Identity and the Worship of Self
I recently listened to a podcast in which Canadian clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson, reads a brilliant essay he wrote and made into a video entitled, Identity Fixation; if you haven’t watched it, I recommend that you do. But this video really got me thinking …
Do we trust God? Do we surrender ourselves in mind, body, and spirit to Him and trust Him with our life, our future, and our wellbeing? Do we actively seek to fulfill the purpose God has for us? Do we accept and seek to live by divine truth, reality as God designed and intends it? Do we actively surrender our will, like Jesus did, to the will of His Father? (Matthew 26:42).
Or do we reject divine truth, reality as God designed, created, and intends it, substituting it with either our own imaginings, wishes, fantasies, feelings, and desires or some perverted view advanced by the enemy of God?
Do we make the Creator the center of our heart’s desire, surrendering self to His supreme wisdom, trusting that what He wants for us is always best and that following where He leads will ultimately be in our eternal best interest—or do we allow our feelings, desires, and selfishness to replace God at the center of our hearts so that we not only embrace the false, but we also demand that others submit their understanding to our own?
As Christians, our identity is to be found in Christ. As the apostle Paul said,
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NIV84).
We are to die to the old selfish ways and to live a new life in Christ. We are to be Christlike, which means we have God’s law written upon our hearts (Hebrews 8:10); we are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5); we are to see things with a new perspective so that the ways, methods, values, practices, and standards of the world are recognized as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:20–31). Are we doing this?
Or are we being deceived into keeping self at the center, allowing self to define reality, allowing feelings, desires, emotions, and selfishness to overrule the wisdom of God and the truth of His Word?
Is Jesus Christ supreme in our hearts, or do we require God and others to submit to us? Do we conform ourselves to God’s standard for life, or do we require others to submit to our standard? Do we seek to know the truth as it is in Jesus, or do we declare “this is my truth” and demand everyone else submit to our declared “truth”?
Have we fallen into the trap of substituting our identity in Christ for the world’s identity standards, which is the exaltation of narcissism—the worship of the self?
Do we see the world saying, “If you feel a certain way about yourself, then that is the way you are; objective reality does not matter, evidence does not matter, God’s Word does not matter; what matters is your internal feeling, belief, attitude, mindset; if you believe that you are a certain way, then the entire world—family, friends, co-workers, employers, everyone—must submit themselves to your feelings and acknowledge your declared subjective, emotional internal experience as their own standard of reality; and if people don’t submit to your feelings, then such people are intolerant, bigoted, and violent—and justice requires that they be punished”?
Or do we recognize divine truth, that we are in a war for hearts and minds and that our natural subjective feelings, desires, and emotions are impure, infected with unholy longing, are self-centered and narcissistic, and lead only to further self-injury and, ultimately, death? Do we believe that:
Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created (James 1:14–18 NIV84).
Do we submit to the revealed truth of God’s Word, or do we reject the Word of God and, instead, cling to our own emotions? Do we recognize the strong emotions and internal desires are tempting us and that it is only through the truth as it is in Jesus that we are reborn to a new and godly life—thereby finding our true identity in Jesus? Are we willing to submit to Christ to die to self, or do we demand the world submit to us?
When we have been truly converted, when we have died to fear and selfishness, when we have been reborn into the family of God and found our identity in Jesus, only then we will recognize the truth of what Paul wrote:
“Since … you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” [If we are truly converted, then we fix our hearts upon Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and when we submit our desires to Him, we receive a new identity with new motives, new desires, and new perspectives. We die to fear, to selfishness, to narcissism. We don’t demand the world conform to our feelings or fantasies. And because we have been transformed to be like Jesus in character, when He appears we will join Him in glory!]
But notice what the apostle says is necessary for us to live our new identity in Christ. We must:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” [We must submit our feelings, desires, fantasies, and attitudes to divine truth. We must not make self supreme and claim our feelings as the standard of reality to which all others must submit—that is idolatry, the worship of self. Instead, the righteous humble themselves and crucify self to the truth as it is in Jesus.] Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. [For those who reject objective truth, reality as it is in Jesus, they damage their minds, warp their thinking, harden their hearts, sear their consciences, and eventually destroy the faculties that respond to love and truth; at that point, there is nothing more God can do for them. Thus, God lets them go to reap what they have sown into their own hearts and minds. This is known as God’s wrath (Romans 1:18–31)]. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. [Old habits, old mistakes, old beliefs, and old practices can be replaced with the new—but only if we choose to surrender self in trust to Jesus.] But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. [Our old self is replaced with a new identity in Jesus. We look past the world’s identity politics of race, nationality, sex, economic status, and gender and, instead, look to character; are people living like Jesus, living out truth, love, and freedom in how they treat others? Or are people demanding others reject truth and submit to their fantasy views of self and then use whatever coercive methods they can employ to punish people who won’t submit to them?] Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:1–14 NIV84). [Yes, the people of God, those whose identity is found in Jesus, will not collude with falsehood, will not allow the standards of this selfish world to be their own. Instead, they will live the truth, but compassionately, always in love, with genuine concern for those who love self more than God, because the righteous know that those who embrace the identity standards of this world are only destroying their own eternal souls.]
In the world today, self is supreme; one’s feelings determine the so-called “reality” that all others much recognize and praise. But the people of God recognize a higher standard, the source of infinite truth, the Creator of reality, the One who built life to operate upon the principles of love, and they will not submit their minds and hearts to the foolishness of this world but remember the wisdom of God:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2, 3 NIV84).
Don’t lose heart! Fix your eyes on Jesus and, no matter what scorn the world heaps upon you, you will not grow weary, you will not lose heart, but you will overcome in Jesus!