I wonder what they think of me.
I wish I had some time for myself, some self-care, maybe some pizza and a good movie.
I’m so sick of the same sins that I battle all the time. I can’t seem to just fully get free of my struggles.
If I could only eat better, be organized, be more fit, then I could really make a difference. I just need to improve my life.
My upbringing was the worst, the job I recently left was so hard on me, none of the circumstances of my life have been fair at all.
Have you ever had any of these thoughts? If we’re being honest, some of these go through our minds, right? In our day-to-day lives, we are focused on ourselves. That first one is the worst for me. I over-analyze every conversation, text message, or e-mail to make sure that I was perfectly articulate and kind in all that I said. I’m so introspective. To a fault. My wife regularly has to remind me to shut up and let things go.
Some of us live our lives focused entirely on self-indulgence and self-care. We focus so much on making it to the weekend, getting away from responsibilities, filling our own souls up with what we need to keep going. As naturally selfish people, we can consistently put ourselves before others.
Self-improvement Christianity runs rampant in our current church culture. Sermons, books, articles, blogs, and podcasts all fill our minds with the idea that we can go to Jesus and His Word with a focus on improving ourselves. We learn of habits to help us overcome anger, pride, fear, anxiety, lust, doubt. We learn of habits to help us be better servants, friends, church members, neighbors, parents, spouses.
We listen to messages that tell us that God wants to help us achieve our dreams, God wants us to loosen up and accept grace, God wants to help us be better versions of ourselves. At first glance, this seems all good and right. The gospel and the Bible both impact how we live. We are called to get rid of that which hinders our faith and replace it with that which cultivates our love for God and neighbor.
But, the gospel is not about self-improvement. The gospel is not about God sprinkling a little bit of magic pixie dust on our problems and difficulties. The gospel is not a supplement we can take to help us be better. The gospel, the good news of Jesus, is about God taking us from death to life.
One vein of self-improvement Christianity that has become supremely popular is the brokenness obsession. You can read and listen to a lot of Christian media that encourages the reader or listener to lighten up, to accept the sins you struggle with, to be your ‘authentic’ self.
All of what I’ve written about so far is focused entirely inward.
There’s a better way for me to live.
There’s a better way for you to live.
When we take our eyes off of ourselves, we can find the freedom that Jesus intended for us.
In her book, Flourish: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self Focus, Lydia Brownback unpacks in detail much of what I just described. It was such a good book, I devoured it in two days. I would encourage you to get it and give it a read.
There are a litany of quotes I would love to share from this book, I’ll focus on just one though.
Christ is our identity too, if we’ve been united to him by faith. Sometimes we forget that. Some of us have never understood it. And it gets obscured by our naturally self-oriented hearts.
That’s some good stuff right there.
That’s some good stuff based off of Galatians 2.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
When we fully grasp the message of the gospel, we look outside of ourselves, and we are set free to flourish in good works towards others.
If I spent as much time out in our community as I did inwardly over-analyzing how people perceived me, I bet you I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life. If I spent as much time serving others as I did striving to create a better version of myself through self-improvement, I bet you I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life. If I spent as much time diving into God’s Word and prayer as I did unwinding through entertainment, I guarantee you that I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life.
If I took my eyes off myself, believing that the truth of Galatians 2:20 applies to every facet of my life, I guarantee you that I would become more aware of how God is at work in the community around me.
So my encouragement for you is to immerse yourself in Scripture. Not self-help books that tell you to accept yourself and be your best self. Not podcasts that teach you that God can help you achieve all of your dreams. Get into Scripture. Remind yourself of what the overarching story of the Bible teaches us about who we are. We have been hidden with Christ. Our identity is in Him.
That means I don’t have to devote time to wondering what people think of me.
That means you don’t have to endlessly pursue the next self-improvement plan.
That means we don’t have to endlessly pursue the next activity that will help us feel better about ourselves.
That means we don’t have to parade our accomplishments before others in order to be praised by men.
It means we can focus on others.
It means we can live out the gospel.
In His Name,