Text: Mark 8:34-37 | Listen to Message
How well do you think you know yourself? Let’s do a little diagnostic test.
What are some of the strongest sources of self-worth in your life? What makes you feel like you’re significant, you’re important, you’re doing okay? What gives you a sense of security or validation? What is it that tells you you’re unique, you’re special? To ask it another way, what would anger and frustrate you most if someone were to threaten it or take it away from you?
If you’re like most people, you derive your sense of identity from some combination of what you do, what you have, and what you desire. (David Lomas, The Truest Thing About You) These identity traits fall into numerous different categories – racial, sexual, physical, vocational, financial, relational, intellectual, spiritual, and so on. Add them all up, layer upon layer, and voilà, you have your unique identity!
So here’s the question: Out of all these things you listed, what in your life gives you the most powerful sense of self-worth?
This is your core identity.
This is the thing that disproportionately motivates you.
This is the source of your actions, reactions, and emotions.
For example, if the affirmation and approval of others gives you the most powerful dose of self-worth, you’ll be a people-pleaser. You’ll be driven to do whatever it takes to get the validation of the people whose opinion you value most. You will not be truly free; you’ll be a slave to the opinion of others, and they will control you with their approval and disapproval. Even if you get what’s most important to you – affirmation – you’ll miss out on the true life, the true identity, God intended.
This is why Jesus said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it.” That is, whoever lives for the preservation of his/her own self-made identity will lose even that in the end.
So what’s a better way, a more hopeful way, forward?
Jesus says, “Lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s sake, and you will save it.” Jesus isn’t talking about ending our biological life, he’s talking about our psyche, our self, or what we would call our identity.
What this means, first, is that we must learn to die over and over again to our self-made, culturally-assigned identities. We must reckon them powerless. We can still appreciate affirmation (or whatever), but this is no longer our life.
Second, we must believe that Christ has given us a new identity by sheer grace. We are no longer defined by what we do, what we have, what we desire; we are defined by what’s been done for us in Christ. We’re defined by what we have in him.
Finally, we must then live in the reality of who God says we are. The Gospel is not, “You’re a somebody, because . . .” It’s, “You’re a somebody (by the free grace of God), therefore . . .” Since you are created in God’s image, since you are loved and accepted, since you are an adopted child of God, since Christ is your life, therefore walk in step with this Good News!