Whether it is struggling with low self-esteem or with some other issue many Christians today struggle to live the Christian life from their identity in Christ. In his helpful little book The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness: The Path to True Joy Dr. Tim Keller writes to address this issue in order to help Christians to understand the change that occurred at salvation.. a change “at root, by the grace of God, and what that changes looks life in real life” (5). The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness originally began as a series of sermons delivered by Dr. Keller to his church Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The book examines 1 Corinthians 3:21 – 4:7. The three things he will seek to demonstrate in this short book from 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 are: 1) The natural condition of the human ego, 2) the transformed sense of self (which Paul had discovered and which can be brought about through the gospel), and finally how to get that transformed sense of self (12).
Dr. Keller gets to the heart of the matter about pursuing our own plans and desires when he notes, “By comparing ourselves to other people and trying to make ourselves look better than others, we are boasting. Trying to recommend ourselves, trying to create a self-esteem résumé because we are desperate to fill our sense of inadequacy and emptiness. The ego is so busy. So busy all the time” (20). Paul taught the Corinthians to not to compare themselves but rather to find their sense of self-worth and identity in Christ.
Trying to boost our self-esteem or live up to our own standards won’t work and in fact is only a “trap” (28). Truly gospel humble people understand that it’s not about them it’s about “thinking less of myself and stopping connecting every experience, every conversation with myself” (33). Being gospel-humble doesn’t mean attracting attention to oneself but rather attention to Christ and who they are in Him.
The test of gospel humility is not being hurt badly by criticism. Dr. Keller notes that criticism doesn’t “devastate them or keep them up late, because a person who is devastated by criticism is putting too much value on what other people think, on other people’s opinions. Both low self-esteem and pride are horrible nuisances to our own future and to everyone around us” (33-34).
The truly Gospel-humble person understands and appropriates the truth of the Gospel into their daily lives. The following advice by Dr. Keller helpfully addresses how to do this, “You do not feel you are living like Paul says. You are getting sucked back in. All I can tell you is that we have to re-live the gospel every time we pray. We have to re-live it every time we go to church. We have to relive the gospel on the spot and ask ourselves what we are doing in the courtroom. We should not be there. The court is adjourned” (41).
The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness: The Path to True Joy Dr. Tim Keller will help those struggling with self-esteem and self-worth issues by as we have seen bringing them back to the Gospel they have believed on and are being sanctified by. The truth of the Christian’s identity frees them to be who they are in Christ by the grace of God (1 Cor. 15:10-11). I recommend every Christian read this book, but especially those who struggle with self-esteem and self-worth to learn their God-given identity and worth in the sight of God as an adopted son and daughter of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Title: The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness
Author: Tim Keller
Publisher: 10Publishing (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 10 Publishing book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
First, I want to first thank Crossway, for allowing me the opportunity to do this book giveaway. Second, I want thank all of you who shared and commented on the book giveaway. Third, the winners of the book giveaway are Austin Ross, and Josh.
Fourth, I want to welcome the new visitors to Servants of Grace. Running this giveaway encourages some of you who have been long-time readers or new readers to leave your first comments on a blog post here. I sincerely want to thank you whether you are new or old to Servants of Grace for taking the time to leave a comment, and hope and pray you will join in on future discussions on content on Servants of Grace.
Whether you are new or old to Servants of Grace, I wanted to take a moment to tell you what you can expect from Servants of Grace on a typical week. A typical week will see between 6-10 posts. Monday, we usually post a book review, or an article. On Tuesday’s we have a blog post geared towards men. On Wed, we typically have a post geared towards ministry. On Thursday, we typically post a book review or article. On Friday, we have a book review or article. On Saturday, we post a book review or article. On Sunday’s we post a book review, or quote. On some weeks we will have more blog posts as we now have a variety of contributors. This schedule gives you an idea of a typical week here at Servants of Grace.
Finally we have many contributors to Servants of Grace, all of whom love the Gospel and want to strengthen believers and local Churches with the Gospel. These are exciting times for Servants of Grace, and I am truly thankful that so many of you have participated in the book giveaway. I look forward to future discussions with many of you in the coming weeks and months on a variety of biblical, theological and practical issues. May the Lord richly bless you.
“and this is why so many people reject the church . . .”
How often have you read this in the last year? In the last month? In the last week? It’s a premise for a wide variety of ideas about the Church, a repeated refrain that has almost become a cliche. It goes something like this. The church has a bad public image because it is too narrow-minded, too political, too legalistic, too patriarcal, and too a lot of bad things. And there seems to be research to bolster these arguments. Seems every day, some organization is releasing a poll that shows the Church is out of touch and must change. It can be dizzying, actually because if you actually followed every new conflicting prescription, you’d be spinning in circles. Sometimes I imagine how the apostles managed without all that research to help them out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We need to be wary of our standing before people (Colossians 4:5), we must adorn the gospel well (Titus 2:10; 1Peter 3:3-4), we must strive, as Paul to be “all things to all men.(1 Corinthians 9:19-23)” (Though, let’s be honest, this has been stretched to defend some pretty crazy church ideas.). It’s important that we conduct ourselves in a way that demonstrates the attractiveness of our faith.
