Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller

Tell me if you have ever tried this? Through out the course of your day, keep track of how often you think of yourself, whether it be thoughts, actions, or desires. It is rather eye opening. Even those who consider ourselves the most selfless and others orientated will be shocked at just how consumed we are with ourselves. 

One thing is for certain, this is not how God wants us to be. Our ego and pride clash with the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. So what do we do?

Timothy Keller has written a very short, yet direct book on this matter, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. He sets out by first diagnosing our problem, then showing us what we are supposed to be, and then finally how we are to get there.

It is amazing how this little book can cover so much ground in so few pages. Keller presents the errors found in the advocacy of both low and high self-esteem. Neither of these conditions are desirable or helpful. The problem is that we need to not esteem ourselves at all. Whether good or bad, or high or low, both are a preoccupation with self. To set things straight Keller uses Paul's words to the Corinthians found in 1 Corin. 3:21-4:7. 

 So then, no more boasting about human leaders!All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future —all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God. This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. 
 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
The truth is that we place too much importance on what others think of us. We place too much on what we ourselves think. Everyone is searching for validation. We want a verdict to be handed down to us by others or even from ourselves. We want the verdict to proclaim our rightness, our acceptance.

Paul said he didn't care what others thought of him or even how he judged himself. Why? He knew that know matter how hard he tried, the only verdict he would ever receive would be one of sin and guilt. But he also knew that another had taken his guilty verdict for him. Jesus stood in his place and washed away his guilt and sin. Paul no longer placed himself under judgment. His judgment was over. Now he could quit focusing on himself and wholly on God and his obedience to him. This is freedom!

The past is behind us, the future is secure in Christ, and today can be spent at the tasks at hand. When we find our identity in Jesus we are free from the insecurities, as well as the pride of life. This is the blessed freedom of self-forgetfulness.

One quote that so struck me was, "Wouldn't you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those three triple jumps that the gold medal winner did?"

How rare is it to find this humility? To be satisfied in ones self and accomplishments, and supportive and enthusiastic of the accomplishments of others.  How often do we react to the success of others with hurt egos and a spirit of competition? If they do well, then we think less of ourselves? Crazy isn't it? But unfortunately this is true more often then not.

This is one book I am truly glad to have read. I pray that the Lord would use this to bring about changes in my life, that I could be one who finds confidence in Christ, and rejoices in the accomplishments of others.

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