Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Self-forgetfulness, and chiefs of sinners

I have been reading a small booklet entitled, "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness" by Timothy Keller.  Thought I would share a quote from this gem of a booklet that spoke to me here:

     "C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride.  If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble.  They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person).   The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us.  Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.
     'Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself.  Not needing to connect things with myself.  It is an end to thoughts such as, 'I'm in this room with these people, does that make me look good?   Do I want to be here?  True gospel-humility 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 can bring.......
    'Here is one little test.  The self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism.  It would not devastate them, it would not keep them up late, it would not bother them.  Why?  Because a person who is devastated by criticism is putting too much value on what other people think, on other people's opinions.  The world tells the person who is thin-skinned and devastated by criticism to deal with it by saying, 'Who cares what they think? I know what I think.  Who cares what the rabble think?  It doesn't bother me.'  People are either devastated by criticism--or they are not devastated by criticism because they do not listen to it.  They will not listen to it or learn from it because they do not care about it.  They know who they are and what they think.  In other words, our only solution to low self-esteem is pride.  But that is no solution.  Both low self-esteem and pride are horrible nuisances to our own future and to everyone around us.  
    'The person who is self-forgetful is the complete opposite.  When someone whose ego is not puffed up but filled up gets criticism, it does not devastate them.  They listen to it and see it as an opportunity to change.  Sounds idealistic?  The more we get to understand the gospel, the more we want to change.  Friends, wouldn't you want to be a person who does not need honour--- nor is afraid of it?  Someone who does not lust for recognition---nor, on the other hand, is frightened to death of it?  Don't you want to be the kind of person who, when they see themselves in a mirror or reflected in a shop window, does not admire what they see but does not cringe either? "

I read this thinking of my own fear of fame, and felt quite convicted.  I am nowhere near a self forgetful person, but I want to be. I think very few people in the world are, actually.  Most people think too much of themselves or too little.  Very few people are actually focused on others, and loving God and loving them well.  It's hard to love others well when we are consumed with thoughts of ourselves, though; I see that quite clearly. 
The other thing that really spoke to me in this book was when the author mentions the apostle Paul, he pointed out the scripture in I Timothy 1: 15 that says

"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."

Something I had never noticed before is that Paul uses the present tense to describe himself as a sinner; he uses the word am, not the word was.  That is significant, and encouraging to me.  It is not glorying in my sin to admit the truth of how messed up I am apart from Christ, even as a Christian.   Even though I am moving in the right direction,  there is still alot of things about me that are sinful and in need of transformation.  That is not a confession of unbelief; God is changing me.  But it is an admission of where I am.  The thing is, as this little book points out, Paul was able to separate who he WAS in Christ from the things he ACCOMPLISHED or DID, good or bad.  Neither his sinfulness nor his accolades defined him anymore.  My final, most important identity is not that I am a SINNER, although I am one.  What matters is what God has ALREADY said of me, and that I believe Him.  HIS opinion is the only one that counts, and the verdict is in.  I am HIS, and the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me, not based on what I have done, or even what I am going to do.   But based on what HE has done on the cross.  It is by grace through faith I believe in this.  What a wonderful, humbling, beautiful truth to contemplate when I sometimes am overwhelmed by how much I mess up, and how far I still have to go to look like Jesus. 

All of this theology we learn about in church, it turns out, has REAL, life living, practical application to how I should view myself and others.   Crazy, huh? 

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