“I Am My Own”
There was a creed—a sort of secular creed—that you may have seen before. I’ve referenced it in sermons. A woman wrote about how “I am my own” and it just went, “I am special, and everything about me is special,” and so on. The whole refrain was, “And I am my own.” It was a celebration of personal identity, self-esteem, and human uniqueness.
I doubt that the person who wrote it had ever read the Heidelberg Catechism, but it almost sounded like an anti-Heidelberg Catechism question 1, which is,
What is your only comfort
in life and death?
That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
That might be the place to start with countercultural advice—I am not my own—because from that flows almost everything else (if not everything else). If you start with “I am my own; therefore, my self-expression is sacred,” then “I am my own” means “What I do with my body is my business.”
If you start with “I am not my own,” then some of your desires need to be crucified rather than celebrated. If you’re not your own but you belong to Christ, then as 1 Corinthians said, “You must glorify God with your body.” That’s one of the most countercultural verses. Your body is given not for your self-expression, but for God’s glorification.
Simply to say, “I am not my own, but I belong to Jesus,” would be really countercultural. And then we know this as Christians: to love our neighbors as ourselves. What could be more obvious than that? And yet, when you think of the ramifications of what it means that my life is lived ultimately for the sake of others—and even beyond others in this life, for God—we know that as Christians and yet don’t.
Main Character vs. Supporting Role
Most of us, when we think about our lives, we think about ourselves as the center of what’s going on. When you think about your life, you are the main character. You never think about your life as a supporting actor or actress in someone else’s story. Now everyone else is a supporting actor or actress in your story of which you are the main principal character. How countercultural to realize God may have us on this earth for a story that is not mainly our story but is for some other person, some other group, some other church, someone else—ultimately for God’s story. This is to give us hopefully not discouragement, but real freedom to go and live a life that makes a difference for God—writing his own story, writing our own story on his own terms.
Kevin DeYoung is the author of Do Not Be True to Yourself: Countercultural Advice for the Rest of Your Life.
I’d like to offer different advice than what you might hear elsewhere: “Do not follow your dreams. Do not march to the beat of your own drummer. And whatever you do, do not be true to yourself.”
What does it look like to pursue real fulfillment in God, rather than in ourselves? And what's wrong with the self-obsessed, individualistic culture that dominates our world today?
Kevin DeYoung talks about how Christians (parents and non-parents alike) can help children to trust Jesus, embrace the Bible, and love others—even those with whom we disagree.
Kevin DeYoung argues that the last thing that God wants us to do is be true to ourselves, at least when it comes to our natural selves.