Who You Truly Are

Last week, I began a series about being true to yourself. No, I’m not talking about the self-love hippy dippy nonsense. I’m talking about boldly confronting yourself and making a choice—the choice to acknowledge who you are today, admit your shortcomings, see your potential, and move forward towards what God desires for you. We’ve already talked about recognizing the real you. Today, we tackle the next step.

Acknowledge Who You Are

Allowing yourself to think honestly about who you are can be quite the task, but it takes a bit more effort to accept the truths you find and acknowledge who you are, to yourself and to others. It’s easy to ask yourself what you enjoy, what makes you tick, and why you have certain tendencies. It’s a lot more difficult to say “I’m impatient,” “I care a lot about what certain people think of me,” or “I have potential I’m not realizing.”

You need to acknowledge where you are before you can get somewhere else. Nobody ever got good at playing the guitar by saying “learning guitar seems neat.” No. They first had to acknowledge their lack of ability, then let that drive them to learn. Only then did they grow and change for the better, gaining something new and valuable. The same holds true for character.

Words Have Power

I’ve noticed that the smallest of phrases can sometimes make a huge difference in living more authentically. When I got saved, I realized God had given me a heart for people I didn’t have before. So I started saying “thank you” a lot more often. I felt convicted to communicate gratitude to people, both as a form of encouragement and an acknowledgement that they met some of my needs. It was part of how I put my salvation into practice.

Another huge one for me was admitting fault or ignorance. Instead of coming up with excuses, I started saying “I was wrong.” Instead of guessing the answer to a question, I started saying “I don’t know.” It was weird at first. I was so used to putting up my guard to keep my pride and ego intact. Now I was fighting against that instinct. At first, it was uncomfortable. Then I realized it was freeing. I could be more honest with myself and others. I didn’t have to pretend. Being me was easier than fitting into the costume of a fictional character who was always right and always smart.

God Made You Special

One essential part of acknowledging who you are is accepting that God created and loves you. This is hard for some people. Whether it’s feeling like we’re unwanted, unloved, or unworthy, Christians regularly struggle with their identity in Christ. It’s something we overlook far too often. Here are some truths you can hold onto.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

God created us. He formed us with love and care, designing a purpose and future for each of us. The Bible is clear about this. Paul reinforces that God not only made us, but predestined us for salvation and worship.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

The most important part of our identity in Christ is the work Christ did on the cross. This is when God truly proved his love for us and put it on magnificent display.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John 3:16-17 (ESV)

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Jesus is the proof of God’s ultimate love for us. The cross is where God’s goodness and mercy finally win over mankind’s wickedness, forgiveness wins over judgement, and we gain new life in Christ rather than being condemned to death. Praise God for all that was accomplished. So what do we do now?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”

John 15:5, 10-11, 16a (ESV)

We obey. We follow. We live our new lives for Christ. It only makes sense. He gave us a second chance. He loved us from the very beginning and saved us despite our rebellion and hatred for him. Now that our eyes are open, we look to God and do our very best with the short time we have to serve and worship our Lord. So acknowledge who you are, but more importantly, acknowledge what God has done for you, how he loves you, and what he desires for your life. Only there will you find true purpose and peace.

Next time, we’ll look at what it means to take the knowledge of who you truly are and move forward unto action. Let me know your thoughts about this series in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Be True to Yourself

Nothing annoys me more than someone fake.

I’d rather talk to a newly saved Christian who’s confused about why Jesus had to die on the cross than an educated theologian who tweets that “Jesus was a socialist.” The difference is that one of them is being honest, acknowledging their ignorance and seeking truth; the other is putting on a show to score political points. The theologian has no excuse. He knows better, yet still chooses to propagate a lie.

You see it every day. Maybe your dad has convinced himself that buying more gadgets will make him happy when you know he’s empty inside. Maybe your friend follows the latest trends and always seems to agree with whatever the news is saying. Maybe you’ve found yourself pressured by your peers, only to give in and conform to their preferences for the sake of feeling valued. It’s hard to resist. It’s hard to be true to yourself.

Isn’t That Sinful?

What complicates this further is that being true to oneself has gotten a bad rap in some Christian circles today. This is for good reason. When most modern media tells us to be true to ourselves, what they’re really saying is that we are the god of our own hedonistic pursuits. “Do what makes you happy! Live for you! Follow your heart!” This kind of thinking is purely selfish and runs counter to the truth of the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Luke 12:15 (ESV)

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:30 (ESV)

But let’s leave pride and pleasure-seeking aside for now. Today, I want to talk about being true to yourself in the context of following Christ. I’m talking about vulnerable authenticity and self-reflection followed by diligent sanctification and accountability.

