For parents, the “It’s Not All About You” speech we give to our children is a familiar one. Yet…if we were being brutally honest, how often due us parents then go and live our lives like it is, in fact, all about us. [or maybe that’s just me?]
Enter “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” [Tim Keller, 2012, 10Publishing]
I’ve heard about this tiny book from Keller for a while now and when I was at the Gospel Coalition MidAtlantic conference a few weeks ago they had it in the bookstore, so I grabbed it. It will be one that I refer back to many times in the future, whenever I need to give myself a solid spiritual metaphorical punch in the face.
Keller bases this mini book on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7
Keller points out the direct opposition of the world view vs the biblical view of ourselves. Yet the world’s view has actually changed. Up until the 20th century, traditional cultures always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all evil in the world. IOW – pride caused misbehavior.
But our modern world culture flipped that and the over-arching reason for misbehavior because they lack self-esteem and have too low a view of themselves. This is why we have drug-addiction, crime, marriages in trouble and so on.
Indeed, we have become the center of [our] the universe and the Apostle Paul writes in our passage in verse 6 that we are “puffed up one against each other” – the Bible saying the problem is we are thinking too highly of ourselves. Our egos are out of control and Keller gives us 4 things specifically about them that are the problem. First, they are empty, we live under the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, to find a purpose in something other than God. Second, they are painful. A distended overinflated ego is painful. Our feelings are so easily hurt. Thirdly, our egos are busy always trying to draw attention to itself. We are only proud of being more successful than whoever we are comparing ourselves to. [Hence my usual bouts of depression on the golf course.] Lastly, our egos are fragile – always in imminent danger of being deflated.
The solution? A transformed view of self, rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the passage, Paul essentially says – ‘I don’t care what others think – but I don’t care what I think either.’ His justification doesn’t come from others, nor does it come from self-validation. It comes from God through repentance, faith, and perseverance in Jesus.
This is gospel-humility. “It means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.” This is an ongoing process because as Keller notes “the more we understand the gospel, the more we want to change.”
When we get the gospel we flip the self-soaked view on it’s head. We don’t live then for approval, we are approved by repentance and faith in Christ and so we live. Our basis for acceptance and approval by God Almighty is not in ourselves, but because of what Christ has done for us.
Let us forget about ourselves and live each day in the grace that he alone can give!