So I want to start today by asking you a question that actually might be one of the more important things for you to think about.  I think your answer to this question is probably driving more of what you are doing in your day to day life than you realize.  Your answer to this question has a big impact on the decisions that you are making, and how you feel about yourself on the inside…in your heart.  The answer to this question absolutely effects how you think, how you carry yourself, and even effects your energy levels.  I can tell you with extreme confidence that your answer to this question is impacting your relationships with your loved ones, with people around you, and even with God.  Your answer to this question is impacting your ability or willingness to engage people, and your culture around you.  So are you ready for the question?  The question is this…

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

So that seemed like a pretty big build up for me to then turn around and ask such a simple question right?  Well can I tell you something how you view yourself, what we call our “self-image” is an extremely big deal.  For so many of us we look in the mirror and we don’t see our true self, are God created self.  We don’t recognize our true value, so we are walking through life with no understanding of how much we matter, and we struggle to see ourselves as valuable as God sees us.  So maybe this is where we need to start…how does God see us?  What is our true identity?  Our true value?  Scripture tells us this…

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” NIV

So have you ever slowed down and really thought about this?  God created you in His very own image, and told us to fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over everything!  There is something very powerful about that thought.  I love the way this same verse is worded in the Message version…

Genesis 1:27 God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature.  He created them male and female. 28 God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!” MSG

That phrasing ‘reflecting God’s nature’ is so cool and really stands out to me.  So not only do we know this is how we were created but we also know that God values us so much that He was willing to sacrifice everything, right down to His one and only Son for our salvation!

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  NIV

So there is something victorious and powerful about this idea that God created us in His image, reflecting His very nature.  We are image bearers for the King of Kings and the Lord of the Lords…we are to take charge of this Earth.  And if that wasn’t enough, we also see just how much God loves us and how much He values us in sending Jesus to this Earth to save us from sin and death!  This is our true identity and I think it is important to start with this, We must see and understand our true value.  But let’s be honest here…Is that what you see when you look in the mirror?  You seeing God’s treasure?

What is amazing to me is that so many of us who believe every word that I just read in Scripture still wake up every day and struggle with the person they see in the mirror.  We are not seeing our true value or identity.  We are seeing something else…something less, and that is where we can really struggle.  When I view myself as God views me, I treat myself differently than when I see myself as less.  When I see myself as God’s treasure, reflecting God’s nature I live differently, make different decisions, and love God and others in a different kind of way.  So I want you thinking about this, when you look in the mirror do you see a valuable treasure of God’s reflecting His very nature…or do you see less than that?  Can I tell you something, this is a huge challenge for so many of us to simply see the truth over the broken self-view that so many of us have.  So I wanted to start with you understanding how important – how you view your self is.  Then I wanted you to see and resonate with what God sees and created you to be.  But now I want to talk to you about why so many of us struggle with what we see when we look in the mirror, and I will just say it this way to get started, we must consider the source…

I’m not sure there has been anything I personally have struggled with more than getting to a place where I understood the truth about who God created me to be.  I can look back over my life and show you a lot of hurts in my life.  We can talk about the many mistakes that I made in life, and as my long and sorry list of issues started piling up, I really struggled at what I saw when I looked in the mirror.  Growing up a Preacher’s Kid wasn’t always the easiest thing and in many ways I felt kind of pulled between who I am, and who everyone around me wanted me to be…that was a big struggle for me growing up.  Around the church there was an unspoken expectation of what the Pastor’s family should be and should look like, and that was something I felt a lot.  I also struggled at school with wanting to fit in, and made a lot of dumb choices to try and live down that preacher’s kid title…and the more I screwed up, the more messed up I felt, and the more messed up I felt, the more inward I went.  I felt like in every environment I had to almost apologize for who I was.  With every poor decision it just got worse, and I will tell you I just hated who I was.  I was a mess.  I couldn’t talk to anyone about it in my own opinion.  I didn’t know how to be myself because I had pretended for so long to be who everyone else wanted me to be, and frankly I just was lost, and through that time I really made a lot of agreements about who I was verses who God said I was…and I realized something as I came out of those difficult and dark and painful moments of my life.  I was being told by everyone else who I should be, rather than standing as who God created me to be.  I was stuffing the person God created deep down inside, to try and fit in and be what the world wanted me to be…and it wasn’t going well.

It’s amazing how everyone around us at school, at work, on social media, in our community seems to be pushing in on us on how we should be, or who we should be, and how we should act and it’s amazing how much that can affect us!  I never understood why I never seemed to fit in anywhere.  I can still feel that I don’t always fit in today, but the difference is that I now understand that the world pushes hard on me to be something I am not.  The world is always telling me who I am, or who I should be, and mostly, the world tells me that I am less than who God created me to be, and the voice I need to listen to is God’s and not anyone else.  I now understand and am thankful that I don’t always fit in with this world!  So we must consider the source on who we are and where our true value comes from because the world is controlled by our enemy.  The world will always try to remind you that you don’t measure up, that you are less, and that you need to be something you are not.  We must consider the source of where we are finding our value, because when it comes to the world…it’s just not going to every get us to a place where we can look in the mirror and be ok with what we see.  Check this out…

1 John 5:4 For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. 5 And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. NLT

So as we watch this powerful story of Ashley Rawls please personalize this…and ask yourself the question…When you look in the mirror what do you see?

