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Selfie: Pics of Myself by John Burke

Today we started a new series at Gateway Austin on capturing who we really are.

You can watch or listen to the entire message here: www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

John Burke shared at the McNeil campus, and I spoke at the South Campus. Here are some of the ideas we shared:

The selfie has become a pop sensation, and you guys have been sending some great selfies to our Gateway Facebook page this week.

But the Selfie also has a dark side, doesn’t it? It’s symbolic in many ways of our insecure identities. I want to present the Me I want you to think I am.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with selfies, and there’s nothing new about projecting false identities – trying to be somebody else, trying to prove they’re good enough, beautiful enough, successful enough, liked enough, approved of enough, esteemed enough….

The problem is that when we try to image craft and live out of a false identity—one that’s not really congruent with reality—it leads to the opposite of what we wanted.  We want to feel successful, significant, awesome, but we end up feeling fearful, insecure, and anxious about our identities because our sense of identity is not based on solid reality.

So here’s a life-altering question to answer:  “Who defines who you are?”

This is ultra-important because what you believe about yourself is what shapes all your decisions and actions. You may say you believe one thing, but how you live and act indicates what you truly believe.

Some of us have taken on lies others have placed on us and took them to be true.

What lies have you chosen believe? What agreements have you made with darkness about yourself or about others in your life that have kept you stuck?

This week we’ll look at the False Selfie’s: “I am what I Accomplish” and “I am what you say I am.” 

False Selfie #1 – I Am What I Accomplish

Some of us grew up associating who we are with what we do. Our Identity is performance-based. If I meet certain standards, I will feel good about myself. If I reach a certain level of success, then I’ll feel worth something, valuable, successful.

Take a little self assessment:

Q. How successful am I?  1=Not at all…5=super successful   Rate yourself 1-5

Now answer this for yourself. I would be more successful if… 

If someone can block or thwart your ability to succeed in life – your definition of success is based on a faulty identity.  Everyone can accomplish what God put them here to accomplish. The problems come when we try to base our worth on other accomplishments. Now, there’s nothing wrong with accomplishing, God created us to co-rule with Him, so accomplishing can be a good thing. But when we base our worth or Identity on what we accomplish, we will struggle with fear of failure, being driven to succeed, manipulating others who get in the way of our success, we’ll become self-consumed, and we’re often unable to enjoy the moment. That’s because God never created you to get your Identity from what you do.

Maybe it’s working for now, but what happens when no one notices your accomplishments? What happens when things start declining? What would happen if you started losing all you’ve worked so hard to gain? Imagine it: What happens inside – panic, fear, worry, sickening kind of anxiety because it’s threatening your very identity—your very sense of Who You Are, what You’re Worth-but it’s a false Identity.

God never intended you to base your value on accomplishments or performing. No one knows what you were created to DO and BE except your Creator. Look what God says about your true identity: 

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth-everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.Isaiah 43:6-7 

God made you for himself—not to prove your glory, but to BE His glory.  What he wants you to do is learn to BE secure in who He made you to be, then from that place of security, you can do what he created you to do.

You give God joy and glory when your first priority is learning to love God and base your security in who God says you are. In fact, All he did through Christ was to set you free from this performance trap:

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. – Rom 5:1-2 

When you set your sights on finding identity in Christ by living first for what God says, not what others say. In Christ, you are his son, his daughter. You don’t have to earn it, prove it, or perform for it. He wants you to find confidence and joy from believing it with all your heart.

This sets you free to accomplish things God created you to accomplish. It sets you free to use your unique gifts, time, resources to make an impact that lasts for eternity – not to prove your worth something, but because you’re worth everything to God.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God…For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  – Ephesians 2:8-10

How do we know if we’re basing our identity on accomplishing these goals?  Feelings are God’s red flag of warning. Neil Anderson talks about how God has given us a moment by moment feedback system to know if our beliefs are aligned with God’s truth. When you’re left feeling anxious, angry, or depressed these emotional sign posts there to alert you that you maybe basing your Identity on a faulty goal based on a wrong belief.  Anxiety signals an uncertain goal.  Anger signals a blocked goal.  Depression signals an impossible goal.

