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About this series
Overcoming the Pain of Your Past
Pain. It is part of the human experience, and one of the things that helps us grow to maturity. But for some of us the pain we have experienced feels crippling. Broken promises, dysfunctional families, damaged relationships and rejection keep us from experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised. Sometimes it's a challenge just to get through the day, let alone to extend love and strength to those around us. The Bible, however, offers great hope for pressing on. From the book of Ephesians, learn who you really are and why the pain of your past doesn't have to obscure God's plan for your future.More from this series
Mirrors are very powerful things. You can kind of think something about yourself and walk into the bathroom and go, “Oh my. It’s not exactly what I thought.” Or the lighting, I’ve learned, I have to travel a lot and the lighting in the bathrooms in airplanes is extraordinarily revealing. It is not soft light. You can go in there to brush your teeth and age ten years or just see what you’ve never seen before.
But there are not just physical mirrors that are powerful. There are mirrors that we all have, it’s the mirrors of a little boy looking up when he does something and it’s a mom’s disapproval. She didn’t even say anything.
It’s the mirror of going to school early on and thinking, “Wow, don’t you really look cool,” and you realize about three minutes later you don’t not only look cool but people are laughing at you.
It’s the mirrors of disapproval from your spouse. It’s the mirror of a boss who says, “You don’t measure up.” It’s the mirror of someone who says, “You’re dumb. You’re lazy. You’ll never amount to anything.”
It’s the mirrors of the media that say that if you don’t have this perfect body and this perfect way that you really aren’t acceptable.
And there are all kind of mirrors that, over time, have told you this is who you are. Now what I want to tell you is how you think about yourself, and who you really are, can be drastically different.
We experience distortions that affect our lives, our relationships because of mirrors past and present. It’s a lot like when you’re a little kid and you grow up it’s like, you ever been to one of those fun houses where you get in one mirror and it looks like you’re eight feet wide and then you run to the next mirror and it looks like you’re a toothpick and eleven feet tall and then you go to another mirror, and you go to another mirror, and it shows you all these different mirrors and then there is the regular one that’s “normal.”
You need to understand there have been people, experiences, trauma, rejection, media that have happened in your life that have implanted little, warped mirrors that have come together to tell you who you think you are.
One author put it this way, it was very insightful. He says, “We are not what we think we are, we are not even what others think we are. We are what we think others think we are.”
We’re going to talk about overcoming a warped self-image and a self-image is the mental picture or concept of one’s self as a person. It’s your own idea of who you are, your sense of worth. It’s the composite picture of all those mirrors that have come together over time. And you get stuck here. You get stuck here.
But what I want to do is I want to spend some time and we’re going to look at the problem. And here’s the outline in your mind: We’re going to talk about how did you, how did I, how do we as people develop our self-image? How do those mirrors come together where you have a picture, a composite picture in your mind of who you think you are?
Then what I want to do is show you, briefly, what’s the impact of that if it’s inaccurate? And then we’re going to get to the really good news where God’s going to say, “There is a mirror that’s accurate. There is a mirror that’s accurate one hundred percent of the time and you’re going to have these kind of mirrors.” They don’t go away, do they?
You have neighbors, church members, people, sons, daughters, friends. You’re always getting perceptions from people and God’s going to say, “Here’s a mirror. And I’m going to show you who I not only think you are but who I made you to be. I’m going to show you that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made and I’m going to show you that with your warts, and your hurts, and your background, and your baggage, I’m going to say some things about those of you that are in Christ that will shatter the warped mirrors of your past.”
Now, what you know from all the research is that the most powerful influence in your life about your self-perception is your parents, your family of origin – your mom, your dad, or lack thereof.
The second most powerful thing we learn over time is that authority and role models as well as peers over time. People that you look up to, people that have leverage. It can be an older brother and sister, it can be a sports hero, it can be a pastor. We all have people in our lives that we look up to and so what they think carries more. Our peers, there is a season, especially in the teenage years where what our peers think.
And then you have the media sending you messages all the time, all the time telling you, you know, “This is how you need to look, this is what you need to drive, this is what’s cool, this is what’s out, this is what’s in. This is the kind of school you need to go to, these kind of people are really wonderful, these kind of people are not very wonderful.”
You need to be so tall, you need to be so skinny, you need to own this, you need to do that. And then all the while, God has given us a conscience and the conscience inside of us is built to say, “This is right and this is wrong.” But your conscience gets trained and so your conscience gets educated and trained so some people have an overdeveloped conscience where they feel very guilty about things that God says are not wrong.
