Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Forget about 'self'

It is popular among Christians today to talk about 'forgiving yourself,' and also to combat depression or guilt by repeating mantra-like phrases like, "I am special in the eyes of God."

I just e-mailed a brother in Christ (Scott McQueen), and I wanted to post what I said here, because I'm hoping that this will explain it better than my attempts in the past to explain it. Previously, I've had Christians become offended and angry when I challenged the idea of 'forgiving yourself.' They apparently seem to think that I am advocating holding on to guilt, which I am certainly not doing. Also, when Christians try to confront their depression or feelings of low self-esteem by telling themselves, "God made me, and God doesn't make junk," or, "I am special because God loves me," I have tried to tell others that this technique does not work for me, because all my life, my subconscious has received input that has continually reinforced the idea that I am a failure. I have found that what DOES
work for me, which I also think is a more biblical method, is to agree with the thought that I am a failure (i.e., because I am a sinner, and because I am not perfect). But the remedy is not to try to convince myself otherwise. The remedy that works for me (and I have also done research on this, and I have read testimonies where others said that the other technique did not work for them either, but this technique DOES work) is first, to accept the fact that you are forgiven in Christ; and second, to take your focus off self, and instead, focus on Christ. For, after all, we are not here on this earth to build up self or focus on self, but rather, to expand and glorify the kingdom of God.

So, in other words, we (who are regenerated/born again) were enemies of God, and in our own 'works,' we are still only worth going to Hell, but through the forgiveness/atonement/sacrifice/righteousness of Christ, and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are accepted and loved, and we have been adopted into the family of God, and we have an inheritance waiting for us. Our past, present and future sins have been wiped clean, and we now have access to the holy of holies, which, in Old Testament times, only the High Priest had access to...and even for him it was dangerous, and they had to tie a rope to him, in case he was killed by God for some disobedience, so that they could pull his body out of there.

Though, as I said, a number of Christians would disagree with me, when a Christian says, "I am special, because I am made in God's image," or something similar, though they may not be incorrect, still, they are focusing on SELF. Ideally, we need to take the "I" or "me" out of it and focus only on Christ. People get depressed because they are focusing on their failures or their mistakes. If they forget self, and take their eyes off self, and focus only on Christ, they won't be depressed.

I have always been prone to low self-esteem. Many people tend to equate low self-esteem with humility. But actually, low self-esteem is a form of pride, because you're worried about what others think of you, or say about you. So, you're still focused on 'self.' If a Christian can truly die to self, they will no longer worry about what others think of them or say about them.

Similarly, and some Christians have argued angrily and very defensively regarding this point, it is popular among Christians today to talk about "forgiving yourself." But you can only forgive someone who has offended you. So, in a sense, 'forgiving yourself' is impossible. Only Christ has the power to forgive sins. Now, some of them will point out that there is also false guilt, also called psychological guilt, which is guilt over something which is not a sin. However, whether it is true guilt over a real sin, or false/psychological (i.e., imagined) guilt over something that was not a sin, in either case, the best (and only TRUE) remedy is to accept Christ's forgiveness. If you trust in the fact that Christ has forgiven you, then you don't have to worry about 'forgiving yourself,' which is, strictly speaking, not possible anyway. If you feel a need to 'forgive yourself,' then the real problem is that you haven't fully trusted that Christ has forgiven you. In other words, you are still in a works-based mentality, thinking there is something you still must do on your part. You are trying to wrest the task from Christ, and take on the task yourself. It all boils down to trusting Christ. I believe that the idea of 'forgiving yourself' is one of the many false doctrines that has crept into Christian churches today, but originally comes from New Age teaching and eastern religion. And again, it puts the focus on self rather than on Christ. I believe that those things which come from New Age influence are those things which tend to build up self and decrease the sovereignty and glory of God.

Also see my previous post, "Forgiving Yourself."

2 comments:

thekingpin68 said...

'Also, when Christians try to confront their depression or feelings of low self-esteem by telling themselves, "God made me, and God doesn't make junk," or, "I am special because God loves me,"'

I have heard these in the context of PMA, positive mental attitude approaches.

'I have found that what DOES work for me, which I also think is a more biblical method, is to agree with the thought that I am a failure (i.e., because I am a sinner, and because I am not perfect). But the remedy is not to try to convince myself otherwise. The remedy that works for me (and I have also done research on this, and I have read testimonies where others said that the other technique did not work for them either, but this technique DOES work) is first, to accept the fact that you are forgiven in Christ; and second, to take your focus off self, and instead, focus on Christ.'

More Biblical.

Romans 3:23-26 (New American Standard Bible)

23for all (A)have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

24being justified as a gift (B)by His grace through (C)the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

25whom God displayed publicly as (D)a propitiation (E)in His blood through faith this was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the (F)forbearance of God He (G)passed over the sins previously committed;

26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 6:23 (New American Standard Bible)

23For the wages of (A)sin is death, but the free gift of God is (B)eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jeff said...

thekingpin68,

I have heard these in the context of PMA, positive mental attitude approaches.

Yes! And it seems that some televangelists and pastors have become positive-thinking gurus rather than biblical preachers. Joel Osteen is the most popular one. Years ago, Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking" was my favorite book, and I used to recommend it to everyone. But years later, after I had grown somewhat (spiritually), I saw in it much that was not biblical.


More Biblical.

Romans 3:23-26 (New American Standard Bible)

23for all (A)have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

24being justified as a gift (B)by His grace through (C)the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

25whom God displayed publicly as (D)a propitiation (E)in His blood through faith this was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the (F)forbearance of God He (G)passed over the sins previously committed;

26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 6:23 (New American Standard Bible)

23For the wages of (A)sin is death, but the free gift of God is (B)eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Yes, thank you, Russ. Biblically, we are not to beat our chest and assert, "I'm a good person! I'm a good person!" To me, that sounds like the Pharisee in Luke 18 that said, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men." Jesus said, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Rather, repentance, humility, and complete reliance on Christ are what the Bible teaches. The Bible never once tells us to build up our self-esteem. The Bible doesn't even tell us to love ourselves; in fact, it assumes that we already love ourselves, which is true. Self-pity, depression, and beating up yourself, all still focus on SELF. At the core, PRIDE is involved in all of those, because we are very much concerned about SELF. We are focused on how WE feel (which is selfish), and on how others view US (we want to be praised, lauded, and loved by others), and on how good or bad WE have done (a works-based attitude that focuses on OUR performance and OUR strength). Again, the solution is to DIE to self, and focus completely on Christ.