I have habits I wish I could give up. We all do. Some are harmless, annoying little things which others put up with but others are potentially more damaging. I’m not talking about drug addiction or smoking, or excessive drinking – which are addictions. But that’s what bad habits can become if we don’t take actions on them.
But what are we doing when we do these things?
I know when I give in to my little vices I am doing them out of a desire for love, for value, for comfort. The times I’m most vulnerable to these things is when I’m on my own at home – either early morning or late evening, when I’m feeling a bit alone and in need of comfort, and I simply give up and don’t have the willpower to say no.
The thing that strikes me here is that the moments we are most vulnerable are the points we are most honest with ourselves. We are more ourselves in those moments than we are when we’re with others.
I mean how often have you got into a discussion and then eventually someone – maybe you – has said
“Do you want to know what I really think?”
I know I’ve done that. Basically, this is admission that before that person wasn’t being true to themselves, they weren’t being totally honest.
Because we hide so much of ourselves from others. The true self is what we do when everything else is stripped away, when we have nothing left to offer, when the gloves are off.
Peter Rollins did a clever thing on Twitter recently. He has his own official Twitter account, @PeterRollins but opened another @RealPeteRollins, where he posted some very honest, up front posts – and judging by what Peter Rollins was positing on his official account it soon became clear they were one and the same. He eventually fessed up to being the Real Pete Rollins, and admitted the whole point of it was to make clear that who we really are isn’t the identity we show or put on for the world, its how we really feel deep down when its all stripped away.
Its that self who Jesus wants to transform, who He died and rose for. Because when that part of us changes, then we can see real change take place. Its that part that often governs our actions, especially those we do in private, and its ultimately our actions that define us.
Don Miller writes ‘a character is what he does’ and its so true. You measure someone’s character and value by what they do, not by what they say they will do. If a pastor preaches on marital faithfulness and then it comes out he’s having an extra-marital affair, no one will remember what he said on marriage before, and those words will carry no weight whatsoever. Its like a convicted rapist doing a talk on the value of consensual sex and keeping sex within marriage. It just carries no weight, because the person’s actions say they believe and are living something totally contradictory.
Our true beliefs and values, what’s really important to us, is defined not by what we say, but by what we do, how we act those things out. And this is difficult for me to say, as someone who professes to be a follower of Jesus, it compels me to ask myself
Does my life reflect what I believe to be true, or do I deny my faith through my actions?
Do I love my enemies?
Do I serve others before myself?
Am I generous toward others, especially those in need?
Do I forgive those who hurt me?
Do I bear grudges?
Or do I subscribe to the secular, consumer world we live in?
Do I walk on by and ignore the pain and suffering of the world?
Am I trying to compromise my faith and fit it in to a consumer lifestyle?
These are questions that, if we profess to be Christians, we all need to be asking ourselves. The answers may be uncomfortable, but its only telling God what He already knows. Its not like we can hide our lives from God or put on a show for Him, or even that anything we do changes how He feels about us or our dependence on Jesus, rather than our own actions, for salvation.
But being honest with ourselves and then taking action to make changes to our lives is the first step to really moving forward and becoming the kind of person God made us to be.
The Bible says we constantly need to examine ourselves and see what areas of our lives we are struggling and need to grow and make changes.
Its important that when we do this, that we are totally, brutally honest with ourselves, and totally honest with God – and its vital that God is involved in this process with us.
The process is difficult and takes time – I am still going through this process – but we all need to go through that refiners fire in order to become more like Jesus, and as anyone who has been through fire will tell you, its not easy and painless. Its not a process that we can just go through once either, its one that we regularly need to be submitting ourselves to if we want to become more like Christ.
But like metal when it’s refined in fire, when the process is done then what emerges is a better, purified version of what was there before, and the quality is so much better.
We are still in Lent, and I’d like to challenge you – and I’m already doing this myself – to submit yourself to this process for the rest of lent. Devote some quality time to self-examination & prayer, and make some decisions and committments to change, and take action on those decisions.
It might be painful and difficult – but the end result will be well worth it.
Be honest with yourself, examine yourself, and with God work together to become more the person He created you to be.
Are you willing to be brutualy honest with yourself, about yourself?
Who is the real you?
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