Thursday, October 4th, 2012
Love For Self
For the past two weeks, we have been talking about God’s unfailing love for us and the love that we have for God. Next week, we will be talking about loving others. But, before we go any farther about topic of love for others, I want to spend this evening speaking about love for self, and what that looks like, and how it is played out in our everyday lives, and how this is a huge process for so many people.
I stand before you, my peers, friends, professors and faculty, as a broken person. I’m filled with tons of flaws, mistakes, bad choices, and mess-ups, but it is by God’s redemptive love and grace, and the love and compassion of those in my life, that I am able to stand here tonight, and speak truth into this area of all of our lives.
This topic of love for self is something that has been a common theme in my life since I was in 4th grade. I am inviting all of you to partake in this journey with me this evening, and I am looking forward to sharing the joy that wells up inside of me as I speak of all that God has done for me in this area of my life.
Tonight, is not a night about me, tonight is about Christ, and the redemptive path that he has had me on for the past three years. This same love and sanctification process is offered to all of you daily, it’s a choice on our part to partake in this beautification process.
I know some of you. I have heard your stories, I have seen your pain, I have laughed, cried, and celebrated with many of you, but some of you, I don’t know. I don’t know your story, I don’t know where you come from, I haven’t had an interaction with you to know who you truly are, but I know that tonight, I want to break down those walls. I want you to let those walls of pain, masks of perfection, and chains of sin to be broken in this very moment.
The theme for Vespers this year is, come as you are. Most of us come to Vespers, with the burden of the day, the heartache of what is to come, and the darkness of our pasts…How many of us truly come to worship with all of that…How many of us lay that down at the foot of the cross as we worship the God that has created us?
Be present here tonight. Come as you are. Walk along this journey, find yourself in my story, and allow God to show you the love that he has for you, and how you are to love yourself as well.
I want to start this journey as a freshman in college. My life was broken. My heart was hard, and my identity that I was seeking after, wasn’t in Christ. I came to college with many masks, a ton of walls, and I was bound by the sins of who I used to be in high school.
I kept the act alive. I was never hurting to the point where I needed help. I never wanted people to know how I was truly doing, and I wanted to fake my relationships with friends, family, and God to show the world that I had it all together, and that I was living the perfect life.
I was able to keep this up for awhile. I was able to show everyone that I had it all together. I had built this faith, these relationships, and this life on something that was totally fake. Something that would mask the inside of how I was truly feeling.
Many people looked at me and thought I was strong, confident, self-assured, and willing and able to take on anything the world threw at me. Truth is, I was broken, a mess and uncertain of who I was.
I was uncertain in who I was because I was finding my self worth in the things of this world. I thought that I had to look, act, and be a certain way if I wanted to follow Christ, if I wanted to have the title of “Christian”. I didn’t want people to see that I wasn’t confident in the person that God created me to be, so I faked it.
We have all read or heard the scripture from Revelation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16
My faith was lukewarm, my heart was hard, but my facade was saying otherwise. I looked like I had faith that was on fire. But I didn’t. I was faking it.
How many times to we put up this façade about our faith? How many times do we seek after an identity in the world, yet try to mask those feelings with a fake faith?
I was in this fake world. Living a fake life, and trying to keep up with the expectations of the world. In order to be beautiful, in order to be accepted, in order to have a certain kind of faith, I was finding my self worth and self-identity in the things of this world.
This is where I sat for a year. Not believing God loved me, yet faking it to make people think I knew God loved me…. Loving God, or a least trying to love a God who I didn’t even believed loved me, and trying to love myself through the worlds standards.
That is where I was mistaken. Trying to love myself, through the world’s standards. I danced with many sinful things, I entertained many ungodly thoughts, and I battled through moments of doubting existence, because how can I accept this person that God made me to be? God made a mistake when he created me, I have no purpose, and I am living for myself, and the world. What am I doing?
One night, confused, lost, broken, and uncertain, I went to my RC’s room. I took all the walls down, removed the masks, and allowed myself to be completely honest with her, as well as being honest with myself and above all God, about what was really going on with me.
In the many weeks that followed, after I talked to her, I sat in my room, Bible in hand, and asked God to show me what he thought of me. What did I need to understand about myself, and why this unrealistic idea of self love I had was false, and how I needed to change it.
The truth that I saw through the pages of scripture came to life. I was able to read so many passages that helped me better understand who I was, and who God created me to be.
“Our beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31
Those scriptures, those words that are filled with truth, the God breathed words were a form of hope for me, and tonight, if you are struggling to understand the worth that you have in Christ, may those scriptures, those words that are so true give you a hope that God is so in love with you, just like we talked about two weeks ago, when Jon spoke about God’s love for us.
Those words were so powerful, and I didn’t fully understand why I was given such a hope through these words that I had written out in my journal, on my computer, and sometimes on my hand.
I never fully grasped the idea that God loved me, and wanted me to start to see the way that he created me, and why I was made this way for a purpose and a reason.
I wrestled with this idea for the entire school year. I was confused most days, I didn’t understand how to have an honest conversation with myself, or about myself with anyone, I was just existing, waiting for God to show up in such a way, that I was able to fully understand his love for me, and this identity that he had for me.
The days, the weeks, the months, and eventually the year passed. I knew that I had grown a lot, and that God has been working in my life, but I knew that I was doing it for the people in my life that believed in me so strongly.
I didn’t know if I was fully ready to give it all to God, and allow him to have my all, and to have my identity be found in him, rather than the world. That was the familiar. I knew how to play the part that the world wanted me to.
