16-18 We know and, to some extent realize, the love of God for us because Christ expressed it in laying down his life for us. We must in turn express our love by laying down our lives for those who are our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brothers in want but shuts his eyes—and his heart—how could anyone believe that the love of God lives in him? My children let us not love merely in theory or in words—let us love in sincerity and in practice!  19-20 If we live like this, we shall know that we are children of the truth and can reassure ourselves in the sight of God, even if our own hearts make us feel guilty; For God is infinitely greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  21-23 And if, dear friends of mine, when we realize this, our hearts no longer accuse us, we may have the utmost confidence in God’s presence. We receive whatever we ask for, because we are obeying his orders and following his plans. His orders are that we should put our trust in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another—as we used to hear him say in person.  24 The man who does obey God’s commands lives in God and God lives in him, and the guarantee of his presence within us is the Spirit he has given us. 1 John 3:16-24 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

One of the great threats to our faith is our tendency to be extremely hard on ourselves. Every time our heart finds us guilty of some new transgression, we struggle with loving ourselves. I mean really, how do I love myself when I do bad things (or even when I think about doing bad things)?

The problem is, we can’t love others if we do not love ourselves. You have heard people (including me) say we should shun self-admiration. That doesn’t mean we are not to love ourselves. There is a big difference between being “IN” love with yourself and LOVING yourself. Jesus said that we were to love others the same way that we love ourselves. In fact, he does not suggest that we do this, He commands it. Listen to what he said,

28 “Then one of the scribes approached him. He had been listening to the discussion, and noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he put this question to him, “What are we to consider the greatest commandment of all?”   29-31 “The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second (command) is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.” – Mark 12:31 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

The more insecure and uptight we are, the more difficult it is to keep from spiraling into self-debasement. When you have a low opinion of who you are in Christ, it doesn’t take much pressure for your heart to denounce you.

Even when we feel pretty good about who we are, daily shortfalls present us with opportunities to marinate in guilt, shame and self-condemnation.  We can then become our own worst critic and consequently we fall into a trap of our own making. I recognize (based on the lessons of the scriptures) that God forgives me. And, I am always learning to forgive “those who trespass against me”. So why is it so hard to forgive my own under-performance and daily nastiness?

Good question. I think it is because all of us walk around with a picture of an ideal self in our minds. We can see with reasonable clarity the person we would like to be and sometimes we even pay attention to the person God wants us to be. Try as we do to live up to that idyllic imagining, we fail.   And let’s not forget all of the helpful voices reminding us we are not so good.

Voices you say? Yes, many voices.   Like an overly critical parent, an angry spouse, an insensitive boss, an infuriating colleague, a selfish neighbor, and even the innocent observations of impertinent children can hurt.  Teenage children are experts in making parents feel totally inadequate and completely inept.

And what about our society? How many ways do we fail to measure up? Let me count the ways.

  • We don’t look the way we should,
  • We don’t dress the way we should,
  • We don’t make the money we should,
  • We don’t have all the material possessions we should,
  • We don’t have the popularity or the prestige we should,
  • We don’t have the independence, power, or control we should.

Need I continue? The sad thing is, that while we should know better, our hearts often buy into this garbage, and when they do, they condemn us. Self-condemnation leads to a life of discouragement. When we are discouraged, it is hard to do much of anything. All we feel is the pain of defeat and disappointment.

The good news is that God does not condemn us like we condemn ourselves.  John reminds us, God knows everything. That means God sees the positive in us. God recognizes our intentions, even if our actions don’t always bring about the result of what we envisioned. Our hearts may condemn us, but as John explains, God is greater than our hearts.  Remember, we have only a limited picture of ourselves. It is easy to measure our lives by one mistake, one failure, and one defeat at a time. God sees the big picture – all that we are and even more importantly, all that we can become.

This is the truth of which our hearts need to be reassured:

  • We are loved so much by God that through Jesus Christ, He was willing to lay down his life – to give everything – to get us back.

A Divine rescue was required and God refused to let anything, even our depravity, stand in the way of our redemption. He prepared a great sacrifice – his Son – in order to provide the means by which we can be liberated from the burden of our sin nature (the seat of condemnation).   If God loved us that much, John reasons, we too, out of genuine love for others, ought to be willing to share whatever we can with a brother or sister in need. Real love always leads to action.

But here’s the irony; we cannot be free to love sacrificially, as Christ has loved us, if we continue to spend our time wallowing in self-condemnation. Instead we must realize that since God has not condemned us, we are fools to condemn ourselves.  Once we have given up self-condemnation, we discover a new sense of boldness before God. As our confidence grows, we begin to ask God for anything and everything we need in order to serve him better. According to John, when our heart is right, we receive from him whatever we ask. And then as we obey God, we discover that he is pleased to abide in us and we abide in Him.

1-2 No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are “in” Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life “in” Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

No matter what happens, never give up on yourself. If God chooses not to condemn us; we have no business condemning ourselves.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

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