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About this series
Discover Your True Self
How to Silence the Lies of Your Past and Actually Experience Who God Says You Are
Who are you? Who says so? You? Your family? Your friends? From the first two chapters of the book of Ephesians, Chip helps you discover who God says you are as a believer in Christ. Understanding your position, the freedom, and the power you possess as a child of the Most-High God, enables you to move beyond the struggles and the uncertainty we all experience to living an amazing life of peace and assurance. It equips you to serve others with humility and patience and it empowers you to forgive and share with lavish generosity. People will wonder what your story is and with the help of this series, you'll be able to answer with confidence.More from this series
I think we all understand intuitively that we have this God-given need to know that we matter, to know that we are valuable, to know that we are important. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a psychology major to understand that our parents are the very first people in our life – for better or for worse – that imprint into your soul, into your mind that answers the question: what makes me valuable? What makes me important? Do I really matter?
And for some, you had great parents and for others, not-so-great parents. For some, out of their control, they weren’t around. But I want to share a story before we begin to talk, about finding the real you.
And I want to dig down deep a little bit. You can lean back and relax as we get started. And it’s a true story. There are no bad people in it. If, by chance, you recognize yourself or your family in it, it’s just because it’s so common.
But until we begin to understand that the fundamental issue in our life is not our behaviors that we need to change, not our emotions that we need to fix, or not even problem relationships that somehow that lead to addictions and struggles. All those things are symptoms.
But underneath all those things, until you grasp and understand there is something far deeper that, when you address it, one by one, those symptoms begin to dissipate.
And so, here’s the story. He’s a friend many, many years ago, and his parents came from another country. They were immigrants. They, like many immigrants, didn’t speak the language. They came from a harsh situation from around the world. They took menial jobs early on learning English. They started a small family business, worked extraordinary hours, and as they developed this small family business came to this one conviction: in this new land called America, we want our kids to have a better life.
And out of the most sincere and deepest desire, they learned that the pathway to a better life was education. They worked night and day and, yet, after school for an hour or two or more, every single night, as my friend said, “We did extra homework. We couldn’t just get As. We had to get better than As.”
In fact, by the time he was in mid-elementary school, third grade, all day Saturday for five or six hours, they began studying and doing practice for the SAT and the ACT so they could get into the very best university.
He said, “The only thing that we, the only break we got the entire time was on Saturday afternoon for a couple hours, my mom thought we needed to be socialized and get to know the American culture, and there was a church on the corner. It was an evangelical, Bible-teaching church, and they had a youth group and they would drop us off there.”
These parents are just absolutely sacrificing everything they have to help their kids have a better life.
From the kids’ perspective, it felt a little bit different. They felt they were torn between two worlds. They wanted to be socially acceptable and culturally acceptable and they were studying when everyone else was having fun and the world and the culture of the America they were living in was far different than their parents. And unintentionally, the message they heard was: “We are only loved when we excel in school and when we excel professionally.” And the expectation is you not only do well in school, but you get into a prestigious university and then you have a prestigious job like a doctor or a lawyer.
And he said, “My sister worked really hard and maybe she was a little brighter than me. She got a perfect score on both the SAT and the ACT. Perfect. Missed nothing. She went to a very prestigious university and later did graduate work at another very prestigious university that you would all know.”
And then the story gets very painful. She has no relationship whatsoever with the family. She has changed her address three different times so her mother and family can’t contact her. She lived under this pressure of a lie that your value, your approval, your basis for being is when you excel and no matter how much she did, she never felt like it was enough. And the last thing she ever wanted to be was around her mother. And so, a mom filled with heartache produced a very successful daughter and lost her.
On the front of your notes, I have written some very important information from a classic book called The Search for Significance and I am going to talk about some things and I have put it in print, because some of you, I am going to begin poking around, literally, not me but God will in ways that you’re going to want to read this over again.
And so, please, open it up, follow along. “From the life’s onset, we find ourselves,” McGee writes, “searching to satisfy some inner unexplained yearning. Our hunger causes us to search for people who will love us. Our desire for acceptance pressures us to perform for the praise of others.”
