Recently, when I was explaining the gospel to a non-Christian friend, this person said something to this effect,
“I am concerned that when someone decides to become religious, he loses his true self. Following God or some religion suppresses our personality and our true self.”
Have you ever had this type of statement posed to you? How would you answer it and what passage of the Bible would you bring to bear to this statement?
One could bring dozens of passages to this discussion and it really is a vital topic to have a firm grasp upon. First of all, this statement addresses the source of our life. My friend’s statement indicates that he believes that life and self is sourced in something other than our life-giving God. This opens up all kinds of questions about where life comes from and, if life isn’t given to us by God, then who or what gives it and how is meaning assigned to it. But the Bible is very clear on this issue. According to Genesis 1:26, man is created by God and in his image to serve his purposes and glory. Not only that, Paul explains to Athenians in Acts 17 that God “gives to all people life and breath and all things;” (v.25) and that “in him we live and move and exist.” (v. 28). Clearly, the source of our life is God.
Another aspect of this statement concerns the nature of man. In our natural self, apart from God and his saving grace, is a man really alive in the ultimate sense of the word? Due to sin, we are dead in the ultimate sense. A familiar passage is Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,…” The writer of Psalm 73 states, in verse 22, that when we are not living in awareness of the character and nature of God and our own character and nature, we are “senseless and ignorant…like a beast…”. Again, in Psalm 32:8-9, we are told to listen to instruction from God and not be “…as a horse or mule which have no understanding,…” The Bible instructs us that only when we are saved and listening to God are we really alive.
What about our weaknesses and sins which keep us bound and trapped in destructive lifestyles and decisions? How does the man apart from God deal with these things? One of the greatest joys of being saved by Jesus and totally forgiven by him is that we now have the capacity, with Christ, to deal with our wickedness and weakness in a way that will allow us to overcome these things. His grace and forgiveness allows me to face my weaknesses head-on and not be fearful of condemnation and eternal punishment (Romans 8:1). When I look deep within my heart and life, what I find there rightfully horrifies me…my heart is dark with sin and depravity. Any person who is living in reality knows this about himself. But praise be to God! If I am a Christian, whatever I find in the pit of my existence has been eternally forgiven by the work of Christ on the cross. In Christ and through his power, I am free from sin and death. He has declared me righteous and, thus, I will stand before Him pure and holy. As I continue on this earthly sojourn, God and Christ are constantly working to make me further into the image of Christ. In him, I can deal progressively with the sin and weakness that is in my life and experience his life in me more and more and more. This is great news! In Christ and only in Christ can I deal with my wickedness and weakness in a way that really will lead to victory and change.
Lastly, only in God and Christ does a person really understand why he or she exists. We exist for His glory and praise and service. In light of his amazing mercy and grace manifested in Christ, we are called to glorify him (Colossians 3:17) and live for him (Romans 12:1-2). As we pursue such a wonderful task, Jesus tells us that his “joy may be in [us], and that [our] joy may be full.” (John 15.11). Christ truly is our life (Colossians 3:4) and only in him do we truly live! May we do so today and on into eternity!
Sola Deo Gloria!