Try TO picture this scene: It's rainy and cold and there's a big fire burning. A man named Paul and a group of men are wet and huddled around the fire. Their ship was wrecked in a storm, and they swam ashore to this island. The island people built a fire to welcome the men and help them get warm and dry (see Acts, chapters 27 and 28).
At one point, Paul gathered up a bundle of brushwood and was adding it to the fire. He didn't know it, but there was a viper (a poisonous snake) in the wood, and it crawled out and bit Paul on the hand.
The island people who saw this immediately said, "This man must be a murderer." They thought the viper bit Paul to punish him for terrible things he had done. They expected him to drop down dead. But Paul threw off the viper into the fire. And he wasn't hurt.
How could this be? We need to go back some years earlier in Paul's life in order to understand how this could happen.
When Paul was younger, he was a leader of a group of men who were persecuting Christians, the people who were following the teachings of Jesus. And he was doing terrible things. He went looking for those who were Christians and then he had them sent to prison. He didn't even try to stop anyone from killing them.
But one day when he was traveling along the road, intending to do more harm to people, he was blinded by a light from heaven. He heard a message saying that Christ Jesus had a purpose for him (see Acts 26:16, 17). He was supposed to help others see the power of God so they could have their sins forgiven. Paul immediately obeyed this message and began traveling and telling everyone about Jesus and what he taught about God. Paul healed people too, just as Jesus did.
Paul was changed. He became a new man. He knew who he was. God was his Father. He was God's son, made in God's own image. So Paul put off the old, hateful things about himself and became what God intended for him to be. He stopped doing wrong and started doing great things to help people know about God.
So years later around that big fire when someone said about Paul, "He must be a murderer," Paul knew that wasn't who he was. And he immediately threw off the viper (and the bad things the people said about him), and he was safe.
Paul was protected because he knew who he was. Knowing who you are can protect you, too. What Jesus taught is true about you, too. God is your Father. That means you are God's child, made in God's own image. That might seem impossible, but it's true.
If God is good, you must be good. If God is intelligent, you must be smart. If God is powerful, you must be strong. Maybe you know other good things about God that will tell you something more about who you are. Of course, you can always ask God to show you how you're like Him.
So if you ever hear those voices in your head saying things like, "You're ugly." Or, "You're dumb." Or maybe the voices come from other kids saying, "You're no good. You can't be on the team." No matter where the voices come from, you can always stop and think about how God made you in His own image. And you can't turn into something else. So those put-down voices can't possibly be right. Shake them off.
Remember how Paul changed? You might change too. Finding out how wonderful God made you changes how you think about yourself, and then you might find that you're acting more like God made you to be. Then you'll be "new," too.
When you're sure about who you are, you can't be tricked into believing something about yourself that's not true. When you know who you are, then you can be as God made you.
Put on the new man,
which after God is created
and true holiness.