Self-esteem: A Proper View of Self and Others: Part I
Man the Seeker

Introduction: This four-part series: Self-esteem: A Proper View of Self and Others, gives biblical direction for properly understanding this phrase. The concept of self-esteem (also termed self-love, self-worth, and self-confidence has been a topic deluxe. Books and articles were written about it. The subject cropped up in the store, on the TV, in the newspaper, in the classroom, and from the pulpit. Everyone seemed to be intrigued in finding and capturing one’s self esteem. It was a must. Some of its glitter has fallen off and the topic is not so earth-shaking. Still people, all kinds, seem to be searching and wondering about their self-esteem.

The word esteem simply means regard, respect, value, and prize. So in essence people wonder what value they have or how valuable they are. They want to know how they are to be regarded by themselves and others. Some in the social sciences use the term positive unconditional self-regard as if it is an integral part of a person or it should be. Closely behind these declarations is a demand that others give a person the regard he thinks he needs and deserves. People are fixated on how others view them. This demand is driven by the person’s own idea about his presumed value. Their judgment is measured according to a standard. The standard is usually one the person imposes on himself and on others. Often the standard is a non-biblical one.
What underlies the question of worth and value is identity. People are asking who they are and secondarily, what makes knowing the answer so important. We must have a standard to correctly understand any topic including this one. Mine is the Bible. The Bible addresses the issue of self–esteem from the aspect of man’s identity, origin, destiny, and purpose. It assumes that God is, the Creator and Controller, and that man a creature made as God’s image.

Further, the Bible teaches that God made people searchers/seekers. They will seek God and His kingdom or self and their kingdom which is actually Satan’s kingdom. Initially in the Garden prior to sin, Adam and alter Eve had a singular focus: living out their fellowship with God as His. They were to seek deeper intimacy with God as privilege and duty. Sin changed their perspective of God and self. Man continued to be the image bearer of God but man and mankind was radically changed. They turned inward to deadness and darkness. Self and worship of self through others, things, and even God became a way of life.

Unless a person is regenerated – receives a heavenly birth, he will continue to be a seeker but he will not seek God except as they know Him (John 3:3-8; Romans 1:18-23). In Matthew 6:33, Jesus taught the disciples that everyone is a seeker. There is to be only one priority in life. Every person is to seek first and foremost the kingdom of God. Jesus came to do His Father’s will. Jesus knew Who He was, His purpose, and His destiny. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus calls all people to follow and imitate Him. He is ultimate one who is the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) and who mourns, is meek, hungers and thirst for righteousness, is merciful, is pure in heart,, is the Peacemaker, and is persecuted for righteousness sake (5:4-10. Jesus taught His people the true art of seeking!

Jesus was rich in the Holy Spirit such that He humbled Himself, became man, lived and died perfectly, and went to hell on the cross (Isaiah 11;1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21; Philippians 2:3-5, 6-8). Jesus sought doing the Father’s will and He did it with His whole heart. Not everyone can or desires to seek Christ and His kingdom and family. Only those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit will seek God and His kingdom (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64). Those who aren’t continue to seek their own kingdom and compete with God. God does not bless His competition (Isaiah 42:8; 48:8-11)

In the Matthew text, Jesus gave His disciples, and all believers, an identity and marching orders. They were and are His. By the act of regeneration through the Holy Spirit, the believer is rescued from one kingdom and family and placed into God’s family and kingdom (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13-14). Therefore, every believer has a God-given identity and label by and through the supernatural act of regeneration. God also gave every believer, and the Church, a life-long task: growth in Christ individually and corporately through preaching, teaching, and applying God’s truth (Ephesians 4:11-14). The task is duty but more – it is privilege and blessing (1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4).

The task can be accomplished because the believer and Church have been given a proper vertical reference as a result of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As a result, thoughts, desires, and actions change toward God, self, and others (2 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). The logical response for any believer is: Wow. The wow is a reflection of his identity in Christ and God’s redemptive program throughout the ages. elf-esteem: a proper view of self and others begins with a proper view of the Triune God. Jesus simplified life for all believers (Matthew 6:33; 11:28-30). Biblical truth does that by setting the person free from himself, sin, and Satan (John 8:31-32). Conversely, sin, error, and falsehood complicate life and makes it impossible to correctly define self-esteem: a proper view.

1. From Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:7 what is man?
2. From Genesis 3:23-24, what happened to Adam and Eve and all mankind? What were the results?
3. What is Jesus teaching about man in Matthew 6:33? Does man ever cease to be a seeker?

