and intimacy
        must go hand in hand"

I. We glorify God and enjoy Him forever

  • For a long time Christian religion has emphasized the glory of God and the worth of suffering. i.e. God makes us suffer in order to honor Him. Consequently, the value of human existence appears to be nothing but a decoration of God's glory. Many people quoted the first part of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: "Man's chief end is to glorify God," but leaves out the second part: "and to enjoy Him forever."

  • The almighty and self-sufficient God does not need us to fulfill his glory. God created us for our own good. He wants us to lead a enjoyable life. To some extent spiritual growth can be defined as the growth of self-image. A Christian who views life as miserable probably has distorted images of God and himself.

II. Those who save their lives will lose their lives

On the other hand, we should watch out the "prosperity gospel" (e.g. Norman Vincent Peala and Robert Schuller: Positive thinking; Thomas Nelson: Varsity internship program). We go to God not because God can help us to gain a strong self-image or positive thinking, not because God can help us to improve our relationship, not because God can help us to succeed in study and career. We turn to God just because God is good. As Jesus said, when you save (care about) your life, you tend to lose your life. When you are anxious about your self-image and all other good things in life, you are likely to lose them.

III. Self-image prescribed by God

A. You are fearfully and wonderfully made

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 131: 14-16).

B. You have a special place in His Kingdom

Thomas Merton: "Each one of us has some kind of vocation. We are all called by God to share in His life and in His kingdom. Each one of us is called to a special place in the kingdom. If we find that place we will be happy. If we do not find it, we can never be completely happy."

IV. Why do people struggle with a poor self-image?

  • A. Isa 45: 10, Rom 9:20

  • B. "Lord, grant me the wisdom to accept those cannot be change, change those shouldn't be accepted, and the wisdom to distinguish ones from the other."

V. What are the excuses to say "I can't do it"?

  • At age 53, Margaret Thatcher became the first female prime minister of the U.K.

  • At age 65, Winston Churchill became Britain's prime minister to fight against Nazi German and co-establish the U.N. At 80, he returned to the House of Commons as a member.

  • At 71, Golda Meir became prime minister of Israel.

  • At 81, Benjamin Franklin skillfully mediated between disagreeing factions at the U.S. Constitutional Convention.

  • At 80, Moses was called to be the servant of God leading the exodus.

VI. Identity and intimacy must go hand in hand

  • Dietrich Bonhoffer: "Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute...It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he does not fill it, but on the contrary, he keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain."

  • Alan McGinns: "Identity and intimacy must occur hand in hand."

  • Erich Fromm: "One who cannot love oneself cannot love others."