Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
As I conclude this consideration of proper Christian self-esteem, I am convinced that there is a very important relationship between the truth of the covenant which we hold dear and this whole biblical concept of proper Christian self-esteem. That was implied when I wrote previously that the important factor in overcoming all your insecurities is that you are conscious of belonging to Christ. For when you belong to Christ, God’s evaluation of you is this: “You are My friend.”
Self-esteem and the Covenant
We may summarize that truth of the covenant as the bond or relationship of friendship and loving fellowship between God and His people in Christ. God, by the wonder work of His sovereign grace, saves a people by bringing them into His fellowship through Christ. He establishes His covenant with them, also in the line of their faithful generations.
Within God’s covenant fellowship we not only experience His love toward us, but we recognize that we occupy a privileged place among all people on the earth. We live not only as creatures formed by God, but we live as His friend-servants.
So we recognize the truth of II Corinthians 5:15. Christ died for all His own, every last one, “that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them; and rose again.” Yes, we are His servants. But that does not detract from our self-esteem. For the fact that we by the power of the Spirit of Christ can serve the gloriously exalted Jehovah gives us a tremendously exalted place.
When I live in the consciousness that I am a friend of God for Jesus’ sake, then I also know that God calls me His elect. God assures me, of my redemption, in spite of any of my weaknesses or anything that I have done wrong in the past. By His Word He reminds me that I; who once was filthy, have been set apart unto Him, pure and holy in the, midst of the ugliness and shamefulness of this world. I am all these things because of what Christ has done for me. He says to me, “You are My friend. I take you into My love and fellowship.”
In that consciousness, I have peace with God and the joy of salvation – true Christian self-esteem, esteem for Christ and myself as I stand by grace in Him. That is confirmed in my life and in my consciousness, as I walk in thankfulness to Him, striving to walk in obedience to His law, in love for God and for the neighbor.
That is the truth of the covenant with application to this whole idea of proper Christian self-esteem. There is no proper Christian self-esteem apart from such a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This becomes very clear from a practical point of view.
Any person, including one brought up in the church and well-established with the knowledge of Scripture’s truth – any person can fall deeply into sin. But the person who lives in the addiction of his depravity is unable to esteem himself properly apart from Christ.
To walk in sin is to deny oneself the fellowship of the Holy God, to lose the consciousness of His love. That is the horrible reality of sins bondage.
You have probably experienced that, as have I. In the bondage of sin, we try to deny the reality of sin, by burying that reality with many different means. It is certainly possible to do that. Much counseling today (and much preaching, I might add) seeks to help people by getting them to deny reality – although such counselors claim that they are trying to get their patients to face reality. Much counseling is devoted to denying the reality of sin and guilt. Without facing the reality of sin, without Christ, without the fellowship of God, all is deceit – a prescription of self-esteem which poisons the soul.
We can think of many examples.
One becomes involved in sports, finding his importance and worth in games. I know that scene from my younger days. There are many who make sports their god, their avenue to self-esteem. But what happens when a guy becomes too old to participate actively? What happens when he finds out he is not good enough to advance beyond a certain level? He either finds another god, or he finds himself drowning in the sorrows of loneliness and the devastation of failure.
Another, apart from Christ; denying his own sinfulness and depravity, buries the reality of his own situation in the abuse of alcohol. Another in drug abuse. One buries his worthlessness in sexual promiscuity of every kind, finding partners in fornication who make him feel as if he (or she) is valuable to someone else. But it is not long before the devastation of those sins bears bitter fruits. Without the consciousness of God’s friendship, there can be no happiness. And ultimately the reality that must be faced is that of death and hell.
Others, not getting caught in addictions to such devastating behavior, bury the reality of their sinfulness by developing certain God-given gifts. One makes music his life; another art, another this hobby, another that. One may have a gift of making investments turn out to his profit. Almost everyone can find a certain aspect of life that is positive in his or her own mind. That is the whole idea behind the worldly philosophies that promote an unbiblical concept of self-esteem. Build your self-worth concept and your self-image by excelling in areas that you are able to excel in. But there is no salvation in a positive self-image! There is no fellowship with God, no experience of His love, in adhering to the modern theory of self-esteem.
Our salvation is only in Christ Jesus, and is experienced by coming to Him in repentance and sorrow for our sins. True Christian self-esteem then follows. Only when you live in the conscious experience of God’s friendship and love will you have a proper Christian self-esteem. And the reason we remain, to any degree, servants to lust and to sin, is that we are to that same’ degree strangers to the love of God and those pure pleasures that are found in His fellowship.
A Call to Christ-Esteem
Now, clearly, what I proclaim to you from the Scriptures is exactly the opposite of what today’s self-esteem advocates proclaim. One view is biblical. The other entirely unbiblical, a deviation from what Scripture proclaims. You can not have it both ways. To build a .theology on man’s pride is incompatible with the biblical idea of sin and man’s depravity. To proclaim a gospel in which man saves himself by positive thinking is a different gospel completely from that which sets forth Christ as the only Redeemer and Conqueror of sin and death.
Yes indeed, we have another gospel from that unbiblical, deceptive view proclaimed on every side today. In fact, we do not hesitate to say that in the .modern self-esteem movement is the fulfillment of Paul’s warning to Timothy in II Timothy 3: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud…. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
Come rather to Christ, in whom is all peace for the soul. The self-esteem doctrine of men does not exalt you nearly enough. The honor and excellency that characterize you as a child of God are a heavenly honor and a heavenly excellency. In Christ, God’s grace is boundless, His mercy without measure. He is the Savior of sinners. Do you believe? He esteems His own highly.
Let us esteem ourselves highly only in Him, not deceiving our own selves. And let us confess with Paul in Romans 14:7, 8, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” If you are in Christ, take your full salvation and triumph and prevail.