How We Define Ourselves
I always think it’s interesting to find out what TV shows people like to watch. I think favorite TV shows tell a lot about a person. Do you have a favorite TV show? Growing up, our family used to have two television sets: one in the family room and the other in my parents’ bedroom. Both TVs were pretty small but the one in my parents’ room was especially tiny, a 13-inch black & white which used to sit on this little stand (I think today people have smartphones with larger screens). My brother and I used to fight over which one of us got to watch the “nice” TV because we couldn’t possibly sit and watch the same things. He liked to watch comedies like M*A*S*H and Hogan’s Heroes and I liked more serious shows like The Lone Ranger and Batman (okay that was as serious as it got for a 9 year-old). As I look back upon this, I guess I liked shows where the main character’s identity was somewhat of a mystery and often wore a mask.
In last week’s devotional, we talked about the figurative masks we sometimes put on to hide ourselves and/or project a certain image because of pride, fear, or insecurity. Sometimes we get so used to hiding behind a mask that it’s the only way we know how to function, and we forget our true identity as Christians. No matter how old we are, we’re constantly being shaped by the forces around us either to become more Christlike or to become more conformed to the world’s image and expectations. In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero speaks of this when he says “I have spent years meditating on Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness (see Luke 4:1-13). They outline the three false identities or masks that Satan offers each one of us. And they show us the choices we, too, must make to remain faithful to our God-given unique life and identity.”
The three temptations toward false identities Scazzero outlines are: 1) I am what I do. This is where we find our identity and worthiness in our work, what we achieve, and how we perform in various areas of life. 2) I am what I have. We define ourselves by what we own, the things we possess, or the earthly things we fill our lives with. 3) I am what others think. We find our identity in popularity and in other’s opinions of us. Our self-image soars with a compliment and is devastated by criticism. These are primary markers the world, influenced by Satan, uses to measure success. Hence, why mankind uses these same things to define himself and his self-worth. And it’s not that what we do or what we steward or what our testimony is before others is not important. But, at the core of our being, these things are not part of our true God-given identity. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Even as a Christian, I can relate to defining myself by the things mentioned above. In one of my first meetings with a spiritual mentor, she asked me to describe who I am and how I define myself. And I responded by talking about where I work, my role in ministry, my family, or what my personality is like. While these things are certainly part of who I am, I am learning to grow in a deeper understanding of my true God-given identity as a believer. This is also my hope and prayer for you: that you would not allow the world to shape your identity but allow God and His Word to constantly mold you. There are many aspects to our identity in Christ but here are three to hold on to: 1) You are a beloved child of God. John 1:12 “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 2) The Lord delights in you. Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you . . . He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” 3) You are a new creation, not just a better version of your old self, completely renewed. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”