“Now Who Are You?”

Part 3

Jesus was once asked to name the greatest commandment. Listen to His answer.

And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:37-39

We can read scriptures dozens of times, but it only takes that one time, when the Holy Spirit highlights something and the words leap off the page, to open our eyes to something we haven’t seen before. I was reading this passage several years ago and the words caught my attention like never before. Jesus said the second commandment was like the first, that we should love our neighbor as our self. In other words, the amazing measuring stick of loving our neighbor is our own self-love! A healthy love of self is the necessary precondition to loving others. We may not realize it but how we view ourselves is superimposed onto others and our relationships. This understanding explains many of our relationship issues. It is interesting that the traits we dislike in others are often the same ones we have ourselves but are too blind to see.

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:3

This verse tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. But notice that it does not forbid us thinking highly of ourselves, only thinking morehighly than we should. There is a healthy balance. 

The Lord does not instruct us to think poorly of our self, only to avoid thinking more highly than we ought. It is a common teaching in some Christian circles that we should see ourselves as some lowly, rotten, worthless, worm-like creature. 

This is not how the Lord views us at all, neither before nor after we become His children by being born again. We need to have a balanced, scriptural perception of ourselves. Some falsely believe that thinking highly of themselves or loving themselves is pride. Sure, it is possible to go overboard and my ego be blown out of proportion. I can love myself so much that life becomes all about me. However, not thinking as highly as God does about ourselves is, in fact, a false, perverted humility, a deadly hidden pride that fails to accept oneself as God declares.

Here is the difference: We can never think too highly of ourselves as long as we see ourselves as we truly are: a part of the Creator and in a living relationship with Him. How can I think too highly of His creation? Of His handiwork? “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14). It is when we view ourselves as our own work, apart from Creator God, that our view becomes pride. We can never think too highly with God. We are His. Anything less is false humility.

It is popular in Christian circles to say that we are “sinners saved by grace.” In other words, to call ourselves sinners and say things like: “We are all sinners.” This sounds humble but it is a partial truth. It is true that we are saved by grace but after we are born again, we are not called sinners in scripture. It may be surprising to learn that nowhere in scripture does God say that His children are “sinners saved by grace.” You can’t find it in the New Testament except in the case of one who falls away from God and reverts to a lifestyle prior to his born-again experience.

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” James 5:19-20

 We may still sin but that doesn’t make us sinners. I can bark but that doesn’t make me a dog. I love to swim but that doesn’t make me a fish. To call someone a sinner is to describe a person’s state of being, their nature, their identity. The difference is this: A sinner lives a lifestyle of sin. It is their way of life even though they may do acts of righteousness at times.

True children of  God  love and practice a lifestyle of righteousness even though they may sin at times. This transformation is only possible because our identity has changed. We have received a new Christ-like nature and the love of God has been shed abroad in our heart. The basic source of our behavior, whether sinful or righteous, flows out of our perception of God and ourselves. What we believe about ourselves is what we tend to become. If we believe we are sinners or failures, our incorrect thoughts construct a false identification and affect the way we speak and behave.

The reverse is also true. If we believe the truth about ourselves, based on what God says about us, that will also affect the way we speak, how we behave and the direction of our lives. It is the natural outcome of our perceived identity. Proverbs 23:7 says: For as he [a man] thinks within himself, so he is. What we think about ourselves is what we tend to become. 

Joe

Excerpt from my latest book; “Now Who Are You?”

“Now Who Are You?”

Part 2

I started my own business in the Spring of 1986—Vision Cycles, a motorcycle parts and repair shop. I was now a motorcycle mechanic and business owner, and I took great pride in that. I didn’t realize it at the time that I was finding my self-worth in my occupation. I felt valued and that made me feel good about myself. 

At the age of 31, the Lord began a change in me, and I knew I had to answer a call to sell my business and go into full-time youth ministry. At the time, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to sell my business—partly because it didn’t sell! I had one buyer but that fell through. So I was forced to liquidate my tools and equipment piece by piece. Looking back on it, I realize that God was taking me on a journey to do a deep work in my heart. At the time, however, it hurt beyond words. With every piece of equipment sold, there was a story of how God provided the money for it or created the deal through which I purchased it. Oh, the memories…so many memories. Every item that was sold and left the building was one more repair I wouldn’t be able to accomplish on a motorcycle. Piece by piece my heart was being torn to pieces. Letting faithful employees go was difficult as well. 

I felt lost and insecure. So many thoughts raced through my mind. Now what am I going to do? The only way I knew how to make a living was gone. Fear gripped me time after time. My mind raced. How was I going to make a decent living? How was I going to provide for my wife, pay the house payment and utilities, put food on the table? Questions…many questions. Ok, near panic!

 In July of 1994, with little left in my motorcycle shop, I heard the voice of God within me ask a question I will never forget,“Now who are you?” 

Who am I?

That question rocked me! Who am I? I didn’t even know what I was doing, where I was going or what I was going to do next, much less who I was. Who am I? I don’t know! 

I obviously didn’t know how to answer that question. I certainly wasn’t who I thought I was. I was a business owner and a motorcycle mechanic, and that was being torn from me. Sure, I was still a husband with a great wife. I was even a part-time youth pastor. But my career! My business! What I invested so much time, sweat, money and effort to build…was gone! Gone!

I didn’t realize at the time that I was receiving something deep within me from my business. I was getting a need met and didn’t even know it. I didn’t know this was happening until it was gone. Boy, did I know something was missing then! Through the Lord’s question, I discovered that I found my identity in my title and my occupation. I was receiving value and self-worth from these temporary things. I had no idea I was doing this! Even if I did know it, I wouldn’t have thought it was wrong. When I was discharged from the Navy in 1990, it didn’t have the same effect on me as my business did. The same with being a youth pastor when I left that position in the summer of 1999. The reason for that is I wasn’t finding my identity from the Navy or from being a youth pastor, but I was from being a motorcycle mechanic and business owner. 

Who Am I? 

This set me on a journey of discovery. It took a while—years even. I learned that properly framing a question leads to the answer. Here are a few questions I wrestled with during the journey.

  • When we no longer can do what we are doing, who are we? 
  • When we no longer possess what we had, who are we? 
  • When we no longer have the title before our name, who are we? 
  • When all our children have grown and moved out of the house, who are we? 
  • When we age and grow older and we literally cannot do what we did before, who are we? 
  • When all is stripped away and we are standing there alone, who are we? 

We must understand one fundamental thing: We are not what we do. Our value and worth do not come from our bank accounts. We are not the sum total of our possessions. Sure, we can enjoy all these things but our identity, and therefore our value and worth, must come from something much deeper.

On this journey to discover who I am, I found something that I didn’t expect—something deep and life-changing. I came to understand the love that Father God has for me in a deeper way than I had encountered before. I became a “beloved son.” Not from God’s perspective—He already loved me like that. No, the change was in my perspective. Now I knew it! I knew how He loved me, that I was truly His son, that His love was profound, abiding and eternal. I became His beloved son in my heart. 

I believe the same will happen for you as well if you allow this revelation to become your revelation.

I will ask you the same question God asked me: 

“Now who are you?”

Excerpt from my latest book; “Now Who Are You?”