Stop Thinking About You!

Yet again I hear of another book which aims to pervert and twist the meaning of a Biblical text so that it will line up with their American ideals. Granted, this particular pastor had a slightly better emphasis and view of God than Joyce Meyer or others of the Word of Faith ilk – but that does not make his approach any less backwards.
The text the book was supposedly drawing on for its content was Matthew 22:35-40 (roughly speaking – I’ve not read the book, so I’m going on what I heard on the radio):

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:35-40 (ESV)

Now the first portion of the radio broadcast focused on the first “section” (apparently it is divided into three) of the book; how we are to view, love, and relate directly to God. Some nice and proper things were said by the pastor as he was being interviewed on that portion, but one thing he said was eerily indicative of how off base his view and intent in the middle portion of the book would be once the radio interview got there…
He said something along the lines of “one of the things that we do, as people, is seek our meaning and purpose. We want to know why we’re here – and God gives us that need. And I always say you will find the greatest meaning in life in worshiping God, because that was what we were made to do…”
I am paraphrasing there, but I believe I captured the essence of his intent from what I can remember. And I could appreciate his statements about the worthiness of God to be worshipped, but how he said what he said just irked at me until I realized his thought was as backward as the entire middle portion of his book.

We do not worship, serve, love, or obey God to “find meaning and/or purpose” or any other reason that has US at its focal point. Those may be products or natural results of worship – and because of our fallenness and pervasive rebelliousness our actions and intents may always be tainted with a selfish focus – but we are SUPPOSED to love, worship, obey, and serve God for the very basic and primary reason of HIS WORTHINESS; and simply because He commands it.

But I digress, my reason for mentioning that statement from the writer is to point at the very simple reason that the man can write an entire third of a book on “loving yourself” based on Jesus’ wording in verse 39 quoted above. And that reason is that the author – along with so many American’s who profess to follow Christ – is placing his own ego (or, more accurately on the part of his intent, the egos of his readers) into the text.

Nowhere in the Law (which is what Jesus is quoting and summarizing) is there any hint that the Biblical authors ever had any concept of what we today call “self-esteem” or “an appropriate self love.” Every place the Scriptures speak to “self-love” it is in a negative context and does nothing but condemn it. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 1 Timothy 2:21, Romans 1:21-25, etc…)

Getting back to the radio interview, however, I will say once again that this pastor sounded much more pious and “Christiany” than the common Word of Faith spewer. He spoke of “having a proper view of ourselves” and “loving ourselves the way God does” in slightly less offensive fashion than I have heard before – but the idea was essentially the same as what I have addressed before in previous posts.

The problem is that it’s the entirely wrong approach. If you “hate yourself” you may very well need to have a change in perspective, but that necessary change will not be from the “negative” to the “proper negative” or the “positive” or even the “right positive.” What you need to do is STOP LOOKING AT AND THINKING ABOUT YOU!
Way more people could do with a more negative view of themselves – especially those professing Christ as Savior – however, the aim of Holy Writ is not to have us “think of ourselves properly” but to “lose, forget about, and die to ourselves.” (Matthew 16:24-25, Luke 14:25-33, etc…)

And guess what, the more you “die to self” and look to Christ, and believe, trust, worship, and obey Him – by default you will have/develop a proper understanding of yourself. But that is a simple product, or result, of NOT focusing on you at all – because God All-Mighty is the one Being worth loving, obeying, and thinking about.

So please, do not allow the tripe you hear every day coming from the current “Christian” culture to influence you away from the real solution to any problem you may be facing in life.

Christ, and the hope of one day standing in His Glorious presence, can remove so many of this terrible world’s aches and pains (or at least point to the escape route)… Trust HIM; learn to love HIM more and better and more appropriately; and stop thinking you need to “love” yourself, or some other such nonsense.

God is the one we should be concerned with loving. And by extension He will help us love those around us – and IN THAT He will help us to stop being the narcissistic pieces of dirt the idea and mindset I’m ranting about stem from.

