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TEXT: John 12:25

SUBJECT: The godly training of teenagers #6: Self-esteem

I.WHAT IS "SELF-ESTEEM"?

A."Self-esteem" simply means "the way you look at yourself". It is a personal evaluation in which you assign to yourself great, little, or no worth. In other words, it's a matter of whether or not you like yourself.

1.High self-esteem--it is said--should not be confused with egotism or pride. The boaster, in fact, is probably acting that way because, deep down, he feels inferior. A person with "high self-esteem" is confident, outgoing, and well able to meet life's every challenge.

2.Low self-esteem, on the other hand, can be informally defined as "feeling rotten about yourself". Such a person suffers acute pangs of guilt, fear, and inadequacy. This feeling is so deeply imbedded that the most obvious facts cannot shake him from his self-loathing.

a.The classic case of low self-esteem, of course, is the beautiful teenage girl who imagines herself to be hideously ugly.

B.Every parent, I suppose, would prefer his child to be "confident and successful", rather than "fearful and withdrawn". It would therefore behoove us to do everything within our power to enhance our children's "self-esteem". Many Christian authors have commented on this subject pointedly:

1.James Dobson blames virtually all social problems on low self-esteem. In his book, "Hide or Seek", he avers, "The matter of personal worth is not only the concern of those who lack it. In a real sense, the health of an entire society depends on the ease with which the individual members gain personal acceptance. Thus, whenver the keys to self-esteem are seemingly out of the reach for a large percentage of the people, as in twentieth century America, then widespread mental illness, neuroticism, hatred, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and social disorder will certainly occur."

2.Another conservative author, Philip A. Captain, adds a further atrocity to the list. "Mothers who choose to obtain abortions do so because of too little self-esteem, not too much." Walter Trobisch, a third evangelical writer, agrees. " I wonder whether one of the deepest roots of the abortion problem does not lie here...Can an expectant mother who wishes to abort her child really love herself?" Other, well-known conservative Christians concur entirely. I might name especially Bruce Narramore and Lawrence Crabb.

3.The lack of self-esteem, therefore, seems to be the "root of all evil". And therefore, as might be expected, high self-esteem is the answer (or at least one of the answers) to mankind's deplorable state. Trobisch in his book, "Love Yourself", goes so far as to say, "The act of self-acceptance is the root of all things".

C.According to such writers, a healthy dose of self-esteem is critically important to the welfare of the individual and society alike. But what are their arguments? Upon what do they base their conclusions? Why, in other words, should we teach our children to love themselves? Many arguments could be advanced, but I will confine myself to four: the first two from secular thinkers, the third and fourth from Evangelical Christians.

1.Secularists tend to base their conclusions on one of two doctrines:

a.The inherent goodness of man. Popularly put, like this, "I should love myself because I am lovable".

b.The second is more utilitatarian in nature. "If I am to love others, I must first love myself". Or--to put it another way--"If I am to meet the needs of my fellow man, my basic needs must first be met". This is a simplification of Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs".

2.Some professed Christians no doubt accept these doctrines wholeheartedly. But the more thoughtful and orthodox teachers of "self-esteem" base their conclusions on different foundations, both of which are clearly Biblical.

a.The image of God. "Man is inherently dignified and lovable because he is made in the likeness and image of God, see, e.g., James 3:9."

b.The work of Christ. "Man is infinitely valuable because of the price paid for his redemption, see I Peter 1:18-19."

3.Why then should we teach our children to love themselves? Because:

a.They are good.

b.They cannot love others without first loving themselves.

c.They are made in the Divine image.

d.They are redeemed by the blood of Christ.

D.These arguments are widely accepted, and therefore, plans have been drawn up and books written to universally implement them, especially in children.

1.Parents must no longer be concerned merely with cultivating good character in their children. They must take pains to enhance the self-esteem of their little ones.

a.The Calvinist theologian and psychologist, Anthony Hoekema, writes, "Parents should also handle disciplinary problems in such a way as not to damage a child's positive self-image...A mother must let her child know that she understands the child's feelings, and accepts him as he is, with all of his feelings".

b.The Evangelical, Donna Foster, charges Christian parents thusly, "God has entrusted you to convey a sense of self-worth to a few of His little ones."

c.This goal requires the carefullest self-control in the parent. One author says, "Parents and teachers should be extremely sensitive to the attitude they express toward children...Children respond not only to what is said to them and about them but also to the attitudes, gestures and subtle shades of expression that indicate how parents and teachers feel".

