Whirlwind past week. Planes, trains and automobiles. Away from family, immersed in the Russian language, cultural thinking and projects. The timing of our septic problem wasn’t great. Upon returning last night, my heart and mind was not the only thing overflowing. Gracious.

“A humble self-knowledge is a surer way to God than a search after deep learning.” -Thomas Kempis

Finishing up the final paper for my first completed year at Fuller. One word, formation. To step away from your context, to look deeply inside with a cohort of fellow learners has been nothing short of transforming. For too long my view of leadership has been nestled in personality, natural & acquired gifting – in short, it’s been worldly. This corporate style leader, the one with all the supposed answers and vision is a reflection not of who I really am – but a product, a brand, a false-self projection that I’ve been striving into.

We are not our successes. We are not our failures. We’re not even our beliefs. We are.

“Grant Lord that I may know myself that I may know Thee” -Augustine

This person God created, the real you. The one that hides in the shadows. The broken, insecure, fragile you that seeks meaning and affirmation. Jesus deeply loves that person. He can’t love anyone else but the real person, because all else is an illusion of our own making – either what others have pressed upon us as ‘successful’ and worthy of love, or what we’ve been deceived into thinking is worthy.

Is your Gospel deep enough to accept and unconditionally love the real you? Is your Gospel powerful enough to reach down into the depths of you, and begin forming you from the inside out? Are we polishing up the outside projection or moving from shadow into the purging rays of His presence?

“Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:21

Why would Augustine challenge us into a ‘self-knowing’? Isn’t that the exact opposite of what Christians should do? After all, aren’t we supposed to cast aside the old nature, the old person and dive into knowing Christ? I think he was saying this (as have Christians throughout history until the last century), that until we turn inward and wrestle and come to terms with our broken, true self in shadow, we’ll never know the depths, heights, and wonders of grace. We’ll spend our lives attempting a relationship with God from the place of projection, much like the Pharisees. We’ll assume because we practice certain moralities and by comparison seem quite successful in them, that we have something we potentially do not – relationship!

You see, we’re not just sinners, we are deeply loved sinners and the plan of God from the start was the miracle of transformation – but it takes a brave, trusting, surrender to embrace this realty – That in our most desperate condition, that’s really who we are and no striving or religious zeal can convince God otherwise. Remember, it was not immoral or lazy believers that were rejected in Matthew 7. These disciples cast out demons and performed many miracles! Think about that. They were missional, active, productive in their fervor for Christ, yet met with Christs, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

They thought they knew Jesus through production, doing. Their symbols of outward affirmation trick us at times into believing we are perhaps someone we are not. We Christians are not free from this life journey of self discovery. In fact, I think we are some of the worst pretenders in the game. Religion rears its ugly head in thinking outward uniformity is real unity, adhering to code, ideas, following blind leaders thinking there must be safety in the pack.

Beware the affirmation in doing unless it comes from the place of true being.

I’m rediscovering Christ, faith in the purging rays of transparency in solitude – and the results are freeing. This, spiritual formation, is the heart of discipleship. As a leader, I must lead in this process and come alongside others who are desiring to go deeper than institutional religion. I’m becoming less aware of other opinions, and more concerned with being who I am. This isn’t an excuse for poor behavior, but rather just the opposite, it’s a ruthless process of wanting true inward change that I don’t ‘need’ to worry about my behavior. If behavior is coming from any place than my true forming self, it’s an act, it’s weak, and false. If Jesus appreciates sincerity, we all must come to the Cross and nail that false self there for good.

Once we realize the polished religious or performance self is our enemy, the game is on. We need to bring all that is false to Calvary, the place where our new identity is found.

Put on the new self which is being renewed. Col 3:9-10

Which ‘self’ are you living into?