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Self-Esteem . . . Or God-Esteem?

I once heard a preacher make a great statement that is quite relevant to the last two posts I’ve put up – and his statement actually gave me the title for this post… But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve probably been thinking about this way more than is even helpful, but I couldn’t shake the question: does God really command me to love myself? I’ve read and heard a lot about self-esteem and how it can supposedly effect your attitude, relationships, and even “success” – whatever that means – in life. But I’ve always found it hard to believe that any of those teachings are Biblical. Honestly, am I supposed to believe that Scripture actually teaches that one of my problems is that I think too poorly of myself?

So, naturally, to answer my own questions, I go to the Bible – and specifically I go to the places that describe mankind’s essential problem:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them…

…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of asps is under their lips.”

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… ~ Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18, & 3:23 (ESV)

(NOTE: see also Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 36:1-6, Ephesians 2:1-3, etc.)

So, according to Scripture, my problem is not that I am “deceived” or self-deprecating, but that I am a God-hater. And thus I pervert the good things God originally made and act against His law, thereby earning for myself the just and righteous wrath of my Almighty Creator. What is worse, I can do nothing to appease the wrath of this thrice-Holy God, because even my attempts to do so are tainted with selfish, evil idolatry.

Now, the good news is that God has appeased that wrath Himself to save a people from Himself, for Himself. Jesus Christ, God the Son, took upon Himself the penalty for sin to redeem a people for Himself, thus making it possible to clothe them in His righteousness and delight in them for God’s own pleasure and glory.

So, since God has saved me and clothes me in the righteousness of His Son through my repentance and belief upon/in Him, I must forever focus upon the work and might of God – as that, and more, is merely the due reward of His act – and in so doing, forget myself (as far as is necessary without forgetting my state apart from Him, and His action) in the ever pursuing of His honor, praise, and glory.

(NOTE: see the entirety of the portions of Romans quoted above, the rest of Psalm 36, Ephesians 2:4-10, and the entirety of the New Testament…)

So, to return to what I opened with – and to close – here is a paraphrastic quote of something I first heard Voddie Baucham say:

“What we need is not more ‘self-esteem.’ What we need is more God-esteem!”

And here are a couple quotes I saw throughout the length of time it took me to gather my thoughts for this post:

“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” ~ C. H. Spurgeon

“Only those who have learned well to be earnestly dissatisfied with themselves, and to be confounded with shame at their own wretchedness, truly understand the Christian gospel.” ~ John Calvin

NOTE: at some point I will post something in response to those silly people that would read these quotes and say “but now your focused back on your ‘wickedness’ instead of God! (I.e. Christians shouldn’t think about their sin)” … But – for now – suffice it to say a healthy (and poor) view of one’s self, balanced with a mindset of self-forgetfulness, SHOULD lead the disciple of Christ to greater and greater love for and confidence in the merciful, gracious, and worthy God and LORD of the universe.

The Implications of Believing There’s a Command to Love Yourself

So I recently put “a command to love yourself” into a search engine to see what I’d get… I’m not sure why, but I was kinda surprised at the litany of stuff actually arguing for the idea.

However, I shouldn’t have been surprised, because the American Dream has always – in one way or another – encouraged the love of self. In fact, much of contemporary “Christianity” today focuses on a “you are worth so much” chant that logically leads its teachers to follow this chant with a teaching that will keep listeners satisfied and “in the club,” so to speak.I’ve primarily heard the “love yourself” teaching twisted out of the Scriptures by Joyce Meyer (I’m pretty sure it’s actually her primary “teaching” platform), however, I’ve heard plenty of similar teaching – if in more veiled language – from many other sources.

