Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 1, 2002
Thinking Rightly About Yourself
I have noticed a curious report over the last few years in
which American High School students are tested and then compared
with students from other countries. These reports have caused
quite a stir among educators because for quite a few years
American students have been lagging significantly behind in
Science and math as compared to those from other nations. This
math and science "deficit" has resulted in several
programs that are trying to boost those scores. There was,
however, one area in which the American students were rated top
in the world. Self-esteem. Though the students were performing
poorly compared to those of the other nations, they did feel
better about themselves than those other students felt about
themselves. In this case, self-esteem and actual performance were
not directly related. The strange thing is that only a few
conservatives thought that this indicated a problem. Perhaps it
would be better if our students did not feel so good about
themselves and so would work a little harder to perform better.
But that idea is contrary to the philosophy of the educational
elite which greatly values a high self-esteem.
Having a high self-esteem has become a critical issue within
much of our society. Many of those who push this issue do not
believe there has to be a correlation between feeling good about
oneself and actual performance. These are the people that are
behind the move to eliminate "winning" in
children’s sports league. Everyone is a "winner"
and trophies are given to everyone out of fear the children that
did not do as well will feel bad if the "winners" are
honored. Instead of preparing children for real life and
encouraging them to try harder, they are pampered and set up for
some very tough lessons when they do enter the real world. In
addition, there is no reward for those that succeeded because
they tried harder, so they eventually do not try as hard. In the
interest of pumping of the self-esteem of these children, the
character traits that result in actual success are discouraged.
In some theological circles this has been pushed to the point
that the Scriptures have been twisted into advocating self-love
as being of the first importance. Some even strongly arguing that
until a person has high self-esteem, they cannot love other
people. One author even goes far as to say that the core of
original sin is negative self-image or lack of self-esteem. What
do the scriptures say about this issue? Paul addresses what we
think about ourselves in Romans 12:3. Please turn there in your
When a person becomes a Christian, there is a radical change
that takes place. Paul has explained much of this throughout the
first 11 chapters of Romans. Through faith in the person and work
of the Lord Jesus Christ, the sinner becomes a saint before God.
There is a new nature that is given birth and new desires begin
to set the direction of the person’s life (2 Cor. 5:17f).
There is a change of masters. Sin and Satan are dethroned and the
individual is transferred to the kingdom of Christ where
righteousness is now the master (Rom. 6). There is still a
struggle against sin (Rom. 7), but there is a hope for the future
and the present that cannot be taken away. There is nothing, no
entity, no circumstance, past, present or future that can
separate us from the love of God demonstrated and proved when
Jesus Christ died in our place while we were yet sinners (Rom.
5:8 and 8:35f.). The good work that God started in us before time
even began will be completed in our future glorification, and
nothing can keep that from happening (Rom. 8:29,20). His promises
to us are as sure as His promises to Israel (Rom. 9-11).
Paul has presented the theology of the gospel in the first
eleven chapters of Romans. Starting in chapter 12, Paul begins to
detail the proper response to the gospel. In verses 1 & 2 he
gives the foundational principles.
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to
present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to
God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not
be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of
your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which
is good and acceptable and perfect.
It is upon the basis of the great mercies that God has shown
to us in redeeming us from our sins through faith in the person
and work of the Lord Jesus Christ that Paul calls on us to
present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices that are
pleasing to God. Being a living sacrifice is the reasonable
response of true worship that we should have because of what
Jesus Christ has done for us. Worship is not a Sunday morning
thing. It is the response of how you live your life in a daily
and moment to moment basis in giving honor and glory to God.
The Christian is transformed into a living and holy sacrifice
acceptable to God as they learn to resist the efforts of the
world to mold them into its image, and instead are having their
minds renewed. They are learning to value what God values instead
of what the world values. They see things from the eternal
perspective instead of the temporal one. They become less
self-centered and more God centered as they begin to understand
their circumstances less in terms of how it is affecting them and
more in terms of what God can do in the midst of the situation.
As the Christian becomes more mature in their walk with God,
their manner of life demonstrates God’s will because they
are doing what is good and acceptable to Him.
Practical Living as a Holy Sacrifice
This changed life will demonstrate itself in many practical
ways. We will be examining these specific areas over the next few
months. In verses 3-8, Paul addresses the first specific change.
