You know the other day I was thinking about something Paul said towards the end of Romans, and it’s stuck in my heart and mind lately. This is something that I don’t think too many of us people…and even us Christians who believe Christ lives in us can see or accept about ourselves.

Romans 15:14 I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness… NLT

Paul says he is convinced that you are full of goodness.  I wonder how many of us are convinced that we are full of goodness.  So many of us don’t see ourselves the way God’s Word does but are convinced that we are not good…that we aren’t getting it done, that we don’t measure up.  Why is it that the negative stuff in our lives is so much easier to believe than the good?  The world pushes all that we are not while God’s Word tells us we are full of goodness. Well, today we are going to talk about why that is because it is rare to see people standing tall in the world we live in today.  So, I want to start with an exercise…and to do that I need you to think back a bit.

I want you to think back to a time in your life when you were truly happy, and confident in who you were as a person.  Can you remember a time in your life when you thought and felt good about yourself?  A time when you were confident and happy with who you were as a person?  For some of us, we may think back to our childhood and find a time when we felt larger than life, happier, and more at peace than we do today.  So, think about that version of you for a moment.  What happened to that person who was able to look in the mirror and be okay with the person looking back at them?  Now think about how it would feel to live with that self-view in life today.  For so many of us, we may be able to remember that version of ourselves, thinking we could conquer the world, able to feel happy or at least not disappointed or concerned in who we are or who we are not as a person…it may be such a distant memory that it doesn’t even feel real today…so what happened?  Why can’t we see ourselves as good, or like Paul convinced of the good in ourselves?

You know, the world we live in just has a way of taking that from us, doesn’t it?  Do you find that coincidental?  As you think back to that version of yourself, odds are, that was at a time in life long before this world and the people of it started in on you.  Pointing out all the things we are not, and all the things we do not or did not have.  That version of yourself was so pure-hearted and felt so alive, didn’t it?  It was a time before this world tore into your heart, your mind, and your soul and pointed out everything that didn’t matter before the world showed it to you.  It was a time when we didn’t care what others thought of us.  When we were just able to be ourselves.  When we laughed, like really laughed in a way that we don’t anymore, when we played, and just had fun without a care in the world about how we dressed, what we looked like, if we had what other people had, or how others felt about us…can you think back over your life and remember moments like that?   Maybe you don’t ever remember a moment like that, but I could confidently say that if you do, it was before the world and the people of it truly got to begin influencing your life and doing its best to help you see all your flaws and how you aren’t what you once thought you were.  That was a time before we began suppressing or hiding who we were created to be, a time before we ever thought to hide our true selves, a time before the world and the people of it started tearing us down and keeping us from ever seeing ourselves the way we should.  The way God does…and that is what we are going to talk about today.   Today we dive into the challenge of seeing ourselves as God does, of truly knowing and standing in our value and self-worth in a world that is trying to keep us from ever doing that.  This is the challenge of our lives.  It is getting to the place where we not only accept and are okay with ourselves but are able to see ourselves accurately as God sees us and understand how valued we truly are.  This changes everything in your life allowing you to live in that freedom and life to the fullest that we always talk about and point to, that so few ever find and experience.  Today could be a game-changer, and I can’t wait to jump into this with you.

This fall we are in an incredibly important conversation on the most important, but most ignored area of our lives.  We are talking about and focusing on the soul.  This allows us to talk about the areas of our lives that so many of us are struggling with these days, our inner worlds, and our emotional and mental health.  I don’t know that coming into this conversation we would have tied our mental health and our spiritual lives together, so this may be a new thought, but it is an important one.  Our soul is tied directly to our mental health and inner world.   We must understand that we are profoundly spiritual beings, and there is no irony in the fact that as we sit in the middle of a mental health crisis while culturally and as a people, we choose to distance ourselves from God.  We are ignoring our souls and it is destroying us from the inside out.  It’s not ironic that as we distance ourselves from God, we struggle internally.  We must care for our souls.  God put a soul in your body and breathed life into your soul.  We must understand that we are profoundly spiritual beings with a soul.  Your soul is the source of your life; if you ignore it, it becomes the source of your pain.  So, this is an incredibly important conversation talking about this profoundly important and often ignored area of our lives.  This gives us a chance to talk about things that are way too popular in our world today, and we want you to see that so many of these painful realities and struggles come down to your soul and how it is being cared for…or not.  This is not to undermine true medical conditions or issues; we believe in doctors and medicine, but we want to show you that a spiritual being with a soul must understand that the soul needs to be cared for because when it is ignored it is the source of our pain.

