“Be yourself,” and “You do you.” These are familiar pieces of advice offered today. But for many, the inclination to “be yourself” means choosing sinful expressions, doing whatever you want, and living without regard to the truth of Scripture because “this is who I am.” For the redeemed believer, the admonition to “be yourself” takes on an entirely different substance.
Many insecure people try to be someone they are not. They brag about their accomplishments, education, or associations to impress others. Believers are called to be authentic (see Romans 12:2). It’s okay to let people know we are flawed and still struggling with sin (see Romans 7:14–25). Paul cautions, “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3, NLT). We run the risk of becoming hypocrites, braggarts, and phonies (like the Pharisees) if we pretend to be super Christians (see Matthew 6:5, 16; 23:13–29; 24:51). God wants us to be humble and selfless (Matthew 11:29; Philippians 2:3–8). Instead of trying to be someone we are not, we should endeavor to be the person God created us to be.
God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26–27) to become His unique masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 100:3) and to be transformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28–30; Colossians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Our identity as believers is grounded in Jesus Christ. The counsel to “be yourself” as a Christian means living as a dearly loved child of God because that is who we are in Christ (1 John 3:1).
To be yourself, you must first know who you are. The believer has two choices, or two “selves,” to consider: the “old man” and the “new man” in Jesus Christ. You can “be yourself” in your old sinful nature, that is, the natural self. Or you can “be yourself” in Christ and obey the leading of your new, redeemed nature. The old, pre-Christian self traces its lineage all the way back to Adam when we were slaves to sin and destined for death (see Romans 5:12–17; see also Genesis 2:17; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22; Psalm 51:5).
When we live according to the dictates of our old self, we seek to please our sinful nature (Romans 7:18). Paul warns, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21, NLT).
The Holy Spirit enables Christians to be their new selves: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:24–25, NLT). When we are joined to Christ through His death and resurrection, we “become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT). Only a redeemed child of God can genuinely know what it means to “be yourself” in the way our heavenly Father intended, as the Spirit begins to strip off the old nature with its sinful desires and we “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9–10).
The paradoxical secret to discovering our true selves is not to look inwardly but outwardly, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). As we contemplate His glory, “the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT).
As members of Christ’s body, the Holy Spirit equips us with unique spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:4–7, 11; 1 Corinthians 12:28). We can “be ourselves” by exercising our individual giftings to encourage and build up our brothers and sisters in the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:4–11; Ephesians 4:15–16). The uniqueness of our gifts is meant to be appreciated rather than envied. Not everyone can teach the Word of God or lead worship. Some must serve quietly behind the scenes for the family of God to function correctly. When all the diversified parts join as one, the church operates in strength and unity (1 Corinthians 12:12–30). To “be yourself” as a Christian means understanding you are one part of the whole body of Christ.
The ultimate revelation of who we are in Christ is hinted at in the book of Revelation when the Lord will write His new name upon us (Revelation 2:17; 3:12; 22:4; see also Isaiah 62:2; 65:15). That new name will be the unique expression of ourselves as God’s children to be fully and climatically unveiled when we stand in His presence (see 1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Then we will be our true selves for all eternity.