Have you ever asked yourself, “Who am I?” There are times in each of our lives that we struggle to grasp our real self. All too often in our culture we allow ourselves to be defined by others rather than being defined by God. The sad reality is that when we let culture define us it usually causes us to be discouraged or even worse arrogant!
One of the essentials for experiencing a “Transformed Life” is in discovering the real you. It is sad, but many followers of Christ are attempting to be something that God never intended them to be. Should we be surprised that we are discouraged when we attempt to define ourselves by our accomplishments, looks, and even our status in society? When some aspect of our culture is used to determine our worth we often end up at one of two extremes. We are either discouraged because we are not good enough and do not measure up to ours and others expectations, or we become arrogant thinking that we are better than others. The challenge for the follower of Christ, is that when you fall into either of those extremes your impact for Jesus Christ is compromised.
Paul, after reminding us to live up to the grace that we have received and of our need to break away from being molded by the values of culture, reminds us it begins with a balanced understanding of ourselves. “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) The work “think” is mentioned 4 times in this verse. What Paul is saying is that we need to have the right perspective of ourselves. The word translated “think more highly” means to be arrogant. It is easy to become arrogant. I know people that think they are better than people of different ethnicity and God created everyone alive. There are those that think they are better than another person that belongs to a different political party. There is even a sense of self-righteousness toward those that do not yet know Christ. The danger of allowing ourselves to believe that we are somehow better than others violates an understanding of God’s grace in our lives and become a barrier to real ministry.
There is another extreme that I believe Paul also addresses indirectly in this passage. It would be what we call today a “low self-esteem.” I have seen this as an even bigger barrier to real ministry. We refuse to get involved because our self-perspective is that we are not good enough. We cannot use our homes because they are not nice enough. And the list of excuses goes on and on. Again this self-view is a subtle expression of high minded thinking. We refuse to let God use us because we believe that we are not good enough. Another subtlety here is when we hold back using our gifts, talents and abilities for God because we fear the condemnation of others. I as a pastor at one point would not lead because others might criticize me of being controlling. Yet, if God has gifted and called me to lead then I need to lead.
The antidote to being ineffective as a follower of Christ is to let God use us. This means that we will work to understand our strengths and weaknesses. This happens when we begin to have a right view of ourselves, or become “sober minded.” A real understanding of ourselves begins when, as the saying goes, “We become comfortable in our own skin.” This is when we begin to discover the real me and God’s meaning and purpose for our lives. This is when we become a channel of blessing into the lives of those around us. So what excuse for not serving would Jesus have you stop using?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson