The Cult of Self
I am sure that as historians look back on our times they will be amazed at us. Future generations might well marvel at our creativity, ingenuity and sheer genius as a people. They may greatly appreciate our technological advancements and scientific discoveries. It is possible they will label our times as the greatest period ever in civilization. If not, though, there is one thing that we will surely be remembered for throughout centuries. This is truly the age of self-obsession. We are the “me” generation. It’s all about us, how we look, how we feel and how we react. We are one big selfie ready to be posted.
Lately this “me” phenomenon has found an outlet in something called self-identifying, the ultimate play on self-expression. Last year a leader of a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was discovered to be a person of Caucasian descent though she had frequently listed herself as an African American. Her answer to her critics was that she self-identified as a person of color no matter what her birth certificate said.
Of late there has been a huge uproar regarding gender self-identification and public restrooms. This issue is in regard to someone who was born biologically as one sex but who self-identifies as the other sex. They legally can now use the public bathrooms or showers of the opposite sex from which they were born because they self- identify themselves as the opposite gender.
The cult of self and the issue of self-identification are not new. They find their roots in humankind’s desire to be the master of their own destiny, to self-determine their own path. In truth, most of us want to join Frank Sinatra in singing, “I did it my way”. What right, we may ask does anyone, God or man, have to tell me who I am and how I am to behave?” This of course sounds a great deal like the clay saying to the potter “Why have you made me such?” (Romans 9:20).
We actually know who the first self-identifier was. His name was “Helel” (His name means “Shining One” or “Day Star”). Here is the account of his self-identifying taken from the pages of the prophet Isaiah, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high. I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:12-14). That’s right, Lucifer/ Satan, sometime in eternity past sought to self-identify as God. Just so you know – it didn’t work out.
Professing Christians are not immune to the cult of self and the issue of self-identification. They too want to set their own rules and their own parameters regarding faith and life. Many who claim to be followers of Christ and even attend church or have membership in a fellowship of believers want their Christianity buffet style. They, in fact, aren’t really Christians. They are just self-identifying as Christians.
Am I confusing you? Let me clarify by using a very familiar Scripture. In John 1:12-13 we read:
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”. Please note here that we all have the right to become the children of God. However this status is not passed down from our family or ancestry (born not of blood). It is also not something we just self-identify as (nor of the will of man). Our becoming a child of God, a follower of the Lord is only a result of being born of God.
“How is someone born of God?” is the next logical question. Verse 12 tells us that we become children of God by believing on Jesus’ name. The belief spoken of here is not just a belief in a fact but rather is belief in a person, the kind of belief that makes you commit yourself to that person.
This means I cannot call myself a Christian if I won’t commit myself to being a disciple. If I refuse to adopt the lifestyle Jesus says should characterize a Christian I am not a Christian, I am just self-identifying as one. If my heart won’t embrace the values of the kingdom of our Lord I am not a Christian, I am just self-identifying as one. If my mind is not filtering everything through a Christian worldview I am not a Christian, I am just self-identifying as one. If my will is not in submission to His, if I insist on what I want and not on what He wills I am not a Christian, I am just self-identifying as one.
The term “Christian” doesn’t mean a “fan” of Jesus. The term means follower of Christ. It was used first of believers in Antioch whose lifestyle and love demonstrated that they were followers of Jesus Christ. When you and I are serious about Jesus Christ, when we allow Him to have His way in our lives, we won’t need to self-identify. It will be clear to everyone that we are authentic “Christians” – authentic followers of Christ.
Dr. Dave Watson