Have you ever thought about why you hate your driver’s license photo? Don’t you dismiss it as a one-inch-square lie told against your person? You don’t REALLY look like this, do you? Do you find yourself irrationally anxious for the passing of four years simply so you can try for a better photo?
Rationally, though, you know it really does identify you. It’s you, documented under a harsh governmental glare and held accountable to an unflinching official standard applied to each one of us. The unposed you simply feels like the exposed you.
Then why are you willing to show that naked self to the world? It allows you to drive!
It’s because you know that the small shame of that self-exposure will bring the greater reward of freedom. We remember being teenagers—driving represents freedom, zooming across the countryside on a beautiful day.
And now you’re beginning to see what it feels like to be a Christian.
How scary it is to sit still in the light of God’s holiness as described in the Bible! The official, unwavering light of heaven snaps an ultimately unflattering portrait of me. The psychic trauma I feel arises from the fact that there is so much in me that I want to cover up. My public face is a mask over a soul-deep embarrassment for my complex nastiness and lack of love.
Well then, why sit for this portrait of myself sketched by God’s law? The same reason you sit for your driver’s license photo. Sitting for this painful likeness will set you free! Even talk show hosts know that just admitting the truth about yourself starts to set you free. Say the truth about yourself before this studio audience and the viewing millions and you will be healed? How much more when you admit your broken, sinful self before the truth-requiring and grace-offering God of heaven!
Jesus pointed out that embracing the truths both about God and ourselves necessarily go together. If you persist in telling deep lies about what you are, you necessarily tell lies about God—who he is, and what he made us to be like. When you admit the awful truth about yourself, you are also ready to accept otherwise terrifying truths about God.
Speaking of himself as the Son of God, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free— Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31,34-36).
The great apostle Paul sets the example for us. Anyone who wishes to experience God’s salvation must first admit the truth about his sin …”The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). Because he was set free by believing in Christ Jesus who came into the world to save sinners, Paul could acknowledge himself as “chief sinner.” Jesus gives permanent forgiveness, fullness of joy, divine love, and eternal life only to those who identify themselves to him as “sinners.”
Freedom is God’s gift to those who sit for this portrait in his holy light. Unless you admit that you are a sinner, you can never be forgiven. Unless you are forgiven, you can never be free.
God doesn’t just forgive you, though. When you admit to the ultimately unflattering portrait of what you are in the light of God’s holiness, God starts to change what you really look like. He begins to photoshop your broken and lopsided visage into the beautiful image of Jesus. He starts to beautify you. He starts the process of deep renewal from the inside out into the glowing likeness of his son, Jesus.
This is a beauty regimen not merely skin-deep, but soul-deep, that will finally transform even the radiance of your skin at the resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:43, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Some day the cosmetic surgery of this present life will be over, and the bandages will be removed! Those who have looked to Jesus and hoped in him will be identified openly to the universe as the children of God, bearing his family likeness. All ugliness—inward and outward—will be removed. They will be the children of the living God. They will be beautiful. They will be free (Romans 8:18-24).
It begins now. The light is shining and the camera is pointing. Snap. The image you see—is it a lie or is it the truth?