One of the biggest struggles you will have in your own life will be against your false self. How can I be so confident in telling you this? Because it’s my biggest struggle too!
In recent years, I’ve realised that the way I grew up, and the things I absorbed and learnt, didn’t represent whom I was meant to be. It didn’t represent my true self.
What do I mean by your “false self” and your “true self”?
Have you heard people say, “Follow your heart,” or use expressions like “my truth?” These are all expressions of the false self, but there are many more.
I firmly believe that every one of us was created for the complete fulfilment of love in relationship. Because that is the purpose for which we are created, it is also how our true self can be manifested. Only in this way can we achieve our highest potential in every dimension of our lives, both here in this world and throughout eternity.
These fundamental issues of life are illustrated through the stories of Jesus and his interactions with others, particularly with his disciples.
Let me set the scene for you. It was toward the end of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had just asked the disciples whom they thought he was. Peter famously replied,
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matt 16:16.)
Perhaps it was because based on this statement, Jesus thought that his disciples were ready to hear a harder truth, that the Bible then tells us that,
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter responded to this in a striking way. He waited until he could get Jesus alone, and we read that,
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
This was Peter’s default response: to lean into his false self. Everything that his church and his culture had taught him told him that the Messiah would come as a conquering hero, not as a suffering sacrifice. Even more fundamentally, he had been taught that the path to success was through gain and not through loss. The way of success meant building oneself up and not through humility and selfless service. It is important to note that the false self still continually affirms those errors to us today.
Peter didn’t do this gently, either. He challenged and rebuked Jesus strongly. Imaging rebuking God!
Jesus’ forceful response to Peter was startling:
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Jesus called Peter “Satan” because Peter allowed Satan to work through him. This was possible because Peter’s mind was on the things of the world and not on the things of God. Peter’s mind was focused and directed by his false self, and the false self always results in the agenda of Satan being done in our lives.
When we align our lives with our false selves, we will not be a blessing, but a curse, to others. We will be a stumbling block to the work of God.
This is when Jesus called all of the disciples together and said to them,
…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their lifewill lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matt 16:24–26.)
What Jesus said here is hard for many people to understand, let alone accept. A key reason is that we have been taught to protect our false self above all things. Yet Jesus tells us that if we are to find true life, our false self must die. That’s what denying yourself is all about.
We are to take up our cross because while we live on this earth, the death of the false self must be ongoing and daily. Everything in our society around us will scream out that the false self must live. It will be a constant battle this side of eternity.
When we demand more money from God, more health, better relationships, and so on, these are the clamours of the false self. Your true self will only be found in a trusting relationship with God motivated by love. Another word for that is surrender.
I know that these aren’t popular things to say in our world today because the world isn’t ruled by truth. But when you understand them, you can know that you will inherit all things. Your true self in Christ is real, and all else is false. Only Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6.)
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question. Sign up to his free online course called Becoming a Follower of Jesus to learn about Jesus and His message.