Message 3: The Truth About Ourselves

Sept. 27, 2018 Jackie Hill Perry

Session Transcript

Jackie Hill Perry: I didn’t know that this was the tenth year of celebrating the Revive Our Hearts conference. I find it funny that video was showed before I spoke, because it was ten years ago in October when the Lord rescued me from my sin. (applause)

And a year after that is when I met the woman who discipled me—a woman by the name of Santoria. She introduced me to Revive Our Hearts through the workbook that Nancy wrote called Seeking Him, which is when I found out that I was more prideful than I could ever imagine. (laughter)

I’m grateful to be here. I don’t think I would ever have imagined that God would rescue me and given me to Him, but also that He would use me to empower other women to love Him well. So I’m grateful.

But, anyway . . . if you are on social media at all, specifically Instagram and Twitter, you most likely noticed that everyone has a bio section on their page. If you’re not on social media, the bio is the area where people put what they want you to know about them.

My bio, for example, says, “Disciple. Wife. Mother. Writer. Teacher. Poet.” Because that’s what I do. Other folks might have, “Bad cook. Great Dancer. I don’t really know, but you get the gist.”

The bio is our chance to learn about someone before we choose to follow them or not. For those of us who have written a social media bio, there’s usually some intentionality behind it. One way we know this to be the case is that we don’t write down the things that we are embarrassed about or the things that we don’t want people to know in our bio pages. We typically leave the bad stuff out because if this bio is the way I introduce myself to someone, then this bio will be the version of myself that I prefer for them to know, for them to see first.

For those of us who have read a social media bio, specifically bios of people we’ve never met, we will read what they have to say about themselves, and we’ll usually take their word for it. So, if you read, “Pastor’s wife. Mother. Bible teacher.” You might believe that to be who this person is, and usually, if you follow them long enough or if they post enough pictures, you will eventually affirm them as that.

You might see them post a picture of them serving the church or cooking for their children, and in the comments, you will write, “You are such a great wife, such a great mother,” with three heart emojis to follow it. “I’m so encouraged by your servant leadership,” with the little emoji that does that. (laughter) I don’t know what that means, but that’s it. (laughter)

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s simply a picture of what is happening to us and with us all the time, which is this: We are constantly projecting to people who we believe ourselves to be. And in turn, we are constantly receiving from people who they think that we are.

But the question is this: Is who I think I am, and is who people are saying I am . . . is it true? And where do I go to find out the truth of who I am and who I should be?

Let’s pray.

God, I’m thankful for Your kindness. I’m thankful for Your gospel. I pray that we would believe that You are good and that You are right in Your assessment of us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As He did, He made light. He made land. He made water. He made vegetation and living creatures. If you were to just skim through Genesis 1, you’ll notice that the language used by God to bring these things into being is consistent.

If you have your Bibles, and I would assume you do because you are a True Woman, by the way. (laughter) Please turn to Genesis chapter 1, and if you don’t, there is no shame, I promise. (laughter)

Genesis chapter 1, verse 3, and I’m going to read a couple verses after that. I want you to notice some consistency here.

Genesis 1, verse 3 says: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

Genesis 1, verse 6 says: “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’”

Genesis 1, verse 9: “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” (I’m going somewhere.)

Genesis 1, verse 24: “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so.”

What are the two phrases being repeated? They are—oh praise God. I thought it was rhetorical. I’m glad you’re ready. (laughter.) I’m so glad. They are: “God said,” and “Let there,” or “Let there be.”

The entire world and universe is being made by the effectual word of God. He speaks, and things happen. “Let there be light,” and there is light. God is God, so He doesn’t use His hands or any outside resource to create. He just says it, and it is so.

The interesting thing is that as God creates light, land, water, vegetation, and living creature, the language, remember, is the same. But when we get to verse 26, the language changes. The repetitive nature of how God brought all of the creation into being stops when God decides to make something else now. Verse 24 says, “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures.’”