However, I think the Church is a little obsessed with its image. I think it’s convenient for us to beat up on ourselves. It’s fashionable to put out a passive-aggressive tweet or Facebook post that hates on some hypocrisy in the larger Church.
The truth is that while the church is often clumsy, sinful, and sometimes irrelevant, we are God’s call-out body. We are His bride. Furthermore, we have to reconcile ourselves to the idea that the radical discipleship Jesus calls us to is against the ethos of the world. In fact, we are told many, many times in the New Testament that if we follow Jesus, we will not be liked by the world.
Consider these words spoken by Jesus himself:
and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:22 (ESV)
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. Matthew 10:24-25 (ESV)
How’s that for branding? Jesus said that if we truly lived out calling as disciples, it wouldn’t result in the world liking us more, but in them hating us more. In fact, the Scriptures tell us if the world likes us too much, it should call into question our Christian commitment:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 (ESV)
This is why I question our obsession over our reputation or opinion in the larger culture. The Bible says that the more try to be liked, the farther we move from friendship with God. Now to be sure, sometimes Christians are disliked, not for their Christian witness, but because they are jerks. They don’t radiate with the love of Christ. But quite often, Christians are disliked . . . because they are Christians. So we can change our church styles, we can do more works in the community, we can even call ourselves “Christ followers” (all good things to do), and yet, still, the world will hate us. Why? Because as Romans 8:7 says, the unredeemed mind is “hostile to God.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that the carnal or fleshly mind “cannot discern” the things of God.
This explains media bias against Christians. This explains why your neighbor thinks you are plum crazy for going to church. This explains why our belief that Jesus is the only way really hacks people off.
So how should this inform our faith? First, we shouldn’t begin our ministry with the premise of “how can I get them to like me more?” Yes, we should build bridges and relationships for gospel advance. Yes, we should love our enemies. Yes, we should get our hands and feet dirty in service of the needy.
But not so people like us. Let’s do this because our Lord calls us to. Otherwise, beginning with the premise of “I have to repair the Christian brand,” leads us down a slippery slope of doctrinal impurity. We are tempted to jettison hard truths about God, especially those that are unpalatable in this age. In a sense, we have made the unredeemed person, at enmity with God, head of our theology department, chair of our worship team, and architect of our ministry model.
Secondly, we should disabuse ourselves of the mythical “early church” model. I think the book of Acts gives important and powerful lessons for today’s church. I believe we’d do well to “go back” to some of the fervent prayer and radical discipleship these people practiced. However, let’s remember that these folks were not well-loved by the larger culture. They were not liked by the world. We have this notion that in the early church, there was no infighting, no agendas, no power plays and that these people were so selfless and broadminded that the world just loved them. After all, we say, they met in houses and just loved on each other. Right?
Well, no. First of all, if you read the epistles, you’ll find that the early church suffered with the same issues our churches endure today. And secondly, let’s remember that most of the early church were rounded up, arrested, and killed for their faith.
How’s that for branding? Their brand was terrible. But their discipleship was radical.
Christians should be concerned somewhat about their perception in the world. No doubt. We are the representatives of Christ in the world. But let’s not be so obsessed with how the world views us. Because persecution is not a sign of unfaithfulness, but of faithfulness.
I have a feeling that American Christians are going to have to come to terms with this idea or else risk losing their faith all together.
Walter Marshall, from The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification:
The sure hope of the glory of heaven is made use of ordinarily by God, since the fall of Adam, as an encouragement to the practice of holiness, as the Scripture abundantly shows. Christ, the great pattern of holiness, ‘for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame’ (Heb. 12:2). And, though I cannot say that the first Adam had such a sure hope, to preserve him in innocency, yet he had, instead of it, the present possession of an earthly paradise and a happy estate in it, which he knew would last, if he continued in holiness, or be changed into a better happiness.
The apostles did not faint under affliction, because they knew that it brought for them ‘a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’ (2Cor. 4:16, 17). The believing Hebrews ‘took joyfully the plundering of your goods – knowing in yourselves that you have better and more enduring riches in Heaven’ (Heb. 10:34). The apostle Paul accounts all his sufferings unprofitable, were it not for a glorious resurrection, and that Christians would be of all men most miserable, and that the doctrine of the Epicures were rather to be chosen: ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ And he exhorts the Corinthians to be ‘abundant in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labor shall not be in vain in the Lord’ (1Cor. 15:58).
As worldly hope keeps the world at work in their various employments, so God gives His people the hope of His glory to keep them close to His service (Heb. 6:11, 12; 1John 3:3). And it is such a sure hope as shall never make them ashamed (Rom. 5:5). Those that think it below the excellency of their love to work from a hope of the heavenly reward do in this way advance their love beyond the love of the apostles and primitive saints, and even of Christ Himself.