Listen carefully, “Our desire to be loved and accepted is a,” underline this word, “symptom of our deeper need. The need that governs our behavior and is the primary source” – are you ready? “of our emotional pain often is unrecognized, this is our need for self-worth.”
And then insightfully he finishes saying, “Since the fall,” or, since sin entered the world, “mankind has often failed to turn to God for the truth about himself. Instead, he has looked to others to meet this inescapable need for self-worth. With phrases like: I am what others say I am,” and he reasons, “I will find my value in their opinion of me.”
And I want you to know there is no person in this room, there is no person that will listen or watch this that, from birth, you haven’t been imprinted with the formula that is on the bottom of the page in your notes, that your self-worth comes from your performance plus others’ opinions.
It is so deeply engrained that the issue of behaviors, of addictions you have learned from early on. Are you really good at this or not? Are you pleasing to people? Do they think you’re pretty? Does this group accept you? And so, all of us, in different ways in different groups – are you smart? Are you cute? Are you funny? Are you acceptable?
And different cultures and different histories and different families – they can come up with different ways, but all of us have been brainwashed that you’re valuable, you matter, and your importance as a human being isn’t just for who you are, it’s by what you do and what other people think of you.
Now, I put a question at the bottom of your notes and I would like you to lean in instead of lean back. And the question is: in what or whom do you tend to find your identity apart from Christ? For the great majority of you, you know the right answer: this is who I am in Christ. But the fact, for all of us until we meet Jesus, is we put our identity in other things and other people.
And the more honest you are willing to be in the next thirty seconds, the more you’re going to get out of this message. Because we all look for identity in other things than Jesus.
As I read my little list, I probably left out some, but it’s a pretty good list. I can identify with a number of them. When you hear the one you think might apply to you, why don’t you just put an asterisk in your mind?
Do you find your identity in success? Education? Is it money? Honestly. Not what you say, but is it fame? Is it looks? Is your identity you are funny? You’re the life of the party. You have those quick, funny remarks. Is it your children’s success? Is that what really makes you a someone?
Is it popularity? Are you one of those people that is in social media a lot and you really look at how many likes and how many comments and you realize you feel good when you get them and you don’t feel so good when you don’t?
Is it your reputation? Even a good one. You’re a great dad, you’re a good businessman, you’re a great mom, you’re a…
Is it ministry? Is your identity really built around: look at all you do for God and how well you do it? Could it even be your – are you ready? Your integrity or your morality? That everyone thinks you are, Wow! Straight-shooter, tell-the-truth.
Now, in and of themselves, none of those things are bad, are they? But none of them are the basis for your identity.
Now, turn the page with me, if you will, because I want to talk about, rather than the search for identity, I want to talk about your search for significance. The truth of the matter is, I don’t care how mature you are, I don’t think you graduate until heaven that you aren’t in some way looking for your identity in certain people or certain things other than Christ. So, why is that and how do we do that?
Notice in your notes, our attempts to meet our needs for success and approval fall into two broad categories: compulsion and withdrawal. And as I read these, I want you to just ask yourself: which one of these? We all probably do a little of both. Which one of these is your tendency? Here’s what I want you to get: if you will really get honest about who you are and how you think and what is going on in your heart and under the hood of your life, it will really help you begin to get liberated.
Those of us who seek our identity in compulsion, we tend to be perfectionistic. Workaholism. Driven to succeed. Obsessed with outward appearance. Manipulate and use people for personal achievement.
When I read that, it’s like Chip Ingram’s name is right next to that. I was a workaholic by the time I was twelve. To this day, still worry about what people think, wanting people’s approval, driven for success.
Now, it’s not as warped as it was, but that’s my default. We tend to marry someone with the other default and so it’s always nice to have your wife here.
Theresa’s tends to be withdraw, along with a lot of others. Avoid failure, avoid risk, gravitate towards people who are comforting and kind or very needy, because they are safe. Avoid relationships that demand vulnerability. Appear easy-going, but often run from potential situations or relationships that might not succeed.
