My rebirthday is coming up in a few weeks.
Yes, you read that right. For those of you who have never heard of the term, a rebirthday is the day you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. On that day you are born again– hence, rebirthday.
Another way of saying it is that fifty years ago a severely depressed, suicidal, incredibly messed-up 18-year-old gave his heart to Christ and became a Jesus freak.
It was the best decision I ever made.
Discovering that God loved me released me from the suicidal thoughts. Actually, I didn’t really want to die– I just wanted relief from my pain. And gradually God took that away. It wasn’t an instantaneous healing (maybe God knew I couldn’t survive such a shock). No, it’s been a long and sometimes painful process. And to be honest, it isn’t over yet. There’s still quite a few rough edges. But as Joyce Meyer says, “I’m not what I want to be, I’m not what I ought to be– but thank God, I’m not what I used to be!”
There have been many, many, MANY changes along the way (don’t be scared, that’s just my wife shouting AMEN! in the background). I think the greatest change is that as I learned how to love God more, I also learned to love myself. Let me explain what I mean.
The Impossible Question
One day Jesus was challenged by a man in the crowd who, trying to trip Him up, asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” This was meant to be a trick question. After all, Moses had given Israel the Ten Commandments. How can one be singled out as the greatest? It was an impossible question to answer.
And yet (not surprisingly) Jesus did. “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 4:29-30).
A terrific answer, right? But… Jesus wasn’t finished. “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these two” (Mark 14:31).
One impossible question, two incredible answers.
The first answer was rather obvious, of course. It’s the second answer that used to get me. I can remember thinking, “Love my neighbor as myself?! Man, my neighbor is in trouble!” You see, when I first started on this journey, I didn’t even like myself.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my childhood and teen years had been full of rejection, bullying, and verbal abuse. My self-esteem had been beaten down so low you would need a spatula to scrape it off the floor. I thought that my identity was what others said of me. When you hear lies often enough, you begin to believe them. I was looking in a cracked mirror– the reflection I saw wasn’t reality.
So this “love your neighbor as yourself” business seemed like an impossible task. But the more I read the Bible, the more my faith grew, and I began to see that love is God’s central theme. 1 John 4:16 says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Read that again, and let those words sink into your spirit!
God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways
The opposite of God’s love is an unhealthy self-absorption. Have you seen the T-shirt that says, “It’s All About Me”? Do a search on Google and you’ll see dozens of designs and fonts. Apparently the shirts are very popular.
They’re also a lie.
Fritz Chery of biblereasons.com puts it this way: “Scripture teaches us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. On the other hand, scripture does warn us about self-love. Our focus should not be on ourselves. We must trade self-centered love for agape love. Loving yourself too much shows selfishness and arrogance which God hates…Take your eyes off yourself and look at the interests of other people.”
So then, how are we to love ourselves? I’ve learned that in order to properly love yourself, you need to see yourself the way God sees you.
Before I was saved, I was a sinner. But God still loved me, even while I was in the midst of sin. He loved me so much that He sent Jesus to take my punishment. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
We love to quote John 3:16, but don’t stop there. Look at what the next verse says: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).
Did you catch that? God doesn’t condemn you. He’s not angry at you. Do you believe that?
Do You Know How God Sees You?
For a long time after I was saved, I had a lot of confusion about this. I would read Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This sounded wonderful. The problem was that I had a struggle in my life, something that I knew was displeasing to God. I literally spent decades praying and crying and pleading with God to take it away– but that didn’t happen. Because of this continuing problem, I experienced a great deal of shame and condemnation. At times it caused me to wonder if I was really saved.
It took me awhile to learn that this feeling of condemnation was not coming from God. It was coming from Satan. One of his names is “the accuser of the brethren,” and he was using my weakness to put lies into my mind once more. I thought this struggle was a part of me, and so I was susceptible to the voice of the enemy piling condemnation on me. He wanted me to doubt my salvation, to give up and give in.
It would have worked, too, but thankfully I began to get some teaching on my identity in Christ. I learned that the struggle I had was a matter of temptation, not sin. God never promises to remove our temptations, but He does make a way through them. I learned that the Bible never refers to a Christian as “sinner.” In fact, God calls those who love Him “saints!” When I began to see myself as God saw me, the feelings of condemnation and confusion left me. The shame diminished (though to be truthful, I still have to fight that sometimes– it’s one of those “rough edges” I spoke about).
I see so many Christians who aren’t walking in victory because they don’t know their true identity in Christ. They are miserable, and I know the pain they’re going through, because I was one of them for so long. I was saved, but I was living a defeated life.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Jesus came to set the captives free! If you’re struggling in any area of your life, know that you are not alone. There is a way out. It’s my prayer that God will use this blog as a tool to help other struggling Christians discover the love, grace, and freedom that I’ve found. Now that I know who I am in Christ, I’m living the transformed life– and you can, too!
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“I Sat In Darkness” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/i-sat-in-darkness
“The Beggar’s Cloak and You” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/the-beggar’s-cloak-and-you
“5 Things You Need To Know About You” http://www.livingthetransformedlife.com/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-you