(1)In other words, the suspicious raising of an eyebrow might drive your child to a life of drunkenness!

2.Schools must also be involved.

a.Public schools aim to build the students' self-worth. I read in last Saturday's edition of U.S.A. Today, that Evander Holyfield, a leading heavyweight boxer, was invited to a school to speak on the subject "Why I love myself!"

b.Christian schools are following in the train nicely. Grand Rapids, Michigan is, without doubt, the center of the American Christian School Movement. In 1984, it was reported, "In Grand Rapids, 500 Christian school children from the fourth and fifth grades were given a week's training in `how to recognize their true worth'. They wrote essays on why they liked themselves (or didn't), they acted out a skit called `A pat on the back', and were told, `feel good about yourselves'".

3.Even those musty depositories of "sin, guilt, and repentance", churches, must not lag behind this movement toward a more positive self-esteem.

a.Robert Schuller spearheads the movement from the pulpit. He, by the way, claims to be a Calvinist.

b.A couple of years ago, I attended a Evangelical Lutheran meeting, in which the pastor said, "Everyone needs strokes. And the Gospel is God's way of stroking us!"

E.To sum it up:

1.Self-esteem means "to like yourself".

2.It is critically important to "like yourself".

3.There are solid reasons (both secular and religious) for "liking yourself".

4.Therefore, every institution must join forces to be sure that the rising generation "likes itself". Or, to put in in the words of the popular song,

"Learning to love yourself

is the greatest love of all."

II.WHAT'S WRONG WITH "SELF-ESTEEM"?

A.Its arguments are fallacious, both in their secular and religious garb.

1."You ought to love yourself because you are lovable." Is that so? Let the apostle answer, Titus 3:3, "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hating and being hateful."

2."If I am to love others, I must first myself be loved". Or, "If I am to meet the needs of others, I must first have my needs met". Are these true?

a.Jesus Christ had a perfect human love for those who hated him. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou which killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee; how oft would I have gathered thee together as a hen does her young, but thou wouldst not". Compare this tender compassion with Jerusalem's opinion of Him, expressed shortly thereafter. Two words will do; "Crucify Him!"

b.But now the argument is always, "Well, Jesus Christ is God and sinless. But I am neither. Thus, I couldn't be expected to do as He did". False. God "predestined every Christian to be conformed to the image of Christ". But secondly, Paul was neither Divine, nor sinless, yet he could say, "I am will to spend and be spent for you, though the more I love you the less I am loved by you".

c.Finally, your needs are to be met, not before, but by meeting the needs of others. "This is my commandment, that you love one another, that your joy may be full".

3."I am God's creature--and Image bearer, no less, and therefore, should love myself". More on this later, but for now, note four things:

a.Satan is also God's creature, and a noble one at that. Should he be loved?

b.Both God and good men have hated some of his image bearers (Psalm 5:5, 139:21). Bearing His image, therefore, does not necessarily make anyone lovable.

c.Being created in God's image, leaves us--not dignifed in our sins--but doubly accountable for them! "To whom much is given, much will be required".

d.Solomon anticipated this opinion, and rather than celebrating, deplored it. "Lo, this only do I know, that God made man upright, but he sought out many inventions."

4."I must be infinitely valuable because Christ died for me."

a.Here I can do no better than quote Dr. Paul Brownbeck. "The atonement is not a demonstration of the worth of man, but of the grace of God". And "grace" means undeserved! Christ got no bargain in dying for me!

5.These arguments, therefore, are "weighed in the balances and found wanting".

B.It lacks any explicit Biblical warrant.

1."God is love". His religion, therefore, can only be expressed in love. Thus, Scripture often commands us to love various objects. I think, especially of:

a.God, Matthew 22:37.

b.Christ, I Corinthians 16:22.

c.Family, Ephesians 5:25, Titus 2:4.

d.Brethren, I Peter 2:17.

e.Neighbor, Matthew 22:39.

f.Enemies, Matthew 5:44.

2.But there is not a single verse in all of Scripture which reads anything like, "Love yourself." There is no example of a man being blessed for "loving himself". There is no precedent for a man being judged for "not loving himself".

3.If this doctrine of "self-esteem" is so critically important to the welfare of God's people, surely He would have told us so in words so plain that we couldn't miss the message! But He did not! We have good reason to believe, therefore, that there is someting wrong--seriously wrong--with this doctrine.

C.It lacks any implicit Biblical warrant.

1.I'll be the first one to grant you that not every doctrine is taught explicitly. Some are implicitly revealed, as for example, the doctrine of the Trinity. But is "self-esteem"? I don't think so. Let me cite the four (in my experience) most common verses quoted to "prove" it.

a.Psalm 139:14b, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and that my soul knows right well".

(1)Argument: "The Divine image in man should cause him to exult in the dignity and majesty of God's crowning creation".

(2)Answer: Read the whole verse. "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows right well".

(3)Conclusion: The Divine Image in man is intended to cause him to rejoice--not in himself--but in his Creator. "I will praise You! Marvellous are Your works!"

(4)Substantiation: Psalm 8:4, "What is man that Thou art mindful of him; and the son of man that Thou visitedst him?" Romans 1:25b, "They worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever".

b.Matthew 22:39, "The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself".

(1)Argument: "To love your neighbor as yourself implies that you must first love yourself".

(2)Answer: The immediate context forbids such an interpretation for at least two reasons:

(a)The question is "What is the great commandment of the law?" Jesus answers: Love God and your neighbor. He then limits the extent of the Law to these two--and these two alone! "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets". To suggest that self-love is included in neighborly love is to expand the "Great Commandments" to three. And to do that is to "Add to the word of God".

(b)Luke tells us that self-love, rather than complementing "love for your neighbor", actually contradicts it. "And he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, `And who is my neighbor?' To which the Lord responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

i)The priest and Levite loved themselves so much that they couldn't be bothered with their waylaid brother. His sad plight would prevent them from "self-actualizing". He would suck up their time, energy, and money. And he would probably defile them ceremonially. And, enjoying a healthy self-esteem, they couldn' find it within themselves to "Esteem others better than themselves".

ii)The Samaritan, on the other hand, didn't care about himself. Being a "dog" in the eyes of the Jew, he probably wouldn't so much as receive a "thank you" for his noble service. But "esteeming the Jew better than himself", he met the need of the wounded traveller.

(3)Question: If "love for your neighbor" includes "love for yourself", then what happens when your intrests collide?

(4)Conclusion: "Love your neighbor as yourself" cannot imply "Love yourself". For the more you "love yourself", the less you can "love your neighbor".

(5)Substantiation: II Timothy 3:2,3, "For men shall be lovers of themselves....and unloving".

c.Ephesians 5:28-29, "So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church".

(1)Argument: It is very similar to the one just mentioned. "If a man must love his wife as himself, it follows that must also love himself".

(2)Answers:

(a)This "love his own flesh" is not a commandment, but an assumption. Paul, in other words, assumes that "no man ever hated his own flesh", and therefore, cannot hate his wife, i.e., be brutal or bitter toward her. "If, after all, you're kind to yourself, you must also be kind toward your wife, for `the two are one flesh'".

(b)The "love" here mentioned does not mean "feel good about yourself". It means "take care of". "No man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it".

i)Nourish means "feed". Cherish means "warm", i.e., provide clothing and shelter. If, therefore, this verse is implying anything with reference to the man, it is this: "Take care of yourself". Don't kill yourself by excessive work, drinking, eating, taking unnecessary risks, and so on.

(c)Love for a wife must supersede self-love, and therefore, the the latter cannot be included in the former. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ love the church and gave Himself for it".

(3)Conclusion: To love your wife as yourself cannot mean "love yourself". For--in fact--it means just the opposite, i.e., "Renouce yourself for the welfare of your wife", as Christ did for the church.

(4)Substantiation: II Corinthians 8:9.

d.Romans 12:3, "For I say through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith".

(1)Argument: "To think soberly of yourself means to think neither too highly nor too lowly of yourself. Thus, we may infer that God wants us to have a high (though not too high) opinion of ourselves".

