Seeing Ourselves in His Image Part 1: Focusing on Christ
Living out our identity in Christ, the basis for our significance and worth
In talking with women of all different ages, from all over the country, in many different places in life, there seems to be a common thread that links many of our struggles. It has to do with how we view ourselves, our God, and the relationship between God and ourselves. God has provided us with everything we need and this provision includes a personal relationship with Him. In order to grasp the significance of this relationship, we need to understand three things: the basis for it, the hindrances that could get in its way, and how to participate in its growth.
You’ve heard it before, but it’s an important point:You are created in the Image of God. Genesis 1:27 tell us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Male and female each reflect the image of God. Part of God’s plan in creating us was to share His love with us. Before we could do anything to earn His love, He loved us. This love is similar to, but much greater than, the love a mother has for her newborn baby. It is genuine and unconditional. God’s plan is further explained in Jeremiah 32:38-40.
“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” Jeremiah 32:38-40
For those of us who have accepted the gift of grace and have been converted, we can have confidence in the covenant that ensures God will not turn away from us.
In the world in which we live, there are many distractions that attempt to take our focus away from the simple truth of our identity in Christ. The distractions can come in the form of busyness and endless “to-do” lists. In addition, we are surrounded by advertising that tries to sell us that one special product that will make our life happier and more fulfilled. All around us are social messages that say we need to be thinner, better-looking, and more successful. When we listen to these messages, we are left striving to meet an impossible, unrealistic standard. This standard can easily become our master, never relenting in its demands. This master is quite unlike the Master we should be serving, who loves us as we are and yet loves us enough to want us to grow, mature, and draw closer to Him.
Often, the confusion of the mixed messages and distractions leads to a discrepancy between our self-image and reality. Our self-image is our perception of, beliefs about, and attitudes toward our self. It is based on how we compare to our own perception of the “ideal standard.” Unfortunately, this standard is often not based in reality. The more we adhere to the world’s standards of beauty and success, the less able we are to see ourselves accurately. When we adhere to the standard of the Word, we can say with confidence Psalm 139:14.
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14
What would it take to be able to say this verse to yourself and honestly believe it? Ultimately, it requires recognizing what hinders us from seeing ourselves as God sees us and then releasing ourselves from the grip it has on our lives. We can then replace the deceitful messages with truth from the Word. The Word tells us that in Christ, we are clothed with the garments of salvation, covered with the robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7), and justified freely by God’s grace (Romans 3:24). In accordance with Ephesians 4:21-24, we want to “put off ” the distracting messages and “put on” Truth.
“If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:21-24
When our focus is on the distractions of life and striving for approval, we miss out on the freedom that comes from living in the Truth of the Word.
Relationships shape and sustain us. Relationships that are consistent, supportive, and involve speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) provide the ultimate setting for growth and enrichment in our lives. These types of relationships do not always occur spontaneously, but, rather, develop from purposeful, intentional efforts. Our relationship with Christ goes hand-in-hand with being made in the image of God. Christ offers a secure sense of belonging and ultimate acceptance (Ephesians 1:6), unlike anything we can find on earth. In our relationship with Christ, we find our self-worth and identity.
We don’t have to strive for others’ approval but can focus on who we are in Christ and on His favor towards us that does not change. If we look elsewhere for a sense of worth, acceptance, or identity, we will be striving for it based on our works and trying to meet a standard that is not based in reality.
We can rest in the reality of God’s love towards us, His love that He gave even before we could do anything to deserve it. Our true value, based on God’s love and grace, is steady, faithful, and constant. Our love towards Him is a response to His initiating love.
“We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Deepening our relationship with Christ allows us to accept the truth about our value and worth in Christ. We can go about this similarly to how we would deepen a relationship with a friend. We can take time to focus on God’s Word by ourselves. Just as important, we can take time to focus on God’s Word with other believers in accountability or mentoring relationships. We can take time to focus on God’s Word with a group of believers, such as at church. Remember that He walks with us constantly as we go through our day-to-day activities. As we take care of our God-given responsibilities of children, jobs, family, etc., we can be purposeful in acknowledging His presence. Lifting up spontaneous prayers throughout the day redirects our focus to God and acknowledges our reliance on Him (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
As we spend time deepening our relationship with Christ, we will be able to grow in our ability to view ourselves more accurately, to view God more accurately, and to understand the significance of the intimate relationship we have with Him.