The Tale of Two Selves
Some of us Christians are leery of self-help books. It’s usually with good reason. We realize that to be consumed with self is a form of idolatry. It’s a sin that goes all the way back to the beginning of mankind in the garden.
However, I’ve come to realize that while God doesn’t want us to be consumed with self, he doesn’t want us to lose ourselves either. You might ask, “Well doesn’t Jesus tell us to deny ourselves when we follow him?” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). He does. However, it’s always important that we interpret Scripture in light of Scripture for greater context. Notice that the Apostle Paul says that learning the way of Jesus Christ means to “put off your OLD SELF, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the NEW SELF, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
So, taking that in context with Jesus’ statement, we are not being told to lose ourselves completely. Rather there is a false self and a true self that each of us can relate to. We were each created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We were created to reflect his goodness. We were made for good things (Ephesians 2:10). That is your true self.
Sin has distorted that and every time we react out of sin and selfishness we are operating out of a false self. It’s not who God created mankind to be. It’s a product of sin. However, when we are redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ, God calls this “false” self our “old” self because he know longer identifies us with it. What Jesus and Paul are both saying is that neither should we! We should see ourselves as new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is what Paul calls the “new” self (or new man in some translations). It might be helpful to think of it as our “renewed” self. We are being refashioned after God’s design in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us!
I love this quote by John Ortberg. It shows that as God makes us new, he doesn’t do away with self. God made each of us unique. Your personality is God-given. What he is doing away with is all of those things you have come to identify with yourself that don’t belong; things such as greed, slander, bitterness, etc. So remember, when Christ takes over, he is not literally making another identical Jesus. What He wants is all of his goodness reflected in you while retaining all that he created you uniquely to be!
“Here is the good news: When you flourish, you become more you. You become more that person God had in mind when he thought you up. You don't just become holier. You become you-ier. . . .God wants to redeem you, not exchange you.” - John Ortberg