(2)Answer:

(a)"Of himself" is not in the original. According to the context, this sober evaluation is not "of personal worth", but of "God's gracious gifts".

(3)Conclusion:

(a)If we are to esteem anything highly, it must be, not ourselves, but "God's gifts".

(4)Substantiation: I Corithians 4:7.

2.The doctrine of "self-esteem", therefore, not only can't be found in Scripture, it cannot even be justly inferred from it!

D.It contradicts much plain Scripture.

1.We could spend hours here just reading the Bible without comment, but we must limit ourselves to just a small, but representative, sampling.

a.If it is a duty to "feel good about yourself", then how can Proverbs 25:27 be true?

(1)"It is not good to eat much honey; so to seek one's glory is not glory". Too much of a good thing (honey) will make you sick. And so will overindulging your self-worth.

(2)D.W. Thomas makes the point well, translating the last part of the verse thusly, "he who despises honor will be honored".

(3)Our Lord Jesus said the same thing. "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, `Give place to this man', and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may say to you, `Friend, go up higher'. Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

(4)So, in light of this Scripture, I must ask, "Is it your duty to think highly of yourself?"

b.If it is your duty to "feel good about yourself", then how can the Beatitudes be understood?

(1)"Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are those who mourn...Blessed are the meek..." These people don't seem to be brimming with self-love, do they? Yet they (and they alone) are blessed.

c.If it is your duty to "feel good about yourself", then how can the reproach of King Saul be justified?

(1)After his folly with reference to the Amalekites, the king is confronted by the old prophet, who upbraided him with those unforgettable words, "When you were little in your own eyes..." When Saul was "little", God made him great. But when he began to "esteem himself very highly", God brought him to the dust.

d.If it is your duty to "feel good about yourself", then how can the words of Christ be true?

(1)"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself".

(2)"If any man comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple".

(3)If these verses teach us anything at all, they teach us that "feeling good about yourself" and being "Christ's disciple" are mutually exclusive.

E.It contradicts the Law of God.

1.What is the Law's purpose? To make a man "feel good about himself"? No. It aims to make him "feel bad about himself". "Now whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God".

2.The Divine Standard cuts the heart out of "self-esteem", as it is written, "When the Law revived, I died". Saul of Tarsus felt "wonderfully good about himself". "As touching the Law, I was blameless!" But when he was struck by its depth and spirituality, he--for the first time--"knew lust", for it was written, "Thou shalt not covet". And that knowledge killed his self-esteem, and caused him to cry out,

a."I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man...yea, "the chief of sinners".

3.Thus, to teach your children to "feel good about themselves" is to undermine the ministry of the Law, which in turn sears the conscience to its need for a Savior.

F.It contradicts the Gospel of Christ.

1.The Gospel aims to do two things, neither of which is consistent with "self-esteem": to silence those who think highly of themselves, i.e., "that no flesh should glory in His sight"; and to make them "Glory in the Lord".

2.The Gospel:

a.is not: "God loves you just the way you are".

b.It is something entirely different. It's this: You were so wretchedly wicked that even God could not redeem you but by the death of His Son.

G.It was unheard of in church history until well into this century.

1.I defy you to find any orthodox theologian prior to this century who professed a doctrine comparable to "Self-esteem". The only teachers in the church who held such a notion were some of the mystics, who tended toward pantheism. They were so caught up in the doctrine of union with Christ that they began to think that "Christians all but become Christ".

2.This suggests that the Church of Jesus Christ was in the dark about this critical doctrine until about 1930. I don't believe that.

3.If this doctrine is so fundamental to godliness, then how do you explain the piety of our forefathers who never heard of such a thing?

4.A glorious new doctrine, it seems to me, would usher in a glorious new age. "Justification by faith" certainly did at the Reformation. "The Call to Missions" did in the mid 18th century. But what revival has corresponded with the rediscovery of this "Bible truth", "The need to love yourself"?

a.Robert Schuller says that it will usher in a "New Reformation". I agree entirely. But of what kind?

H.This doctrine was--in fact--devised by corrupt men outside the church and brought in by compromisers within the church.