Merriam-Webster defines authenticity as being “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” But if we stopped there, we’d be left in our own selfishness, authentically sinful. We have to go further. Recognize and acknowledge who you are, but proceed then to bold action in living out your potential as God’s child, remaining vigilant to combat temptation and darkness within you.

My goal is to take this process and address it one step at a time. Bear with me. I know some of this might sound like self-help mumbo jumbo on the surface, but I’m convinced this is an essential part of maturing in your faith and identity as a genuine Christian.

Recognize the Real You

The first step is to recognize the real you—not what you present to your friends, not what your social media shows, and not who you wish you were. Just you. Confront yourself and really dig deep. Who are you? What fulfills you? What makes you cry? What do you daydream about? What tempts you to sin? What do you spend most of your free time doing? What do you believe about the nature of God, your purpose on this earth, and the purpose of those around you?

If you have friends you can trust, ask them what they observe about you. What would they say are your habits, values, or fears? What would they say are the things you talk most passionately about and the weaknesses you display?

Some people live their whole lives without ever answering these questions. It’s too easy to live on autopilot, pretending that what matters most is what you’re doing right now and what form of entertainment or frivolity is waiting around the corner. But life’s substance doesn’t consist of Marvel movies, mocha lattes, or Instagram. Life’s substance consists of real people, real choices, and real consequences. If you don’t take ownership of your life, you’ll quickly find yourself drifting in a sea of mediocrity, bereft of purpose or identity. Don’t let it happen. You have to nail it down. Who are you?

This isn’t to say you have to figure everything out all at once. In fact, most people will give up if they try to handle too much too quickly. Instead, just challenge yourself a little bit every day. It’s part of how we all grow up. But while most people avoid the big questions until they’re staring them in the face, I’d argue the better approach is to seek them out and deal with them head on.

Talk to Yourself

An easy way to do this is to answer those questions in a journal or other creative outlet. For me, I wrote poems. Boy, did I write poems. I would whip out my phone wherever I was and write down exactly how I felt, what I was struggling with, or who I was becoming. It was immensely helpful in figuring out who I really was and what demons I needed to wrestle. I didn’t care if it was embarrassing. I would write down my sins in all their ugly detail. I didn’t care if I was immature. I would write the most edgy stuff sometimes. I didn’t care if I had all the answers yet. I would frequently have dialogues with myself about things I wasn’t yet decided on, just to get a better grasp on the issue or situation. It was therapeutic. I highly recommend it.

Revealing these hidden parts of your identity and turning them inside out is a key step on the road to being true to yourself in a way that honors God more fully. Next week, we’ll talk about what it means to acknowledge who you are and really own up to it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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What a Man Needs

Purpose

A man needs responsibility and ambition. He needs a Savior to follow and a Lord to worship. He needs a wife to love, a family to care for and protect. He needs a job to be done and done well. He needs a part of the world to repair and to keep. He needs a student to teach, a friend to stand with, a team to lead, an army to fight alongside. He needs a part in history. He needs a path to follow that sustains his soul rather than draining it slowly. He needs understanding of God, of himself, and of the reason he was created.

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV)

Discipline

A man needs to be the master of his own body, mind, and soul. He needs discipline of his spirit, that he follow Christ above all other pursuits and seek to know him more fully. He needs discipline of his thoughts, that they not lead him to worthlessness, greed, or evil. He needs discipline of his tongue, to reserve it for only that which is true and purposeful, never to use it as a weapon against the innocent. He needs discipline of his eyes, that they not lead him into envy, idolatry, or lust. He needs discipline of his hands, that he use his strength to build and to protect rather than to dominate those weaker than him.

“Urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity”

Titus 2:6-7 (ESV)

Freedom

A man needs liberation. He needs the freedom to worship God. He needs the freedom to love purely and to feel deeply. He needs the freedom to protect that which is precious to him. He needs freedom to say yes and freedom to say no. He needs freedom to uphold that which is good and destroy that which is evil. He needs freedom from tyranny and slavery; freedom from any fellow man who would keep his teeth in the mud. He needs freedom from dependence, from addiction, and from the sinful, lazy man inside himself.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Galatians 5:13 (ESV)

Respect

A man needs honor and dignity. He needs the respect of his family, his friends, and his peers. He needs the respect of his leaders, that they trust him to do what is necessary. Most of all, he needs self-respect and integrity. Those who believe in him, trust him, and challenge him towards greatness will fuel his actions, inspire his work, and mature his self-reflection from hollow selfishness into the humility he needs to receive respect like a man rather than a boy.

“Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”

Proverbs 31:23 (ESV)

Influence

A man needs to determine his own destiny and change the world for the better. He needs to see the lasting impact of his acts of healing in people and objects alike. He needs to improve his environment, to create something new and captivating, to mold one thing into another. He needs to fell a forest, conquer a mountain, claim a land, slay a beast. His will is upheld by his ability to ultimately overcome through blood, sweat, and tears unto glorious victory.

“He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the Lord brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.”

2 Samuel 23:10 (ESV)

Let me know your thoughts about what it means to be a man in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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Entertaining Demons

Most people say they’re “fighting their demons” by overcoming weakness, addiction, or trauma. Recently, I’ve been fighting my demons in another way—by silencing the inner voices that I love to hear the most.

That Little Voice

If you mention an inner voice, most people immediately think of their conscience. This voice bugs you to stop before doing something wrong or encourages you towards something you ought to do. But I’m not talking about your conscience today. I’m talking about what some people might associate with self-esteem or ego.

This other voice is the one telling you that your significant other isn’t worthy of you, that you should be annoyed at your lazy roommate, or that you deserve more respect from your coworkers. In short, this voice is concerned with your pride and has an incredible talent for torturing you without your awareness.

The Inner War

Let me give you an example. This last week, I gave a presentation. I had been working on it for a while and I wanted it to go well. It did. Once it was over, I heard a soft voice in the back of my head.

Wouldn’t it be great if people congratulated you? That’s not too much to ask, is it? They should praise you. You deserve recognition for your hard work. Invite it. Bask in it.

At first, it sounds reasonable enough. I did work for this. Maybe I do deserve something for it. I can take a compliment, right? That’d be nice. Our culture loves this mentality. It’s easily disguised as confidence or healthy self-esteem. In reality, it’s usually nothing more than conceit.

“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Proverbs 26:12 (ESV)

“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Proverbs 16:5, 18 (ESV)

I hope you can see now what I mean. I’m not disparaging confidence, assertiveness, or a healthy mental attitude. Those are all great qualities to have. I’m simply trying to unmask the sinful pride we so often hide behind other labels.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

Romans 12:3 (ESV)

In my example, my inner voice is tempting me towards pride. It mixes truth in there to encourage me to justify it as something neutral or positive. The truth is that I gave a successful presentation, that I am valued, and that I’m using the gifts my Savior gave me. The lie is that I got to where I am independent of God, that I deserve praise, and that I need man’s approval to be satisfied in my work.

I like to think of that tempting voice as a demon of selfishness I have to constantly fight off or an enemy I have to guard against. But the thing is, it’s not a demon or a fiend. It’s me.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

James 1:14-15 (ESV)

This is the true culprit. It’s my selfish nature, my sinful flesh, the “old man.” But it doesn’t feel like it’s me. It just feels like a comforting resentment, a gentle push towards quick satisfaction, a quenching of my thirst for self-gratification. It feels good. And that’s the hardest part.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Romans 7:15, 18-20 (ESV)

We have to challenge this voice. We cannot let it go unrestrained. It will lead us away to death by continuously pulling us down into sin. So how do we fight it? What can save us from ourselves?

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9 (ESV)

Only by confessing and offering ourselves to God can we escape our enslavement to sin. We cannot live without a master. We must serve something. We are incapable of apathy, unable to rid ourselves of a desire to worship. So we must find something worthy of our worship, a substitute to our worship of self.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Romans 6:12-14 (ESV)

I’ve taken to using a unique strategy in being mindful about combating my inner voice. When I hear it tempting me, I yell at it… in my head, of course. “Shut up!” “No!” It’s a way I can interrupt my autopilot thoughts and refocus my attention in the moment. I question what I’m telling myself rather than accept it automatically. It helps. Obviously, there’s more to it than that. I have to offer myself to God and confess my sin if I want to keep it from gaining a foothold. Daily commitment to scripture reading and prayer, along with a church community willing to keep me accountable, is essential.

I love the way the King James Version puts these verses:

“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 4:22-24 (KJV)

That’s the key to this process of fighting off our inner voice of selfishness. We must put off the old man and renew our spirits, allowing the new man to take control and lead us towards holiness. Only with God’s help can we become people who truly serve him and are satisfied in him alone.

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV)

So stop listening. Stop letting your inner voice lead you down paths of logic towards the gallows. Stop bargaining with yourself to see how much sin you can get away with before it catches up to you. Refuse to let it bind you. Run towards freedom. Freedom from our inner demons doesn’t come through acceptance of sin, blind positivity, or being self-sufficient. It comes through Christ.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

Let me know your thoughts about battling inner demons in the comments below. Enter your email if you want to be notified when my next post goes live. Thanks for reading. Godspeed.

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