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Self-Esteem vs. Christ-Esteem

What is the place of self-esteem in the life of the Christian?

by David A. DePra


     One of the greatest freedoms any of us can experience is to

see that we are nothing. It spells freedom because you realize

you no longer have anything to protect about yourself. All of the

hiding and pretending before God, yourself, and others, is over.

Spiritual bankruptcy does indeed set a person free in Jesus Christ.

Most people usually have a secret desire to be free from

pride, self, and all of the entanglements of human nature. But it is

the "getting there" that is the problem. Some of us don't have a

clue as to how to get there. Others of us try to get there through our

own strength. And then there are those of us who say we want to

be free, but will not pay the cost of pride when God presents

the opportunity.

     Allowing God to bring us to spiritual bankruptcy is actually

a scary thought. Afterall, most of us think to be spiritually poor

means to "feel worthless." We think it means that we must try

to develope some sort of self-imposed humility. That creates a

problem because most of us don't need any help feeling bad

about ourselves. We do a pretty good job at that on our own. The

idea that walking with God is going to intensify this feeling isn't

very attractive at all.

     Jesus Christ, however, did not mince words. He said, "Blessed

are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." He also

said, "He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles

himself will be exalted." There is no question about it, God wants

us to become spiritually poor. In fact, He intends to crucify our

pride and self-life. Over and over He will bring things into

our lives intended to expose us as empty and barren. Again and

again He will point out our failures, showing absolutely no regard

or mercy for our pride. If we want to walk with Jesus Christ, we can

kiss self-esteem goodbye. It will no longer govern our lives.

     But isn't self-esteem a healthy thing? Isn't it vital to both mental

and emotional health? Afterall, look what happens to people

who don't feel good about themselves. They are crabby and

insecure; unpleasant and troubled. Their lack of self-esteem

affects everything they do and everything they are in an adverse


     Clearly, we must get God's mind on this "self-esteem" business.

We must understand how it is possible to have self crucified, yet

not become morbid, depressed, and governed by a sense of

worthlessness. What is the balance here?

     Think about self-esteem. Natural thinking suggests that

there are generally two ways to view yourself: Positively or

negatively. We say that those who view themselves positively

are generally equipped with "high self-esteem." Those who

view themselves negatively, well, we consider them to be beset

with "low self-esteem." Thus, the goal of much conselling, even

among Christians, is to get people to develope "high self-esteem."

That, we believe, not only makes them happier people, but

makes it more pleasant for those around them.

     Note that natural thinking provides that there are only two

extremes possible for the human condition: That of high self-

esteem, and that of low self-esteem. Everyone is thought to be

living somewhere in between. Rarely is thought ever given to

the possibility of ANOTHER alternative -- one completely

outside of those two extremes.
     Outside of those two possibilities? What else is there but
the possibiliities of high self-esteem or low self-esteem?
Herein is the surprising answer. There IS another possibility. It
is CHRIST-ESTEEM. Rather than be governed by a high or low
view of myself, why not leave myself alone and focus on Christ?
     Ask something about "high self-esteem" and "low self-
esteem:" What do the terms have in common? One little
word: SELF. That is no accident or coincidence, for both
are nothing more than a focus upon self. High self-esteem
is a positive focus on self. Low self-esteem is a negative focus.
But the focus on self is there. Self-focus absolutely governs us.
     Man, born in Adam, is fully governed by a focus and pre-
occupation with himself. Me, myself, and I. Even the "good"
which natural man does comes from some root of self. This
motive does not need to be deliberate or conscious. It is
what we are by nature. There is no escape from it in Adam.
     Christ-esteem, on the other hand, is not a focus on self.
It is important to understand that. High self-esteem is a
postive focus upon self. Low self-esteem is a negative focus
upon self. Christ-esteem isn't any focus upon self. It is a
focus AWAY from self, and upon Jesus Christ. Christ-
esteem is a perspective completely outside of the possibilities
known to natural man.
     Now we can see why spiritual bankruptcy does not equal a
sense of worthlessness. Despite being fully aware of the
barrenness of myself, I do not dwell on self. I dwell on the One
who has saved me from myself. Or, to put it another way, true
humility is NOT a focus on my worthlessness. It is a focus
upon HIS greatness.
     Until we see ourselves along side of Jesus Christ, there is
no possibility of true humility or spiritual bankruptcy. Only by
seeing HIM can we see ourselves, and realize that there is
real redemption and freedom. Only by seeing Him along side
of our problems, will those problems cease to intimidate us.
     Christ-esteem is not achieved by practicing mental games,
memorizing scripture, or even by following religious rules and
laws. It is achieved in only one way: Death and resurrection. I
must be willing to take my hands off of myself, and leave myself

to Him. I do that by unconditionally surrendering myself to

Him for the inworkings of Christ's death and resurrection. That

will eventually make Christ-esteem a reality for me. I'll more

and more live in the freedom Christ has provided.

     Note that I cannot find freedom from self by turning upon

myself and attacking. No. I must present my "self" to God

unconditionally, that the same grace which saved me might

bring me into conformity with the death and resurrection of His
Son. Only God knows how to specifically do this in my case. But
as He does it, the result will be REAL freedom. And I'll slowly
develope a new perspective completely outside of any that
I ever thought possible. I'll grow to see the One who is the

answer to all of my so-called "self" problems, Jesus Christ.

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