God’s thoughts about us can change everything we have believed about ourselves. His perspective is so important that it was part of Jesus’ prayer for us before His crucifixion. This prayer revealed that we can see ourselves in the same way He saw Himself as He walked on this earth.
In John 17:16 Jesus said, “They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world” (Message).
It is easy to believe that Jesus was not of the world’s system or confined within its limitations. Jesus revealed life as it could be lived outside the boundaries of typical experiences. Jesus wasn’t limited by lack, disease, or politics, nor did He react to threats or accusations from people. He lived above it all; and now He expects us to live above it all as well.
We rise to a higher level of living when we learn how to define ourselves now that we are in Christ. But first, what really does define us as people?
The dictionary’s meaning of the word “define” is to mark its limits; to set clear boundaries; or to identify it. Limits, boundaries, and identity are all aspects of defining ourselves.
Notice Jesus’ words again with these ideas in mind. We are not defined by the limits, boundaries, or identifying marks of the world. From God’s point of view, we are not of the world, nor are we governed by its limits and boundaries.
One day Jesus asked His disciples this question:
“‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'” (Matthew 16:13-16 NKJV).
Peter’s answer was completely different from what other people said about Jesus. Jesus expected His disciples to have a different answer.
Jesus expects us to think and act differently, to have different experiences than the world and to expect different results. Why? Because we are different; we’re no longer living in the same system as the rest of the world. We are now living in God’s Kingdom, His system.
Another time, Jesus asked His disciples a question that revealed their limited thinking. This is the account where Jesus fed the 5,000. “Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?'” (John 6:5 NKJV).
Philip and Andrew answered Jesus’ question, and in both responses, their faith and expectations were defined by their limited thinking.
“Philip answered Him, ‘Don’t you know that it would take almost a year’s wages just to buy only a little bread for each of these people?'” (v. 7 CEV).
Philip’s response was defined by the need. He couldn’t see beyond the need. Philip didn’t answer Jesus’ actual question that asked where they could buy bread. Instead, Philip immediately became overwhelmed by the vast need.
Andrew replied to Jesus, saying, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” (v.9). Andrew made the same mistake Philip did; he couldn’t see beyond his own limited thinking. Andrew saw the lack of adequate bread and couldn’t seem to imagine what else could be done.
When our thinking focuses on what we can do to solve a problem or meet a need, we can forget about how big God is. As a result, we risk missing out on what He wants to do to bring His supernatural provision into our situation.