By Carole J. Keller
A damaged self-worth can thwart our life’s accomplishments and keep us incarcerated in tombs of the past. Life experiences, verbal and non-verbal messages we receive from others, and negative self-perceptions and demeaning self-talk all contribute to low self-worth. We allow people to define our value and believe negative labeling as truth. Then we live our lives accordingly, hiding, fearing, pretending, covering up, etc., not ever knowing our true value. After the damage is done, it can take a long time before the losses we incur bring us to a place of healing. This chapter will consider the Biblical origin of self worth, factors that contribute to the loss of our true identity, and how it can be restored.
Created in the Image of God
Contrary to what we may have believed, our true value is not measured by our own performance, intelligence, or successes. Our true value is rooted in our creation, and God created us to be like Him: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”(Genesis 1:27). According to Webster’s Dictionary, image is “a reproduction or imitation of the form of a person or thing. “We were made in the image of God which was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ! He is the visible image God wants to reproduce in us. This revelation of our true identity and acceptance of God’s opinion of ourselves will give birth to new reality in our lives.
Your identity is who you are. The only one who can define who you are is your Creator. Truth is the first step in discovering your significance, so the reality of who you are must be derived from God’s perspective. We need to know how God evaluates our worth. Here it is from the lips of King David: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well…how precious also are thy thoughts unto me, 0 God! how great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:14, 17). Let’s look at the meaning of this verse.
The word “fearfully” means reverence. God created us to be respected and, by his signature, placed a high value upon our lives. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “reverence” suggests a “ self-denying acknowledgment of what has an intrinsic and inviolate claim to respect”! Inviolate means your right to be respected cannot be violated without a miscarriage God’s inviolate claim for respect. But did you know that, since we are made in the image of God, we have the same intrinsic and inviolate claim to be respected? This right cannot be denied because God made us to be moral like He is. The truth is that God crowned us with glory and honor, a rather humbling thought: “What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man that thou nisi test him? For thou least made him a little lower than the angels and least crowned him with glory and honor. Thou made him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: thou least put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:4-6). Remember the word “glory.” We will come back to it later on in this book.
Let us take this verse to another level and investigate the meaning of several words:
- The word “wonderfully” means set apart from all others. This means there is not another one like you!
- “Marvelous’ means to separate, distinguish, to make great. Not only are you set aside for a unique purpose, but it is ordained of God that you prosper in that purpose!
When David said, “my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14), I believe he was saying he knew his works were fashioned by the hand of God. David understood the source of his greatness. In Psalm 18:35, David proclaims, …”thy gentleness has made me great!” David loved who he was. David never backed away from ruling; he embraced it with vigor and confidence, always giving glory to God.
When we do not approve of God’s value for our existence, we are like beasts that perish: “Man that is in honor and understandeth not is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:20). It is like exchanging royalty for poverty. David was elevated to royalty; he was a king who had a healthy self-image in God; a beast depends upon itself, has to fight for everything it possesses, and lives an impoverished life.
- Finally, “precious” means valuable. When something has value, it is marketable, potentially profitable, and serves a particular purpose and need. As a result of our creation, we have been given unique properties and characteristics to fulfill a specific purpose: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
In Genesis 1:31, God saw everything He made, including Adam, and said that it was “very good.” In the context of personhood, what does “very good” mean? The word “good” means we were made to be fruitful, moral, correct, proper, kind and benevolent, like our Creator! It is when a people disown their Creator that they become immoral. In Ecclesiastes 7:29, it is written that “God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.” The word “upright” reflects the moral quality of the heart that directs men into right paths. Inventions refer to plans that are discovered which do not always foster moral uprightness. In other words, we look for new discoveries or plans because we are not satisfied with ourselves. Therefore, we look for another identity. Why? To exalt our human or carnal nature above God!
The Truth about Your Identity
There is a promise that, if we could apply God’s view of ourselves, and allow His image to be reflected, people will not see us, but God. This is our glory.
…If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God” (John 11:40). In this verse the word “glory” has a two-fold meaning: “to think,” and to “recognize.” Think about that for a moment! From the word “think” we get “opinion”; and from the word “recognize,” we get “reputation, recognition, honor and praise.” [See The Complete Word Study Dictionary, p. 478.] God’s opinion marks the true value of man. His favorable opinion, or evaluation, is our true glory.
If you believe God’s opinion about yourself, you shall see the glory of God, because:
- The glory of God is revealed in His image;
- We are made in God’s image; and
- God is honored when we reflect His image.
I think this is why the devil has such a hard time when Christians truly follow after Jesus. It is not so much that good things happen to them, or even that he (the devil) has lost his authority, but that God is glorified in the earth through us. That, to me, is the issue. God wins; the devil loses!
Now let us take this to another level. God is saying that when you agree with what He has said about you, and believe He will do for you what He whispered in your ear, and declare it with your mouth (rather than what you are not), good will manifest — through you as you live it. You are no longer walking in your old carnal image, but in the image of Almighty God! It really is not you, but His reputation, His honor, His praise that people see. This is your glory!
In order to apprehend these truths, our minds must be transformed to think like God. There is nothing more powerful than speaking forth God’s promises for your life. Supernatural power is released when God’s words are spoken in faith. Believe what God said about you — even if you are the farthest thing from it — and start speaking God’s righteousness into existence! “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). The word “done” means “to begin to be, that is, to come into existence or into any state” [The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Spiros Zodhiates]. This is not a recipe for prosperity, although God will bless your life when you believe and obey. More on this will follow in a later chapter.
For now, believe you can be a new creation, righteous and upright.