Paul’s Perspective: 1 Timothy 1:12-16: Part II

Continuing our series: Self-esteem: a proper view of self and others, Paul offers valuable insight into our quest: self-esteem: a proper view. In 1 Timothy 1:12-16 Paul clarified the concept of self esteem. In verse 15, Paul wrote: here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. What does Paul mean by that statement? What is he teaching about self-esteem? Is he really the worst of sinners? If so how?

Many attempts to explain this verse have been made. It is an awesome statement that bears much thought. Certainly Paul is referring to an identity (chief of sinners) based on a standard (God’s truth and law). He made a conclusion about himself, the law, and God after considering himself light or lightweight in relation to God and His law. He concluded: I am a sinner; I am the chief of sinners. Many Christians may agree that they are sinners but chief of sinners is another story. How was it possible for Paul to know (as opposed to feel) his status? Simply, Paul is speaking of the bad news that he gave in verse 13. He was a murderer blasphemer, and a violent man. Does Paul mean because he did such bad things that he is the chief of sinners? I don’t think that is the whole story. Paul is giving us a bird’s eye view of a proper self assessment – a proper self-image according to Romans 12:3-8. He is teaching God’s people something about seeking. Its starting point is twofold: God and self or self and God. The two are linked.

Paul knew the truth taught in Romans 5:12-21. He knew that he was a sinner by virtue of being in Adam. He agreed with David as given in Psalm 51. Man, in the womb and at birth, is a sinner. He doesn’t become a sinner – he is one. Paul had done his own thing for his glory. He had created his own world – a virtual reality. He was a religious zealot (Philippians 3:3-6). He had prided himself on himself – his person, pedigree, performance, and position.

Consider Paul’s but now or but then (Romans 3:21; Ephesians 2:4)! A radical change occurred in Paul and consequently his life. elf-esteem: a proper view took a backseat to a correct view of God. God in Christ by the Holy Spirit snatched Paul from darkness, deadness, and defiance and placed him in light, life, and godly submission. Paul had met the living God. Paul had been judged in Christ as not guilty and positionally holy. He was a child of the King. God met Paul in a special way on the road to Damascus (Acts 9, 22, 26). All believers meet the living God in and by faith through a supernaturally-formed relationship between the Triune God and the person.

Paul is teaching that the only judgment that counts is the one that God makes of individuals (1 Corinthians 4:1-5). At regeneration, Paul was alone before God. He had no one by which he could compare or contrast himself. It was him before God – mono, mono – Coram Deo – before the face of God. Paul’s final assessment of himself was the only conclusion he could and should have reached. He was the chief of sinners. Paul could make that assessment only if God through His Spirit had regenerated and saved him. He was saved from sin and its consequences, himself, Satan, and hell.

Paul had a new heart and new eyes and ears. His interpreted grid was not simply what he took in by his senses. Rather he now as a believer interpreted that which he saw, heard, and touched with the eyes of saving faith (1 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:7). Paul’s conclusion is the only conclusion any growing believer can make it. The conclusion strikes at the very heart of man in himself post fall and what culture and self-esteem psychologized pundits proclaim.

Paul esteemed/regarded himself correctly. He answered the question: self-esteem: a proper view! He agreed with God’s assessment (Romans 3:21-26; 12:3-8). But he made another assessment. He was something in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). Out of Christ, he was for self, by self, and to self headed for misery in the life and hell in the next. In Christ, he was still a seeker, but he had a new identity. As a child of the King, he concluded that he was to be useful as God’s agent in God’s kingdom.

Paul was able to reassess God as powerful, generous, and gracious based on the re-creative work of salvation in spite of who Paul was. The assessment is given in verses 12 and 16 of 1Timothy. Paul was amazed. He was saved from something and saved to something. He was placed in a position of true service to the Lord. He was saved from God (as Judge), from himself (as a God-hater and seeker of his own glory), from Satan (as deceiver, the ultimate seeker of his own glory), and from sin – its guilt and power.

Paul was saved to a life of God-pleasing. He was placed into full-time ministry. His honest appraisal of himself and of God was in line with God’s guidelines. The results of his appraisal were not a “downer” for Paul. It was wonderful news. Self-esteem was never an issue. A correct view of self followed a correct assessment and view of God. A correct view and assessment of self is always vertical and before God. The assessment led Paul to exclaim not only that he was chief of sinners but that he had been supernaturally and abundantly showered with grace upon grace (1Timothy 1:12, 14). So it is for believers throughout the ages. Paul had a proper view of himself because it followed God’s view of Paul.

