Christian life is like a house. Mine needed a remodel.

I like to envision my life in Christ as a house. For the first 25 years of my life that house was designed, built, and furnished almost exclusively by a very specific brand of evangelical Christianity. I attended a Christian college with a slightly broader brand, and some redecorating started early in my twenties, but for the most part, that house remained pretty much the same. 

I struggled with deep introspection and constant condemnation in my performance-oriented walk with Christ. But I never considered whether something was missing in the house of my theology. Up to that point my spiritual community held to our theology and way of life in very arrogant ways. We believed we were the cream of the crop. We lived thinking we had the most coherent belief system with very little to no contradiction in our understanding of God, salvation, and church government and practice. 

Then in my mid-twenties the Lord used a different flavor of evangelicalism to open my eyes to a fundamental truth about the gospel that I hadn’t tasted up to that point. I started to savor the life-giving reality that the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ was for me too as a Christian, not just unbelievers. This realization rocked my world. The constant introspection and condemnation I had lived with started to ease up as I learned to take hold of the gospel as the only reality that defined my life. 

This began a remodeling project in the house of my spiritual formation and practice. A few walls were knocked down, and the living room became larger. More people could come and sit. I realized I had much to learn from groups that were outside of what I had previously considered acceptable. The more I honed in on the importance of a gospel culture in the church (not just an evangelistic culture but one actually gospel-shaped and motivated by grace), I realized how the culture of my church (and denomination) had been sorely lacking. 

Over the course of the next 10 years (with two huge cross-cultural moves in the mix), God kept slowly remodeling my house but all still within a specific theological framework. He redecorated – adding rugs here and there, switching out paintings and wall art or completely replacing them – but most of my influences were still within a strong word-centered tradition. 

When we arrived at the country where we live now (yes, a third cross-cultural move), the remodeling project became significantly more intense. I went from thinking my house was pretty complete and without much need of significant change, to realizing I needed major overhaul. Through deep suffering the Lord started to expose how the actual foundation of my home needed to be completely replaced. He started to show how my Christian walk was not only shaped by the theological system I had lived in all my life, but also by trauma and dysfunction. 

I needed significant healing and rescue, and my Father was eager to gently, tenderly deliver me. He used the strength of other spiritual communities to help me taste a bit more the fullness of who He is and the riches of his presence. In the contemplative traditions I’ve delighted in being with God, in slowing down and focusing on his actual presence with me. Through my charismatic friends, he has fixed my gaze on the Spirit and on his ministry that pours the love of the Father.

He is growing my dependence on the Spirit’s ability to lead me and guide me in righteousness, not because a spiritual community or leaders tell me how to live but because He himself is able and willing to do it and because he has given me Christ’s ability to discern it. Community matters deeply, and leaders can be a gift, but I am discovering what great confidence there is in listening to the Spirit.

Over time I have found myself jealous for more of the triune God, and that desire is the main filter through which I evaluate different traditions and systems. While I still strongly care about theology and the surety of the word, I want the house of my walk with Christ to have a strong awareness of the nourishing presence of the actual person of God – not just truth about him. 

As I consider this major remodeling that God has done in my life, I have been struck by two things that matter immensely in our Christian formation and practice. Doctrine matters, theology matters, but what matters more than a specific set of beliefs is that we know how much the Father loves us in Christ and that, trusting in that love, we live by the Spirit and not in the flesh. 

Interacting with people from many traditions and backgrounds, I have been struck by how we are all tempted in similar ways to doubt the love of the Triune God and to live with confidence in the flesh. It shouldn’t surprise me since that has been the attack of the devil as early as Genesis 3, when there were no denominations or traditions – only humans. 

The brokenness of the world, of relationships, of our own hearts gets in the way of us knowing deep in our souls the delight of the Father to us through Christ. We forget (or don’t know or don’t grasp) how our in-Christness defines every aspect of our reality. We focus so much on what we do or don’t do, that we think that the love of God depends on that. 

And this leads us to find our security, significance, and confidence in many good things that are not Christ. We boast in our accurate understanding of the word, in our precise theology, in our visions and experiences in the Spirit, in the power and effectiveness of our prayers, in our liturgies and rhythms of fasting and silence and solitude.

But when our confidence is on anything outside of the finished work of Christ and of his life, death, and resurrection (and their power in us), we end up reeking of pride and can become oppressive in our interactions with our brothers and sisters. The flesh is the enemy, not those outside of our circles.

While I have struggled to know where I fully belong in the context of so much theological and practical diversity, I have also come to be supremely grateful for an outsider perspective. I have been learning from many but not fully belonging anywhere.

Yet I am supremely grateful for what God has given me through such distinct theological backgrounds and cultures because in all of it, he is giving me more of himself in ways that offset the profound loneliness of this long season of painful but needed transformation. I have been grasping and savoring the surety of his presence with me because of what he has revealed about himself in the beautiful prism of his diverse body. 

I am thankful for the things I get to keep of the tradition and theological system that first shaped me. And I am also grateful for the freedom to identify which things I don’t want to keep from them – which allows me to recognize the needed gifts and beauty in other traditions.

We all need our houses to be remodeled eclectically. No single theological system or set of doctrines or practices holds the vastness and mystery of God. When Christ alone is the sure foundation, our homes are strong enough to withstand expansive remodeling so that the beauty, glory, and paradox of the triune God is what defines and establishes every aspect of our life in Christ. 

Because at the end of the day traditions and systems and doctrines are just that: traditions, systems, and doctrines. None of them can save. None of them is a sufficient source of confidence. Only God himself is worthy of all our trust, rest, and joy.

When Self-Discovery Becomes Self-Worship

by Josiah Dangers

“What’s your Enneagram number?”
“What’s your Meyers-Briggs code?”
“What are your top five on Strengthsfinder?”
…Hammer or duct tape?
…Beaver or Golden Retriever?
…Which Disney Princess are you?
… Marvel villain?
…Pokemon character?

