It’s audio devo day!
Did you know that God’s royal law of love includes a mandate to love and value yourself? Learning to live this way is an essential part of obedient discipleship. Today we learn some practical ways to renew our minds until we are thinking like He does on this matter. Grab something hot to drink, put on an extra blanket, and let Jesus pour His love into you as you listen here:
(Does this minister to you? Know someone else that needs to hear it today? You can either share today’s blog link with them, or look up my Feeding on Jesus podcast for sharing and subscribing. You’ll find it at these links on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and most other podcast platforms, with episodes identical to these audio devos!)
I love how God does this. I was in the middle of putting this podcast series together for you about loving ourselves… and He provided a live illustration. As I sat in the backyard having my quiet time, a crow flew in. He perched on the railing upstairs for a second. Then he immediately began attacking his reflection in one of our dark-tinted windows. He would crash into it, and fall down, dazed. A few moments later, he would hop back up on the railing, see his “foe” again, and repeat the attack. He never could win! After at least six crashes to the floor, he gave up. Battered, he flew away wobbly, as if limping through the air.
What a perfect picture of the way we treat ourselves sometimes! Have you ever slung negativity at that person staring back at you in the mirror? Have you then gone away wincing, with an emotional limp? You know, this being antagonistic towards ourselves as we gaze at our reflections… it’s a “lose-lose” situation. We can’t win when we do this. Just ask our friend, Mr. Crow. When we direct hostility towards our own bodies and personalities, we only end up hurting and weakening ourselves.
Deeply loved child of God, let’s not get confused like this poor crow. You are not your own foe.
Instead, let’s jump into what the Word says about this. “Your calling is to fulfill the royal law of love as given to us in this Scripture: ‘You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!’ For keeping this law is the noble way to live” (James 2:8, TPT).
Last week we talked about looking intently into the “perfect law that gives freedom,” out of the previous chapter in James. As we gaze into God’s Word, it reflects back to us who we really are in Him, and brings us into glorious liberty. Here, in James 2:8, we have God’s continuation of this theme. We now learn another name for the “perfect law that gives freedom.” It’s the “royal law of love.” It simply proclaims, “You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!”
Notice that this command has two parts. Your neighbor, and yourself. Both parts are equally weighty. The next verse in this same passage shows us just how weighty: “But if you treat one person as being more important than another, you are sinning. You are guilty of breaking God’s law” (v. 9, NCV). Do you see that? If you favor a rich person over a poor person, you are committing a sin. Yes, this is absolutely true. However, don’t miss the other half of the application. If you, in your heart, judge that someone else is more inherently important and valuable than you are, this is the same sin. You are “favoring” them over the precious child of God that you are.
James is quite frank with us here, letting us know that God takes these matters very seriously. Sinning against the treasured ones that He gave His Son for matters very much to Him. Among those treasured ones is you. To not love and value yourself is literally to sin against yourself. “Sin” in Greek is hamartia, and it means “to miss the mark.” Holy Spirit is gently letting you and me know, that not loving ourselves is missing the mark. Here’s the flip side: Loving yourself is an essential part of obedient discipleship.
Look at the royal law of love one more time: “You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!” Loving and valuing yourself is a “given” in this Scripture. It’s the basis, the starting point, for loving and valuing others. You see, you can’t love your neighbor very well if you don’t love you.
Here’s where we are going to need some critically important renewing of the mind. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (ESV). When it comes to loving ourselves the way Jesus loves us, we need Him to renew our minds. We need His help to get rid of some “stinkin’ thinkin.” Transformation is going to happen within us as we adopt a brand new way of thinking about ourselves… as the primary objects of Jesus’ love.
Listen to this Scripture again in the NLT: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Even if the world all around us is swirling with self-criticism, He exhorts us not to copy that behavior. Instead, He beckons us up to a higher way. His good and pleasing and perfect will is that we would cherish ourselves as He cherishes us!
I want to mention something vital here. Jesus never beats us over the head about these things. On the contrary, He calls out to us with so much love. Romans 2:4 expresses tenderly, “…The goodness of God is gently drawing you to repentance” (Weymouth). With His goodness, with His kindness, with His gentleness, He draws us to repentance. He draws us up higher into a better way to live, where we aren’t attacking ourselves in our mirrors like Mr. Crow. Did you know that the Greek word for repentance is metanoia, and it means a change of thinking? The gentleness of Jesus is what will attract us into a radically transformed way of thinking about ourselves.
My dear friend, I also need to tell you, if you’ve had a life-long habit of self-derision and self-criticism, you have a new mindset to adopt. You have a new habit to build. This transformation is going to take focused determination and commitment on your part. Remember, James 2:8 tells us that this is the noble way to live. In other words, it’s going to be worth the effort. If you are wondering how this works out in practical reality, I have three extremely helpful tips I want to briefly share with you. This is how to change your thinking:
1) Memorize Scripture. Specifically, Scriptures that speaks of your preciousness to God. If you need some help on which ones these are, the two podcast episodes previous to this one were full of them. I’d encourage you to go back and take some good notes on them. Then, once you have committed these verses to memory, build a habit of speaking them out loud over yourself. Daily. Even if you don’t feel like you deeply believe what they say. Science tells us that we humans can convince ourselves of anything by enough repetition. God put that capacity into us! Let’s use it for the renewal of our minds!
2) Practice intentional self-kindness in the mirror. Instead of giving mental space to criticism of what you see there, tell yourself God’s truth on purpose. Think of yourself as His vessel of love. Allow His love to flow through you, to you as you speak words of life to your reflection. Do this every day.
3) Recognize, Reject, Replace. Pay attention to the old habitual negative thoughts when they try to start up. With all your heart, reject them. Reject them out loud even. Then replace them immediately with one of the Scriptures that you have committed to memory. Work hard on incorporating kindness into your self-talk. Fight the battle! Don’t give up. You will win!
Yes, you will win. Even science backs us up on this one. Neurologists explain that we form new habits and ways of thinking by burning new neuron pathways in our brains. Doing so takes concerted effort and commitment. Sort of like how blasting a new road through a mountain takes a lot more effort than taking the long way. You could just drive around the mountain on a road that already exists and it would be so much easier. You could just fall back on the old neuron pathways. It would be so much easier to just keep treating yourself harshly, then to put in the concentrated effort necessary to build a new way of thinking. But Jesus is asking you, will you put the work in to build a new road?
Do you hear Him?
Who is that Someone? It’s the Holy Spirit. Will we heed His beckoning? Will we put the hard work in to build a brand new road to travel on? Will we stop fighting with the mirror and embrace His call to love and value ourselves as He does?
Have you ever quit a harmful habit? What did it take to make it happen?