The Equation of Self Image
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. -Matthew 13:3-8
There is a time when all children will be introduced to some form of algebra in their scholastic career. An equation is a mathematical statement that shows the equality of two expressions. In 2 + 2 = 4, both sides of the equation are two different ways to express the same value . An equation helps to make sense of numbers. Now, you are probably wondering what in the world mathematics has to do with the Bible. In the same way that equations help numbers fall into place, an equation can help biblical instruction make sense. If you learn what is behind your decision to sin, you can choose to change the equation so that you do not sin. It is your self-image that will help to make the necessary changes.
We see this biblical principle spelled out for us in the book of James. The inspired writer recorded the equation of how sin is accomplished. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ’I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas 1:13-15).
The term own desires is referring to what you have decided that you need to think, say, or do so that your self-image can conform to your desire of its appearance. If I want to be a rebel I will have a disrespectful attitude, and I will probably break some rules, like skip school just for the fun of it. If I want to be like the girls on the television show Sex and the City and treat sex very casually, then I will change my self-image which will in turn allow my lust to be fulfilled. In other words, if my self-image is imitating Christ it will literally not allow me to fornicate. However, if it is emulating the world, I might as well put an “Open” sign on my undergarments. This equation can shed light on any sin. It can also help us to change our heart so that we will not form that lust which will result in a sinful action.
The Equation Broken Down
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” -Matthew 13:18-23
Here is an illustration. Abstaining from being sexually active outside the confines of marriage starts with having your heart and mind in the right place. A person is not going to desire to be worldly if they have a strong knowledge of how to and why to be Godly and have expectations to be so. Being holy has become their self-image and they do not want to taint it in any way. They have declared their allegiance to Jehovah, instead of to the world (Satan). If they instead have decided to pledge their allegiance to this world on purpose, by default because they are oblivious, or just don’t want to have to choose, then they have formed their self-image after Satan.
It is very difficult for a person to make the right decision if one or more of these factors are missing: the how, the why, or the expectation.
We live in an age where information is easily available. In addition to the millions of books and reference material in libraries across the world, we have the Internet. With the first mass production of the Bible using the Gutenberg Press in the mid 1400’s, the Bible became increasingly more available as time went on . It continues to be the best-selling book of all time. With the invention of computers and the Internet, it became even easier to have access to not only the Bible, but programs that electronically help you find references in it (www.e-sword.net).
Since the Word of God has flown into the hands of the world, the excuse of not knowing how to please Jehovah has all but disappeared. Both by reading or listening it is possible to find out how to be pleasing to God, and I believe this is what He intended. In fact, we have a responsibility to become familiar with His Word. In II Thessalonians 2:8 we find out there will be consequences for those who refuse to find out how to obey Him.
There are a lot of distractions around us such as jobs, schoolwork, family obligations, and secular activities that crowd into our lives making the hours feel like minutes. God is not oblivious to this fact, but He still expects us to put Him first (Ex 20:3). We need to educate ourselves on how to live our lives in accordance to His Will if we are going to have control over that part of the equation. God did not make the Bible too difficult to understand, and we have the responsibility to know how to please Him.
I was blessed to have grown up in a Christian household. This is a blessing that I have unfortunately not always appreciated the significance of. As a teenager I was able to spout off the steps of salvation in one small breath. I knew it was wrong to use instrumental music while offering worship to Jehovah and could pass a Bible pop quiz with ease. I wish I could say that this was because I was a diligent student of the Word, but that is simply not true. You see, I knew the how, but not the why. Unfortunately, I could not defend my beliefs like we are admonished to in I Peter 3:15, because I had allowed the Truth to bypass my heart when it went to my brain.
I think this happens because many times the why is surrounded by a fog. This fog consists of doubts this world has come up with to discredit the Bible, and with external distractions that puff themselves up as being more important than God and His Word. Not knowing “The Why” is called “missing the point” and it is a scary place to be, because if you do not appreciate God’s plan for your life it is because you do not understand God. If you do not understand God then you are no more than a shell filled with dirt instead of the valuable pearl you were meant to be.
I am not sure if I can numerate how many reasons there are to care about God and His plan for our lives. You see, somebody can have the Bible memorized from cover to cover, but if it does not prick their heart then all they have done is put a bunch of words in their head. Another scary thing about not getting it is what can happen as a result of this. There are many people who missed the point their whole lives and ended up missing the goal. Apathy is a form of gambling that can cost you your soul, and I admonish you to not take such a risk but instead press toward the mark (Phil 3:14).
This is the part of the equation that really trips up a lot of people who have converted to Christ from other denominations or who have little to no religious background. It all boils down to the fact that the majority of people care what other people think. Even the person who says they do not care what other people think wants people to see that they don’t care what others think. Family, friends, associates, and in some cases complete strangers have an impact on what we believe and why.
People’s expectations of us are paramount. A father who wants his son to take over the family business will raise his son to always know that will be his future. That is why a lot of times distance will form between the two if the son decides not to do so. There is a girl who is about to be freshman in high school. She has older friends and decides to completely change her entire look from being a gangster to that of a cheerleader and president of the student council (I know…strange, but I’ve seen it happen). The people she decides to be around expect her to dress and act like them if she wants them to be her friend. Lastly, look at celebrities and fashion designers. They are perfect strangers to me, but the clothes they choose to design and wear affect what is sold in stores, what is plastered on the cover of almost every magazine, and what is expected for me to wear.
Jesus understood this. The Bible records over and over again the compassion He felt toward His family, friends, and the multitudes of people in need of a Savior. Be this as it may, He taught that we are to put God first, even in front of those we hold most dear (Mt 10:37-38 ). This is not easy. I have known many people who, when they became Christians, tried to reach out to their family with the Gospel. They were shot down, and because they held fast to the Truth their relationships have diminished. On the other hand, there are some people who have gone back into the world because expectations from family, friends, or the world were enough for them to give up on Christianity. If our self-image is going to reflect Christ, we need to be able to put Him first in front of all other expectations.
So, by breaking it down we learn that if a person does not know how to please God, they will not have the tools to mold their heart away from the world and toward Him. This can be changed by studying the Bible with all honesty (II Tm 2:15). Now if a person has the facts but the why is missing, they too will have problems with their equation. You can quote John 3:16 to me all day long, but until the seriousness of that Truth brings tears to your eyes like those people Peter preached to on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37), you’re going to have a hard time getting the sum of a righteous heart.
Lastly, if you have the how, and you have the why, it is extremely difficult to maintain the equation for a pure self-image if you are missing the expectation. This is why it is so important to surround yourself with Christian brethren who care about the destination of your soul, who will lift you up and remind you of God’s expectations for you (Gal 6:1-2). With these things in mind, we will study about how our self-image and, in turn, our sexuality can reflect our Lord.
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