How is the Christian supposed to think of themselves since they
have become part of the body of Christ?
"For through the grace given to me I say to every man
among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to
think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has
allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many
members in one body and all the members do not have the same
function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and
individually members one of another. 6 And since we have gifts
that differ according to the grace given to us, [let each
exercise them accordingly]: if prophecy, according to the
proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who
teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his
exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with
diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."
The Christian will view himself differently than the
non-Christian because the life of a Christian is no longer bound
up in self. The Christian is part of something far bigger than
self. Paul previously made the point that the one who believes in
Jesus Christ is joined to Him that you might bear fruit for God
(Rom. 7:4). Here Paul points out that the Christian is also part
of the body of Jesus Christ. What you do and how you act will
have an effect upon everyone else who is part of that body. In
the next month of so we will look closely at the nature of the
body of Christ as well as various gifts that God has given to
Christians so that you might serve God with wisdom and diligence,
but for today, I want us to concentrate on the mindset that Paul
points out we are to have as part of that body. Look again at vs
"For through the grace given to me I say to every man
among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to
think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has
allotted to each a measure of faith."
Several elements stand out in this verse. First, it is a
command, not an option. Second, we are not to be proud. Third, we
are to think with sound judgement based on God’s work in us.
Command, not an Option.
Paul’s statement here is given as a command based upon
Paul’s apostleship. The phrase, "through the grace
given to me" is used by Paul in several passages as a
reference to God’s gracious work in him in calling him as an
Back in Romans 1:5 Paul refers to the grace and apostleship he
had received from Jesus Christ that he might bring about the
obedience of faith among all the gentiles. That is precisely the
purpose of his command in verse three. This proper
self-evaluation is part of the obedience of faith for it involves
thinking correctly about oneself and then carrying out the proper
actions in light of being part of the body of Christ.
In Romans 15:15,16 Paul uses this phrase again in a very
direct statement about his authority as an apostle. "But
I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind
you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, 16 to
be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a
priest the gospel of God, that [my] offering of the Gentiles
might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." Paul
recognizes completely that it was God’s grace alone that has
made him an apostle, so he can be completely humble in his
statement while at the same time also being completely
authoritative, because an apostle is someone who is sent with the
authority of the one who sent him, in this case, the Lord Jesus
Paul uses this same phrase again in 1 Cor. 3:10,11 where he
says, "According to the grace of God which was given to
me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is
building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon
it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which
is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Here he uses the
analogy of being a builder to describe his work as an apostle in
In 1 Cor. 15:10,11, Paul again uses this same phrase to
demonstrate that his ministry has been completely dependent upon
the grace of God upon him, and not upon his own will and efforts.
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace
toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of
them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then
[it was] I or they, so we preach and so you believed." He
says something similar in Ephesians 3:7 concerning his preaching
of the gospel, "of which I was made a minister, according
to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the
working of His power."
Paul’s statement in Romans 12:3 is not an option for the
Christian to take or leave as they please. It is a command that
comes with all the authority as if Jesus Christ had said the
words Himself, for that is the authority of one of His apostles.
The Christian is commanded by Jesus Christ through Paul to "not
to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to
think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a
measure of faith."
What does it mean to ""not to think more highly
of himself than he ought to think." This could be
reduced down to the idea that the Christian is not to be proud,
but Paul’s statement here is more precise than that and
therefore gives a greater understanding of the proper balance
between an acceptable pride and in improper one.
The Bible has many things to say about pride, and almost all
of them are either negative or warnings against it. For example,
in Mark 7:22, Jesus lists pride among the things that are evil
that proceed from the heart of man. Proverbs 11:2 warns, "When
pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is
wisdom." Proverbs 15:25 says, "The Lord will
tear down the house of the proud, But He will establish the
boundary of the widow." Proverbs 29:23 adds, "A
man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain
honor." Proverbs 16:5 is very direct stating, "Everyone
who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly,
he will not be unpunished." No wonder the Apostle Peter
admonishes us in 1 Peter 5:5,6, "You younger men,
likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe
yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed
to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves,
therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at
the proper time."
