Then Peter, turning around, saw [John] the disciple whom Jesus loved. (John 21:20)
If somebody asked you, “Who are you?” what would you say? How would you describe yourself?
You might answer by talking about your job, your possessions, your children, the color of your skin, or your country of origin. You might define yourself by what other people say about you or by what has happened to you in the past. These types of responses paint a picture of how the world sees us.
But the Apostle John saw himself differently. He chose to be known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20).
John did not describe himself as “a Jewish man from Galilee,” nor as “a fisherman.” He did not even call himself “a follower of Jesus” or “the disciple who loved Jesus.” John called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John’s identity was firmly grounded in Jesus’ love for him.
John knew his identity in Christ, yet all too often we resist ours. We struggle against the love He gives. We wonder, “How could He really care that much about me?” It seems too good to be true.
Instead, we are tempted to accept the thoughts concocted by Satan, “the father of lies” (John 8:44), and supported by the world around us. Since the fall, Satan has bombarded all of us humans with untrue thoughts and feelings that, if we believe, leave us feeling worthless, rejected, anxious or, on the opposite extreme, smugly self-satisfied and superior to others. Layers of guilt and shame on the one hand, or egotistical pride on the other, obscure our true identity.
We were made in the image of God. But all too often we reverse God’s original intent and make Him fit the image we have of ourselves. We develop a view of God (often aided by religion) that supports our false view of self. In our minds, we fashion God so that He somehow fits with the lies Satan throws at us. For example, if we condemn ourselves for a certain behavior, we will make up a God who condemns us—even though Scripture tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Oblivious to the truth of who God is, we unwittingly live life guided by visions of a being who exists only in the warped perceptions of our souls.
Jesus understands the genesis of our darkened minds. He feels the abuse we suffered. He knows the grief, the heartaches, the sorrow, the anxious strivings. He is aware of our family, its dysfunction, and how, from our mother’s womb, we grew to hold false ideas about ourselves, others, and God.
Jesus took all that upon Himself. He took our sins and unbelief and entered into our fallen state. Yet He stands before the Father, seeing Him as He really is. Jesus knows the bondage and blindness of our fallen minds and He knows “what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). He knows our Father’s heart and He shares the Father’s heart with us in our darkness.
As the Spirit brings light to our twisted thinking, we come to a fork in the road. We have a decision to make. Will we stay jailed in our world-based way of thinking or will we embrace the unknown freedom of life God’s way? Will we hang onto our old thought paradigms or will we embrace the new?
John the Apostle embraced the new. In chapter 13 of his Gospel, it was as if the veil fell from John’s eyes and he saw Jesus’ love for him and all humanity. On the night of the last supper, just after Jesus washed his feet, John began to call himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Ponder for a Moment
Can you identify any thoughts you might be telling yourself about yourself that aren’t true? If so, record those thoughts.
How might your view of self be impacting your view of God?
“The disciple whom Jesus loves.” Write that name for yourself on something you can see every day … as a reminder of who you really are in Christ.