Our culture says to save yourself you must be yourself. But the gospel says to be yourself you must be saved from yourself. You must lose yourself, deny yourself, die to yourself. In short, you must be crucified and resurrected in Jesus Christ.
Jesus not only saves you from your sin, but he also saves you to a new life found in him. And in saving you to himself, he saves you to his people.
Jesus’s mission is to form not solely individuals but a people (1 Peter 2:9). We won’t find in the Bible statements like, “Be yourself. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Free yourself.” What we do find are statements like, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Love your neighbor as yourself. Forgive others. Submit to one another.” The many “one another” passages1 we find in the Bible are, in fact, at the center of what it means to be a Christian and become like Christ. In other words, you can’t be your true self all by yourself.
2-Be a disciple
Implicit in the command to go and make disciples is be made a disciple. You can’t reproduce disciples if you aren’t a disciple first. And discipleship can’t happen apart from “one another” and life together with God’s people. Our character—behaviors, values, beliefs, loves—is formed in the presence of others.
If the world will know we are disciples of Jesus by our love for one another (John 13:35), then this love is most visibly seen and most clearly overheard in our relationships. We cannot be shaped or formed by Christ, and into Christ, apart from love, and we cannot love or know love apart from mutual serving and personal sacrifice in relationship with others.
Christ has won you on the cross. Yes! But he has also won for you a new life together with the people of God.
3-Be the church
The church long existed before any one of us did. It was not only God’s plan, but it is also his accomplishment through the cross. Jesus purchased the church, his bride, with his own precious blood. But the church is not a single color or race or demographic or political party.
The church is the manifestation and joy of God’s wisdom in the creation of humanity. The church in its manifold, rich diversity/unity, that is. It’s only as you come to connect with others different from yourself that you come to know and to share in what God has actually and fully realized in Christ: that of every nation, tribe, and tongue he has made one new man, a new humanity, in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:13-22).
As the church, then, we must see and love humanity differently than the world does. God so loved the world, not only those in the world who love us, who are easy to love, or who love what we love. We love not instrumentally, for the gain of, but for the sake of. We value people because they reflect the image of God. We’re not bent on labeling people out of arrogance, ignorance or fear, but are instead set on knowing people, and on serving them, putting ourselves last and putting them first.