Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Call For "Low Self Esteem" and the Advancement of God's Glory

In the day in which we live, John the Baptist's words, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30), is such powerful medicine to our souls! We live in an era that says that our greatest need is to "love ourselves," or to quote a famous singer, self love is "the greatest love of all." Secular psychology (as well as many modern 'Christian' psychologists) seem to be passionate about this value. This value of "self-esteem" seems to be so great, that a "low self-esteem" is often times seen as the root cause for many of our problems.

But I ask you, is this what we see from Scripture?

I believe we see clearly that our biggest problem is not that we don't esteem ourselves enough, but instead that we esteem ourselves far too much. As one goes and surveys the many problems of the Old Testament people of God, it wasn't that they just didn't believe in themselves enough, it was actually due to the fact that they did it too much...as the writer of Judges tells us the source of their problems was that..."In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Throughout the Old Testament, we see the fact that Israel's problem was that they were constantly rejecting God as their true King, and thus, enthroning themselves, their own passions and desires as the true "king" of their own hearts.

By raising our children in such ways that feed the desires and drives of their own flesh, we end up teaching them that their life's orientation is to be themselves. We teach them "self worship" rather than "God worship." We end up ingraining into them a very "man-centered" worldview, rather than a "God-centered" one.

Please don't get me wrong, I am not aiming for a type of self abasement that lowers the value of man to depths lower than the value that Scripture itself places on man. But instead, I think we need to aim for a clarity of how Scripture does view man. In Scripture, we are the given the highest of value of all of the creatures...but, then to see the true nature of our problem - which is not a low value of ourselves, but instead a low value of God. Our true problem being a valuing of our "words," thought, and ideas over God's words - this was the problem in the garden and it is our problem today - rebellion against God, His Word, His way and His glory, while we seek out the advancement of our own. In a word it is called - sin.

So in many ways, I would suggest, we have it all backwards. May we lead our children, as well as our own hearts, to see that our greatest pursuit is to give ourselves to the active, daily esteeming of God's words, ways, thoughts, actions, nature, attributes and glory above any other earthly pursuit. Our soul's satisfaction is never found in ourselves, but only in the One who Created us! May we lead our children in declaring, with the Psalmist..."Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory!" May we say with John the Baptist, "He must increase and I must decrease." May I encourage you that when John the Baptist was saying, "[there is One of whose] sandal I am not worthy to untie," he was not suffering from a posture of the heart that he needed to be corrected. He was not in need at that moment for someone to therapeutically "validate his worth." Instead, he was only seeing rightly, that his worth does not even come close to the level of being able to be deemed worthy of untying The Glorious Savior's sandal. This was not a "low" place, but a very high place of reality that John The Baptist was speaking from! My friend, may I encourage you that only when we see the "low" place of sin, do we see the glorious place of where the glorious Gospel takes us! Only when I see that my greatest problem is sin, do I see the great and wonderful affect of the gospel! And through Him, by being placed in Him, (not my self) I am taken to the highest of all places, being seated with Him, in Him in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). Oh, may we decrease and may He, and He alone increase! May worship of Him increase in my heart and may worship of my thoughts, ways and ideas only decrease.

In our desire to grow in our need to "esteem" God, more than ourselves...I came across this great blog entry by Dr. Al Mohler where he cites the failure of the "self esteem movement"that was published by none other than "New Yorker Magazine" in their article "Praise is dangerous." (The date of this entry was February 16th, so you might have to scroll down to it) http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=876


Mark said...


If you don't have time to read the whole quote below here is quick summary.

"The more I am occupied with Christ, the less shall I be occupied with myself."

"He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). Blessed climax was this to the lovely modesty of John, and well calculated to crush all party feeling and nip in the bud any jealousy there might be in the hearts of his own disciples. In principle this is inseparably connected with what he had just said before in the previous verse. The more I "decrease" the more I delight in standing and hearing the voice of that blessed One who is Altogether Lovely. And so conversely. The more I stand and hear His voice, the more will He "increase" before me, and the more shall I "decrease." I cannot be occupied with two objects at one and the same time. To "decrease" is, we take it, to be less and less occupied with ourselves. The more I am occupied with Christ, the less shall I be occupied with myself. Humility is not the product of direct cultivation, rather it is a by-product. The more I try to be humble, the less shall I attain unto humility. But if I am truly occupied with that One who was "meek and lowly in heart," if I am constantly beholding His glory in the mirror of God’s Word, then shall I be "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
A.W. Pink

Matthew said...

Outstanding bro! Thanks for the Pink quote...where did you get that from? May we all grow old together living out this reality that Pink states: "The more I "decrease" the more I delight in standing and hearing the voice of that blessed One who is Altogether Lovely."

KS said...


Pretty good article. We truly need a High Christ Esteem.

What is it like to pastor a Sovereign Grace Church? Do you communicate much with Rick Gamanche and Craig Cabiniss?

Also, whendo you plan on having your sermons on mp3 on your churches website?

Paul Schafer
College Station, TX

Mark said...

Here is the link to his sermon.


There is so much there to chew on. This one struck me as I read it again this morning.

"But if I am truly occupied with that One who was "meek and lowly in heart," if I am constantly beholding His glory in the mirror of God’s Word, then shall I be "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18)."

Have a great day brother!

Matthew said...

Dear Paul,

Thank you so very much for your encouragement and inquiries. As far as answering your question about what is it like being a Sovereign Grace pastor? Oh my, I fear that any response I give here would only be a mere shadow of the appreciation I have for those I am able to serve with in Sovereign Grace Ministries as well as here locally, but I will try...

I was a pastor for several years before coming to a Sovereign Grace church as a member and I have to tell you, I had never met a group of more humble, gospel loving, grace centered people. After meeting the people of the Sovereign Grace Church in Pasadena, CA. I honestly didn't care if I ever became a "pastor" again, I just wanted to be like these folks. I wanted to grow in being a godly husband and father, like I saw in so many of these men. Honestly they blew me away with their humble pursuits of morifying pride, seeking to cultivate biblical God honoring righteousness in their lives, all the while doing so in a grace that is only motivated by the gospel.

As far as what is it like now being a pastor of Sovereign Grace Church...I couldn't imagine not being one. It is one of the highest priviledges I could ever think of. To many pastors that I speak to here locally, their work in the ministry is a lone, isolated one. Sadly, one hears far too often from pastors about them being alone. I have to say, by God's grace, that experience is completely foreign to me. In many ways, I am able to work with, and pastor my best friends. We planted this church 4 years, almost 5 years ago and honestly I still wake up thinking, "I can't believe I get to do this." The amount of support locally and extra locally is absolutely incredible. You mention Craig Cabiniss, he actually assists Steve Shank in overseeing our local church here. Craig is and has been a great source of help, counsel and wisdom for me. He has been a great help to me and am so very grateful for him. As far as Rick, yes, he has spoken here at Providence in the past. He is an outstanding, clear expositor of Scripture, as well as being an incredibly humble man. Beside, I really like Rick because he laughs at my jokes.

As far as our messages on mp3, we are presently looking into that...and we will see how that goes. But thanks for asking.

Again, thank you for your interest in our church and in Sovereign Grace Ministries...and if there is any way I might be able to serve you personally please don't hesitate to call me. 913-393-2421. Take care.