Tough faith-stretching question:  “If God created you to accomplish something, can it be blocked or thwarted by circumstances or by other people?”

Most of us react as if it can. We get anxious, or angry, or depressed when things or people get in the way of our goals. It’s a sign our identity is misplaced. If God created you as His Masterpiece with plans for you like that passage says then our circumstance or people cannot thwart what God wants you to accomplish! You can fully succeed in God’s eyes, no matter what the world says!

You don’t have to control people or circumstances to succeed.The only person you have absolute authority to control is YOU!  You can have desires that include others, but not control over them.  So the ONLY person that can block a goal God has for your life is you! “Nobody and nothing on planet Earth can keep you from being the person God intended you to be if you’re willing.”  That’s the security God wants you to live out of.

Some of you are stuck. Your relationship with God has grown stale. You blame God. You blame your spouse or your ex-spouse. You blame your small group leader or your church. Here’s the amazing truth: God wants to work in you in a powerful way, and You are the only reason He is not. You do not have to be the victim of your circumstances!

Is there something He asked you to do awhile back that you’ve never done? Is there a struggle you have kept hidden that He has asked you to confess? Is there a broken relationship He has asked you to heal that you’ve refused to move on? Is there someone you have refused to forgive but instead choose to hang on to bitterness? He cannot move in new ways until we obey what He’s already asked of us. He cannot give us more until we are faithful with the little we already have.

False Selfie #2 – I Am What You Say I Am

Another False Selfie is…Some of us grew up feeling like we have to please certain people to feel good about ourselves—I am who people say I am.

Do a little self-assessment to see where you stand with this.

Q. How significant am I?  1…5 

I would be more significant if…

If other people’s opinions or approval or validation determine how important or significant you feel then your identity is too tied to what people say rather than what God says. Some of base our identity on our looks, our attraction quotient, our personality, or intellect. What happens when you grow old, and your six pack becomes an inner tube and the laughter fades, and someone else is funnier or smarter, or the center of attention. Who are you now? The problem is that this makes us incredibly insecure because no one really knows who you are except the One who made you.  So when we base our identity on people’s approval of us, we will battle with fear of rejection, be prone to moral compromise to please others, we’ll be sensitive to criticism, defensive, or isolate to avoid disapproval.

God did all he did in Christ to give you lasting security and a strong, courageous beautiful soul that doesn’t live for the approval of people because in Christ you are approved by God. The prophet Isaiah says the Messiah would come lead his people to say:

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10

In Christ God clothes you with an inner strength and rightness of heart and decks out your soul like those preparing for their wedding day. So you don’t have to fear rejection, or give in to moral compromise, or be sensitive to criticism, or withdraw to avoid disapproval. In Christ God clothes your soul with right-standing with God – His approval.

We need to base our identity on what God says is true:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.Psalm 139:13-14 

Three things influence how the messages we heard growing up imprint us—how early, how often, and how we interpreted them. We have to learn to differentiate the false messages based on lies from a sinful broken world, from the true messages based on God’s ultimate Reality.

In the Next Steps, there is an exercise that will help you do this.

God created us to find joy and meaning and purpose out of a secure identity that God gives relationally, but we received bad information very early on and then live our lives as if that’s true. That’s why Paul says you have to give up living to please people. Quit that game and die to that false identity.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10  

Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.1 Thessalonians 2:4 

God wants to root your significance, your worth, your beauty not in the things that fade away or fickle people’s opinions can affect, but in what He says about your heart! He alone knows your heart, your motives, and your true Worth.  But you have to die to pleasing people or you will never find the security He wants to give you.

Listen to God’s intentions in Christ: 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!2 Corinthians 5:17

God sent Jesus as Messiah to lead you into a new start, a new life, with a new secure identity based on what God says is true about you. Over the next few weeks, start to meditate on what God says is true, and replace the lies with the truth. As you do, you’ll find yourself free to fully be who you always knew you could be!”

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ebryant@churchleaders.com'
Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Eric previously served at Mosaic in Los Angeles and his books include Not Like Me: A Field Guide to a Influencing a Diverse World and A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership.