Monday, May 13, 2013

The Power of Accepting Yourself

When reading the title of this article you might think, "Hey, that doesn’t sound like something that the Bible teaches." Its true it’s not exactly something that is directly from the Bible. However, there is great strength in knowing who you are in relation to God, and accepting that fact.

Sinful but forgiven
Romans 8: 1-2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
I want to start off by mentioning we are free from sin. This is an essential foundation. We are free from sin and not condemned. What is the condition? That we are in Christ Jesus, that we place our faith and lives in his hands, simply put, that we are Christians. That is it; all we need to do to be free. This does not mean we do not sin anymore, but rather we are free of the slavery of sin, and the law that says sin leads to death.

The Standard

In the new and old testament, we see that there is a standard God has for us to live up to, his law, his definition of what is good. Jesus in many ways clarified this law, for instance he says:

Matthew 5:27-28
"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:21
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

If you read Matthew 5 you will see that there are more such explanations of the law. Jesus was saying, not only is God’s standard high, it’s higher than you think! These sayings can be explained by what Jesus says earlier in Matthew 5:20:

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were considered the most righteous men alive at that time. But Jesus went ahead and said you have to be more righteous than they were! Why does he say all this? It goes to show a point. People then (and now!) thought you could actually live a good enough life to make it to heaven, and these Pharisees were able to make an outward appearance of it. So Jesus takes it one step further. The point is, it is impossible to live a life holy enough for God’s standards. Later in Matthew Jesus meets a rich young man, who seeks heaven. Speaking about the subject Jesus says:

Matt 19:23-26
"I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

With man, it’s impossible. We can’t live up to the standard. Yet many of us are caught in a trap of trying to. We read these sayings by Jesus and think "Oh my, I can’t ever have a lustful thought or be angry at someone! I must try never to do this!" And by doing this we enter into a prison not meant for Christians. Why? Because we are free from the law of sin and death, as mentioned earlier in Romans. I personally believe that these sayings of Jesus were not to make us try to live up to an impossible standard, but to show that the standard is impossible to live up to! Note what Jesus is saying is that with God it’s possible. But what was the question? Who can be saved. Not who can live up to these standards, because we can’t. We have to accept that we will have sinful thoughts, do sinful things, and that we are still saved because of what Jesus did for us: he set us free.

Limited but Powerful

Besides accepting that we are sinful and won’t ever be perfect in this life, we should also have an acceptance of our limitations. When we read the Bible, we read about many great men and women of faith who spoke publicly, performed miracles, and even died for what they believed in. Yet, for every one of those people, there were dozens of God-loving, quiet Christians who made what those outspoken Christians did possible. They cooked meals, they worked jobs and gave money to the church, they prayed in quiet late at night by their beds. We see glances of them sometimes in the Bible. The point is, we aren’t all called to live hugely extraordinary lives. It may seem counter to what you have heard in some places, but the most humble, simple life is also very pleasing to God. What is it that Jesus says is most important of all? To love God will all your heart. (Matt 22:37) Each of us is unique, with unique gifts and talents. Your main calling in life may be to simply be a good mother, father, wife, or husband. And that isn’t a bad thing! It’s beautiful. Remember, Jesus says "many who are first will be last." (Mark 10:31) What you do doesn’t have to be glorious or spectacular to look at to be pleasing to God. What God has made us to do, he will give us the power to do. Have faith in that. Realize there are many Christians and many people, and if each of us only did a little, how much would get done? Don’t take huge burdens on yourself. You are not made for that. If you make yourself so busy that you don’t get enough sleep at night, maybe you should ask yourself: Would God really have so much for me to do that he wouldn’t provide enough time for me to sleep? We are limited, and weak at times. We can only do so many things, only have so much strength. That is the way God made us, and we need to accept it. We should not expect more from ourselves than God does.

Psalm 103:13-16
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
God has compassion on us, he knows what we are made of. There is strength in knowing we are only one flower in a big field. Yet, we are loved. Find your peace in knowing God’s understanding. Maybe your sphere of influence isn’t as big as you thought. Maybe you should focus on doing a few things well, instead of trying to do too many things. Remember God loves you and wants you to enjoy your life as well. Remember God offers us rest and peace. (Matt 11:29)

Insignificant but significant

Another thing that can help us have a realistic perspective of who we are is realizing that while we are significant to God, in another way, we are insignificant. Take note, I do not mean this in a demeaning way at all. In fact, for myself, this has been a great relief in my life. How has it been a relief? It is a relief to know that every action I take is only a small drop in this ocean of the world we live in. Even my worst mistakes are small when viewed from a global perspective. Think about this… the most important leading figures in the Bible, such as David, Abraham, Moses, Peter, Paul, and the like did some significant things during their life. These events are recorded. But there are literally years that go by where things were not written about their lives. What were they doing then? Working, eating, sleeping, and taking care of the everyday business of their lives. This is how we all live, and they are no exception. There are billions of people on this earth. You are just one of those billions of people! Don’t take the burden of the whole world on your shoulders, take your one billionth that is meant for you. Jesus told us that his ‘yoke is easy and his burden is light.’ (Matt 11:30)

Accepted no matter what

To accept ourselves, it is helpful to first realize that God has accepted us.
Romans 14:2-3One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.Romans 15:7Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Romans 3:23-24
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.We have all sinned. God has accepted us. He has justified us (taken our guilt) and redeemed us (paid for us.) We are accepted. You are accepted. Yes, God knows who you are, what your sins are, and still freely offers his acceptance and love. God accepts you, and if God, the creator of the universe accepts you, shouldn’t you accept yourself? Yes, you sin, you are a sinner. Accept it. Don’t beat yourself up fifteen different ways when you sin. Instead, be grateful that God has paid the price for your sin. Yes, its wrong. You can look at it squarely and say, ‘what I did was wrong.’ And every time you do this, you also can say right afterwards ‘and thank you God for paying the price for my sin and still loving me and accepting me even though I do wrong things.’ You are accepted and loved.

Psalm 136:26

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

His love for you will last forever. You have been accepted by Him and that is once and for all. I pray that you live in the acceptance and freedom that God has given for you all the days of your life.

Note: A special person in my life pointed out that what I wrote here is a lot like what is in this book: The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brendan Manning. I’ve been going through this book myself, and it’s a wonderful source of learning how huge God’s grace is toward us and how we are totally accepted. You can click the link to buy it for only $10 from!

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