Both of those things accomplish the same thing. It’s a goal to somehow prove to people or protect yourself from two things: the fear of rejection and the fear of failure. Until the day you die, you fear, and I fear rejection and failure.
But here’s the results when we put our identity this way. Number one, we become slaves. You become slaves to people’s opinions. And it can happen where you start as a little child and your whole life is you are living for someone else. You are slaves to the expectation of your father said you should be like this and you were gifted in that and you were never the star athlete, or you were supposed to be musical because they were. Or you have to get in school or you didn’t go to college, so you’re dumb. Or someone’s opinion who was an authority figure who said you were fat or slow or tall or dumb or unattractive.
And for some of us, we have been trying to prove: that’s not true! And for others, you have withdrawn, and you have become a slave to these invisible opinions.
Second, you become actors. All of us! We have this radar, these antennas. And with different groups and different seasons – watch little kids do it. We do it. And what we find out is: this is acceptable. When I say this, I get approval. When I dress like that, I get approval. When I say this, I get approval. When I achieve this, I get approval.
And so, over time, instead of becoming the real you, and understanding the real you, we can actually, even as believers, spend our whole life being slaves of what we think other people will approve of, and filling different roles in different seasons.
I remember when I was in high school and probably the greatest thing that happened when I received the gospel, it took a couple years or so, but I still remember this sense of: I am loved. Because, see, I became an actor. I found that in the locker room I could cuss like a sailor; around coaches and adults I could be the all-American boy; around girls that I wanted to date, I could be sweet and kind. And I just figured out: what does each group want? And you just play that role. You get…
And I remember coming to Christ and realize: Whoo. I am actually loved for who I am? See, the results actually are not just slavery and actors, but the real you is never seen. Sometimes, you have never seen the real you. This is so unconscious and so inbred in your psyche that you have tried to please and become “this person” that will be acceptable that you don’t even know who you are. You have believed all kinds of lies.
And even more tragically, the real you is never loved. We confuse affirmation for love. You get really good grades or you’re really great in sports or you are really faithful, or you are really responsible, or you are really something and people go, “Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!” I got praise for my workaholism. It produces a hard worker and a lot of As. But it was super dysfunctional.
But here’s the thing, see, the real you you know is this person and you are projecting this hologram, this image of this wonderful, kind, caring, responsible, whatever it is. And when people respond to that, it doesn’t penetrate, because what you know is that they don’t know you.
See, what you desperately need, I desperately need, every single person is craving for is someone that would see all that you are – the good, the bad, the ugly, the challenging – and are you ready? Love you just for you. And God says, I created you, and there are seven billion people, almost, on the whole earth, and He thinks you’re so important that there is no mold. Your DNA is different than any single person. Your eye color, how your brain processes information, your height, your gifts, your talents, your tendencies – He uniquely made you and loves you just the way you are.
And the greatest thing, the most attractive thing that happens to people is when you would discover: this is who God made me to be, and you have the freedom to say no to the lies, and you are you, it’s an amazing thing. The unique you is a very attractive person. But you’ve got to cut through the lies. And God says, That’s what I want to do. That’s why Jesus came.
I told the story about my friend and I only shared the part about his sister. Something happened to him. He really liked that youth group. He felt loved. They accepted him. He had never in his life ever opened the Bible and he began to read the Bible. He began to get God’s picture of him. He came to a personal relationship with Christ and little by little by little the lies that happened in his mind and his life began to change and as he matured and grew, he realized that grades are important, school is important and with all that training, he certainly did well. But he realized that it’s not what matters, it’s not what makes me valuable.
He had the grace to look behind his mom’s motives versus the resentment and the approval and he has a relationship with his family and now he actually went into business and then out of business, is helping people discover who they are and sending him to all kinds of places where people are in need around the world where his parents came from and helping them. It’s an amazing story.
But the difference between him and his sister and the relationship with his parents and the relationship with himself, there is not self-loathing with a bar that you can never achieve. He just understood: You know what? My mom is human. And she did the best she could with all that she had. But I am not going to believe the lie that I have to live up to some invisible standard to be valuable and important.
