May 2013 Newsletter In this Issue:
**What Defines You?
**Blazing Grace Retreat in September?
**More Reading and Newsletter Archives
What Defines You?
By Mike Genung
The standard by which we define ourselves reveals who we believe we are; our sense of self-worth.
It is also the rudder that directs the course of our life.
When I was in bondage to sexual sin, much of what defined me had to do with whether I acted out that day. If I abstained, I was “a good Christian”; if I blew it, I was slime. My identity and sense of self-worth were wrapped up in my actions, which, all too often, involved failure. I was a royal mess in so many ways it was hard to tread water; if it wasn’t lust, selfishness, a critical spirit, fear, or pride were constantly surfacing and dragging me down.
The other driving force I defined myself by was the harmful things people did to me. I was molested as a teenager, and for years the fear, shame, and bitterness that wraps itself around the soul drove me.
Those who have been abused see themselves as soiled and despised; unworthy of love. I compensated with this madness by keeping others at a distance; I’d been victimized once, and was determined not to let anyone cross my boundaries again.
After combining my failures with the traumatic events involving others, I saw myself as a waste of humanity; one who had little to offer himself, others, or God. I saw nothing of value. A person of low self-worth will have a hard time lifting their heart up to God and others for help; even if they do, they doubt if they can find healing. Once hopelessness takes hold there is a constant battle with discouragement and depression.
If we allow our failures, sin, and how others have wronged us to define us, our lives will be marked with despair, anger, frustration, discouragement, and unrealistic expectations of others. We will struggle with our relationships with God and others, and will miss out on many ways we could have been used for Him. Staying in this place for too long is dangerous; once bitterness and a hard heart take over, we can spiral downward even faster. So what should define us?
I suggest it is a combination of two things.
The easy Sunday school answer is “what God says in the Bible.” This is 100% true, and is the first of two parts I will suggest. The danger comes when well-meaning Christians make shallow, “just have faith and believe God”
statements without taking the time to get to know the other person and what they’re going through. Trite answers come easy for those who haven’t been through trauma, or spent years floundering in besetting sin. When a person who’s defined themselves by their failures and/or how others have hurt them hears that God values and loves them, they can struggle with doubt, unbelief, or outright rejection of the message. Time must be taken to hear them out and what they’ve been through instead of quickly handing out our culture’s typical
“take my five step program and you’re healed” prescription. Life is messy, and the timing and methods aren’t the same for everyone.
Having said this, we start with the truth. No matter what other have done to us, how much we’ve failed, or how much “it can’t be true!” screams within, what God says must be that which we strive to define ourselves by.
For the sake of simplicity (there’s far than what I’m giving you here in His Word), I’ve narrowed it down to five ways how God defines and sees us.
Desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).
This isn’t the seeker friendly, positive way to start, I know, but we have to begin here to understand the vastness of the love of God. We are corrupt with selfishness, pride, lust, greed, murder in the heart, fear, bitterness, and judging. Absent the realization of this, we’re liable to stay in pride and self-sufficient mode, which is a recipe for disaster. The down side is that those who define themselves solely by their sin and wounds
can live in judgment, condemnation, and fear; the truth is there’s an abundance of healing and life waiting in the wings for them.
We are beloved (Ephesians 2:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 4:12, 1 John 4:1, 4:7, 4:11, and many others).
In spite of our inner ugliness and shame, God loves us with an overwhelming love that’s so powerful, deep, and wide that it’s hard to grasp it all. God’s love doesn’t deny our sin; otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die on the cross. But, He isn’t like anyone we will encounter on earth--our failures and wickedness do not define how He loves or values people.
This is contrary to our relationships with others, where we are often valued by what we do, not who we are. This is what makes it so hard to receive and believe His love for us. If we believed the lie for years that we’re worthless, receiving unseen love from an unseen God will seem too hard, or far away. I’m going to switch gears and address the wives for a moment.
Do you define yourself and your sense of self-worth by how your husband has hurt you with porn or affairs? Having watched how I hurt Michelle, I’ll never minimize the pain and trauma a husband’s sexual sin inflicts. My sin had a profound impact on Michelle’s self-esteem, and other wives have shared that their husband’s betrayal affected them the same way. Nevertheless, what your husband did to you does not define your worth as a
woman. It does not make you less of a person. It will not rob you of your dignity as God’s daughter. It does not change the fact that you are beloved of the Lord. Let me add another piece here, because I get emails from wives who say their husbands are blaming them for their porn problem. Your husband’s pride and justification of his sin will never change the fact that God knows the truth, and He cares for you. Your husband’s sin does not mean you are less of a woman.
Next in line of that which defines us:
We are forgiven of all our sins (Colossians 2:13). Those who hang on to their sins as evidence of their worthlessness no longer need to do so. They can release them. There’s no more need to beat yourself up for past failures; doing so will only keep you from all that God wants you to be and what He wants to do through you.
We are cleansed from sin (Psalms 32, Psalms 51, 1 John 1:9).That shame we’ve been carrying around because we think we deserve it and this is who we are? We are cleansed from shame in God’s eyes just by the simple act of confession. That’s all it takes; you’re not the dirty leper you think you are. That’s the power of the love of God.
Although we’re cleansed from our sin, there will always be an ongoing battle with the flesh this side of eternity. The good news is that we can grow in grace and shrivel up the power of the flesh through obedience, humility, love, and keeping short accounts with sin.
We are choice and precious (1 Peter 2:4).
I have to admit that most days I have a hard time seeing myself as choice and precious. “Messed up” often feels like a better fit. But when I do this I’m focusing on and defining myself by the wickedness within and the mistakes I’ve made, instead of what the Lord says. God’s love is bigger than my “Messed up-edness.” “Choice and precious” speaks of Him assigning incredible worth to us, even though He sees all of what’s
The second way we should define ourselves is one that gives weight to the first: how God has met us personally. This moves beyond mere theology and into how He’s showed up in our lives and revealed Himself to
us. There have been many times when I was at a low point; struggling with unbelief, doubt, fear, or anger, and God kept showing up and speaking, leading, convicting, and teaching. When He kept coming after me He was providing the hard evidence I needed to prove His defining love and care. I would have had to
call Him a liar to deny it. It is when we know
God is there for us and cares for us when our doubt and false perceptions dissolve…and faith takes off.
Although some of this is Christianity 101, we don’t always live like we believe what God says. Russ Willingham, a professional counselor who works with sex addicts, says he has never counseled a person who truly understood the grace of God. If we really got a hold of how God sees and defines us in the deepest recesses of our heart (not just our minds), it would revolutionize our lives far beyond “being a good Christian,”—we’d be passionate about our relationship with Him, and would be more apt to trust Him.
You are beloved, forgiven, choice, and precious, in spite of the darkness within.
Do you believe this is what defines you? Final Words O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.