Forget yourself!

Timothy Keller has some advice for Christians: “Forget yourself!”

Keller, author of The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, says that many Christians are putting too much emphasis on self-esteem.  Basically, we are often guilty of replacing God with self-esteem or pride.

That is the root of a great deal of harm in the world, in the church, and in our lives.

Keller, founder and senior leader of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, writes that the apostle Paul himself argued against this self-pride in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7.

The apostle noted that men were boasting about their personal relationships with different Christian leaders – so much so, that there was conflict among believers. Pride was involved.

Paul was saying that believers already have everything in Christ.  They don’t need to assert themselves over others by claiming allegiance to Paul, or other leaders such as Apollos or Cephas.

He goes on to say that he is not perfect, but he doesn’t worry about the judgement of men: “It is the Lord who judges me.”

Keller points out that there is a widespread view today that “people misbehave today for lack of self-esteem and because they have too low a view of themselves”.  But he says psychologist Lauren Slater declares that “there is no evidence that low self-esteem is a big problem in society”.

Basically, the word Paul is using for “pride” means to be overinflated, swollen, distended beyond its proper size, says Keller.  That is the natural human ego.

In other words, our egos are “empty, painful, busy and fragile”, Keller writes.  Our spiritual pride tells us that we are competent to run our own lives and “find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God”.

But, we are easily hurt and upset if we don’t get the recognition we feel we deserve. “It is very hard to get through a whole day without feeling snubbed or ignored or feeling stupid or getting down on ourselves.”


“The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself; it is thinking of myself less.”

People feel themselves to be in a courtroom daily, worrying about how others judge them – and how they judge themselves.

But Paul says he is out of the courtroom “because the ultimate verdict is in”, writes Keller.  It is only God’s judgement that matters.

As believers, Christians have received “the verdict before the performance”.  The moment we believe, God says we are his sons and daughters because Christ has died for us.

As Paul says in Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“Because he loves me and accepts me, I do not have to do things just to build up my resume,” says Keller.  “I can do things for the joy of doing them.  I can help people to help people – not so I can feel better about myself.”

What a concept!


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