And so they live with overwhelming guilt and shame. Often early on this comes from, you know, family of origin background or from an ultra-legalistic view of life. On the other hand, some people’s conscience, it’s underdeveloped and they can use people, abuse people, not even feel bad about it.
But your conscience and the condemnation, lack of condemnation, if it’s not accurately attuned to Scripture, it sends you messages as well.
All this together then you have a world system that’s very interesting and the world system basically says it’s about your appearance, your performance, and your status.
So the world is going to tell you that how you look, what you can do, and who do you know? Right? I mean isn’t that? So for example, if you would take, I only brought one. Often I bring five or six magazines and so I decided not to bring some of the usual ones.
But I thought I would start with, now this is, you go, if you go out of the grocery store, every time you go out of the grocery store you need to understand that the messages of the media of the world are screaming at you and saying to you, “This is how you need to look, this is what you need to have, this is what makes you secure, or significant, or worthwhile.”
And so People Magazine is going to tell us things about, “Oh, that’s, those are the beautiful people,” right?
And Forbes is going to say, “If you get more zeros then you’re really a somebody.” And Cosmo, or Seventeen, or Vogue, or Us are going to say, “If you can look like this,” right?
And so I have, you know, if you’re on the first few rows here I picked up, today, just went to the grocery store. This is Vogue magazine, you have two beautiful women on each side and then you have a guy whose full-time job is to create abs.
No one gets a body like this without a lot of money, surgery, and you’re full-time job is in the gym. And yet, so I walk out and I’ve only got three small kids I’m taking care of as a woman, or I’m a seventeen year old and I look at Seventeen, or Us, and what I’m told is, “Guys, that’s acceptable.” This is one percent of the gene pool with a lot of money, and a lot of time, and touched up pictures.
But you’re fed that every commercial, every billboard, every magazine. And then if they really want to sell you something, if you’re a woman, they have someone who looks like this. This does not exist. No one can be this beautiful. I mean this is hours of makeup. There is a fan blowing. I mean, the cheekbones have been raised by the computer. I mean, no one can actually look this beautiful, in this kind of light.
But just so the guys don’t feel out of it, “Does that man look absolutely fantastic? Is this man sexy or not, huh? He is a hunk! And if you wear this cologne the women will come after you.”
And then page, after page, after page in this magazine is of people who, if you only look like them then you’d be a somebody. All I want you to see is you are living in a system that rewards maybe one or two percent of the entire population, that focuses on things you can’t control, and tells you resounding messages from the day you were born, “You’re unacceptable, you don’t measure up, you’re unwanted, you’re not significant, and you’re not secure.”
And even as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Spirit dwells in us, left to ourselves with our minds not renewed, and without a sensitivity to block some of those messages, we can love God, think things are going exactly the way we think we think He wants us to go and we can spend our time and our energy and our money performing and seeking status and doing all the kind of things that those messages say to fill holes in your hearts of a warped self-image thinking, “If, you know what, if I could only look like that. If I could just get that surgery, if I could just drive that car, if I could just have more of those bags with the little design so people at the airport know I’m a really important person, if I could just get the kind of watch that people understood, if we could just get this remodeled.
“You know what? If we could just go to vacation in these kind of places. If I just got to know someone, if our kids could just get SAT scores that, if they could go to a prestigious college, if my kid could get on the traveling team.”
Why? Why? Because there are deep holes in what you think about yourself and who I think about myself and we are searching for significance and security and acceptance in how we look, what we can do or perform, and the status that we achieve.
And we achieve status by our wealth, by our notoriety, by our education, by the people that we know and then what we can do is we can take all of those and baptize them and bring them into the Christian community and then we know really cool, Christian people and it’s by how much of the Bible that we know and it’s, right?
The impact of a warped self-image is insecurity and inferiority. It produces a performance orientation. Anybody know any fellow Christians that are workaholics? Why? Well, why would you be driven to work, work, work, go, go, go, achieve, achieve, achieve, why? Because that’s your worth.
For others it produces withdrawal. I mean how many times, as a woman, how many times are you going to see this and realize, “You know what? I don’t think I can ever compete with that. I don’t have a full-time chef. I don’t have a full-time trainer. I don’t have people that can give me surgeries when I start to sag.” And you just withdraw and you just say, “I just can’t go there. I quit. I give up.”
And in the Christian community we’re not immune to any of this. And so our responses are denial, often our responses are we compensate, we do things like give stuff to our kids to make us feel like we’re successful. We have addictive behavior.
Now, as Christians often it’s the same as the world, it might be prescription drugs or alcohol but often it’s, you know what? It’s eating, it’s going to the refrigerator, it’s ministry, it’s people pleasing, it’s co-dependency.
