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Does Your Self-Image Match God’s Image of You?

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For those who follow Christ, believing in “God’s image” of us means we stand on this truth: God sees us as those He loves, accepts, and values. In fact, this is why He sent Christ to die for us—to demonstrate His unconditional love, to enable absolute acceptance forever, and to reveal thereby our intrinsic worth to Him.

When He disciplines us after we make wrong choices that—according to the world’s standards—show us to be unlovable, unacceptable, and unworthy, He does so not as punishment but to get us back on track to be the person He sees us to be: boundlessly loved, unwaveringly accepted, and immeasurably valued.

Making God’s image of us, our image of ourselves requires faith to remind ourselves what is true about us in God’s eyes when those close to us profile us as unlovable, unacceptable, and worthless. The pain is real when others tell us that they cannot love us because we are unlovable, they cannot accept us because we are unacceptable, and they cannot value us because we are worthless. Of course, we can also judge ourselves this way, apart from others’ negative profiling.

At this juncture, some of us doubt ourselves and God’s view of us. This treatment or personal opinion shakes our confidence, and we lack self-esteem. Unfortunately, this gloomy profiling defines our self-image.

Breaking It All Down

Looking at it realistically, there are two options: One, there is a measure of truth in what they said, or what we said about ourselves, though it is too extreme. Or two, there is no truth in what they said, or in what we said about ourselves. In either case, the remedy is the same: Ask yourself, “What has God said about me? Is His image my self-image?”

Let’s assume there is a measure of truth about us being unlovable, unacceptable, and unworthy. We made wrong choices and displayed bad attitudes. We can acknowledge that at a specific point in time, we were unlovable, unacceptable, and unworthy.

Unlovable could mean that I have acted in ways that cause people not to like me. Perhaps I have been angry and mean. Unacceptable could mean I have acted in ways that cause me not to fit in where that is required. Perhaps I have refused to help with tasks, staying off in isolation while others responsibly do what is required of all of us. Unworthy could mean I have acted in ways that cause me not to achieve what I should accomplish. Perhaps I have neglected to study and practice for an exam enabling me to advance at work but I went out partying instead. Let’s assume each of these has been a pattern for several years, to add to the heartache of all of it.

Here’s the incredible and holy irony and paradox: Despite this reality, in God’s eyes, we are never intrinsically unlovable, unacceptable, and unworthy. This is the difference between God’s image of us and the negative image other people have of us or we have of ourselves. The people around us, or we, can make damning statements that are global and dogmatic. There can be a leap from a particular shortcoming to a generalized declaration that we are horrible humans. The declaration is: “Because you failed again one day last week, you are a total failure forevermore.” But just because this is the declaration doesn’t mean it’s true. God declared us as His child whom He loves no matter what, accepted in Christ and therefore acceptable, and worth Jesus to the Father because Jesus shed His priceless blood to purchase us.

It Is Here That Questions Arise

“But Emerson, if God agrees that we have acted in unlovable, unacceptable, and unworthy ways at certain points in time, shouldn’t we feel bad about ourselves and have no self-esteem?”

Sure, there is a place for godly sorrow, repentance, and being subjected to God’s loving discipline. However, despite the moment-in-time shortcomings, we are boundlessly loved, unwaveringly accepted, and immeasurably valuable. That is a fact of Scripture. So the struggle is to live in light of the reality of earthly failings, and the need to change, while appropriating God’s covenanted view of us.

“So why do I feel like I must pretend that I am lovable, acceptable, and valuable?”

We do not distinguish our practice from our position. God will lovingly discipline us so that wrong attitudes and actions in practice align with who we are to Him in position (His covenant with us signed in blood). An analogy is that of a prince groomed to be king. Legally, he is the future king. Nothing can change that. However, the reigning king, his father, coaches him to act in accordance with who he is and will be. “You are the future king, so act kingly. You are the future nobility, so act nobly. You are the future host of dignitaries, so act with dignity.” 

In the same way, the King of kings coaches us to act in accordance with who we are, those called to reign with Him. As Paul wrote, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29).

“Then why do God’s disciplines too often feel like punishments?”

Let’s look at each of these three: loved, accepted, and valued.

When I feel unlovable: God says, “Your attitude makes you unlovable, but I love you despite that. However, I love you so much I refuse to allow that unlovable demeanor to remain, so I will lovingly discipline you because I love you too much to let that continue. Because you are My beloved, I must align you with My image of you. Your projected image of being unlovable is not in keeping with My image of you as the person I love and see as lovable.”

When I feel unacceptable: God says, “Your behavior makes you unacceptable, but I accept you despite those actions. I accept you unconditionally because of Jesus dying for you, but I refuse to allow that unacceptable behavior to remain. So, I will lovingly discipline you. I must align you with My image of you. Because you are unwaveringly accepted in Christ, I must help you correct those unacceptable behaviors. Do not see this as Me punishing you for being unacceptable but as putting you back on track to live in accordance with My absolute, forever acceptance of you.”

When I feel worthless: God says, “Your hostile and contemptuous treatment of others makes you unworthy of your calling. I call you to love and honor others. Despite your failings, though, I deem you as worth Jesus to Me. You are immeasurably valuable to Me. But I refuse to allow these unworthy choices you have made to continue. I will lovingly discipline you. I must align you with My image of you. Because you are immeasurably valuable to Me, I must help you correct that hostile and contemptuous treatment of others that makes you unworthy of your high calling by helping you act according to My image of you: priceless due to the priceless blood of Christ that bought you. Do not see this as Me punishing you for being unworthy but as putting you back on track to live by My absolute, forever view of you as worth Jesus to Me.”

What Will You Believe?

Are you convinced? Paul and John were. We read in 1 John 3:1-2, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (NIV). 

And in Romans 8:38-39, Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NIV).

We are forever loved, accepted, and valued. Is His image your self-image?

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. What do you tend to struggle with, as it pertains to your self-image? Why do you believe that is?
  2. What is the difference between 1) acting in unlovable, unacceptable, and unworthy ways, and 2) being intrinsically unlovable, unacceptable, and unworthy? Why does being guilty of the first not mean that the second is also true?
  3. When was a time when you believe God disciplined you for acting unlovable, unacceptable, or unworthy with the intention of aligning you with His image of you?
  4. What daily reminder or practice can you establish that will help align your self-image with God’s image of you?