But verse 26 says: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”

The language is totally different, as if God is saying, “What I am making now is altogether different than all that I’ve made before.” And what is it that He made this time? He made man, in His image, and after His likeness.

So in talking about this concept of identity, in talking about what it means to be you, in talking about ourselves and trying to understand our own bios, if you will, we must all ask ourselves the question: “Who am I?” Or, “Who are we?” And if you want the answer, you have to go back to Genesis 1. There you will see that we are all image bearers of the Living God.

Being an image bearer means many things for us today, but I’m going to briefly touch on one.

The first thing is that being made in the image of God means that we matter—we, as in human beings. We have an innate dignity because we bear God’s image.

I know for me, though, it doesn’t take nearly as much effort for me to believe that I, as an image bearer, deserve honor and respect as it does for me to believe that of other people. It is really my treatment of other image bearers that will testify to what I actually believe about the doctrine of the imago dei, and also how much I value the One in whose image we are made.

Let me explain. In Genesis 9, God is making a covenant with Noah after the flood waters subsides. In it, God tells Noah that there will be consequences for whoever takes another man’s life. Let me read it verbatim:

Verse 6 says: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for [or because] God made man in his own image.”

The value of human life is so high that God told Noah that if anyone would have the audacity to take it, then their own would be taken as well. Why? Because humanity bears the image of the Living God.

When we move in the other direction into the New Testament, and you find yourselves in the book of James, over in chapter 3, James is talking about the tongue and how it is a fire and a world of unrighteousness and how it is a restless evil.

Did you know what example he gives for how this evil looks? He said that we do this evil when the same tongue we use to bless our Lord and Father becomes the same tongue that curses people. And he doesn’t just leave the sentence at people. He qualifies it by saying people who are made in the image of God.

In Genesis 9 there are consequences for what is done to a person made in the image of God. In James 3 there are consequences for what is said about or to a person made in the image of God.

The point is that every person alive—black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, immigrant, elderly, poor, privileged, mentally ill, mentally disabled, singled, married—whatever or whoever they are, they all bear the image of God. So we must think twice before we even try to think that we shouldn’t treat them as such. (applause)

Image bearers matter to God, so they must matter to us. Do you know what? The fact that we even have to be exhorted and challenged to love other image bearers well tells us that something isn’t quite right.

All things must not be as they should be when it comes to our being made in the image of God because, if they were, we wouldn’t have racism. We wouldn’t have abortion. We wouldn’t have abuse. We wouldn’t have murder. (And we wouldn’t have this earring getting on my nerves.) We wouldn’t have disrespect and dishonor in our marriages. We wouldn’t have gossip. We wouldn’t have pornography. We wouldn’t have sex trafficking.

How is it that we are all made in God’s image and live in the world surrounded by image bearers, and yet, the world looks so much like the devil?

In Genesis 1, after God blesses Adam and Eve, verse 31 says that “God saw everything he made, and that it was very good.”

Adam and Eve were included in what God called good. But in Romans 3, while Paul is talking about our unrighteousness, he says that “no one is good” (v. 10). And in Mark 10, Jesus Himself says that “no one is good except God” (v. 18).

So what happened between God calling the people He made in His image good and Jesus and Paul telling us that no one is good? How did we get here where we can see that goodness is not in us nor is it always around us? What happened to the image bearers of the Living God?

Deception happened. If you can turn with me to Genesis 3, or click, whichever you prefer, verse 1 says:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (vv. 1–7).

There is so much here, but I want to talk about one thing, and that is: Did you notice that when the devil came up to Eve and was tempting her to distrust the word and Person of God, that one of the ways he did it was by telling her that she could have another identity?

Look at verse 5. It says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like [who?—you will be like] God, knowing good and evil.”

What an intoxicating idea that somehow, eating a little bit of fruit, could make her like the One that created it and her. When the devil told Eve that she would be like God, knowing good and evil, he wasn’t telling her the whole truth.

God being God knows good and evil, because He knows everything. So, in a sense, her eating from the tree would give her a knowledge of good and evil that she did not have. But what the devil didn’t tell her is that she would not know good and evil in the same way that God does because she would know evil experientially.

God is holy. He has never and will never know evil from personal experience. He only knows goodness this way. He knows evil like a doctor might know cancer—something he fully understands, but as something that is totally outside of himself.

But when Eve disobeyed the commandment of God, she would not know evil like a doctor knows cancer, but she would know evil like a patient knows cancer. She would not be the physician. She would become the one who is sick.

It is in this deception that she didn’t realize that by sinning against God, she would become inherently unlike Him because this evil would not be over there somewhere. It would be in her. And in it being in her and her husband, this image that they were made in and would be blurred.

You would see the image of God marred by expressions of sin which inevitably would take the glory that God intended to get out of humanity and put all of that glory that He deserved into the hands of people that it didn’t even belong to.

And this same deception is in us. Even though we are still very much image bearers of the Living God, when we were born into this world, we were also born as sinners who sin against the Living God.

It is this deception that then shapes who we think we are. When we are deceived, we go about life gathering information about ourselves from everyone but God.

  • I am who this relationship says I am.
  • I am what my bank statement says I am.
  • I went to an Ivy League school, so my personhood is centered around my intelligence.
  • I have children, so everything that I do, all that I am, finds its completion in my being a mother.
  • I am over thirty-five and still single, so I must not be worthy of love.
  • I’ve been married for twenty-five years, and my husband still hasn’t changed. I deserve another spouse.

We allow our life stages and difficulties and accomplishments and blessings to become the things that name us, but it ought not be so. The good things that God has given us and the hard things God is taking us through are not the basis of our personhood.

Sin wants you and me to listen to what everyone else has to say about who we think we are and who we should be just as Satan did to Eve in the garden. He dangled the possibility of her being someone else before her heart. And do you know why she took it?

It’s not because she forgot who she was. She didn’t sin because she wasn’t looking at herself or because she didn’t know herself or because she had low self-esteem. If anything, she had way too much esteem. She sinned against God because she stopped believing the truth of who God was.

We don’t find out about ourselves by looking to ourselves. We find out about who we are by looking at and learning from the One we were made for. If Eve would have remembered, would have believed that God was the One that she should desire to be made wise, that God was pleasurable to the sight, that God could satisfy the body, and that before anything was made, God had always been there.

Having a right theology about God would have told her that if He is everything, then how could a created thing make her whole? And if He is eternal and she’s not, then there is nothing that she could possibly do to become Him.

It is the faith that comes by looking to Christ that makes us women that are satisfied with being exactly what we were created to be, and that is, namely, His. (applause)

Where do we go to find out the truth of who we should be and who we are? We go to God. And as you do, remind yourself that it is Christ who is the exact image of the invisible God. If you have seen Christ, you have seen the Father because they are one. It is this Christ who, being God in the flesh, could not blur God’s glory. He was and is sinless.

So not once would you look at Him and see any expression of sin towards God or people, even though we all have used our tongues and our thumbs to both bless and curse.

He became like a lamb that was led to the slaughter, and He did not open His mouth, but He remained silent. He did not need people to tell Him who He was because He knew who He was and what He’d come to do. And that was not to save the righteous, the folks that think they are just as good as God, that their works would somehow give them a righteous identity. No, He came to call sinners to repentance, people who were made in His image and living like the devil—that’s all of us, by the way.

It’s in our repentance, it’s in our turning from all the lies that we’ve allowed to define us and turning towards God in faith, believing in all the truths that describe Him, that sets us free. Because, don’t you know that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom?

We all—we all—with unveiled face, beholding, not the glory of us, but the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into this same image from one degree of glory to another. God is restoring His image in us.

So it doesn’t matter who they say you are or who you think you are. What matters is: Do you know who God is? And, if so, believe Him when He tells you who you should be.

