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Esteeming Christ above Self

The need for self-esteem, love and acceptance, and significance tend to dominate most people’s lives. If these needs are met, it is believed by many, people will be happy, kind, and moral; if these needs are not met, people will be miserable, hateful, and immoral. Scripture teaches that it is God who changes our desires and that true happiness can only be found in the desire for God and godliness. Those who crave self-esteem, love, and significance may be happy if they get it, but they will remain self-centered. On the other hand, people who desire God, godly wisdom, and God’s glory will be satisfied, joyous, obedient, and profitable servants of God regardless of their circumstances.

Therefore, replacing self-esteem with Christ-esteem becomes the goal for the Christian. According to the International Bible Encyclopedia, “esteem” means "to think" or "reckon"; in other sources it means "to regard as honorable" or "valuable." While the term “Christ-esteem” is not in the Bible, the principle is. Because Jesus is Lord (we do not make Him Lord – He is Lord), we are supposed to submit to His lordship. Another word for our response to Jesus’ Lordship is “submission.” To submit is to yield to the will and control of another, and, with reference to Christians, it is yielding to the will and control of Jesus Christ who is the source of our new identity. Therefore, as we die to self daily (Galatians 2:20) we replace self with Christ in the hierarchy of our affections who enables us to esteem others greater than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

So, what if a believer is not at the point where he/she is ready to give up this concept of the self-esteem? Mature Christians should disciple them by showing and teaching fellow brethren who struggle with the world’s view of self what a new life in Christ looks like through the Bible and with personal examples. A Christian’s identity must be found in Christ not within oneself or his/her abilities. Furthermore, if self-esteem (our value, our worth, our confidence) is defined in terms of our new identity in Christ and not the psychologized self-esteem that has man at the center, then there is an essential characteristic of humility that must be taken into account.

Defining self-esteem in this sense makes the term at polar opposites with how the term is usually defined: humility – lowliness of mind which is a state that is pleasing to God (I Peter 3:4) and a characteristic modeled by Christ; self-esteem – puffing oneself up in order to develop feelings of worth based upon his/her skills, accomplishments, status, financial resources, or appearance. Hence, the charge to think biblically about every aspect of life including how a believer is to view him/herself is really about renewing one’s mind with the Word and magnifying Christ above all else which leads to finding one’s worth in Him and Him alone.

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