We live in a world where we are continually reminded of our flawed human condition. We’re told we’re broken, wounded, hurting souls who need to get in touch with our brokenness, our woundedness, and explore it ‘ad nauseum’. We read about it in self-help books, watch it on TV talk shows, listen to it on various pod casts, and even get a steady dose of it in much contemporary Christian writing and music. We’re given all sorts of suggestions about how to fix ourselves and others, much of the fix coming through more self-help books, another podcast, or a series of sessions in the therapist’s office.
Sometimes, people do, in fact, need help to make sense out of the difficult backgrounds or painful situations from which they’ve come. And some folks benefit from the assistance of a professional. In a general sense, growth in self-knowledge, gaining some understanding of human behavior, learning the differences between the way men and women process and view life, and even the history of our family of origin can be quite helpful in getting to the roots of some personal problems.
But, too often, because of our fallen human nature, we have a propensity to view ourselves and those around us through the lens of our imperfections, failures, faults, and sins. We can get ‘stuck’ in a very narrow view of ourselves. We can see ourselves and one another as always being broken, always being wounded, alwaysneeding someone to fix us.
We can struggle to find a way to push beyond our past, beyond our flaws and weaknesses, and make our way into the freedom that Christ offers us. Sometimes, prayer for inner healing and pastoral care, two invaluable tools which we have at our disposal, seem like an afterthought. We might even neglect the indispensable gift of God’s Word, underestimating its unmatched power and authority to heal and transform our lives.
The Example of Peter
Early in the book of Luke we read the story of the miraculous catch of fish. After a fruitless night of fishing, Jesus told Simon to put out the nets into the deep water. He reluctantly obeyed and in so doing hauled in a catch of fish so great that it stretched the nets to the breaking point. On seeing this, Simon fell at the feet of Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Jesus simply replied, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” Peter received no reprimand from Jesus for his acknowledgement of sin. There was no examining the minutiae of Peter’s background or personal history, his faults, or failings up to that point in his life. There was no further discussion of Peter’s sinfulness. Only the encouragement, “Don’t be afraid…”
Jesus’ response to Peter seems almost dismissive of his admission, as if he doesn’t even hear Peter. We can almost imagine Peter saying, “Wait a minute, back up! Didn’t you hear what I said? I’m a sinner. I have all these problems that I need to work on. I have an anger issue and I can be quite bullheaded and overly self-confident. And my mouth gets me into a lot of trouble! I don’t know why I am this way, but until I get myself straightened out, I’m not sure you want me in your company or that I can be much help to your mission.”
We might hear Jesus’ response sounding something like this: “Yes, I heard you, but perhaps you didn’t hear me. There is much work to be done and I’ve chosen you to do it. Forget your past, put it behind you, and don’t let it distract you from my call on your life!”
Confession leads to Change
In the following passage from Matthew’s Gospel, we find the disciples scrambling to answer perhaps the most important question Jesus will ever ask them – “Who do you say that I am?” Again, Peter is front and center.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the son of man is?”
They replied, “Some say you are John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
But what about you?” Jesus said. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Mattthew 16:13-16
Peter alone speaks the truth. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…”Matthew 16:17-18a
From the moment Peter made his confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus changed Peter’s identity. No longer is he Simon (which means ‘to hear, to obey’). He is Peter, the rock! He might have said to Peter, “You’ve spoken the truth of who I am; now I’m going to speak the truth of who you are!” Jesus is seeing him through a different lens. He’s not interested in how Peter sees himself. That person’s identity has been changed in the twinkling of an eye! Through Peter’s earlier humble act of repentance (“Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!”) to his proclamation of belief in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, he is now a different person. He has been changed from one who has heard and obeyed to one who is now a rock of faith! And it was all the Father’s doing!
A Flawed Perspective
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.2 Corinthians 5: 16
What does it mean to regard someone from a worldly point of view? All we need do is look to the Gospel accounts to see how people regarded Jesus. A number of the Pharisees, teachers of the Law, the scribes, and the Jews of the time looked at Jesus from a misguided earthly point of view. “Who do you think you are?” they said. “You’re nobody special! You’re no different from any of us. You’re Joseph’s son, a simple carpenter! Who are you to tell us what to do! You even get your power to perform miracles from Beelzebub! You forget that we know you, your family, and where you come from!” They regarded him from a worldly point of view, failing to see the truth of Jesus’ real identity as the Son of God, the Messiah sent from the Father in heaven.