Now, I have a poem. With my story and my testimony being one of lesbianism, gender confusion, I didn’t know what it meant to be a woman. I didn’t think that womanhood was a good thing. I thought it was a true thing, but not a good thing. And I had to figure out what it meant to be me, what it meant to be a woman and this body—especially when I had a daughter. I figured that I would be the first Titus 2 that she would ever read. So I knew that I needed to live it out before I ever thought I could preach it.

So I wrote this poem because I wanted women, made in the image of God, to find joy in being all that God made us to be.

The other day a young lady, brown as the melanin in my daughter’s eyes
Said behind a mic that she hated being a woman.
She wanted to know what it meant to be one.
And I have often wondered the same.

I looked around for the teaching of such to tell me of myself.
We all learn to be by imitation or indoctrination.
Mama and media can’t help but train,
Tutor us into carbon copies of themselves
So then, knowing who we are or what we should be,
Is really understanding whose costumes we wear on most days,

Whose skeletons we switch with when Adam took his nap.

I was told a woman could not truly be herself.
That is, if herself is not light enough, dark enough, or if her hair is the Rapunzel replica,
Or if it to be Underground Railroad, for those cotton active men to stomach.

I was told that my body is neither belonging to me nor its beauty innate,
But that I am not gorgeous unless told by another woman’s son to be so.
When did the mouth of men, in whose image women are not made in,
Begin to damage us so silently?
Maybe it was when we began believing the voices that have no deity in it

I was told a woman should not submit, should not be meek,
That that type of behavior was only for women who treated their voice like a secret.

I was told not to be a secret but a siren, to be as Moschetti as I can
And honor my opinions at the expense of respect.

While some men may believe themselves to have liberty over a woman’s body
And taught how to destroy as only depravity can predict.
We have equally learned how to tear and rip
And undo dignity with a mere sentence or a squint.
It’s called strong by society.
They tell us that’s what a backbone looks like.

But beautiful is the spine that remembers where it came from,
The Lexus knowing of self.
Not being determined by every wind of doctrine and dust, but God Himself.
We must alert the deep misunderstandings that compose themselves
As empowerment, as freedom.

Liberation has never come by way of unbelief.
Eve another taillight by finding beauty in lies,
But only a naked body and a husband that forgot her first name.

We women must be smarter, must be wiser,
Must be bent on loving truth no matter how contradicting it is to a dying culture.

I tell you: A woman is no fool unless she chooses to be.

If you ask me, “What is a woman?”
I would tell you that she is a bone made alive with distinctions that set her apart,
As does the difference between a firefly and a new poem.

A woman is not a man.
Her calling is not a synonym of inferiority.
Her distinctions are not the child of patriarchy.

They come from a creative God.
Did you see His fingerprints in your hips?
The whistling shadow of His mind when your body became home to another name
That called you Mommy while all the gladness you forgot could exist.

A woman submits to her God, her husband, her church.
She is no weak-willed or brittle-backed woman,
But only as strong as humility and faith may identify her to be.

They say, “Submission sounds like servant.”
They say, “That sounds like something to rebel against.”

I say, “Ain’t it funny that servant is repulsive to everyone but God?”
And we wonder why we can’t recognize His face.

If you asked me, “What is a woman?”
I would tell you that she is a sister to all,
Even those whose blood is not of the same roots,
But who is still as kin as her mama’s firstborn.

And she treats these sisters like a wintered quilt,
Making sure her mouth does not unstitch that which was made to keep cold hearts warm.

We are made up of nurture and everything comfortable,
And that is why we feel so deep, why we cry so sudden.
Because the emotions that make us woman,
Don’t make us unstable but earnest refuse to the chaos where our ribs once set

We are necessary and nuanced at best.

But a woman should be nothing more or less than what God made her to be.
Anything that defines our being,
That does not shimmer and sing of Christ and His wisdom,
Is a definition destined for flames.

If you asked me, “What is a woman?”
I would simply tell you, “Ask God who made her.”