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Foundations of the Thrive Philosophy Part 1: Christians and Self

Today, I would like to share my thoughts on how Christians view themselves. In our American culture today, and in the realm of wellness particularly, things like identity, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-concept are talked about frequently.

As a Christian, it is my experience that we are often given conflicting messages about these ideas, even within the church. We may be told that God loves us, God forgives us, He sent His Son for us, and because of that, we have every reason to feel "good about ourselves." We may also be told that we are sinful, that we are nothing on our own, and that it's prideful to feel "good about ourselves." One of the most important things we can do, as Christians who are trying to gain understanding about anything, is to look to what God tells us in His Word, the Bible. We are tempted to look to our own minds and our own hearts, but if we want to be sure of the truth, we will measure our hearts and our minds by what God Himself says. God's words are truth (John 17:17) and He is the source of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6). So, if we are looking to the Bible to see what God says about who we are, both as individuals and as the human race, we see that: 1. We are made in God's Image (Genesis 1:27). We are image-bearers of God Himself in this world. We are here on earth to represent Him, to reflect His character to the world around us, and to point others to Him. Now, granted, there are many ways that God is unique and that we cannot be like Him. We are not all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, self-sufficient, or infinite. But, as Jen Wilkin points out in her book, In His Image, there are many ways that we can be reflections of God in this world. Among them are that we can show love, justice, mercy, patience, wisdom, and truth through our words, actions, and responses.

This means that we have a purpose and a calling far beyond our own lives. We are created for a purpose and that purpose is to glorify God by enjoying a relationship with Him and with the world and other people He has created. We are invited to join in God's story! This shifts our thinking from ourselves as central to our lives and puts God in the center. HE is the main character, He is the hero, and He is the one who acts, but He is gracious enough that He allows us to join Him in His story.

This also means that we are "only" creations, who joyfully point to their creator. And yet, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, we are God's workmanship. The NLT, actually translates that passage that we are God's "masterpiece!" The Psalms marvel that God made us "fearfully and wonderfully" (Psalm 139:14) and that God made us "a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned [us] with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:4-6).

2. Because of sin, we are marred, broken, scarred and separated from our Creator, until we accept the redemption Jesus Christ offers.

God is holy. That is part of his character. He cannot be in the presence of unholy creatures. Therefore, when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve and made the rest of humankind sinful (Romans 5:12), we had no hope of being in a relationship with God as we were designed to be. But God. God loved the world and His creation so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, into this world to live a perfect, sinless life, to die an unwarranted, sacrificial death (for me and you, if you claim it), and to purchase by His life and blood the redemption and reconciliation to God that we all desperately needed.

This sin nature that we struggle against is what often causes Christians to fall into the trap of self-pity and wallowing. " But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," (1 Corinthians 15: 57). We do not need to focus on our imperfections without Christ. We can focus on God Himself, who not only created us, but also "chose us in [Jesus] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will," (Ephesians 1:4-5).

3. God is the one who deserves the praise. (Not us.)

I absolutely love Trillia Newbell's book God's Very Good Idea. Even though it's written for children, it gives a beautiful and precious description of what God has done for us. In it she says, of God's work and His plan for creation, "God made it. People ruined it. He rescued it. He will finish it." God is the primary actor in this story if you haven't caught on to that yet! God is the One who is at the center. God created us and our world. We live because He gave us breath (Acts 17:28). We can stand on this earth as reflections of Him because He redeemed us from our sins and sent His Holy Spirit to make us more like Him. God is the One who has done every good thing on our behalf (Titus 2:14).

4. We are beautiful, loved, and precious because God calls us so.

Let's go back to the idea of the "masterpiece" that I mentioned earlier. If we are God's masterpieces that says a lot. When we think of artistic masterpieces of the western world, immediately things like DaVinci's Mona Lisa, Michelangelo's David, and Botticelli's The Birth of Venus come to mind. Imagine with me if those created things could come to life. Imagine if they could speak and all they did was talk about how amazing and wonderful they were without giving any credit to their creators. On the other hand, imagine if all they did was focus on what they viewed as imperfections, or said they were nothing special. Both extremes would seem so narrow-minded and disconnected from the value that was inherent to them because of what their creators had done. It's the same with us. God has made us beloved, precious, and valuable. Our lives have dignity and worth because He has given them to us. 1 Peter 2:4 tells us that even when we are "rejected by men," we are "in the sight of God chosen and precious." We are dearly loved children of God (Ephesians 5:1). If you're still hanging with me, let me go just a touch further. Given all that God has done in and for us, I do not believe that it is wrong to marvel at that. I do not believe that it is wrong to marvel at all God has done in creating us as unique and special creatures, in fact, I think the opposite is true. I think it is appropriate to be curious about understanding how we function and the intricacies with which God has wired us. Our personalities and habits and preferences all reflect the diversity of God's creation and being in awe over that diversity shows that we understand the remarkable and stunning work of God. Being curious about how we, as individuals, function and thrive and connect to the greater world around us, including in how we best can serve honor, and respect the world and others, is a wonderful thing.

It is when we see the understanding of ourselves as the ultimate goal that we fail. It is when we see ourselves as the center, our hearts and minds as the authority on what will make us whole and happy, or our own vision of what our lives should look like as ultimate that we end up making ourselves the idol and relegating God to a corner He cannot actually be relegated to. When introspection becomes an overwhelming focus on self, we miss our connection to our Creator and His creation. When self-awareness becomes self-adoration, we idolize ourselves. But when we see ourselves as beautiful and precious and valued because of what God has done in our lives and how we are connected to Him, we give Him glory. When self-discovery results in marveling again at God's power, creativity, wisdom, and grace, we honor Him.

It is our desire at Thrive Life Advancement Ministries to help others understand what it looks like to marvel at what God has done in creating the unique and precious creation of each individual and how those individuals can, in turn, serve and worship God by highlighting the specific gifts and talents given to them. If you would like to work with one of our coaches or counselors- in person in eastern Tennessee or virtually - please contact us! Our services are free and we have openings available.

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