When Mary Magdalen met Jesus, he set her free from seven demons, and her life was drastically changed after this encounter. But the Pharisees were unable to see her from any other perspective than the one they held: a sinner, fallen, broken, wounded, and unworthy. When she came one day to anoint Jesus with a very expensive jar of precious ointment, they refused to see that her heart had been changed and that she was now filled with a great abundance of love for Jesus. They continued to judge and regard her from a worldly point of view.
Too often, even after we’ve been walking with the Lord for a long while, we continue to regard ourselves and each other from a “worldly point of view.” We get fixated on the things that are wrong with us, the areas of our lives that we would like to see changed, the faults that never quite seem to go away. We come to the Lord again and again with the same set of complaints, listing our failings and flaws like people who have little understanding that we have been made different through our repentance and confession of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
You ARE a New Creation!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come. All this is from God…2 Corinthians 5:17
Of all the Scripture verses in the entire Bible that give us the assurance that God sees us differently than we see ourselves, I think this verse is the most explicit! We learn from this revelation in Scripture that when we believe and receive Jesus and make him the Lord of our life, he makes us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into a new creation! We are no longer the same person as before. We ARE recreated by the power and grace of God! Gone is the broken, wounded soul needing to be routinely “fixed”. Gone is the laundry list of faults and failures that haunts us, distracting us from focusing on and feeling inadequate to do the work God has commissioned us to do. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds! We need to begin to turn away from that “old man” and begin relating from a “new creation” mentality.
My Own Experience
Throughout my childhood I struggled with chronic insecurity and the need for ongoing approval. By the time I reached my late twenties it was crippling, resulting in a years-long season of depression and anxiety that I found hard to manage with three small children at home. Desperate to find help and healing I reached out for more frequent pastoral care, which was generously offered. I was also encouraged to seek the help of an older couple in our Christian community. They were both gifted and experienced in praying for folks for inner healing. My prayer life took off like never before and became my lifeline.
During that period, I was inspired to read the Scriptures and to write down those passages that spoke to me of my identity in Jesus Christ. Most importantly, I noted those passages that spoke of Jesus, his promises, and his identity as Lord, Messiah, and Son of God. I then made a daily habit of repeating these Scriptures to myself, sometimes saying them aloud as I looked at myself in the mirror!
“I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine.”Isaiah 43:1b
“Should a mother forget her child? I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”Isaiah 49:15-16a
“Ask…seek…knock…for everyone who asks receives… how much more will your father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”Matthew 7:7-11
“ I am the Lord and there is no other. I have not said to Jacob’s descendants ‘Seek Me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.”Isaiah 45:18c-19
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”John 6:63
“Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.Psalm 91:14-15
May God himself. The God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and HE WILL DO IT.1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
I was now determined to wash my mind with the truth of God’s word expecting him to be trustworthy, faithful, immovable, and unchanging. I needed him to be my Rock. I dared to believe him, and as I did, my insecurity and need for approval began to decrease, little by little, over a period of several weeks. My depression began to lift, and the anxiety was gradually replaced by a “peace that passes all understanding.” And despite some crushing trials in the 35 years since, that peace has never left me! Mine was a conversion process of taking the “old man” thoughts captive to obey Christ and renewing my mind with the truth; putting aside the feelings and deciding to believe what God has to say about me and about himself.
With the helps available to me through the body of Christ I can say with confidence that I am a very different person now. I am a new creation! Although there are times when I am tempted to revert to old thought patterns, refreshing my mind with Scriptural truth brings me back to spiritual reality! God has done a work of transformation in me that I never could have thought possible! And “all this is from God.”
As I think about the events in the life of Peter, I am amazed by the transformation that took place in him! Jesus didn’t change his name from Simon (to hear, to obey) to Peter (the rock) because of what he was but for what, but God’s grace, he would become! He called into being a new creation who through hearing and obeying (teaching, Scripture, prayer, discipleship) would become a rock of strength for the building of God’s kingdom, eventually laying down his life like His Lord and Master.
Our God knows what each of us can become, too, if we will allow Him to change us. We come to him acknowledging our sins and failings, our wounds, and faults. But He does not want us to remain there perpetually ruminating on our brokenness. There is work to be done! “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18) And through the gifts of Christian community, pastoral care, prayer, and the life-changing, Holy Spirit-breathed power of the word of God we can be transformed just like Peter was! We just need to believe that what God says is true and then apply it to our lives! You ARE a new creation in Jesus Christ!
Top image illustration of butterfly and shadow of the cross is from Bigstock.com, © by GD Arts , stock photo ID: 178537426.
Joanie Nath and her husband Bill have been married for 46 years – and counting. They live in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, USA and are members of the People of God, a member covenant Christian community in the Sword of the Spirit. Joanie has served for a number of years in the past as a senior women leader in the People of God.