There is a lot of unhealth and dysfunction that become respectable, Christian sins but you know what? You don’t experience the power of God, you don’t experience the love of God, and we reproduce the dysfunction in our own children and grandchildren.
And so we have these unfulfilled longings for significance and unconditional acceptance that results in people that are very, very unhappy. Now here’s the thing. Here’s the thing, here’s the irony of God.
I don’t know the three people on the front of that magazine. I don’t know their names, and I purposefully didn’t go with the big stars and I could name, we could say, “Well, who are the people on American Idol, or who are the people in the World’s Next Model, or who are the people that are the big baseball stars, football stars, basketball stars, and whatever reality show is coming,” and whatever names are gonna change in five years, it’ll be different names.
All I can tell you, the one percent of the gene pool that’s making ten, to twelve, to twenty million dollars a year, who are the most beautiful people of the year, have the most prestigious jobs, and whether that’s entertainment, or whether that’s business, or whether that’s CEOs you just look at the pattern of suicide, divorce, relational fallout, misery, unhappiness, and addictions.
So, what we all consciously or unconsciously are chasing, the one percent that have it, tell us it produces no happiness. It produces no peace.
So, what I want you to understand here too is that’s not just psychological stuff. There is an enemy to your soul called Satan who led a third of the angels, who are now called demons, and His primary MO is lies.
You don’t need to have stuff move in your house, you don’t need to have, you know, visual manifestations of demonic activity. You don’t need to be in places where it’s overseas where it’s bizarre or where demonic activity is occurring. I will tell you what. As long as we believe lies, given to us gently about performance, status, significance, and success that you need to look like that, or perform like that, or own that, you know what? He’ll be glad to stay undercover and let us chase the wrong things and ruin our lives, trying to fill these holes in our warped self-image.
So, there is a spiritual battle going on. When we’re going to talk about making some of the changes, and renewing your mind, and getting a new focus, and seeing how God sees you I just want to warn you it won’t be just, you know, some new thinking.
There is going to be resistance to you, disciplining yourself to learn who you really are in Christ. There will be some discipline to say, “You know something? There are certain things that I can’t watch anymore. There are certain people that maybe I shouldn’t hang out with because it always drives me to these same places of comparison, these same places of condemnation, these same places of I don’t measure up, I’m unworthy.”
Now, the great thing is is that God has some amazing good news, awesome good news, powerful good news. He’s going to say that, “I want you to see yourself the way I see you.”
Notice, at the very top of your notes it’s Romans chapter 12 verse 3. What does God say about self-image? He says that you’re not inferior, He says you’re not worthless, you’re not insignificant. He says, “I made you exactly the way I made you. You have a DNA that no one else on the planet, almost seven billion people, you are unique, you’re valuable, you’re loved, you’re accepted if you’re in Jesus Christ, and here’s the deal.” Here’s His command.
“For through the grace of God given to me,” the apostle Paul would write, “I say to every man, every person among you, not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think but to think as to have sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
I’d like you, in your notes, underline the word “think” every time it comes up. He’s just told you to offer your body as a living sacrifice, verse 1. He said stop being conformed to the pattern of this world, the Vogues, the People, the Cosmo, the Forbes. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind so you could experience God’s will, that it’s good, acceptable, and perfect.
Now what He says is, you need to have a right view of yourself. Don’t think too high of yourself, don’t think too low of yourself, think, think, think. And then that word “sober judgment.” The word for “sober,” same root word as “think.”
All significant life-change begins in your thinking. Not your behavior. Not even in your attitudes. Not even emotions or trying hard.
“As a man thinks in his heart so he is.” “The mind set on the flesh is death; the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” “Set your mind,” Colossians 3, “on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth” - where Christ is.
Chapter 4 of Ephesians, what’s he say? “Take off the old man, have your mind renewed, put on the new man.” Thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking.
He says think accurately about yourself. The opposite word, this word for “sober” is used. The opposite of it is people that are drunk, they’re intoxicated. When you’re drunk or intoxicated what is true of you? You have a warped perception.
“Hey! You know what? It’s only four stories down. Hey! Watch me! I can go on this ledge!” Duh. Dumb. Perception.
See, when you’re drunk your mind is influenced in a way where reality is blurred. And what God is saying is, for some of us, “Your self-image has been warped and it’s been warped by the spiritual, emotional media, and family alcohol, so that when you think about who you really are it’s wrong.” It’s not true. And He says, “I want you to think accurately about yourself according to the measure of faith.”