Can soul-care become idolatry? Can self-discovery become self-worship?
In the contemporary Church and in missions, we spend an inordinate amount of time helping people achieve a “healthy soul.” We endeavor to use every tool at our disposal toward that noble end. We administer various self-discovery tests and discuss the results. We talk to people about why they do the things they do, why they react the way they do, why they sin the way they sin, why they thrive the way they thrive, why they stress the way they stress.

But if we are not very careful, we can actually lead them on a journey of counterproductive introspection and self-absorption instead of leading them on a journey toward Christ. We will fail in our efforts to improve a person’s soul-health every time if we don’t help them to look up.

The Gospel key to soul health is to look up. The Gospel proclaims, “get your eyes off of yourself and onto your Savior.” The Gospel call is not to become a better version of yourself but to be crucified with Christ and become a new creation (Galatians 2:20). As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The call of Christ is a call to come and die.”


The Race
In Hebrews 12:1-2 we read that we are in a race: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Have you ever watched a stage of the Tour de France? How much time do those riders spend looking at themselves? Almost none. How much time do they spend looking over their shoulders? Very little – just the occasional quick glance. If you fixate on yourself while traveling at 30-60 MPH on two wheels that rival your pinky finger in girth, you won’t win the prize – you will win the prestigious “worst case of road rash” award as the rest of the peloton races ahead.

To be sure, each athlete in the Tour spends time in self-evaluation and preparation. The best riders spend an obsessive amount of time in training. However, the best ones are not fixating on themselves – they are fixating on the prize. They, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, discipline their bodies into submission for the sake of the prize. They recognize that who and what they are in and of themselves is insufficient to win the prize unless they train and become something that they naturally are not.

Sounds a lot like sanctification, doesn’t it?

What your soul needs is NOT to become more like you. After all, you are the primary cause of your soul’s sickness (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 7:18). What your soul needs is to become less like you and more like Jesus (John 3:30). Granted, each one of us is designed to reflect certain aspects of the image of God. No one will ever reflect the fullness of the image of Christ. The catch is that so many of us spend our time and energy trying to discover what facet of the image we were designed to reflect instead of simply pursuing Jesus and allowing Him to call to life aspects of His image in us.


So what about all these tests?
Personality tests and the like can be useful. There are good ones out there, and there are many worthless ones. However, even the good ones are just tools. The Enneagram is not the Gospel. Nor is Meyers-Briggs, DISC, or any other test. Where they are useful, use them. After all, all truth is God’s truth, but nothing besides the Word has the corner on ALL truth.

These tests can be very helpful in identifying besetting sin patterns, areas of weakness or strength, causes of interpersonal tension or communication failures on teams, or even incorrectly deployed personnel. But please, for the sake of the Gospel, ask this question as you use them: Is my study of myself through this test causing me to become more like Christ, or is it leading me toward self-worship and idolatry?

With that question in mind, here are two potential pitfalls of self-discovery tests.

1. Excuses
That’s just me.  That’s the way I am.  That’s how God made me.  Deal with it.

Oh good… now we are blaming the Creator for our bad behavior.  Friends, that dog don’t hunt.  If you have a natural tendency to treat people badly, to be so driven that you hurt people in the process, to be reclusive, to be loud in self-promotion, to be arrogant or judgmental, call it what it is: sin.  Don’t ask others around you to accommodate it.  Put it to death!  Hate the sin in yourself enough to deal with it!  Repent where needed!  Use your list of weaknesses, needs, or sinful tendencies as a prayer list.  Run to your Savior and find freedom!

Never hide behind a number on a test.  That number, that descriptor, that code, should only serve to illuminate your need for Christ and your potential as a new creation in Christ.  You will only be free from your sin and reach your potential in Christ, or as Paul puts it, “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13) as you fix your eyes on Christ and become more like Him.

2. Pride. 
Our natural tendency as humans, regardless of our activity, is to compare ourselves to those around us. How easy it is to end up thinking: my list of strengths is cooler, more dynamic, more flexible, more impactful, or just plain better than yours.  I scored higher than you.  I am more balanced that you.  I’m more ______ than you.  I might have this weakness, but at least I don’t have THAT weakness like they do!

The Bible has a word for this line of thinking: pride.  One of the seven deadly sins, pride will manifest itself in the form of self-idolatry in a heartbeat.  Self-idolatry is one of the most insidious forms of idolatry because it is so hard to self-identify. It’s like dirt on your forehead – it’s perfectly evident to onlookers but invisible to you.  It’s only visible when looking into the mirror of the Word – the perfect, liberty producing law (James 1:24,25).

When you see your sin, your weakness, and your brokenness, join Paul in declaring, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a)


As we seek health for our souls, we must never allow soul-health to be the center of our pursuit.  Pursue Jesus.  As you do, you will discover that your soul will find its rest in Him. As a follower of Christ, your default in seeking to understand yourself should be to run to the Word of God.  What does God say about you? What does His Word say about your sanctification?  How does He want you to treat people?  How does He want you to communicate? Listen first and foremost to His voice and allow Him to guide you into all truth (John 16:13).


Josiah’s African roots go way back. His grandparents were career missionaries in D.R. Congo, and he grew up in Uganda, where his parents are still missionaries. Josiah studied at John Brown University, where he met and married Autum, his wife of 14 years. He spent eight years serving first as youth pastor and then as worship pastor at a local church in Colorado. In 2015, he moved to Uganda where he served as a camp director. He’s now back in Colorado serving as the Director of Missionary Care and Development for New Hope Uganda and as a worship leader at Woodmen Valley Chapel. Josiah and Autum have five adventurous children.