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What Is Your Spiritual Self-Image?

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What Is Your Spiritual Self-Image?

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When I was a boy, my brothers, sisters and I enjoyed visiting the annual Wisconsin State Fair. The livestock and machinery exhibitions were always interesting, and the amusement rides and game booths were great fun. Upon entering some attractions, we would occasionally find “carnival mirrors” which, when we stood before them, would reflect distorted but humorous images. Some mirrors would make us look fat or squat while others made us appear hilariously thin. Obviously, what we saw in those comical mirrors didn’t represent our true physical images.

But what about your true spiritual self-image and mine? Do we have an accurate picture of our real, inner person? Let’s focus on this question as we prepare for the upcoming Passover and Holy Day season of Unleavened Bread. During this time, we are to particularly examine our lives for sin, which is the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4). As 1 Corinthians 11:28 states, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (emphasis added throughout). As we scrutinize our personal spiritual condition, we need to be especially honest with ourselves.

In this respect, it would be valuable to be reminded about the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. While believing they were spiritually upright, these men completely misjudged themselves. Although they gave the external impression of virtue, Jesus Christ perceived their real inner selves (Luke 18:9-12). Knowing their minds and hearts, He said to them, “you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28).

Evidence of genuine spiritual fruit?

In another example, Jesus and His disciples were traveling to Jerusalem prior to His final Passover. While on their journey they saw a fig tree which, from a distance, looked healthy. But, as they drew closer and examined it carefully, they “found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs” (Mark 11:12-14). Even though it was early spring and figs would not normally appear until June, they couldn’t even find any early, edible buds. The New Bible Commentary–Revised states, “the fig tree in Palestine bears an early crop of immature fruit, like green knobs, which appear before the leaves. These are known as taksh and are the common food of the peasants. Absence was clear indication of the barrenness of the tree” (p. 875).

Although there should have been some physical evidence that fruit would develop later, Jesus discerned that the tree was not capable of doing so. Therefore He said, “let no one eat fruit from you ever again” (verse 14). The next day, when the disciples again passed by the fig tree, they saw that it had shriveled up and died (verse 20-21).

When we consider the above biblical illustrations, several questions can arise. Is it perhaps conceivable that we could be mostly “show,” like the Pharisees and the fig tree, with little or no evidence of genuine spiritual fruit? When Jesus looks for bona fide, divine growth in you and me could He be disappointed? We may have outward signs of faithfulness such as attending Sabbath and Holy Day services, tithing, giving offerings and not eating unclean foods. But is there evidence of a real, internal spiritual transformation taking place or are our actions merely superficial without genuine substance?

In answering these questions, it would be important for us to look carefully and objectively at our lives. The apostle Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, New International Version). Also, as Galatians 6:4 says, “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” To determine our true spiritual condition we must, with God’s dynamic help, give ourselves a thorough spiritual “check-up.” For instance, in a deeply heartfelt prayer, King David said, “Examine me, O God, and know my mind; test me, and discover my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23, Today’s English Version).

Looking into God’s spiritual mirror

In this vital responsibility of self-analysis, we need to be proactive. This requires viewing ourselves in a special divine mirror which is capable of showing us if we might have an inaccurate spiritual image of ourselves. In the first chapter of the book of James, the apostle conveys a brief story about a man who looked at his face in a physical mirror and then, after going on his way, quickly forgot what he looked like. Was his face perhaps dirty and blemished? Was he unkempt and disheveled? Although the story doesn’t say, James continues by focusing on what could be described as God’s spiritual mirror. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

In a parallel passage, King David described God’s law as being perfect (Psalm 19:7). In addition, he wrote, “And I will walk at liberty, for I sought thy commandments” (Psalms 119:45, Jubilee Bible). Where are God’s commandments made plain? In the Bible! So, when we squarely compare our thoughts, words and actions with God’s perfect law outlined in Scripture, we can better assess our personal spiritual image and then take steps to make any necessary changes (Psalm 18:30). “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, see also Psalm 19:7 and 2 Timothy 2:15).

Why is it so important that we meticulously examine ourselves for sin? Because it is very easy to break God’s law if we are not careful. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote that sin “so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). He also said, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:23). Furthermore, he wrote, “The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should” (Galatians 5:17, Contemporary English Version).

Reflecting the perfect image of God

So, as we study and apply God’s Word, we must deal head-on with our natural, human tendencies. And, we can only see and overcome any deceptive elements in our nature by asking God in prayer and, through Bible study, to open our eyes in order to really grasp our true spiritual condition. As the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread expressly point out, we need to see ourselves accurately in order to expel sin from our lives and accomplish Jesus Christ’s goal for us, which is to “be perfect, just as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

So, let’s look diligently into God’s spiritual mirror to discover the true image we should be reflecting. As we grow in grace, knowledge and understanding (2 Peter 3:18), we should see less and less of our old selves, and more and more of God’s true image in our lives. While this is a lifetime responsibility, eventually, at Jesus’ second coming, we will fully reflect the perfect mirror image of our Father and be welcomed into His glorious Kingdom and family!