Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
Before setting forth the truth of Scripture concerning this concept of self-esteem, I want to call your attention once again to the influence of the unbiblical idea that has been so readily accepted.
I make bold to proclaim that the influence of the modern self-esteem movement has permeated even our own thinking to a degree – perhaps to a rather large degree. There has been more and more emphasis placed on self-esteem among us, and most often it is not the emphasis on proper Christian self-esteem, i.e., biblical self-esteem.
For you who are reaching the age of marriage and child-rearing, this has some serious implications. There has been a dangerous shift in recent years toward leniency in child discipline due to a fear of harming self-esteem. Our teachers also have experienced this pressure to make their students “feel good” at all costs. In some cases disobedience is being blamed on a poor self-concept; and lack of self-esteem has become the favored diagnosis given to blunt the responsibility, that one once had to bear for his own behavior. Should the Lord establish you in marriage and give you children, I urge you not to follow this way of thinking. Heed the Scriptures. Only then will you experience the joy of Christian parenting.
I think you understand by now that the reason this modern philosophy of self-esteem has made such inroads in our thinking is that we are not living as close to the Scriptures as we ought, and our thinking is not governed by biblical instruction as it ought to be. We tend to be very lazy in our acceptance of modern philosophical and educational theories. By that I mean that when we hear certain so-called experts (especially religious experts) make a proclamation on a given subject, we tend to accept their theories without question and without examining the Scriptures.
The example of the Bereans has, sad to say, become such a foreign concept that, let alone searching the Scriptures after hearing a sermon, we do not think of searching the Scriptures when it comes to other matters. And if my bold assertion is true – and I make it not without seeing evidence – that is a serious flaw in our Christian lives and practice.
The Bible presents a wholly different view of self-esteem, a view that reveals the modem self-esteem movement to be poor in comparison. And the importance of a biblical view is evident to any who will face reality.
In its rejection of the sin problem, the modern theory of self-esteem steers people away from facing reality. Those who follow this line of thought end up believing that their fantasies are reality. Christianity, on the other hand, would have you face reality and deal with it. I would have you understand clearly, real life carry not be created in the mind. Nor can the reality of sin be-cleared away by thinking it away, not even by rationalizing it away.
The way to have proper self-esteem is not by listening to the multitude of “Dr; Feel-goods” that are out there today. The only way to find meaning, purpose, and self-worth is through a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
If I were diagnosed as having a form of cancer which if untreated would bring certain death, it would hardly be helpful for me if you were to come to me and say, “Steve, don’t worry about what the doctor has said; look at you. You are healthy through and through. Think good thoughts of yourself and all will be well. You can conquer anything through thinking good thoughts of yourself.”
Well, the great Physician has diagnosed you and me as having a terminal disease called sin. We read inRomans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” The Physician has prescribed one cure. That is the medicine of Jesus Christ, the only Savior who shed His blood on the cross for all who believe. What folly then to heed the word of a man who comes to you and who says, “Man, the only thing wrong with you is a low sense of self-esteem. You must think better of yourself. Never mind that Physician. Never. mind what God says about you.” Is that the view you would take? That is a denial of reality!
You see, my youthful friends, that is the option. The “feel-good-about-yourself” doctors are no assistants to the great Physician. They claim His name. They claim to represent Him. But when you evaluate their theories, their diagnoses, and their prescriptions in the light of the Desk Manual of the Great Physician, you find that they are deceivers. And such deceivers would only hasten your death!
That you understand the biblical presentation on this matter is extremely important. There is a place for proper Christian self-esteem. The question is: What is proper Christian self-esteem?
A biblical view of self-esteem takes into account the reality of sin and reveals the victory and honor that belong to you who are in Christ Jesus.
You can never deal with your problems, you can never deal with a poor self-concept; by denying reality! The modern theory of positive thinking of one’s self, apart from the proper biblical view of reality; holds no comfort for those who fall short of their goals! It actually seeks to avoid dealing with some of the harsh realities of life. What these feel-good-about-yourself doctors proclaim is really a sweet-sounding but very harsh philosophy!
Sin is real. Death, the wages of sin, is an even more stark reality. Sin and death must be faced, if you are ever to have a proper Christian self-esteem. And when I say that sin and death must be faced, I do not mean in some abstract way. I mean that your sin and your imminent and inescapable death must be faced by you.
So Paul preached as the mouthpiece of Christ. When he said goodbye to the elders of Ephesus, he could say, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He had announced the need for repentance. He had called all who heard him to come out of the bondage of sin. He had preached the comfort of salvation that is only in Christ Jesus through the forgiveness of sin and the cleansing power of His precious blood. The Apostle proclaimed the joy of belonging to Christ, but also the judgment upon those who reject Him.
To face the reality of sin in the preaching can be a most uncomfortable thing for the preacher. I know. Preaching is a dangerous task, that entails heavy responsibility. But let us understand the reality in the light of God’s holy and infallible Word. To face the reality of sin is necessary finally to attain to proper Christian self-esteem. To call people to repentance and to lead them to the cross of Jesus Christ is the only way in which they will find the comfort of proper Christian self-esteem. It is the only way they will see the reality of heaven.