Knowing yourself is something that usually goes overlooked in our society. It goes overlooked more often in our churches. For years I was taught that we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus. These are the words of Jesus in Matthew 16 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” And I have always understood it to mean that everything I am disappears and I follow Jesus. I know many others who have had the same understanding. I don’t matter, and I must follow Him.
It is a wrong interpretation of the words of Jesus. Because the goal of Christianity is for us to know God. The Westminster Catechism states “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” But our ability to know God hinges on our ability to know ourselves. Thomas à Kempis argued that “a humble self-knowledge is a surer way to God than a search after deep learning,” and Augustine’s prayer was “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.”
God desires to be known by us. The whole of scripture is the story of God reaching out to humanity and revealing Himself to us and calling us to know Him personally and completely. He has gone to great lengths to show His love and character for us and to invite us to come closer and know Him more. One of the major limiting factors of this is our lack of understanding of ourselves. When God reveals Himself to us, He also reveals us. The goal of Christianity is for the life of Christ to be made manifest in us, or for us to be like Jesus in what we do, say and think. We do this by knowing God and allowing Him to show us the areas of our lives that are not like Him.
Which means that we need to know ourselves, and be willing to look at the things about ourselves that we often try to ignore. “Christian spirituality involves a transformation of the self that occurs only when God and self are both deeply known. Both, therefore, have an important place in Christian spirituality. There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God. John Calvin wrote, “Nearly the whole of sacred doctrine consists in these two parts: knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Benner, David G. (2009-09-20). The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery
David Benner also wrote “Focusing on God while failing to know ourselves deeply may produce an external form of piety, but it will always leave a gap between appearance and reality.”
Unfortunately this is the state that most Christians live in. We have an appearance that we work on, especially when we are gathering with other Christians, and only we know the true reality of the condition of our hearts. Which is why the world objects to Christianity saying that “we are a bunch of hypocrites.” We can deeply know God, as promised by Scripture, and we can know ourselves. Jesus thought you and I were valuable enough to die for. As we grow in our understanding of ourselves, and allow God to speak into our lives and show Himself the transformation will be glorious, and people can say of us as they did Peter and John “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13 NLT The journey is never ever to late to take.