October 2, 2023

Give Them A Biblical Self-Esteem

Give Them A Biblical Self-Esteem

Posted in In line with Scripture

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? — Jeremiah 17:9

This passage puts a very unpleasant and unpopular message before us. It is telling us something we have all heard before: that at the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.

Now, we are not talking about the band-aid class of problems here. We are talking about a terminal, inoperable cancer type of problem. And it is a problem we all have. Yes, even born again Christians.

You see, we were created good by God in the Garden. But in Adam we all fell into sin. We tend to underestimate the problem of sin, mainly because we have been living in it since conception and are rather more comfortable with it than we would admit. But this sin is a deadly disease with a 100% kill rate. It affects every part of us, giving rise to the doctrinal term “total depravity” which means we humans have been depraved or corrupted in every area, that is, in our total being. (It does not mean every area is as totally depraved as it can possibly be, but until one is converted, one is certainly headed in that direction.) We Christians have been saved from the worst part of this disease, namely, everlasting death in hell, but we will not be free of this disease until we are resurrected to Glory. Meanwhile, the indwelling Holy Spirit gives us an increasing ability to overcome the power of sin in this life, a life-long process known as sanctification.

Implications: we humans are not in a state of normalcy, but are born sick, live with this illness all our days, and only gain deliverance at death. Those lovely people we know who have “hearts of gold” have no such thing. Their hearts are the worst part of them. The Scripture above says the heart is “desperately corrupt”, which is a lot worse than just plain old “corrupt”, which is pretty bad already. Also note: the heart is deceitful…..deceitful above all things, more deceitful than anything else you could mention. Which is why you still think those lovely people DO have hearts of gold, in spite of what the Scripture says. Praise God, not man, for the good deeds done. And praise God that He organises even unregenerate people to do many good deeds…..in spite of their heart conditions.

Our children are not little bundles of innocence….they too have the same deceitful hearts, desperately corrupt. Their cute little eyes and mannerisms will deceive us into thinking otherwise, but we must hold to what Scripture says, not what our deceitful hearts want to tell us. Our job is to give them a proper Biblical “self-esteem”,  one that acknowledges this problem. Not surprisingly the world’s idea of self-esteem is just the opposite: instead of realising you are so depraved that you need a Saviour, you will save yourself by affirming how truly great you are.

It said in the July 13, 1998 issue of Newsweek magazine: “If students work in classrooms where posters proclaim WE APPLAUD OURSELVES! and complete sentences like “I am special because….” they will be inoculated against drug use, teen pregnancy, bad  grades and just about everything else short of the common cold. Or so the story goes. Parents, like educators, have soaked up the message, trying to make their child feel good about himself no matter how many courses he fails or fly balls he drops.”

However God’s reality has a way of asserting itself as even this Newsweek article had to observe: “But now there is evidence that it might be dangerous…. ‘If kids develop unrealistic opinions of themselves and those views are rejected by others,’ warns psychologist Brad Bushman of Iowa State University, the kids are ‘potentially dangerous’….High self-esteem that is unjustified and unstable — Bushman’s definition of narcissism — also puts a kid at risk of turning violent.”

We parents must always remember that God has appointed us as parents and mentors of our children: we teach and role model, they learn and emulate. They learn to have a healthy scepticism toward their own hearts by our teaching and by our example. We don’t follow our feelings: we do our duty, which we find written in the pages of Scripture. We men have a particular duty to provide strong leadership here. Having done our duty, God in His grace may well give us the feelings of satisfaction once the job’s well done, or of pride in a child once he’s been disciplined to accomplish things on his own, or of affection toward your wife once you’ve loved her sacrificially, or of respect for your husband once you’ve honoured him sufficiently.

Again, the key to a proper self-esteem is to have a proper — that is, Biblical — self-portrait. We are created in the image of God. But we are fallen and so depraved in every area of our lives (physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual) that we are unable to function as we ought without outside help. We get some help from our parents via discipline — as long as they are not deceived by their hearts to be slack in discipline — and via teaching and example. We also get the spiritual help we need from the Lord via the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. This conversion so thoroughly changes us that we are henceforward enabled to do God’s will and even to desire to do His will over our own. But because sin is still an integral part of our human nature, especially our hearts, that until the day we die we must co-operate with the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, using the Scriptures as our infallible guide rather than the fickle fancies of our deceitful hearts.

From Keystone Magazine
January 2000 , Vol. VI No. 1
P O Box 9064
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