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"Self-Image" Or Created Identity in Christ
Ellen Myers


Dear Renee,

l am happy to hear about your successful diet! How good our Lord has been to give you the power at last to become His child also in your battle with overeating (John 1:12), and to establish you in a pattern of nutrition which should maintain this victory and benefit your health as long as you live on earth.

It was interesting to hear about the "behavior training" which was part of your weight loss program. It seems to center the dieter's attention totally upon her or his own self and "will power," seeking to motivate by holding out success in reaching worldly goals (success, money, career advancement, becoming more attractive socially and sexually). Your own motivation, thank God, was different simply to be enabled to eat no more and no less than "your daily bread" for which Christ taught us to pray, from now on day by day and to shame Him no more when calling yourself a Christian before the world. For this He gave you daily strength and blessing, rewarding your faith, as He had not with your dieting attempts in the past. "If we ask anything according to His wilt He hears us."

How right you are about the fundamentally anti-biblical thrust of the training manual's recommendations to become more "assertive," to practice relaxation techniques and generally to use "self-help" or self fulfillment" devices straight from the mouths of various pop psychologists! Yes indeed, this kind of flashy. superficial "instruction" complete with the buzz-words of the season is found everywhere today. As you put it so well, it is the "fallout" from earlier trends in academic psychology.

The part of your diet manual you seem to accept is its emphasis upon the client's "self-image." The manual states, "You are what you think you are, and "a healthy self-image comes from practicing positive self-image techniques."1 So far, so what this manual is not written by Christians for Christians. But the little article you enclosed is, and it made you lean towards acceptance of this concept of "self-image" as valid and important. Let me just quote from this article:

Certainly a positive self-image is important to our mental and emotional health.

How do we develop a proper self-image? Do we do it by "looking out for No.1?" Does it come by overcoming our "erroneous zones?" Do we develop a positive self-image by instilling within ourselves the idea that we are "born to win?" Or is it by convincing ourselves that "I'm OK -you're OK?" Some of these ideas have merit; others preach a "gospel" of self-salvation.2

The author then states that "a proper self-image comes as a result of loving and being loved" which we learn best from the Bible telling us of God's love for us and of our need to love Him and others.

This article, you write, merely sums up the message of another book, also written by a Christian for Christians and specifically Christian counselors, which you had recently read and agreed with. "It brought home to me," you say, "how insecure I have always felt because I did not have a good image of myself. I always felt people did not accept me or would not accept me as I was.

Even after I became a believer, this did not change. What I do not see is how my self-image can improve even though repeating to myself that God loves me. I feel I must be realistic I am still a sinner, I am still shy and slow to make friends, I still have no great talents. Being thinner makes me just average looking. I don't like to think about myself, but I do think about myself a lot I've always been introspective, trying to assess myself correctly. I think it's true that I overate partly because my self-image was poor. I am afraid this may yet cause me to overeat again in a vicious circle. Pray for me.

Oh Renee, of course I will pray for you and am praying for you. But I believe and know that there is an answer to your "self-image" problem which can put and keep you on the right path.

You see, no one in this world can have a true "self-image." We read in Proverbs 20:24: "Man's goings are of the Lord: how can a man then understand his own way?" Only God Himself, our Creator and Sustainer, knows all about us His creatures. We our "selves" -are even now in the making; only the Maker knows what He wants to make us into and how far along He is. St. Paul tells us in II Corinthians 3:5: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God." In I Corinthians 4:3-5 he writes: "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, Judge not mine own self. For/know nothing by myself yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."

Look at Psalm 139, beginning with the beautiful exclamation, "Oh Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me" and ending with the prayer: "Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" We ourselves are incapable of searching and knowing ourselves Socrates was wrong his command "know thyself" is impossible to obey. We cannot have a proper "self-image" of ourselves. "A proper self-image" may be the subtlest idol of all, for the effort to build it supplants God Himself in our hearts. Truly "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings," as the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 17:5-6; said hundreds of years before our Lord walked the earth " We are not to look at ourselves (introspection) but at Him the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 1 2:2a). Oh Renee, to look at yourself to try to build up your own "self-image" is to take your eyes off Him, and so to stumble and fall!

This is what Satan made our first parents do when he caused them to look upon the forbidden tree and fruit, and to think, not of God their Creator Who loved them and had provided all things for their good, but of themselves. "And you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." They knew all they needed to know by God's revealed word and will, that is, by Him. Even sowe know all we need to know about ourselves, moment by moment as we walk with our heavenly Father as His good, child-like, Christ-like children. We do not need any "self-image" at all. That is the answer to the worldly counselors and to the misled Christian counselors infected with pop-psychology.

