What is your image of who you are? What shapes your self-image?
Our self-image often ends up being a bit skewed- one sided. I don’t know about you, but I often tend to focus on my sinfulness. And if we are honest, who in the human race is not a sinner?
But, what we tend to forget is that as believers, when we do what is wrong (get angry, disrespect someone, etc.), we feel convicted and we mourn. Due to our mourning we turn to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. And what does Jesus say to us in response? He says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
There is a lot of meaning in that beatitude- meaning that we often miss.
When we turn to Jesus in sorrow for our sin he fully embraces us, and in love he forgives and accepts us.
But from Jesus’ side, there is more happening here that we may miss.
William Barclay points out that the Greek word for “comfort” means so much more than console. It also means to summon to one’s side as an ally, as a helper, and as a witness.
God in forgiving us does not treat us as if he cannot ever trust us again. He restores us as his allies, his helpers, and his witnesses in the world.
Think about it- God sends us back into the field of our defeat in the certainty that his grace can turn our past defeat into future victory.
But this is not all. In addition, Barclay points out that the Greek word for comfort also means to energize. God energizes us, fills us with new courage, new thoughts, and adventure; and God calls us to step up and seize the challenge that he places before us. The challenge is to be the living representatives of his holiness, presence and love in our world.
The Temple and the Curtain
In Matthew 27:51- when Jesus died, we read that the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. We typically understand this as God tearing the curtain down making the way open so that we are able to enter the presence of God through the body of Jesus. Hebrews 10:19-22 says:
19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Yet, this is not the only thing that happened when God tore that curtain! Think about what the temple and the curtain symbolized. The temple surely symbolized God’s holiness in a powerful way, but it also symbolized his presence among his people, and the temple and the nation of Israel represented his redemptive love for his world.
So, something else happened when God tore the curtain from top to bottom. With the tearing of the curtain from top to bottom, God was also saying: “I am done with this symbol. I am breaking away from these stones and I am going to break out into my world in a whole new way- through my people who will be the living symbols of my holiness, presence and love. This is what we see happening in Acts 2! When the Spirit descended upon the disciples, the shekinah glory appeared as tongues of fire on each one, highlighting Jesus’ call for them (and us) to be the light of the world (see Matthew 5)!
And Acts 2 was only a beginning. When we turned to Christ the shekinah glory descended upon each one of us and the light of God radiates through us into God’s world.
What we tend to forget is that we are living representatives of God’s holiness, presence, and redemptive love in this world. We are individually and corporately living temples of God spread abroad throughout the world to demonstrate his holiness, presence and redemptive love! Why else does Paul call us holy ones, saints?
What tends to obscure this truth is that we hold this wonderful treasure in fallen, imperfect earthen vessels. Yes, we are sinners, but we are much more than that. We are temples of the living God.
This is something that God has done. We cannot earn this, this is his free gift to us. We are justified, we are born from above, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Does this help you reshape how you see yourself as you live out your life in your community and in His world? I hope so.