Early on in this series, we are talking about things that so many of us are struggling with in our lives, things that we may have never realized are profoundly spiritual issues as our soul processes things in our lives.  We talked about three big ones so far.  We talked about discouragement, which is how our soul processes the circumstances of our lives.  We talked about depression, which is how your soul processes regret.  Here in Dillsburg, and next week at MRG we are talking about anxiety which is how your soul processes fear.  Now today we are going to talk about the most opposed part of your life.  The one thing that will change and impact all areas of your life most.  The one thing your enemy would never want you to see.  The one message this world never wants you to hear and accept in your life.  Today we talk about how your soul processes God’s love and acceptance of you, our discussion is all about our value and self-worth and whether we can stand in it…or not.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Could this quote be true?  That the greatest accomplishment of your life is to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else?  Can you simply be yourself?  Or, if you really stopped and thought about it, you are doing your best to fit in, and not always able to be yourself in this world?  Well, while I’m asking you questions, I need to ask a challenging one here as we truly start diving into this.  This is an important question.  Now, the truth is while it may take you a second to think about your answer, you are answering this question every day of your life.  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, mind, and soul.  The answer to this question absolutely affects how you think, how you carry yourself, and even affects 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, relationships, and life.  Your answer to this question is even determining how you treat your own self and even affects your ability to share Jesus with those who don’t know Him…or not.  So, it affects literally every area of your life from how you treat yourself, to how you treat others, to the impact your life has, to whether or not you are standing in your true God-given purpose…are you ready for the question?  It’s a big one.  When you look in the mirror what do you see?  How do you view yourself?  Do you look in the mirror and see value or do you look in the mirror and see everything this world would want you to see?  Far too many of us struggle to see the good in ourselves, we struggle to see our value and self-worth and the effects are devastating.  We may have at one time before this world got ahold of us been at total peace in our inner worlds, our souls…but look at the devastation in people today.  The despair, the depression, the loneliness, the hopelessness…people walking in such inner turmoil today.  Look at how devastated and hurt we get as we go out into this world and learn hard, painful, flat-out evil, and false things about ourselves.  The world is set up to keep you from ever understanding the truth about yourself.  Your enemy is terrified that you would ever stand up as the person you were created to be, so he attacks this area of your life the most, and he does so in such painful and devastating ways that it is rare to ever see someone stand up, accept their true value and self-worth and be the very person God created them to be.  Convinced of their goodness, as Paul would say.  Life is so hard, so painful, we are seeing too many people fall, too many people devalue themselves to a point where they have no hope and lose everything right down to their desire to live…and it’s time to talk about it and begin to see the assault on your value and self-worth.  It happens every day in this world, no one is immune from this one, and it’s time to get into it.

There are some deep desires that are wired into each of us in life, and I want to show you how these desires can be very good but also can be twisted up and cause us to fall deeper into hurt and despair if we aren’t going to the right places to fulfill these needs or desires in our lives.

First, we all want to fit in (and we often feel like we don’t.)

 I want you to understand that deep down, we have been wired by God with some deep needs.  We were created to do life with people, and deep down we want to belong; we want to fit in.  If you don’t believe me?  Look around.  Look at how we dress.  Look at how we act.  Listen to the way we talk.  Every one of us is looking for a place to fit in and there is just this current, like a fast-moving stream that keeps us all flowing in the same direction.  Don’t believe me?  Do you remember the clothes you wanted desperately to be wearing to fit in back in the day?  Well, kids, this is how your parents dressed in the 80’s.

We learned words like “awesome”, “chill out”, and “dude”.  We went all in on windbreakers, hair spray, and fluorescent colors because we all have a deep desire to fit in.  It’s the fall which means it’s football season, and for many men, this is their time of year.  They are all in on their team.  They wear the jerseys and get super excited, and they go to work and talk about their teams.  They find other people who are also fans of their team, and they talk about who knows the most about that team…why is that?  They are finding a place to fit in and have something in common.  We all want to fit in.  The other day I was at the gym and didn’t realize I had a Steelers shirt on, and once again I was reminded by men who would walk up and ask how I think “we” are doing or tell me the Steelers stink that we all want to fit in!

Now, here’s what is interesting though, God wired you with a deep desire to fit in, just not the way the world has twisted it up on you.  You see when we don’t go to God for our identity and self-worth and we turn to this world, we can end up in some wild spots, rallying around things that are empty, that never lead us to truly fulfilling that desire to fit in.  It comes as we truly understand that we are part of a family, God’s family.  And it has nothing to do with the clothes we wear or the teams we root for, but it has everything to do with the fact that we are children of God.