1.Bruce Narramore admits the secular origin of this doctrine. "Under the influence of humanistic psychologists like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, many of us Christians have begun to see our need for self-love and self-esteem."

a.This admission, of course, does not disprove the doctrine. But it does provoke some interesting questions, such as:

(1)How is it that holy men for 2,000 years never discovered it?

(2)Why did God first reveal this glorious doctrine to the wicked?

2.In his book, The Christian Looks at Himself, Anthony Hoekema, a man learned in both secular psychology and sacred theology, agrees with Narramore's assessment. And in proving the need for a higher self-esteem, he does two things:

a.He feels "disturbed" by the hymns so generally accepted in the church. He is especially nettled by:

"Alas, and did my Savior bleed,

And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?"

"Upon the cross of Jesus

Mine eyes at time can see

The very dying form of one

Who suffered there for me.

And from my stricken heart with tears

Two wonders I confess,

The wonders of redeeming love

And my own worthlessness."

b.But then to show the need for new thinking in this area, he quotes with approval, three men:

(1)Abraham Maslow, an athiest psychologist.

(2)Jean-Paul Sartre, an existentialist philosopher.

(3)James Baldwin, a homosexual, communist, racist novelist.

3.These ideas were "baptized" and brought into the church, by such "pillars of orthodoxy" as Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller, along with many of the most extreme Pentecostalists.

4.These facts may not "prove anything". But they give us considerable cause to think through this doctrine again. "Can a clean thing come from an unclean?"

5.To sum up: The doctrine of self-esteem cannot be traced to either the Bible or the church. In fact, much in both violently contradict it. To believe this ideology, therefore, is to make common cause:

a.Not with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not with Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.

b.But with the likes of Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm, and Abraham Maslow. Or--to put it in more popular parlance--Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, and Dr. Ruth.

c.You're welcome to your own opinion. But you're not welcome to your own facts. These are the facts. "Choose you this day whom you will serve."

I.Those characteristics so often linked to "low self-esteem" can be better explained by Biblical language.

1.Earlier, I quoted James Dobson ascribing all manner of social evils to a lack of self-esteem. He particulary noted things like "violence, drunkenness, and drug abuse".

a.He was not the first learned man to consider the cause of such ills. A certain Paul predated him by about 20 centuries. And examining a world remarakably like Dobson's, traced the cause elsewhere: Man's wilful rebellion against God. "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

b.And from what did this foolish and benighted rebellion spring? Low self-esteem? No. High self-esteem, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools...and for this cause God gave them up" to the very lusts which Dobson so rightly deplores.

c.Thus, the cause of man's miserable estate is not low self-esteem, but sin! Call it that!

2.Neurotic insecurity is also linked to low self-esteem.

a.The classic example is the teenage girl. Though perhaps esteemed by others, she thinks lowly of herself. In her opinion, she is ugly, fat, stupid, and hopeless. These "feelings of inferiority" cause her to withdraw from the world, escape into drugs, and--maybe--consider suicide.

b.But is that the only feasible explanation? Paul had another. He called it "selfishness". Philippians 2:3-4, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each one of you look out not only for his own interest, but also for the interests of others".

c.Compare these verses to the girl. What is she esteeming? Whose interests is she looking out for? Others? Does she care that she is hurting her parents? Does she care that she's robbing society of a useful member? No. All she seems to care about are her looks, her weight, her intelligence, and her future. No one else is important to her. And what do we call an extreme preoccupation with self? Low self-esteem or selfishness?

d.Such bizarre behavior, therefore, can be easily explained by the Bible. Why look elsewere for answers?

3.What do we make of that man who is so afraid of failure that he won't accept challenges? He won't make friends. He won't advance his career. He won't enroll in college, and so on.

a.The secular psychologist (and his baptized counterpart) will surely attribute such behavior to "low self-esteem".

b.But is that the only explanation possible? The Scripture offers alternatives.

(1)It might be pure laziness. "The slothful man says, `There's a lion in the street! A lion in the open square!" This little "bundle of nerves" is not called "a brother suffering from low self-esteem", but a sluggard!

(2)It could equally be cowardice. Remember Lot, terrified to enter a city preferring the isolation of a cave.

(3)Never discount self-righteousness. "Stand back. I am holier than thou".

(4)It could be a guilty conscience. "The wicked flee when no man pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion".

c.And so, if there are at least four inspired causes of such strange behavior, why should we invent a fifth?

