Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

Imagine entering a restaurant, sitting down at someone’s table and proceeding to start nibbling on their French fries. After momentary surprise, one of the more civil questions they might ask is, “Who do you think you are?”

I don’t recommend snatching someone else’s food under any circumstances, but that’s a question worth asking: “Who do you think you are?”

When I was in the fourth grade, my mother attended a parent-teacher conference. When she got home, she said my teacher, Mr. Mazzochi, had stated he felt I was “college material.” Until then, I hadn’t given going to college a thought. No one in my family had ever gone to college, so it wasn’t something I’d been contemplating. But from that day, because of my teacher’s kind words, I saw myself as “college material” and conducted myself accordingly through high school.

Once I arrived at college, my freshman English instructor, Mrs. Looser, began to affirm my writing potential. She even suggested I might want to consider a career in writing. I’d enjoyed writing as a hobby, but until then had never considered it vocationally. But that started me thinking as an aspiring writer. More than 40 years later, that’s what I’ve become – a veteran journalist who has written everything from newspaper articles to books.

I mention this because the Bible asserts, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7), and we do tend to behave in terms of how we perceive ourselves. This is why it’s so damaging for a parent to demean a child, calling him or her “stupid” or “worthless.” If someone we’re supposed to love and respect says such a thing, we’re inclined to believe it and act accordingly.

Similarly, I become annoyed by people claiming to follow Jesus Christ that continually say, “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.” Although that’s true theologically, and sounds humble and self-effacing, the Bible says we are much more than that.

For instance, 1 Peter 2:9 says we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” Wow! In numerous passages, followers of Jesus are referred to as “saints.” And Romans 9:26 calls us “children of the living God.” Isn’t that cool?

If I wake up in the morning, frown in the mirror and remind myself, “I’m just a sinner…saved by grace,” I’ll appreciate God’s grace but probably act as I think of myself – a sinner. We don’t think it consciously, but it’s almost like saying, “Let’s see what sins I can commit today.”

However, what if I start the day trusting in what the Bible says about me? That God has chosen me, I’m part of His royal priesthood, I belong to Him, I’m a saint (without the need for some denominational governing body to declare me so), and I’m a child of the living God – won’t those realities make a difference in how I approach my everyday responsibilities and challenges?

And this is more than just positive thinking or self-talk. The Scriptures also declare that as followers of Jesus we all are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and “Christ lives in me (each of us)” (Galatians 2:20), empowering us to live the life we could never live on our own.

So the question remains: “Who do you think you are?”

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