1 John 3:1 How great is the 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. NIV

We desperately want to fit in, and we do…we fit into God’s family.  We are His children, and that is where we fit in, the issue is…and it’s right there in the Scripture…the world will NOT know us, we won’t fit in with this world, because the world doesn’t know God.  Do you see the setup here?  We want to fit in, it’s a deep desire, but we turn to this world to try to fit in, even though Scripture says we won’t be accepted by the world, we keep trying, and it leads us into some devastating issues as we try to fit into this world, which Scripture says, it will never work.  God keeps telling us that we are full of goodness while this world keeps telling us we are not.

Second, we all want to matter (and we often feel like we don’t.)

You know, deep down we all want to feel like we were put on this planet for a reason.  We want to feel like we matter and that we have a purpose in life.  While we all want it, and we all do have a God-given purpose on this Earth, we often go searching for meaning and purpose in other areas or places in life.  We want something to rally around, and we will go and find it somewhere, but when it isn’t God, we will find it in all kinds of other things that never fulfill that deep desire in us because we aren’t standing in our true purpose in life.  I could take you to many places in Scripture that show us that you matter and have purpose, that you were created for a reason but let’s look at what Paul says…

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. NLT

We all want something to rally behind, to sink our teeth into, to go and do.  That desire is wired into us by God.  You do matter.  You were created by God on purpose for a purpose, and for so many of us as we search for purpose, we drift into areas of our lives that give us some sense of meaning while never sitting in our calling, or the actual purpose we were created for…so we fight and find some sense of self-worth while never satisfying that desire in our lives.  The reality is we do matter, we struggle to see it, as we try to fit in, and find value without ever realizing this truth…we are God’s masterpiece, and we do have an important role to play, the sooner we get this, the better.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. NLT

God wants us to see and be convinced of the good in us, the world just doesn’t want you to see this.

Third, we all want to feel loved (and we often don’t feel deserving of love.)

At the deepest part of who we are is this struggle to feel loved and accepted.  This is another part of God’s design.  It’s also another area of our lives that the world twists up and uses to keep us from ever understanding the truth.  That we are loved by God and that through Jesus we are accepted.  Until we understand and accept this as true for our lives we struggle, searching for love in all the wrong places in life…while the only place this desire is fulfilled is in Our Heavenly Father.

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

What’s interesting is that is a verse most Christians know and can recite, while struggling to understand and accept about themselves.  We just don’t seem to see how loved we are by God.  Because we don’t grasp this, we search for love and acceptance everywhere we should not, and we find ourselves empty, wanting, and never grasping how loved, and valuable we are to God.  This is devastating as we watch this unfold in people as they fail to grasp the concept of God’s love in their lives.  They don’t see it, and they search for it in imperfect people who hurt them, and let them down in painful ways…over, and over again.  It’s another way the world pushes that we aren’t good while God tries to show us that we are. This is why Paul’s prayer is so meaningful…remember this from last week?

Ephesians 3:16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. NLT

You know, I think these three things are the struggles we all face in life.  You may word it a little differently but at its core this is the challenge.  We want to fit in, we want to matter, and we want to feel loved and accepted.  The issue is we go to all the wrong places for those things, and it leads to devastating results in our minds, our hearts, and our souls.  We live in a world that never wants us to see our value and self-worth.  We are assaulted daily in this area of our lives, and we are seeing so many people broken and hurting, and just devaluing their own lives today.  This is the challenge of your life, to stand in your true value, to get to this place where you are okay with the person you see in the mirror each day, and it just won’t happen unless God is central in your heart, mind, and soul…otherwise, we chase acceptance, love, and value for our lives in areas and places that never allow us to truly find it.

I started this talk by asking you to think back to a time when you were okay with the person you see in the mirror each day.  Frankly, for some of us that may have been hard to do, but odds are for most of us it was a time when we didn’t have the world and people of this world influencing our lives in negative and painful ways.  It was a time before school, work, and social media.  It was a time when maybe the only real voice we heard was a parent, or someone building into our lives…we didn’t have all these other negative voices showing us how little we matter, how we aren’t fitting in, and trying to force us to be like everyone else.   It’s so hard out there, in a world full of people that take, that hurt, that point out all that we are not, and can just tear up your heart, and destroy your self-view.  We live in a world that is set up and designed to keep you from ever seeing what God sees in you, the good in you.  This world is trying to keep you from ever standing as the person He created you to be.  This is the battle, the world will take it all from you if it can, it isn’t nice, it isn’t easy, and it truly beats us down as people if we allow it to, and if the world and not God is the priority or focal point of our lives…so let’s talk.