1. How about you: what is your assessment of yourself and on what basis?
2. Like Paul, have you linked the bad and good news of the gospel together for your good and the glory of God?
3. By looking at his past, Paul grew in humility, gratitude, energy, and compassion for others. How are you doing in those four areas?

David’s perspective: Psalm 8: Part III

David also offers valuable insights into the phrase: self-esteem: a proper view of self and others. Everyone has an idea about himself and others because man is a God-dependent being placed in and dwelling in God’s world. After sin and God’s judgment, man’s assessment of himself, others, and God is flawed. Man gives himself an identity or he receives it from someone else. Labels are significant. The one doing and receiving the label are instrumental in any discussion of self-esteem.

At creation, man was made in God’s image and he was identified by God as an image bearer of God. This set man apart from all other creatures. The psalmist was thoroughly amazed. Psalm 8 was authored by David as were almost all the Psalms in Book I of the Psalter (Psalms 1-41). The theme of book I is confrontation during the rise of the Davidic kingship. King David pointed to and was a type of the greater David, Jesus Christ. David, as was Christ, was the Triune’s God’s agent for establishing the kingdom of peace and righteousness. As recorded in John’s gospel (1:1-11), both King David and King Christ encountered hostility and conflict. They were treated more like enemies than kings even from their own people and families.

How did Christ conduct Himself during His life on earth? Christ had one goal: to please His Father by glorifying Him. Jesus knew Himself. That was never an issue. How did David conduct himself during these times? What was his focus? Was he concerned about his image and worth or did he seek the Labeler of all men? Psalm 8 helps to answer those questions. Psalm 8 is one place in Scripture that outlines David’s passion for the greatness of God and man’s place in God’s universe. David began and ended with God (v.1, 9).

In verse 1, David praised God who is Lord. He is David’s and Israel’s Lord and Lord of the universe: O Lord, our Lord; how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Imagine David as he is on the run taking time to rest. He looked up as he must have done as a shepherd lad. In response, David made simple but profound statements of truth (v. 1-3). God was real, mighty, and powerful.

David used the word majestic to describe God and His creative work. These passages (v.1-3) remind us of God’s encounter with Job, a man of God (Job 1-2, 38-42). God used Satan as His instrument to demonstrate the beauty and steadfastness of His salvation. Job in his misery wondered and as the book progressed demanded an explanation from God as to what was He doing.

Job was not satisfied with and in his salvation. Being saved was not enough – God owed him. Job answer3ed the phrase: self-esteem: a proper view by essentially talking God to court to explain Himself. His circumstances seemed to indicate that he was out of favor with God. As Job continued in his circumstances and God seemingly silence, Job demanded that God explain Himself. God never did but Job received something better – a piece and understanding of God that he had never had. God called for Job to sit and be silent. He then re-presented Himself as Creator and Controller of the universe. God paraded out the majesty and greatness of His creatures. Job got the message. God is God and he is not. In response to this newfound understanding, Job repented and functioned as a priest for his three wayward and misinformed friends (Job 42).

In Psalm 8, David seems to follow that same outline. David begins with God in verses 1-3. He catalogues some of God’s perfections: majesty, glory, Creator, Controller, and Judge. For David, God was like no other Being. Don’t miss that fact. Certainly God was not man. David then moves to man in verses 5-9. When David viewed and pondered all of creation he asked: what is man that God was mindful of him (v.4)?

David had a proper view of mankind. Self-esteem was not an issue! God had created and placed in the heavens a picture of Himself – His majesty, vastness, control, concern for beauty and detail, and power (see Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God;). David turned to himself and asked: what about man? Was David inquiring about man – his worth, significance, and self-image? Absolutely not! Like Paul, he declared not the chief of sinners but who is man that you are mindful of him (Psalm 8:4). David included himself in that assessment.

Initially, David looked at nature and said wow. Then he looked at mankind and wondered how it was possible for God to remember and care for mankind (Psalm 144:3-4; Job 7:17-18). Psalm 144 is another Psalm of David. The organizer placed many of David’s psalms in this fifth book of the Psalter as an encouragement for the people now out of exile, in their homeland but with the glory departed from it and them. David asked: O Lord what is man that you care for him (v.3) and man is like a breath (v.4).