I am Second Video – Ashley Rawls

One of the things that impacts me so much her story is just how hard it was for her to be herself.  She had no ability to find her value in God, and it led her down a devastating path.  What an amazing story and it really had me thinking about this.  How does this happen to us?  Why can’t we see an accurate view of ourselves?  And when we can’t see just how valued we are by God just as we are, what a mess we can get into!

The first thing I want you to know is what is at the very center of this struggle for your identity and that is the fact that you are opposed.  You do have an enemy and he never wants you to be able to look in the mirror and see your true value.  He wants you to look in the mirror and hate yourself, the way Ashley did, the way I used to look at myself.  Remember that really important verse I read every week?  Jesus not only told you why He came…but explains that you have an enemy, and also what he is up to.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV

You need to understand that you live in a world at war, and your enemy is doing whatever he can to keep you from standing in who God created you to be.  Your enemy is terrified of the day when you stand in your God given identity and understand your true value.  Because when you stand as an image bearer, you will reflect God’s glory to this world…and your enemy is terrified of that.  So the world pushes in, and tries to keep you from ever seeing who you truly are, one loved by God…his treasure.  The scripture that I kept thinking of as I was putting this talk together is found in 1 John 2…

1 John 2:15 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. 16 Practically everything that goes on in the world — wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important — has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. 17 The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out — but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. MSG

So all of a sudden when I look in the mirror and see my true value, there is peace where there was hurt and restlessness.  What a beautiful verse.  This was really the verse as I watched Ashley’s story this week that just kept coming back to me.  I just kept thinking people, social media, perceptions, opinion…the world pushed in on her and told her what her reality should be and it wasn’t what God’s reality for her was.  She felt like she was alone, and even though it may have only been her perception, her reality was that she couldn’t share and that she was all alone in her pain…did you see that?  There were secrets and those secrets only made things worse and I think it’s important for us to talk about that.  Remember I told you we are opposed.  Well our enemy has many names, and when I think of this idea of feeling alone and hiding things from others, I think of how Peter describes our enemy as a roaring lion.  We saw in our scripture there…that the world just isolates us from God…I think that is exactly what our enemy wants.  Peter identifies the enemy this way…

1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  NIV

I think this is a very accurate illustration of our enemy, and when you think about it, the world pushes in on all of us that we need to look a certain way, and appear perfect even though none of us are.  We wouldn’t know anything about this in a church setting would we?  So we hide things, and we keep secrets so we look ok…think about it, what is the world doing?  It’s isolating us…then Peter tells us that our enemy is like a roaring lion waiting in the weeds looking for someone to devour…this is what lions do right?  They wait for an animal to isolate itself from the herd and then they attack that one…they aren’t going after those protected in the pack.  There is safety in numbers, strength in community so the lion waits, and once you are isolated he can eat.  Secrets kill you because they isolate you which is exactly where your enemy wants.  Thinking you are all alone, thinking you can never talk about it, or reach out for help…the world isolates you, so the lion can eat.  So please know, you are not alone, your enemy wants you thinking you are because he is very good at what he does.  You are not alone and you need to let people in!

So let me ask you the question again, because your answer to this question is a really big deal.

When you look in the mirror what do you see?  It’s amazing, for so many of us we would look at a beauty pageant winner like Ashley and say to ourselves she has it all, and when she looked in the mirror she hated what she saw.  You can look at someone like me who grew up in a Christian home, being taught the Gospel message, I mean I was taught the truth of God’s love and grace my whole life, and by my teenage years when I looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw.  It’s amazing whether you grow up dealing with the hurts of the public eye, hurts from people all around you, or some other messed up wound from your past, the pain is very real but it just seems to crush us, and we seem to get to this place where we either lose sight of or forget who God actually created us to be.  Think about your own life for a moment, and all that has happened, and all that shapes your view of self.  I think it’s probably safe to say that the world isn’t exactly celebrating you either.  That isn’t an accident, it’s no coincidence, this is deliberate.  This is the thief coming to steal, and kill, and destroy, his lies come across as truth and it can shape the lens by which you view life.

So when you look in the mirror what do you see?  Do you see the truth or do you see a lie?  Do you see a valuable child of God or do you hate what you see.  Can I tell you something, if you hate what you see you are believing the lies of this world…and it’s time to listen to the truth and the truth is that God loves you.  You are His treasure, His child…and to look in the mirror and see anything less is an absolute lie.  God doesn’t love you as you will be some day…he loves you period.  You matter.  Stand in that.  You are His child.

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family — calling him “Father, dear Father.” NLT

Romans 8:16 God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. 17 And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us — an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! MSG

This is how valuable you are.  This is how much you matter.  God loves you and realizing and standing in your God given identity is so important, it’s at the very center of the battle…your enemy never wants you to recognize what I just said.  He never wants you standing as who you truly were created to be.  Your identity has the power to shape your behavior and your entire direction in life.  It will impact your homes, your jobs, your relationships…everything.  Listen, your enemy isn’t worried about whether or not you are showing up at a church service on a Sunday morning.  He isn’t worried about you cleaning up a few behaviors in your life but make no mistake about this your enemy is terrified of you discovering your true identity in Christ.  Because when you stand centered on God and grasp your true value, your enemy has no power over you anymore and that is when things get fun.

So as we leave here today I want you thinking this through.  Do you recognize your value?  Do you see you are one loved and treasured by God?  So loved by Him that He would do this…

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  NIV

When you look in the mirror what do you see?