“Just be yourself” has become the reflexive advice of this generation. Offered as relief from social anxiety, it’s what people are told heading into job interviews, first dates, and every potentially awkward situation imaginable. It is poor counsel, indeed, to “just be yourself”.

The apostle urged those who would listen, “Imitate me” (1st Corinthians 4:16). Lest we think Paul was an egomaniac, consider the basis of that instruction: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (11:1). The goal is to be Christ-like. Striving toward that end, each disciple should observe and emulate the heroes set forth in Scripture. “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17).

Self should be cast aside in favor a new image. “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Obedience to the gospel requires not merely subjugation of oneself, but absolute surrender of self. Jesus’ invitation is: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Paul concluded, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

By Bryan Matthew Dockens

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