The theme of Book Five of the Psalter (Psalms 107-150) was maturation after their return from the exile. They were exiled as self-serving rebellious idolaters and they were to return as humble, God- loving people. In Psalm 8 and 144, David tried to reckon God’s ways in relation to man. David’s focus was not only on man but more so on God. God did such a great job with the vast creation why would He would remember man and care for him. Why would God return rebellious Israel to the Promised Land? It centered on who God is: covenantal faithful who makes and keep promises in spite of man.

1. David’s view of man and himself was subservient to his knowledge of God as Creator and Controller. David goes back to Genesis 1:26-28. How does your view of Genesis influence your view of labels and identities?
2. Creation pointed to man’s place in God’s universe. What do learn from Romans 8:19-22?
3. Seeking one’s worth is the wrong search (Matt. 6:33). God has given the believer a new relationship, a new identity, a new family, a new kingdom, a new capacity, and marching orders. If you are a believer, ask yourself and record the reasons you are dissatisfied with God’s work in and for you. How has your life been “better” as a result of your search?

Self-Esteem: A Proper View of Self and Others: Part IV

What have we learned in regard to: self-esteem: a proper view of self and others? David could not get enough of God and the attention and care He placed on man including himself. David developed a proper view of himself because he had a proper view of God. Self-esteem: a proper view begins with a proper view of God and a God-esteem! He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David began to think God’s thoughts and desire what God desired. He was a type of Christ but he was not Christ.

David acknowledged and somehow experienced his insignificance but it was in light of God’s presence and greatness. David was in awe – he wondered and pondered but he couldn’t understand why God would care for the insignificant including him. This is God’s way (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Remember when Samuel came to anoint David, David’s father Jesses paraded out his sons before he presented David last. What man saw and interpreted as good and godly, God looked at the heart of man, known perfectly to God and imperfectly to others and the person himself.

David who wrote about one half of the Psalms concluded (as given in Psalms 8 and 144) that because of God’s greatness and majesty, God gave insignificant man a place a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor (8:5: You made man a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor). God had plans for mankind – its salvation which would magnify and the name of the Triune God.

God gave man significance but it was significance defined by God and done God’s way (1 Corinthians 1:30). Man’s significance is and was not inherent in man. In verses 6-8 of Psalm 8, David explained God’s gift to man (You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet; all flocks and herds and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the sea). David referred back to the Garden of Eden and Genesis 1:26-31 and God’s direction to Adam and Eve. .Man’s original position was one of king. Man was to function as God’s king in His kingdom. But man was to be a king God’s way for God’s glory.

David had a proper view of God. Therefore he had a proper of man. David was interested in God’s view of man and its significance in the life of David, of Israel, and of every believer. Please remember that Jesus Christ, the greater David, was more concerned with protecting, honoring, and preserving God’s image than being recognized and worshipped as God (Philippians 2:3-5, 6-11). God’s image was the key for King David and King Christ.

Concern about self must follow biblical guidelines. The believer starts with God then moves to his position in Christ indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and as a child of the King and a member of God’s family and kingdom he lives as a freed and free man. Yet in God’s economy, the believer is still a slave but he a slave unto righteousness (Romans 6:16-19). He has a new master and framework from to view himself, God, and the creation.

As you view yourself, and you should reflect, God calls you to use biblical guidelines. Everyone has a view of and a conclusion about something including self. God created man a rational, thinking being who is a reflective. Post-fall, what man was he is no longer in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Fallen man does not think God’s thoughts or desire what God desires. Post-fall, fallen man has turned his thinking and wanting inward toward self. He is still a seeker and a chooser, but it is toward self. For the believer, he is the most changed person by the unchangeable God. He is brought back into the kingdom and family of God. Self at least in principle does not have center stage. That is a great blessing as demonstrated in the life of the lesser David and king, and the greater Christ and King.

Believer: how do you answer the issue: self-esteem: a proper view?  Consider these non-negotiable turns. You are in Christ never to be separated (Romans 8:31-39). God sought you, found you, and holds you. God is a Seeker as well as man as his image. But God’s seeking is always true and right. He begins with self and moves to His image bearers. God has told you who you are. He has identified you as His. Follow David’s example. Rejoice and marvel that God would care for mankind. As you do, you will less and less seek your own glory, worth, and significance. Otherwise you would be competing with God.

1. What is God’s worth and how would you measure it?
2. Give some reasons that many people are preoccupied by their worth.
3. What is esteem of self and does it differ from pride?
4. Is there proper boasting and if so what is it (1 Corinthians 1:30 – Jeremiah 9:23-24)?