(1)There is a definite reason. Words like laziness, cowardice, self-righteousness, and a bad conscience carry with them a moral stigma. They are sinful. But "low self-esteem", that's my parents' fault!

4.Can anorexia nervosa be explained apart from low self-esteem? After all, no one who loved herself would wilfully starve, would she? Maybe. I can survey the Bible and think of some reasons for it.

a.It could be vanity, i.e., preferring thinness to good health. A form of that is in the Bible. It's called "Self-willed worship".

b.It could be selfishness, i.e., a desire to make people think about her as they see her withering away to nothing. That too is in the Bible. The Pharisees "disfigured their faces" so as to command the attention of others.

c.It could be disobedience to parents. She may be trying to control her parents. She eats when they're good to her. But when they're not, she punishes them by starving.

d.In a parallel case, I've known several women who got sick whenever they didn't get their way with their husbands. One could even "have a stroke" on cue.

5.Suicide is the ultimate fruit of low self-esteem, right? Not necesarily.

a.One man kills himself because he cannot face a life of chronic pain. But what's this? Rebellion against God's providence. Christ had that option, but chose instead to "drink the cup" of Mount Calvary.

b.A woman kills herself after being jilted by a boyfriend. What causes this? Idolatry. She bound up her life's hope in a man, rather than God.

c.A teenager kills himself so that "When I'm gone, they'll miss me". But what's this? Pride, thinking the world revolves around him.

6.And so, there are many inspired explanations for the behavior we normally associate with "low self-esteem". Why then do we continue ascribng these ills to a condition not found in the Bible? There is a very good reason for it. Words like "selfishness, pride. laziness, rebellion, and cowardice" carry with them a moral stigma. But "Low self-esteem? Hey, that's my parents fault!"

a.Thus, in the final analysis, "Low self-esteem" is nothing but a modern "fig leaf" by which we try to hide our shame from ourselves, one another, and God. But remember, no matter how successful you are in self-delusion or fooling others, you'll never deceive God. And you will never have a clear conscience until you "come clean", as it is written,

"He who covers his sin shall not prosper;

But whoso confesseth and forsaketh it,

shall have mercy".

III.WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE TO "SELF-ESTEEM"?

A.It is commonly argued that the only alternative to high self esteem is a morose self-loathing. It brings to mind the man who never wearies of crying, "O wretched man that I am". This morbid state of mind, of course, makes him miserable and useless to others.

1.But this caricature is not the only alternative. There is another, both honest and healthy. It can be summed up under three heads.

B.The Christian is to cultive no self-esteem.

1.In other words, he is not to be unduly interested in himself. This is the surest sign of Paganism. "What shall we eat, what shall we drink, what shall we wear?" "In the last days, men shall be lovers of themselves".

2.But this is not the Christian way.

a.He "reckons himself to be dead". The "Old man is crucified". He is "buried in baptism".

b.Paul's autobiography is instructive. Galatians 2:20. O the blessedness of "Yet not I".

c.As a servant of Christ, he has no independent identity, no personal agenda, no inflexible plans for the future. In short, "He is not his own".

3.If, therefore, you would really cultivate a "Christian esteem", you must begin by "forgetting yourself".

C.The Christian, however, is to place a premium on esteeming others better than himself.

1.This means putting the needs of others before your own.

2.Paul did just that. So did Christ. He came, after all, "not to be ministered to, but to minister". This ministry included, please remember, not only great sermons, but the washing of dirty feet.

D.But ultimately, of course, the Christian is to live, not for himself, not for others, but for God.

1.Disregarding his own personal needs, he "puts first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness".

2.And so living for another, he suffers deep impoverishment, right? Wrong. Having "lost his life for Christ's sake, he finds it".

a.And remember that "life" in the Bible doesn't mean "conscious existence". It means "fulfilment".

b.Renouncing himself and cleaving to Christ cost Paul a lot in terms of comfort, prestige, and money. But what did he get in return? Let him tell you. "For this light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working within us an eternal weight of glory". This he enjoyed even amid the hardships, for he "kept on beholding it". But now, he enjoys it to the full.

(1)Do you think he was the loser for it?

(2)Do you think you will be? If not, then "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus".

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