Some have taken these statements and concluded that all pride
is evil. But the Bible does not present all pride as bad. For
example, in 2 Chronicles 17:3, King Jehoshaphat "took
great pride in the ways of the Lord and again removed the high
places and the Asherim from Judah." In Isaiah 4:2
speaking about events to occur in the Millennium says, "In
that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious,
and the fruit of the earth [will] be the pride and the adornment
of the survivors of Israel." Paul was proud of the
Corinthians for their response to the gospel and to his counsel
(2 Cor. 1:13) and he desired for them to be proud of him (2 Cor.
5:12). Proverbs tells us that a wise son makes a father glad
(Prov. 10:1; 15:20; 29:3) and that the father of the righteous
will greatly rejoice (Prov. 23:24).
In other words, there is a proper pride, but that pride is
never haughty and it is always related to something that reflects
God or His character. The wise son makes a father glad because
wisdom reflects God. Paul was proud of the Corinthians because
they had responded to the gospel and had corrected the things he
had admonished them about so that they were living in greater
godliness. Jehoshaphat took pride in the ways of the Lord and so
All pride is not evil, for there is a proper pride we are to
have in what the Lord is doing through us. We will see that even
more clearly as we look at spiritual gifts. What is wrong is the
improper pride that causes a person to think more highly of
himself than he should. That is the pride the Lord resists and
This is the problem with the self-esteem movement that has
affected our country, and even the church, so much over the last
couple of decades. It is not about helping people develop a
proper confidence in their abilities so that they might attempt
even greater challenges. It is about giving people a sense of
pride about things for which they have no reason to be proud –
such as students who perform poorly, but still feel good about
it. It is one thing to do the best you can and be out done by
someone else. There can still be a sense accomplishment in that,
but to think highly of yourself when neither performance or
effort were present is only baseless pride. That is thinking of
yourself more highly than you ought.
The self-esteem movement has affected the church with very bad
theology, for it is man centered. Self worth based on self esteem
is nothing more than baseless pride. Proper self worth is based
in the rock solid foundation of God, His character and His
actions through us. For example, Robert Schuller, one of many
popular "Christian" leaders who promote this idea, has
said, "Pride in being a human being is the single greatest
need facing the human race today?" (Self-Esteem – The New
Reformation, pg. 19). The single greatest need in the human
race today is salvation from sin. That is the same need that has
been there since Adam first fell into sin. There is no basis of
pride in being a human being. We are the cause of God’s
curse on this earth and Jesus’ death. Our only pride can be
in our savior who loved us and redeemed us for himself.
Schuller has also said "To be born again means that we
must be changed from a negative to a positive self-image" (Self-Esteem,
pg. 68). He defines salvation as "to be permanently
lifted from sin (psychological self-abuse with all of its
consequences as seen above) and shame to self-esteem and its
God-glorifying, human need-meeting, constructive, and creative
consequences" (Self-Esteem, pg. 99). To be born again
is to be made alive in Christ from our state of being dead in our
trespasses and sin. Salvation is from sin and its consequences.
Salvation is a spiritual reality in which the sinner is
transferred from Satan’s kingdom to Christ’s kingdom.
It is not a psychological mind game.
Schuller goes on in his book (pg. 36) to say, "God is
trying to build his kingdom by appealing to our unsatisfied
hunger for self-esteem. He offers to save us from guilt and shame
and insecurity and fear and boredom to a life of security,
serenity, stimulation, and self-esteem! Here then is a theology
of salvation that glorifies God, for it glorifies his children by
lifting them from hostility and rebellion-generating doubt and
fear to self-confidence-building, creativity-inspiring,
human-potential-releasing, human-brotherhood motivating,
self-esteem." What a contrast all of that is with
Jesus’ message that offended the people in John 6 so much
that they all left except the disciples, or caused the rich young
ruler to go away because he was unwilling to pay the cost of
following Jesus (Mt. 19:16f). We also find that Jesus often said
things very hard on a person’s self-esteem, such as calling
the Pharisees "hypocrites," "serpents," and
whitewashed tombs (Mt. 23), or warning people to repent or they
too could perish in some tragedy such as occurred by the collapse
of the Tower of Siloam. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven
belonged to the poor in spirit (Mt. 5:3). It does not belong to
the proud of heart.