Therefore, we can declare His opinion about ourselves: “I have been given all things for life and godliness through the knowledge of God which has called me to glory and virtue. Whereby are given unto me exceeding great and precious promises that by them I may partake of God’s Divine nature having escaped the corruption of the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4, personalized). In this verse, the glory that God imputes to His creatures means honor, praise, dignity! Virtue in the same verse denotes “excellence; His reputation.” Thus, as His offspring, when we are honored or praised for our deeds, we inherit an excellent reputation, because we are reflecting the image of our Heavenly Father. We do not have to work for it!
God has a purpose for our lives that many times is beyond our imaginations. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). The word “higher” means “to soar, to mount up or rise as an eagle.” God’s thoughts mean “contrivance, plan, or purpose.” God’s created purpose in your life is that you would soar like an eagle spiritually and that His image in you would be lifted up!
Therefore, your worth is based upon your creation and everything you think about yourself must correlate to what God thinks of you, in order for you r purpose to be fulfilled. If you choose to contradict God’s truth about your life, you will possess the “lower” thoughts and what they can buy. The result is that you may never live out the beauty of your creation! Nothing will derail God’s plan for our lives faster than unbelief. Unbelief is simply choosing to believe lies embodied in negative thinking. When we choose to put greater weight on what we see, or on what other people think about us, what they say about us, or what they expect of us, we have rejected God and our true worth. But you can reverse the damage caused by negativity by simply choosing to believe God’s word and apply it to your life. In Chapter 6, you will learn the power of the spoken word of God to produce positive thoughts and how engrafting God’s Word can raise you to a higher level of functioning.
Loss of Identity
We derive our identities from various sources, including our families, our friends, a worldly culture, our inner thoughts, Satanic lies, and our Creator. The loss of our true identity occurs when we reject God’s opinion about our true worth, namely that we are made in His image, that he loves us, that we have value, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us beloved. Self-rejection de-values our self awareness of the potential to which were born.
When we reject ourselves we become negative about everything. The word “negative” means to contradict. What do we contradict? The truth of God’s Word regarding our identity. We do not believe God’s Word is a true assessment about ourselves and we accept lies from a rejecting heart. We de-value ourselves when we contradict the truth of God’s word.
So we reject the love of God and accept the lies of the devil. Now we have to depend upon ourselves to create an alternate identity. This pressure creates insecurity and a door now opens to fear. Fear is controlling and tormenting; it robs us of confidence, causes us to retreat, cower, or freeze. Alternatively, it creates panic and causes us to anxiously move out in our own strength. Fear brings on dread, depression, and it is crippling. Fear is a curse. There is only one cure for fear.
The Love of God
The love of God is the most powerful force in the universe and nothing can defeat it. “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and lie that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:16-18). When we experience fear, we do not feel protected, secure, hopeful, valued, or cherished. When we experience love, there is a sense of relief, comfort, mercy and well-being.
Having considered what fear does, why do you suppose it separates us from the love of God? Unbelief! This is why the Apostle John over and over again stressed the importance of believing on Jesus as the key to the spiritual life: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). Believing that God loves us is the source of our confidence, boldness, and the answers to our prayers: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, lie heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Remedy for Restored Image
- Surrender indebtedness to God and for sake dependence upon own “inventions,” or works of the flesh.
All these fears when acted out produce SIN, which mars the image of our Heavenly Father set in place when we were created. However, in spiritual re-birth (John 3:5-6), we can take on the characteristics of our Heavenly Father if we voluntarily surrender the “old man” (the person we were before Christ).
God created us with value and dignity and sees us as good, but we must come to the Cross to restore that image and put our complete trust in God’s love to complete the work He started. The Cross brings us back into fellowship and union with God: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
By Jesus’ sacrifice, we are delivered from the curse of sin and power of demonic forces that led to our self-rejection: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
At the Cross:
- We become naked before God as we take off the fig leaves.
- We find acceptance and unconditional love. His love is unconditional because Jesus knows all our sins and does not condemn us as we might have been condemned by people upon whom we were dependent for our self-worth.
At the Cross…
- Our rights are restored — the right to be respected and valued, the right to become something, the right to walk in our destiny.
- We find the likeness of God, Jesus Christ, into whose image we are re-born. And it is at the cross that …
- Our true identity is restored.
- Reject the “old” image:
We must look at the image we see of ourselves with a new paradigm based upon the original model: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The word “imaginations” in the above verse means “to reckon.” It has the same root as “image.” We cast down the old image, the old arguments that scream fear, failure, and worthlessness into our ears. To cast down means to take down, demolish. Because the greatest weapon of the devil is deception, he uses your life experiences and past allegiances to discourage your walk with God. Jesus said by our words we would be either justified or condemned. Like most people, you probably spoke many negative fears and beliefs into existence that brought negative results. So, in the same way you spoke negative words into existence, which was contrary to the knowledge of God, now you speak God’s words into existence to refute the old image and create the new. To do that, you must verbally reject, renounce, rebuke the image of failure on the basis that you are redeemed from the curse of the law so that you can receive the blessing of Abraham (Galatians 3:13-14).
- Accept the image of Jesus Christ as the new model:
Line by line, substitute the knowledge of God to create a new image: “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10). Our new image is to reflect the righteousness and holy character of God: “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
We cast down the former image: “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22). “Conversation” refers to conduct and behaviors, which are caused by wounds creating lusts. In succeeding chapters I will show you how learned behaviors can be reversed as God reveals the root of these “deceitful lusts” that keep popping up, marring your true image. You will come to understand with greater clarity how you can be renewed in the image of God and accept your true identity.
The above article “Discovering Your Significance” is written by Carole J. Keller. This article was excerpted from chapter two in Keller’s book There’s Healing in His Wings.
The material is copyrighted and should not be repainted under any other name or author. However, this material may freely be used for personal study or purposes.