Recently, I had someone say a real stumper to me. “I’m not cookie cutter like you, Emily.” I walked away hurt, but also confused. The conversation was a difficult one for a myriad of reasons. I scratched my head, trying to figure out whom in this world I was exactly like. It was sort of a sarcastic scratch, because I knew the truth of the matter is that I’m not like anyone else in this world. But still, it hurt because I also don’t like being dissed. I like for people to like me and it bugs me when they don’t. I was also sad, because there were so many things I wanted for this person to understand about what happens when you are made new by the Word of Christ. Your own devices can identify you and the person you call yourself, but that’s not where your identity rests when you take on the name of Jesus. Your identity is not just about who you were when God created you to enter this world. It’s about who you are when God creates a new heart in you.
Not so long ago, my husband and I were visiting Nashville, where we used to call “home.” One of the things we miss the most about this great city is our church family. We scooted into the pew where we normally sat, near some good friends. We hugged and had a twenty second catch up before the Pastor got up to welcome everyone. Rather than just encourage us to greet one another as he always does, he asked everyone to pull out their smart phones and to take a selfie in church. It was hysterical. Especially watching older people try and figure it out. David and I laughed and said he must have heard we were coming because we (meaning I) are always taking selfies at fun places. Our pastor said he had been scrolling through social media and decided that if people can take pictures of how much they love their burritos, then why not take pictures at church and use our social media relationships to welcome people to come take a look at what God’s up to there? This gave way to the spirit-led message that Pastor Gene preached that day. I might as well have transcribed the entire sermon. He preached from Colossians 3:12-14, which says,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
These are some of the powerful things Pastor Gene said that day:
- “As the Holy Spirit works in your life, put on these clothes. Why? Because you can.”
- “When you bear up with people, you change the world.”
- “God looks at the world as saved and lost…as those who relate to Him and those who could relate to Him.”
- “We have distinctives that don’t have to be put into distinctions.”
- “The unifying part of it is that if you’re in Christ, you have the incredible ability to relate to people.”
- “If you’re in Christ, there’s only one reason you should drop bitterness, anger, etc. — because you can.”
- “God has given you the capacity that when you express the fruits of the spirit, it not only helps people along, it changes the world.”
- “The spiritual power to change people is based on the power of God inside you.”
- “He died on the cross so you can be buried with Him. He was buried so you can be buried with Him. He was raised so you can be raised with Him.”
I’ve been thinking about the things Pastor Gene said in his #selfie sermon that I got to hear. And for months now, I’ve also been chewing on the conversation where I was told I was cookie cutter. I think there are two takeaways that God has taught me from those words meant to cut me down and from Pastor Gene’s message to spur me on.
- It doesn’t matter who anyone says I am. It does not even matter who I say I am. It matters who God says I am. He gives my life meaning and purpose. If I am going to claim the name of Christ as part of my own, I have to swap many of the things that my own heart is dressed with for new clothes that identify me differently and give a better representation of who God is making me. The Lord replaces the nature I am born with to be more like His own nature. If I’m not recognized by the heart’s garments that God tells me to put on, though, maybe I haven’t embraced the newness He desires for me. It doesn’t matter who anyone else says I am except God, but if people don’t notice a difference in the appearance of my heart and actions, I’ve got to take inventory of what I’m choosing to wear. I want to look less like myself and more like my best self, which can only look better because of how Jesus dresses my heart. But I have to choose what I want to wear.
- If I appear to be cookie cutter, because I appear to look more like Jesus than myself, hallelujah. As Pastor Gene says, “The new you gets renewed to be better and better every day to the point that you look like Jesus. You’re so hidden in Christ that it absolutely renews you so much that you become like Him. It has more value. Life apart from God will have no meaning… [Life with Him] progresses us because it moves us to the knowledge of Christ… In the end, this new self is ultimately relational. When we get to the new Heaven and the new earth, we’re going to feel like we belong there… You are only what God says you are and who God says you are. ” I don’t always look like Jesus, but with His power, He changes me for the better a little more every day that I yield my own spirit to His. If my image is being transformed to look more like Him, then yeah—maybe I’m fitting more into His mold for who His hands have shaped me to be. I want to look more like Jesus. I want to relate to people more. I want to move people to change because of what He asks me to wear on the inside, which reflects through how I live life on the outside. I want to look less like me and more like Him. He still lets me be my unique self. But He doesn’t let me be known just by what I have to offer this world. He lets me be identified by what He can offer the world through His power in me. He uses my story of His transformation in my life to move others to hear His greater story. And by this, He offers newness to those who choose to get dressed with the good things…the Holy things…the same things He has taught me to trade my old wardrobe for.
I’m not defined by who people say I am. I’m not defined by who I say I am. I’m defined by who God says I am. God sees what I clothe my heart with and how those garments of character can either attract or appall people. I don’t want to look like my old self. I want to look like my new self…the one that wears what Jesus says to wear on the inside and looks more like Him on the outside.
What about you? What does your selfie look like today? Who does God say you are? What does God say you are?
Put on what He says looks best on your heart’s frame, friend. You’ll not only look stunning, you’ll be stunning. And the newness of your look will keep on progressing until you look more like Jesus than yourself.
PS- If you want to hear more of Pastor Gene Mim’s message that I refer to in this, listen here. You won’t be sorry.