Have you ever stopped and asked the question: “How much do I care about what other people think?” Dr. Brene Brown, Research Professor from the University of Houston, writes: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day to make you everybody but yourself–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight-and never stop fighting.” Our culture will inevitably lead you to want to fit in and people please. Brown continues: “People will go after your appearance, your lovability and your parenting…and those things hurt the most.” If you are hustling to prove and to please, you will be trying to swim in a pool with weights. However, these weights will cause you to be out of balance, will cause stress, and you will not be yourself.
Here are some self-examination questions for you to assess yourselves. How much do you care about what others think of your appearance? Your accomplishments? How much do you care about receiving praise from others? About “being cool?” Your parenting? Now, please do not get me wrong: when it comes to what you do for a living, you have a reputation. And that reputation and witness is important. The Apostle Paul says: “For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (2 Corinthians 8:21). There are certain relationships where you must care what others think. However, what happens when what others think becomes ultimate and begins to control you more than you know?
To understand who you are, you must know who and where you came from. You came from God and originally you were made to reflect His image. This means that out of all of God’s creatures, God made humans to best reflect His image to the rest of creation. God is love. And the two most important ways we can reflect God according to Jesus is to love. However, after man’s rebellion in the beginning, we sought other “idols,” or God-substitutes, to replace God. These God-substitutes can be caring what others think, appearance, parenting, human achievement, etc. Taking care of yourself and being a good parent are necessary and good but the problem is when we make them supreme and ultimate. The problem is that we begin to live for who we think we are supposed to be instead of being who we were originally meant to be. We need to let go of the weight of caring what other people think so much and allow God’s image to be restored in us.
The person that can restore the image of God in you and lead you to find your true self is the Image of God Himself, Jesus Christ. The Bible says of Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus came into this world to give you a new identity. Your past does not need to define you and your future can be re-written. When you put your trust in Him as Lord and Savior He begins the process of renewing His image in you. The Bible says that you “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). The more you get to know Christ, the more you will reflect Christ.
Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul was in jail for his faith in Jesus. He had a great opportunity to either be a people-pleaser and get out of jail for free, or courageously follow Christ no matter what people thought. Paul wrote from prison: “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). And his hopes were fulfilled. He never followed the crowd and denied knowing Jesus. He courageously followed Christ no matter what the cost. Many are living as followers of the crowd. It is time you became a leader.
God certainly did not care what others thought. He sent His Son to die on a Roman cross 2000 years ago to atone for the sins of the whole world! Paul wrote: “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is time we stopped trying to “gain the world” and be saved from ourselves! Jesus said: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul” (Matthew 16:26)? I pray that you would let go of what people think and who you think you are supposed to be and let Christ transform your life.
For more on the “Joy Filled Life” Sermon Series visit St. Paul Lutheran Church’s media player here: http://stpaulroseburg.org/sermons-resources/sermons-media