Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
When you study the Scriptures thoroughly, you easily find answer to this question: What is the great evil against which we are warned repeatedly? I ask, Is it indeed that we tend to think too little of ourselves? Quite the contrary! The Bible repeatedly warns us against thinking too highly of ourselves.
Our problem is that we do not serve God first, and we do not seek the welfare of our neighbor; but we are self-centered and self-seeking.
So in the apostolic age, when the church saw the greatest growth and was in its most healthy state from many points of view, the apostle writes in Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace that is given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
A proper evaluation of self in the light of Scripture will leave one very conscious of his own weaknesses and sins. When the Word of God works in us, we know that we are sinful and that we deserve the everlasting wrath of God as we stand before Him in ourselves.
Our only hope is in Jesus Christ. But a blessed and sure hope it is! And the apostle Paul would call you to lay hold of that hope by faith, when he writes in Romans 6:11: “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The apostle speaks here to Christians. He does not mean to say, “Reckon yourselves what you are not.” He does not call you to deceive yourselves. But as those who stand by faith in Christ Jesus, “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Though once you were a servant of sin, held in its bondage, now you have died to sin. Sinners we remain, struggling daily. But that relationship of bondage to sin no longer has an unbreakable hold on you. You are alive unto God! That is what you have when you are in Christ! Are you in Christ?
When you belong to Christ by faith, you have a most blessed life. Indeed you are blessed. Reckon yourself so to be! In other words, look at yourself in Christ. Let His great gift for you be impressed upon your mind. That you belong to Him ought to influence your life and your thinking – also with respect to self.
You see, though Reformed, biblical Christianity does indeed give such a devastating diagnosis of the human condition – a truth found throughout the Scriptures-it is that same biblical Christianity which elevates the excellency and worth of men and women and young people and children during their life on this earth and forever. It does so by the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Proper Christian self-esteem is not something which elevates human pride. Rather, proper Christian self-esteem is that attitude which looks to the excellency of our Savior, and which is the humble, thankful acceptance of God’s goodness to us by faith in Christ Jesus.
Proper Christian self-esteem is really proper Christ-esteem. Your proper self-esteem may not deny the reality of sin, but must be rooted in Christ’s victory over your sin – the recognition of the truth that God looks upon you in Christ as good and His beloved. To have proper Christian self-esteem is to live in the consciousness that God has declared you righteous, His child, and an heir of eternal life. Do you live in that consciousness?
When you see yourself as one who is righteous in Christ, a friend of God, you may have confidence in the place you occupy as a child of God. For to be a friend of God is to have a place of highest worth and value, as well as a calling that ranks of highest importance -no matter what others may think of what that calling is.
Will you be a wife and mother in the home? What an important calling that is! What a place of value! Though the ungodly do not see it as such, your Friend who is God says that you have a place of highest worth!
Will you build houses or fix cars or farm or teach? When you do so for Christ’s sake as the friend of God, you have a calling of highest worth. You are blessed! Even if others scorn us for the place which we occupy or the work that we do or how we live, we stand before God whose judgment of us is all that counts.
One reason for our feelings of low self-worth may well be that we use a misguided standard for evaluating ourselves. Our society places all the emphasis on being “number one.” A huge emphasis is placed upon being “popular.” Ads in magazines and on television portray beautiful women and handsome men, all great athletes, standing in the heights of popularity. And the way they achieve popularity is set before us as a way very different from the way we are taught in our homes and by our pastors. By the world there is little or no value given to being a Christian even a Christian in name. And our society will ridicule you if you live as a Christian according to the Bible.
It is easy to get carried away with the world’s concept of popularity and worth. Instead of recognizing the gifts which God has given us, we strive to excel in areas that we think will please others. When we are not very successful in those areas – take sports as an example — then we feel that we are not important, or that we are failures.
But who determines whether or not you are “popular”? Who determines whether you are a success or a failure? Are you quick to accept the opinions of your peers and those around you? Will you let the advertisers determine that for you?
If you let your peers determine your standards, in order that you might be popular, you will find yourself in trouble – without exception. Because you simply will not be able to satisfy your peers and all their standards. If you let your peers determine whether you are a success or failure, you might soon be filled with all sorts of insecurities and doubts.
What is God’s evaluation of you? When you belong to Christ, His evaluation of you is this: “You are My friend.” No matter that you are not so .popular with peers; you are accepted with God. If you are conscious of belonging to Christ, and are striving to exercise the gifts which God in perfect wisdom has given you, you may also be sure that you are pleasing unto God. That is happiness. In that consciousness you must live.