So far in this series, we are talking about some brutal realities that we humans struggle with as our soul processes things like the challenging circumstances we will face in life, regret in our life, and fear in our life…huge issues in our lives…discouragement, depression, and anxiety.  Did you notice that the answer to overcoming all these issues in our lives came back to the same thing?  It all came back to accepting and trusting in God’s love for you.  It all came back to getting to this place where you could accept this truth in your life.  That God’s love for you is so great that you can trust in Him, and His protection, provision, and care for your life.  We just struggle to see ourselves as God sees us and it leads to so much damage in our lives…God’s word says we are full of goodness, this world never would allow you to see or agree with that.  The way through is to focus on God’s word and how we truly are seen and known by God…when you get this and stand as the person God created you to be, you live differently.  So, as we close this down today, I want you to see the truth about who you are, and I want you to hold onto this as you go back into another week in this difficult world…that never wants you to hear or accept what I’m about to show you.

First – You are created by God in His image. 

This isn’t something that should be lost to us.  We are created by God in His image!  Check this out.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. NIV

That is incredible and something to focus on.  Now, I also want you to see something subtle that is found at the end of the 6th day of creation after God created us in His image…

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. NIV

Not only did God create us in His image, but when He was done, he took a step back and was pleased.  He saw you and it was very good.  God’s word is trying to convince us that we are good, the world doesn’t want you to ever see that.  For so many of us looking in the mirror each day, instead of pointing out all that we are not, we need to focus on how God sees us.  We are made in His image, and we are good.  While the negative stuff is so easy to see and accept, this is the first truth that changes our self-view and can shape a new direction in our lives.

Second – You matter greatly to God!

While this world would never want you to see this or accept this, you have tremendous value to God.  I love this wording in Isaiah here found in the Message version.

Isaiah 43:1 But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. 2 When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end —  3 Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! 4 That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. MSG

The idea that God would create us in His image and think it is good, the idea that He would pay such a high price for us can almost be too much for some of us to accept, but we must see this.  We matter this much to God.  We are this loved, even though we know all our issues and mistakes and how little we deserve this love that God lavishes on us, it is ours.  We are good.  Remember that even though you don’t feel worthy of God or don’t think you have earned His love and acceptance it is yours!

Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. NLT

For so many of us, we have allowed this world, and all the people of it to convince us of things about ourselves that just aren’t true.  We struggle to see ourselves the way God sees us.  We look in the mirror and we don’t see good; we see all we are not.  We live in a fallen world that never wants you to understand the truth about who you are because when you do, you will find freedom and joy and life to the full, and you will step into all that life can be.

So, how do you view yourself?  Do you see what the world sees or what God sees?  Coming in here today you may have seen all that you are not.  You may have accepted all that the world pushes on your heart and soul, that you do not fit in, that you do not matter, that you are not loved or lovable…none of that is true.

Romans 15:14 I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. NLT

The only way to combat that is to find and pursue God in your life…because God wants you to see what He sees, and the world does not.  This world is designed to keep you from standing as the person God created you to be.  You will never find love, acceptance, fulfillment, or meaning in your life from this world…as much as it tries to make you think you need to pursue the world to find it…you never will, it is only found in God.  So, from now on, I want you to look in the mirror and remind yourself.  YOU ARE GOOD.  You do fit in with God’s family.  You do matter and have great value to God and His Kingdom’s work.  You have a purpose, there is a reason you are on this planet, and is to find and fulfill God’s plan for your life that He drew up for you long, long ago.  You have such a high value that God sent His one and only Son to this Earth to lay down His life for you…while you were still sinning…not because you deserved it or earned it, but because that is how much you matter to God.  That is how loved and cherished you are by God…that is how beautiful His love is for you.

This world and the people of this world that you are trying so hard to fit in with and impress will never care about you, will never be impressed by you, and will never love you this way, only God does that.  So, if you are struggling with your value and self-worth, if you can’t see that you and all of who you are is full of goodness…it’s because you are not searching for your value and finding it in God, you are looking for it in all the wrong places in your life.  This is a massive setup for so many and will never allow you to stand as the person you truly are or were called to be…you will do your best to surpass who you are and hide the real you, and never stand tall, and never find all you are looking for in life.

So, this is it.  I leave you with this one question today.  Are you convinced that you are full of goodness?  Are you good?  Or are you listening to this world instead of God?  Your answer to this question will determine every aspect of your life.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Do you see what God sees or do you see what this world keeps pushing on you?