Self-Esteem Rooted in the Image of God


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He was on his kick. They all had one. Something they had studied and come to the definitive answer on, usually it was related to a cultural issue or the rapture.

This particular evangelist had studied Scripture and found out that it never said anything about self-esteem. Loving yourself was bad. We don’t need more value. We’re disgusting sinners. Worthless. We need Jesus.

Truth mixed with error. That’s the danger zone. Flat out error--easier to spot. Error peppered truth--more difficult to spot. Truth: we’re sinners. We do need Jesus. Error: understanding our value as humans isn’t important. Nothing better to cause turmoil in the life of the Christian than mixing a little rat poisoning with the gospel.

There’s also some truth that our self-esteem culture has created a herd of piglets longing for the milk of cultural acceptance. We must affirm, affirm, affirm. You cannot disagree--that’s not diversity. We must nod and smile. Can’t we all just get along? The problem though isn’t seeking value (imago Dei) but finding the value in the wrong place (cultural affirmation).

All of us are seeking value and affirmation in the things we pursue. Sometimes that’s money, sex, power, family, celebrity. We need to be confronted with the truth of the gospel. Our value isn’t dependent on those things. We were made as image bearers of God. All work when done in obedience to God with excellence honors God no matter how insignificant the job may seem.

Also, as image bearers we can disagree with each other because our value isn’t tied up with the latest political wave or political correctness. We don’t have to be afraid of disagreements or in its worse form persecution. Our value is located in who God says we are and for Christians most importantly in Christ.

The evangelist’s problem was a truncated gospel. His story starts with the fall. There’s no room for creation. There’s no room for God creating mankind in his image. No imago Dei. And if there’s no room for creation, there’s no room for re-creation in Christ. No hope.

The gospel starts with creation. Starts with God’s creative words. Starts with “It’s good.” Starts with dust formed. You can’t fall without first starting somewhere good.

So let’s talk about the fall, but not before we talk about God’s creative purpose in the beginning. And let’s not end with fall. Let’s plant ourselves on the hope of Jesus Christ. Let’s anchor ourselves on his finished work and his final return where he’ll make all the sad things come untrue.

That’s gospel self-esteem. Imago Dei.

Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and writes for CBMW Manual, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and other publications. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and offers freelance editing and book formatting services. His family is covenant members at Downtown Presbyterian Church.

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