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Recovering from a bad case of mistaken identity

What do you do when you’ve become aware of the false self, when your discontent has risen to a place of critical mass?   Something has to change.  The danger is that we’ll settle for the easiest and least intrusive of changes – changing what we do instead of changing wh…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

What do you do when you’ve become aware of the false self, when your discontent has risen to a place of critical mass?

Something has to change.  The danger is that we’ll settle for the easiest and least intrusive of changes – changing what we do instead of changing who we are.  Changing what we do can happen in a day, it’s as easy as switching lists.  Changing who we are, in contrast, is an enormously complex and time-intensive task.

Many of us have bought the religious urban legend that if you “accept Jesus into your heart,” everything changes.  It’s true, he may change much about your life; your attitude, for example may change on a dime.  You may have hope where before you were hopeless.  You may become thankful  whereas before your friends saw you as cynical.  The subject matter you talk about may change.

But so many of your habits and your broken character will only change as a result of your conscious effort and Holy Spirit’s power over many months.  That’s where there is no substitute for discipleship.  Jesus will unlock the prison doors that have kept you incarcerated for years, but you have to step through those doors into freedom.

Let’s suppose, for example, that you have developed a reputation for not being dependable.  You may not even perceive the way that it hurts your relationships with your friends; you may perceive yourself as spontaneous, the life of the party.  But those who love you may be struggling with the question, “How do I tell Joe how much he hurts me when he breaks his commitments?”

Jesus may give you the desire to restore you broken relationships and the Holy Spirit may show you where you’ve hurt people, but you have to open your mouth and apologize.  You have to make yourself accountable if you want to change your bad habit of being undependable.  You’ll have to start by becoming more aware of the times when you actually make a commitment.  You may then write down the promise you made.  And, newly aware of your own weakness, you may need to make yourself accountable to a friend to follow through on your promise.
Many of us are victims of a bad case of mistaken identity. We’ve become this shabby little false self and feel claustrophobic inside ourselves. The good news is, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Jesus specializes in jailbreaks. It can start today. But recognize that it will take time and it will take a great deal of honesty.
And the even better news is that freedom is worth it. “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” You were meant to live without all the BS. It’s a glorious thing to live beyond the grip of pretense. Why not start living the life that God intended for you today?

Comments (6)

  • Seth I love the fact that through the sordid and silly decades of life for both of us you have wrestled with the hard issues of what it means to be authentic… Because we have been friends for more than thirty years and you and I know the hard and painful seasons of the other let me offer a few things for others to consider.

    I may be wrong.

    My life has been filled with clear examples of that and I am on a journey….

    So here are some thoughts for those looking for help from you, me or anyone considered helpful:

    1. Your needs may not be my call from the Father.

    2. When you demand the impossible and I fail–well?

    3. Don’t expect me to be Jesus. There is only one.

    4. If you have not suffered you have no message–ever.

    5. The world is filled with “givers” and “takers”.

    6. Just say ‘no”. It creates freedom.

    7. Don’t ask and don’t tell. It creates freedom.

    8. If you are self promotional you don’t know Jesus.

    9. Listen. Don’t talk.

    There you go……..

  • Seth, I love this. For some reason, most of what I have been hearing from God has been about this. My group is really into hearing who God says they are instead of their culture. Thanks for posting.

  • I think the people I am most suspicious of are those with spiritual words that come easy to them, that always have an answer and always sound as if they are the most surrendered people on the planet in what they say.

    Yes you are right. It takes time and a great deal of honesty. I’m still learning, one step at a time and often with a few steps back in there too. And yes, accountability is an invaluable tool.

    I’m not certain I can change who I am. I can change what I do, behavioural therapy, whatever. But who I am? I reckon that’s maybe something only Jesus can actually do. There’s a Brian Doerksen song that says “Every time I try to bring about change I only touch the visible me……..Change me on the inside.”

    I could be wrong in my understanding. That song just resonates with me. My changes don’t last long and they disappear in a crisis because they only touch the visible me. But the stuff Jesus does makes a difference somehow. I guess the key to that is in a real surrender and a repeated one so He gets the invitation to do the job on the inside. Not an easy walk though, is it? “Ever does the flesh die hard. It screams and begs in pity not to go.” (Calvin Miller, The Singer) Or maybe that’s just me!

  • Like this a great deal including Butch’s comment and list. Jesus has already changed me from the inside out. He gave me a new nature. The “working out” part falls on me…yet of course by God’s Spirit within me since taking up residence the moment I trusted.

    “A perfected me will never be” — not this side of heaven.

    But God tasks us with ‘working out our salvation’ and being accountable—growing up, moving past ‘babyhood’ is a huge part of that. Thank you both very much.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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