Seeing Ourselves in His Image Part 2: Living in Christ
Living out our identity in Christ, the basis for our significance and worth.
For every one of us, acknowledging the significance of being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and having a relationship with Him is essential. It is also critical to realize our significance and worth stems from our position in Christ. Our position in Christ is based on His love and grace which we receive when we are adopted into His family. Just as the Lord showed grace to His chosen people the Israelites, so He also shows grace to us.
“But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 7:8
The Lord loves each one of us and keeps His covenant that was sealed by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Just like He brought the Israelites out of bondage and redeemed them, He continues this work in us today. We can be released out of the bondage of sin and be redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
“And he is before all things, and by him all things consist…And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:17,20
The ultimate act of redemption was completed on the cross; it was through Christ’s sacrifice that He made peace for us. Many Christians understand these scriptural truths as they relate to eternal destination, but do not understand how these truths relate to issues of day-to-day living including emotions, relationships, purpose in life, etc. Remember, Jesus “made peace through the blood of his cross.” It wasn’t our works, the actions of other people, or our feelings. He is the perfect sacrifice for us and through accepting it in faith, we have peace with God. It is important to understand this peace with God is not based on our emotions or our feeling of peace; rather, it is a state of relationship. Because of this peace that was made for us, we can have a place with Christ in His family.
In order to live an abundant life (John 10:10), we need to have our beliefs based on the Truth from the Word. Often, our thinking patterns hinder our ability to accept the Truth and to act on it. Harmful thinking patterns can hinder our ability to see ourselves as made in the image of God. One practical way to accept the truth of our identity and position in Christ is to monitor our thoughts and replace distortions with the truth.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7a
One common distortion can be referred to as “black-and-white thinking” or “all-or-nothing thinking.” It occurs when you view a situation in only two categories instead of on a continuum. This is a very common way to try and make sense of the world. Black-and-white thinking is appropriate in matters related to God’s moral law and what He calls sin. With these issues, they are either “right” or “wrong.” However, outside of moral issues, life rarely provides situations that can be seen in “all-or-nothing” terms.
This distortion often arises when an individual is evaluating his or her own work and viewing it as either “failure” or “perfection.” For any task or assignment, it may be possible to completely fail, such as by not attempting to do it, and occasionally it may be possible to complete it perfectly. In the vast majority of situations, however, you land somewhere between failure and perfection in the spectrum of “good enough.” This concept has broad implications. For example, many people struggle with their weight and eating habits. Their goal is often a narrowly defined perfection and when they don’t meet that goal, they feel defeated because they have “failed.” They feel discouraged and may even believe they need to punish themselves for not achieving perfection. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking makes it easy to slip into a dangerous cycle of discouragement, attempts at stringent control, defeat, and self-punishment.
The truth is that many things like weight, eating habits, prayer life, moods, etc. really should be viewed in terms of “better and worse” outcomes. Again, for most things in life, there is an acceptable range of “good enough.” Also, many believers live with significant self-condemnation that the Lord Himself does not lay on these people. We need to be reminded of Romans 8:1,“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
A sure way to feel unnecessary discouragement is to view your responsibilities in life in all-or-nothing terms. For example, if you are planning to host a dinner or a family get-together, there is a very slim chance you will fail and a very slim chance it will be perfect.You will most likely fit in the “good enough” range. And that is good enough for God! If your goal is to do all things “as to the Lord, and not unto men” remembering that “ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23, 24) you won’t have to strive for the unrealistic expectations of perfection and won’t need to be unnecessarily discouraged by not being able to reach perfection. As we allow Christ’s love and grace to give us significance, worth, and approval, we won’t need to seek it from the wrong sources or compare ourselves to others to find it. Rather, we can be filled with gratitude for His presence in and with us.
Think also about raising your children. First, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Even then, perfect parenting can’t achieve perfect results: remember Adam and Eve sinned when they were alone on the earth with God! Our heavenly Father is the perfect parent and yet all of His children live in the range between perfection and failure. No one is perfect and no one is a complete failure. Because of Christ, every person has purpose and meaning.
Another common distortion in our thinking is called “mind reading.” We do this frequently, but sometimes it interferes with our ability to see ourselves and others accurately. In mind reading, you believe you know what others are thinking about you and assume they are reacting to you negatively. Unfortunately, you may fail to consider other possibilities or interpretations for why a person is reacting the way she is. This process can be very damaging to relationships and to your sense of worth.
“Mind-reading” occurs in a wide variety of settings. For example, you might walk into church one Sunday morning and a friend of yours doesn’t seem to notice that you have arrived. If you think, “She must be upset at me,” you’re mind- reading! Mind-reading thoughts can lead to emotions such as disappointment, anger, insecurity, frustration, sadness, or discouragement. These thoughts and emotions then can lead to actions. For example, if you believe someone is upset with you, you may avoid initiating conversation or sitting near her. If these actions and emotions are not based on truth, they will be misdirected and may lead to more serious consequences.
Instead of “mind-reading,” it is often helpful to realize that while your initial interpretation may be one way to look at it, there are other possible explanations. Perhaps your friend is tired after being up all night with a sick child. Perhaps she has other things on her mind. When you assume you know what other people are thinking, you run the risk of drawing conclusions about yourself or others that are not accurate.
Another way to deal with this mind-reading situation is to think, “even if that is true, it’s okay because my worth is in Jesus.” Someone being upset with you does not negatively impact your worth as an individual or your position in Christ even though it may make you feel uneasy emotionally. Too frequently, we interpret our self-worth based on our emotions in the situation in which mind reading is occurring. Unfortunately, our interpretations of others’ thoughts lead us to make inferences about our own self that are inaccurate. Our own sense of worth must rest on something more solid and consistent than the opinions and feelings of other people. It must rest on the Truth of the Word.