace and contain HIM. That is why the Bible says that we love Him only because He first loved us.
However, it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to know God loves us as long as we continue standing aloof from Him in unbelief. Or, to draw on an earlier statement, we need to repent of the sin of standing aloof from God's love -- and if we do, we will experience God's love.
At this point, I want to make a statement that might scare some people, but it really ought to set us free. Either way, it is the Truth. That statement is this: NOTHING we believe about ourselves is the Truth. Get that. Nothing. How COULD what we see be the Truth? What do we have, in ourselves, that enables us to see anything, let alone ourselves, in TRUTH? My gosh, if there is one thing that is impossible for us to see in Truth it is ourselves? This deficiency is, in great part, what is WRONG with us. It is why God Himself must take the initiative to bring into our consciousness conviction of sin, and it is why Truth comes only by revelation. We have NO TRUTH IN US by birth.
What this means is that whether we have HIGH or LOW self-esteem Ė it is all a lie anyways. We arenít seeing the Truth. We are simply living in a self-created bubble that has developed over the course of our lives. Those with high self-esteem are more comfortable in their darkness than those with low self-esteem. But it is still darkness. There is no escape unless LIGHT comes in from the outside.
God never intended us to be so obsessed with SELF. That problem began right after Adam sinned. Read the account. He becomes utter obsessed with himself once he was stripped of his union with God. He cannot find enough fig leaves to cover himself. Self-esteem is really our fig leaf. It is what we use to cover our true condition.
The solution to SELF is not to hate self. Any religion or gospel message which teaches you to condemn yourself, or to tell you that the Christian life is one of miserable self-hate is wrong. But the solution is not to love self. Any notion that suggests that the goal of God is to release OUR greatness, or to simply make us love ourselves, is also wrong. These are not solutions, but nothing more than enhancements to the problem of SELF. Rather, the solution to all of this is to be DELIVERED from self.
How? We will be delivered from self by coming into the fullness of a relationship with Jesus Christ. The result will be that we will be able to leave ourselves alone. We will be too focused upon Him.
I realize this sounds impractical. That is because we no NOTHING about such a possibility. But the fact is, what God wants for us in this matter is a condition Ė based on the reality of Christ in us Ė that is foreign to human experience. We CANíT know it through natural birth. Sure. But what do we think it means to be born again as a new creation in Christ Jesus? It means that we receive, and become, something that we were never born with into this natural world. We enter into the kingdom of God. Isnít that foreign to human experience?
Now, donít misunderstand. Iím not saying that if we are born again, and see Christ, and realize that He loves us, that we are going to start having HIGH self-esteem. NO. Get that thought out of your system. Rather, we are going to be delivered from self completely.
And here is something else: We are not going to be great BECAUSE of Jesus Christ. You hear THAT a lot today. No. We will never be great. HE IS GREAT. Why is that such a raw deal? We are going to be full recipients of His greatness!
Our Identity in Christ
God does not want us to focus on ourselves. He wants to set us free from SELF. But that is impossible unless our focus is turned from the inward to the outward Ė to HIM. This takes a miracle because it is a transformation that is contrary to our sin nature. But it will, over the course of time, happen, if we continue to walk with Jesus Christ.
But you know, if you have no frame of reference for what it means to be in Jesus Christ, you will automatically bring it and limit it to what you do have for a frame of reference. Thus, if you think that the only two options are high or low self-esteem, you will naturally assume that it is Godís goal for you to have high self-esteem. Thus, you will begin to develop a theology that fits this assumption. And so for two thousand years we have had a gospel that either teaches that God is ought to get us, or one that teaches that God would never expect us to repent. BOTH are wrong Ė and both are really nothing more than us creating a gospel in our own image.
In Christ, we gain a new identity. This is not just a fact, but a living dynamic. The NORMAL condition of a redeemed person Ė in Godís eyes Ė is someone who is at rest with themselves. There is no need to put yourself down, or to exalt yourself as great. No. Because you are focused in Him. And because you are, you see yourself as God sees you.
And how does God see us? Well, does He condemn us? No. But does He ever call us great? No. Rather, He loves us and makes us recipients of His grace. THAT is the Truth. Human beings are supposed to be what they are because of our union and oneness with God through Jesus Christ. HE is what our lives are supposed to be all about.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a threat of death. It is a promise of life. But we will never embrace that life unless we see that we are already dead -- until we see we are lost and need to be delivered solely by His grace. This will be impossible if we think that Godís goal is to release our greatness. We must see that rather than release our greatness, Jesus died to set us free from the delusion and the sin of it.
Likewise, instead of saying that Christ died to release our greatness, we ought to say that He died to release HIS greatness to us. Otherwise, we would have no capacity to know God, and there would be no way for Christ to live in us.
So Jesus did NOT die to release OUR greatness. We donít have any greatness TO release. And frankly, Iím glad. I donít know about you, but I donít want to be great. I want Him to be great to me, because I know that if I live in His greatness to me, then I will find the place, and the life, that God originally intended for us.
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