One article I found online is a good example of this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/loving-yourself-the-biblical-command-we-tend-to-forget/

You will notice, however, that the author uses no Scripture (aside from the half quotation of “love your neighbor as yourself”) to back up their claims that to “love yourself” is even an idea in the imperative of the command. Now, there are professing Christians that will try to go to passages about “abundant life” and such and try to twist their base ideas into something that will work with their teaching on Matthew 22:39... But as I’ve tried to briefly point out in my last post, I do not believe the whole testimony of Scriture would even come close to substantiating such a claim.

Besides that, no matter how much “Christianese” you use, the logical end of such and argument is self-love and/or self-worship as a prime goal in life. It also diminishes a person’s ability to rightly judge their own sinfulness by inserting a third category of responsibility that the Bible does not teach.

I thought this article was a perfect example of the logical end to such a false message: https://bayart.org/2016/08/22/how-to-fall-in-love-with-yourself/

Anyone who can read such self absorbed advice and not cringe or have red flags go off in their brain has a lot to learn about what the Bible says about mankind, God, and the character and worth of Christ.

A Command to Love Yourself?

    “You can’t love others well until you love yourself.”

    I’ve heard the phrase (or at least something like it) used as a starting point for a self-help message by a “preacher” on tv and seen it plastered on pictures online… The tv personality (and most of the professing Christians that I have heard/seen use the phrase) supposedly got the idea from Mathew 22:39.

    “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (HCSB)

    I’m sure you noted that the first half of the verse indicates that this is a “second” following something before it. I’m also sure you noted that the primary factor in this verse is “your neighbor” not “yourself.”

    But let’s back up a moment and get some context – in the 22nd chapter of Matthew, Jesus finishes a long string of parables and deals with several “test questions” brought to Him by the Pharisees and Sadducees (taxes and resurrection respectively), and then comes the following passage.

     But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) 

    Here Jesus has quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 for the greatest, most defining commandment from God, and then He summarizes the whole of the Law with His added “second commandment.”

    If you go back and read Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and even Numbers, you get a much better sense of what “loving your neighbor as yourself” looks like, than if you just have the self-esteem toting, “you are special and deserve to be loved,” material success focused societal lense of our day.

    Jesus’ statement even taken by itself cannot come close to being interpreted as meaning anything along the lines of “here Jesus has acknowledged the truth that if you don’t like yourself you’ll be an angry and unhappy, and therefore unloving person. Because if you can’t even accept yourself for who you are and stop being critical of yourself, you’ll never be able to love people.” No. The context of the statement and its relation to the Law of God make the treatment of your neighbor the primary and only subject in that sentence. No person listening to Jesus at the time would have inserted anything about their “self feelings” into what was being taught.

    Inserting the “importance of good self-esteem” concept into the statement also becomes impossible in light of Jesus’ direct teachings on the subject of “self.”

    Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. ~ Matthew 16:24-27


    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” ~ Luke 14:26-35 (ESV)

    These passages obviously indicate that the disciple is to be marked first and foremost by self-denial and self-sacrifice. And I believe this is further attested to by the way the epistles echo Jesus’ summary of the “Law and Prophets.”

    For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  ~ Romans 13:9-10

    Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. ~ James 2:5-17 (ESV)

    No mention of how you feel about “you” except to point out hypocrisy or self-deception.

    In fact, I would submit to the reader that something of an opposite perspective is being taken by Jesus (and His Apostles) – that being something like this: “you already love yourself so much that you should be treating others as good as you treat yourself.”

    NOTE: Something of the idea in Ephesians 5:29 comes to mind as a Scriptural phraseology for what I’ve suggested above.

    You see, human beings are so selfish that even in the case of those who are suicidal and/or “hateful” of themselves in one way or another, they are still so focused on themselves that they are literally loving/worshiping themselves over anyone else. Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18, 3:23, Jeremiah 17:9, etc…

    To paraphrase several great preachers; we don’t need more/better self-esteem or to learn to love/accept/be happy with ourselves – we need to repent of our selfish selfcenteredness and evil, and to hold God in high esteem and love Him to the utter forgetfulness of ourselves so that the only thing left for our consideration is how best to obey His commands.