In fact, Jesus came and said this to a group of Jews who believed on Him, “If you continue in My word,” literally, the word, “if you abide in My word.” Not just hear it, not just “come to church,” but, “if you take in My word,” digest it and apply it to your life, then here’s what happens, “then you are truly My follower,” or, “My disciple.”
And here’s the result, “Then you’ll know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth about God, the truth about yourself, the truth about the future, the truth about eternity, and you’ll be free! You’ll be free. Free to be all that God made you to be.
Well, that raises the question: how does that happen? How do you really get to know the truth? What is true about you and me? And then how do you experience it?
In your notes, you’ll notice page three, it says, “In Christ you are…” so I just want to pause here. Everything I am going to say from this moment on, only applies to a certain group of people. It’s not that God doesn’t love everyone, but this applies to those who are in Christ.
As we look at Ephesians chapter 1, the first three chapters, this idea of “in Christ,” “in Him,” “in Christ” – everything I am going to say is for anyone who, at a certain point in time has recognized: I have been a rebel and a sinner against a holy God and I recognize that and confess that and I turn from my sin and in the empty hands of faith, “Lord Jesus, I believe and trust in You and You alone that when You hung upon the cross, You paid for my sin, You rose from the grave, You forgave me, and then You came into my life. I have been taken from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light and I am on this journey as You live Your life through me.”
Everything I am going to say only applies to those genuine followers or believers.
Number one, I want to tell you that you are chosen.
You’re not only chosen, but you’re adopted. God is your Father and He is committed to protect you and provide for you and cherish you as His child forever. What if that got from your head, eighteen inches down to your heart? God is my Father! Regardless of what your parents were like. Regardless if you have been through a marriage that didn’t work. Regardless if you have been fired from a job. God is my Father. He promised to provide for me and protect me. And no one can rob – He cherishes me. He sings over me with His love. I am valuable because He made me.
And third, you are redeemed. Big word. It means you have been purchased out of the slave market of sin by Jesus. And underline this: you are an infinitely precious and treasured possession.
Is that the opposite of: you only matter if you can look good? Or: you only matter if you can do this or do that? It’s the opposite of your performance. There is one person’s opinion. Your heavenly Father. You are infinitely valuable and you are precious.
Do you believe that? Do you really believe that? Do you believe it to the point where you can say, “I would love people’s approval and I know this was my folks’ dream for my life. And I know everyone feels like unless they do this and do that and until they live in this neighborhood and get this zip code and unless their kids go to this school and that school. And unless this and that, unless my two-year-old is a star on the soccer team. I understand everyone thinks that way. I don’t need their approval. It would be nice. But I am the precious treasure of my heavenly Father, so my priorities and my family and my future isn’t dependent on what my parents think or thought or what anyone else does or what anyone ever says is cool or in or right or wonderful. I’m human. It would be nice.”
But the Bible says, “In Him, Christ, you have been redeemed.” How? Through His blood. What is redemption? The forgiveness of our trespasses. Literally, the word is when you know what is right and you cross a line. “According to the richness of His grace, which He lavished upon us.”
This is a very interesting passage, especially for the apostle Paul. If you lived in the first century and you heard this letter read, you would immediately hear the word redemption and your mind would go, Oh! That’s the exact same word, that when you would go into the streets, into a marketplace. It was called the Agora. And the Agora is a marketplace or where they would sell, and you could go there and there would be a little platform and there would be men and women and they would be slaves and you could buy them. That’s where you went to buy a slave.
And you could buy a man, or you could buy a woman, you want to buy a servant, you want to buy a whole family – and they would cost so much money and the money you would pay to redeem the slave is this word.
You ransom them, and he says, are you ready? You and I and every single person in the human race has been in the slave market of sin. You know what’s right to do and you don’t do it. You know some things you ought to do, want to do, find yourself not doing it.
You can make up rules and you can’t even keep your own rules, let alone God’s. We have fallen short of being perfect. We are slaves to sin and Christ came and when He died upon the cross, He atoned, literally, He ransomed. He paid for – the purchase price of your salvation and freedom was the death of the perfect Son of God.