Tonight, if that is you, if you are just playing the part of being a soccer player, or a musician, or a good Christian girl, I want to encourage you to stop playing the part. Start living the truth. God wants the real you, he knows you, he is just waiting to strip all of the walls and masks away, to get back to the original creation he made.
Just like we read, in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God created us, in his image, not in the image of the world, but in the image of him. The creator of the world
Believe that, hear that truth, and accept the fact that God created you, specifically you in his image, to do good works in this world.
It took me a long time to see that, and I am here to offer that truth to you tonight.
The rest of my freshman year was filled with processing. I had to figure out a ton of things in my life. I had to search the depths of my heart to see where these lies about myself were coming from, and how I was going to allow God to be the one to fight for me and to help me understand where my identity and self worth were.
If that is where you find yourself tonight. That is okay. Process. Process the things that God has been teaching you about things. Allow God to show you where your worth is. It is totally okay to be in a place of processing. Have a humble attitude, and be willing to allow those in your life who love you, share and speak God’s truth and words into your life.
Summer happened. God rocked my word a little harder, and I was starting to understand what is was that God created me to be, and what he said as truth.
There were days that I was ready to bring back in the familiar, but those were the days when I knew I needed to be so rooted in scripture that nothing to stand against me and the truths that are spoken in the scriptures.
We now move to a whirlwind of emotions. This is what I call sophomore year. I was back in this sacred place, that I now called home, and the reality of what God has been teaching me all through my freshman year, and into the summer was hitting me.
I knew a little bit more fully that God had a great love for me. I knew that there were people in my life that truly loved me, and wanted what was best for me, but I was stuck. I didn’t accept those truths that were in scripture for myself fully. I knew they were true, but accepting them as truth for myself was something that I really had to work through and process for a little while longer.
That is what I did. I tried to figure it out, and I tried to seek God, but he wasn’t showing up. I didn’t see him working and moving in my life anymore. I felt like God had brought me to this place of understanding his love, and the love others have for me, but then he pulled away.
Looking at it now, I see how God brought all of it together. I had to believe and accept that truth that he had been saying to me, and what others had been saying to me for so long as truth for myself.
This moment where I thought God was walking away was the point where he was pushing me to believe in him the most.
I had to accept and believe his truths for myself. I needed to sift through things, and understand what it truly means to lay it all down at the foot of the cross, and allow God to define me, and not the world.
In Galatians 2:20 we read, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Let Christ be the one who lives in you. Not the world. Not the ways in which you are trying to be perfect, not in the ways in which you are seeking to have your worth and identity found in the things that will fade, but in Christ, let you not live for yourself, or for others, but for and through Christ.
I am not saying that I can stand up here tonight and tell you that I fully love myself. That is far from the case… What is loving yourself anyway? When we begin to think like that, we often become prideful and selfish, we lose sight of the identity that Christ has made for us, and start living all for ourselves. Be cautious of that. Be on the look out for that. Satan will try to distract and steal joy from the reality of what finding our identity in Christ truly means, by making us prideful or sealing the truth out of what we are learning.
Find your self in scripture. Find yourself in what God says about you. Look at who God created you to be, he made you specifically for a reason, live in that, accept that, and view that as truth.
If you have trailed away tonight, started thinking about other things, I want to encourage you to come back into this conversation, and engage in what God has for all of us tonight.
We have an opportunity. We have a choice. We have a change to step out of what the world calls as self love ,and what the looks like, and step into what God has for us, and the worth and identity that we have in him.
Allow yourself to accept those positive things that people say about you as truth…If they weren’t truth, people probably wouldn’t have taken the time to say them to you. Let the scriptures come to life and allow you to see what God says as truth about you, and live in that, accept that, believe that for yourselves.
Don’t let the world love the person that it has created you to be. That is false, and it will lead to death, time after time after time.
In Deuteronomy 30:19-20 is says, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
God has laid it before us, May we chose life. May we choose our worth and identity in him, and not this world.
Tonight, you have a choice. It is laid out before you. It’s yours for the taking. If you have found yourself in this journey that I have shared with you, allow God to work in your hearts, to stir up a passion to die to yourselves daily, and to pick up your cross and follow Christ. Scripture tells us in Luke 9:23 that to be a disciple of Christ, we are to die to ourselves, and pick up our crosses, if we want to follow the Lord’s ways.
Will you do that? Will you die to this self that they world has created you to be? Will you accept and love the identity that God has given you. This identity that is so rooted in scripture and truth that you will be able to stand firm against the fires of the world, and against the deep waters that is talked about in Isaiah?
I pray that God has been at work in your hearts this evening. I hope and pray that you have been called out and set aside to do something huge. To step out of this self that you are living in, and step into the identity that is found in Christ.
There are notecards placed throughout the pews. As the band comes back up, I pray that tonight, you will write down the old ways, the ways of the world, the identity that you are chasing after that is not rooted in scripture.
Write it out, bring it to the Christ candle, and let Christ set ablaze in you a new passion and a new fire to live for him, and to live in this self worth that he has for you.
You don’t have to love yourself. You must accept yourself. Allow God to use you, when you do that, I promise you, and there will be something different about you.
You will wake up one morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and realize that somewhere along this journey, God has met you exactly where you needed to be met, and you will have been transformed by his redeeming love.
It’s yours for the taking tonight. Will you accept it? Will you die to your self? Will you be real? Will you live in God’s triumphant victory?