Now most people who are affected by the self-esteem movement
are not as heretical in all their theology as Robert Schuller,
but I have heard those who would claim to be conservative
evangelicals argue that Jesus’ quote of Leviticus 19:18 that
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself" is a
statement that you must love yourself before you can love your
neighbor. In doing so, they completely twist what Jesus said into
something that is ludicrous. Everyone loves themselves. That is
why they feed and take care of themselves. Even in suicide, it is
not an act done out of hatred for oneself. It is an act done to
protect oneself from further pain. If a person really hated
themselves they would do whatever was necessary to cause maximum
pain, both physical and emotional. Jesus’ point is the same
as Paul’s in Ephesians 5:28,29, "So husbands ought
also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves
his own wife loves himself; no one ever hated his own flesh, but
nourishes it and cherishes it."
Most people do not even go that far, but the problem of pride
is universal among all people, including Christians. The
self-esteem movement has only aggravated the problem because it
has given a veneer of respectability to something God hates. It
is my belief that the vast majority of struggles that a Christian
will face will be directly related to problems with pride. Let me
give you some examples.
Finances. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that we should not be
anxious about the things of this life. Instead we are to seek
first His kingdom and righteousness and he will supply our needs.
Paul tells us Philippians 4:11,12 that he had learned to be
content in every circumstance. Why then are Christians discontent
with their finances? It usually boils down to seeing things you
do not have and thinking you deserve them. You then spend money
on things you do not really need. Several marketers understand
this concept well and tell you that "You deserve a break
today," or "Because you are worth it," so that you
will buy their product. It feeds your pride, and you buy.
Race relations. The tension and strife is caused by simple
pride because people are ego centered, therefore people who are
like me are worth more than people who are not. Americans deserve
more than the Chinese. Why? Perhaps American can earn more
because of making better decisions in a better economic system,
but do we "deserve" more? How can the amount of melanin
in the skin translate into some automatic determination of a
persons’ worth? It can only do that because of the pride
existent in people to value those that are like themselves more
than those who are somehow different from them.
Personal relationships including marriage. Jesus’ command
is for us to love one another as He loves us, and He sacrificed
His life on our behalf (John 15:12f). All Christians are
commanded to "do nothing from selfishness or empty
conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one
another as more important than himself" (Phil. 2:3).
Husbands are commanded to love their lives as Christ also loved
the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph. 5:25). Wives are
commanded to respect their husbands (Eph. 5:33). It is pride that
causes us to think that other people owe us something. We should
instead be looking for ways to love them.
Societal hierarchy. This applies to social circles as well as
employment lines of authority. It even applies within the church.
Those with power and wealth have characteristically tried to
suppress those without it. Those with a higher social standing
try to climb up the ladder while kicking those below down
further. Hinduism has set up its caste systems. Other religions
have their "priestly" class. In Christ there is to be
no difference between slave and free, Jew and Gentile, male or
female (Gal. 3:28). In the church there is an authority
structure, but there is no hierarchy of some being better than
others. Jesus said if you wanted to be great in His kingdom, you
had to become the servant of all (Mark 9:35). We shall see in the
coming weeks that every person and every gift is needed in the
church. As a pastor, I have a position of higher authority in the
church based on my gifts, but neither my position or me
personally is of greater importance than anyone else in the
Over the years I have seen a lot of people do a lot of foolish
things because of their pride including things that have hurt the
body of Christ and our Savior’s cause. I am sure you have
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are commanded to not
think of ourselves more highly than we ought. There is no basis
for pride in the Christian. All that we are and all that we
accomplish is due simply to God’s grace to us. He deserves
all honor and praise, not us. We need to follow Paul’s
example in this in giving our God that honor and praise. We need
to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in humility in
doing anything God asks us to do.
Thinking with Sound Judgement
How should we think of ourselves? Paul says at the end of
verse 2 – "think so as to have sound judgement, as God
has allotted to each a measure of faith."
The "measure of faith" is related to our particular
gifts and abilities, which we will start examining next week.
Having sound judgement has no basis in pride, but means that we
accurately assess what God has given us and then with a
confidence in Him to do His work through us, we step forward in
the confidence of that faith to do that work. Proper self-esteem
is not based in human pride, but in confidence in God doing a
work through you. Proper self-worth is not based in what you or
any other human thinks about your value. It is based solely in
what God says about your value. That removes the pride.