Oh the relief when you realize that you need not torture yourself with efforts at self-judgment, self-introspection, "positive self-image techniques" (that is, lies by definition it Jeremiah is correct about the desperate wickedness of our hearts)! Just put yourself into His faithful, loving, skilled hands and let Him fashion you into the created identity in Christ He had in mind before He created the world. That created identity, once fully fashioned when "He shall appear and we shall be like Him" (I John 3:3) and "know as we are known" (I Corinthians 13:12), and will be ours eternally, our new name written upon the white stone of Revelation 2:17 and 3:12. Until then it cannot be revealed. It is even as with our Lord Himself Who never cared to have a "self-image," but rather "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore, God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:6-9).

Beloved Christian teachers a generation or two ago knew of the vanity of building a "self-image." They were taught of God that the "self" underlying such a "self-image" is a fraud and a mirage invented by the adversary to keep us from looking unto Jesus in order to prevent the making of our true selves -our created identities in Christ. Listen to George MacDonald (1821-1905), the teacher and master of C.S. Lewis He writes:

We are and remain such creeping Christians, because we look at ourselves and not at Christ; because we gaze at the marks of our own soiled feet, and the trail of our own defiled garments… Or, having committed a petty fault… we mourn over the defilement to ourselves, and the shame of it before our friends, children, or servants, instead of hastening to make the due confession and amends to our fellow, and then, forgetting our own paltry self with its well-earned disgrace, lift up our eyes to the glory which alone will quicken the true man in us, and kill the peddling creature we so wrongly call our self.3

He writes:

You hit upon a deep truth about the trouble with building up a "self-image" when you said you always felt people did not accept you or would not accept you as you are. We seek honor from our fellow men and women and not the honor which comes which can only come from God only, God the only One Who truly knows us. This is exactly what Christ the supreme master of true psychology, says of Christ-denying men (John 5:44). He should not have to say it of us who claim to be Christian believers! Again, think of the relief of not having to pose before other people as other than we are, of not having to measure our worth by their appraisal of the simulated "self" we parade before them.

We have such wonderful freedom in our Lord How liberating, how altogether joyful it is not burdened any more with the anxiety, the insecurity, the weariness of introspection, prestige, care for our "self" C.S. Lewis, echoing Mac Donald his master, writes of "the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancydress off getting rid of the false self, with all its 'Look at me' and 'Aren't I a good boy?' and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert."5 "It is only in Him that the soul has room. In knowing Him is life and its gladness. The secret of your own heart you can never know; but you can know Him who knows its secret,"6 says MacDonald. Our salvation is in offering ourselves back to our Creator, moment by moment, "dying daily" to our old, dead, false, surrogate "selves," and "finding of our deeper, our true self God's idea of us when He devised us the Christ in us."7

This, you know, is the goal of all creation. It is "the manifestation of the sons of God" by which creation itself, now groaning and travailing in pain, shall at last be "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans a:19-22r If it is our destiny as believers to be "conformed to the image of God's Son" (Romans 8:29) then what goal, what need, in a "self-image" before our Lord has brought about our destiny? On the contrary, any effort to conceptualize such a "self-image" is not of faith faith would wait upon the Lord to complete His work, His created identity in us and "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23b). Giving up our "selves" our own lives to Him is the touchstone of our faith, as He Himself told us (Luke 14:33).

Some may murmur, "Do we then become mere shells with no 'selves' at all when we accept Christ?" Again a "self-image" ("shells"), and again a fraud and mirage Let me answer in C.S. Lewis's words from the conclusion of his Mere Christianity:

I said there were Personalities in God. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most "natural" men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.

But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away "blindly" so to speak... As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about, you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether.

The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self . . . Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes everyday. . Keep back nothing. . Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.8

Let us both have grace to do this, Renee!

Yours lovingly in Him,

Donna


FOOTNOTES
1 cf numerous lessons in Nutri-System of America Behavior Education Dieter Workbook I, 1982. The actual dieting system in this program is excellent. The diet is rich in fresh vegetables, whole grain cereal, some fruit, little meat and fat, with vitamin and calcium supplements. Emphasis is on long-term maintenance of proper weight and nutrition. Salt, sugar, caffeine and cola are avoided. Much water must be drunk daily while losing weight. A similar diet is recommended by the National Cancer Institute in 1983, which also claimed that 60% of cancer in women and 40% of cancer in men is due to faulty diets. Note that a vegetable, fruit and whole grain diet would be close to the diet of man between original creation and the Flood.
2 quoted from "Self-Image" by Danny Cottrell, Pulpit Helps, September 1983. This is a generally fine publication addressed to Christian ministers and workers of the biblical faith. The article originally appeared in 20th
Century Christian.
3 CS. Lewis, George MacDonald. An Anthology (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co. Dolphin Books Edition, 1962)44.
4 Ibid, 92.
5 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. Paperbacks Edition 1960, Nineteenth Printing 1975), 114.
S Lewis, George MacDonald, 1 27.
7 Ibid, 139.
S Lewis, Mere Christianity, 190.

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