Self-confidence is really not in self, but in our great God who
can use you for His purposes.
The self-esteem movement would have you find something to be
proud of in yourself and then base your self-worth in that. Some
people believe you have intrinsic value simply because you are
human and therefore you have value because that. Some Christians
say this is true and state that Jesus’ death proves how much
God values humans. All of these can become the basis of pride,
and none of them are true.
This may be a harder concept to grasp, but man has no basis
for self-esteem, self-worth or pride in anything that originates
in man. Man has no intrinsic value. Man’s only value comes
as a result of being made in the image of God. Do you recall from
Gen. 9:6 why God instituted capital punishment for those who
murder a human? It was not because of being a human, but because
"in the image of God He made man." Christ died to
redeem mankind because mankind was made in the image of God. We
are a love gift from the Father to the Son and from the Son back
to the Father (See Titus 1:2 cf. Phil. 2:11; John 17:4f; 1 Cor.
What then is sound judgement in evaluating my self-esteem?
Though I am a sinner and deserving nothing but God’s
eternal condemnation, God extended His love to me in mercy and
grace to redeem me from my sins through Jesus Christ’s
atonement for my sin. He then graciously imputed Jesus’
righteousness to me on the basis of faith in Him, and has made me
part of His family and Christ’s body, the church. Through
His Holy Spirit he has gifted me to serve Him, and in doing so, I
fulfill His will and bring glory to His name.
In short, I have value because God can use me for His glory.
When it comes down to it, I have no other value except in that.
That is the reason that God created me. Therefore if I want to
have greater value, then I must be faithful to fulfilling
God’s will for my life and bring Him the maximum glory that
I can. I step forward to use my gifts in confidence that God will
fulfill His promises and enable me to serve Him to my maximum
Do you know why you exist? Are you fulfilling that purpose? I
pray that you understand that your self worth is bound up in God
and God alone. Otherwise you will think of yourself more highly
than you ought instead of with sound judgement.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children –
draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon.
Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many
times "pride" or "proud" is said. 2)
Discuss with your parents what it means to not think more highly
of yourself than you ought, but to think with sound judgement.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
How important is it to have a high self-esteem? Why? What are
the changes that take place when a person becomes a Christian?
How have you seen these changes manifested in your own life? What
does Paul refer to by "through the grace given to me"
in Romans 12:3? What is the authority of Paul’s command in
Romans 12:3? Why does Paul command us "not to think more
highly of ourselves than we ought" instead of just telling
us not to be proud? List out some of the negative things or
warnings the Scriptures give regarding pride? How have you seen
the truths of these statements in your own experiences? What are
some proper things to be proud of? What is are the major
differences between acceptable pride and improper pride? In what
areas do you need to be more humble? What are some of the
negative effects of the self-esteem movement upon the church? How
have you seen these manifested? How have you seen pride
negatively impact people (yourself included) in the following
areas: Finances, Race relations, Personal relationships,
marriage, social standing, church structure and relationships.
What does it mean to "think so as to have sound
judgement?" Does man have any basis for pride within
himself? Why or why not? What is the source of man’s value?
Why does that make him valuable? State in your own words the
purpose of your existence. Are you fulfilling that purpose? If
not, what do you need to change so that you can. When will you
make those changes?
Thinking Rightly About Yourself – Romans 12:3
Practical Living as a Holy Sacrifice – Romans 12-16.
Command, not an Option.- Romans 12:3a
No Pride – Romans 12:3b
The Bible has many things to say about pride,
and almost all of them are either negative or warnings against
Proper pride is never haughty and it is always
related to something that reflects God or His character
Theological Error in the Self-Esteem Movement
Man’s greatest need
The nature of God’s kingdom
Loving your neighbor as yourself – Lev. 19:18 cf. Eph.
Personal relationships including marriage
Thinking with Sound Judgement – Romans 12:3c
Man has no basis for self-esteem, self-worth or
pride in anything that originates in man. Man has no intrinsic
value. Man’s only value comes as a result of being made in
the image of God.
I have value because God can use me for His glory –