The Pernicious Lie: Self Esteem


Today, we start a new chapter of essays, under the title, “The Pernicious Lie.”  We will explore the seductive, almost magnetic ways the Deceiver goads us to believe his lies about life and about ourselves; and once identified, we’ll need to actively find ways to effectively respond.  That’s what Jenny resolved to do in her own life 4 years ago, when she wrote this; and she has been succeeding at it.  Read on and be strengthened! Commennts are welcomed! – Arthur 

This past week marked my last week as a psychology student here at UCLA. After being immersed in the world of psychology at this leading institution of psychological research for 3 whole years, I must admit, if I don’t think quickly on my feet and sharply with a biblical worldview, it is easy to buy into the wisdom that modern psychology offers and to embrace the very theories and practices that dangerously distort important biblical doctrines and pervert the ministry of the Church. An example of this is the concept of self-esteem.

The psychologist, Stanley Coopersmith, describes a good, positive self-image as one’s evaluation of himself with approval because he regards himself as capable, significant, successful, and worthy. What is scary is that psychology has crossed the line and pervaded biblical teaching. But this intrusion of self-esteem teaching into Christian teaching has not been initiated by secular psychologists, but rather Christian pastors, teachers, and authors. Christian psychologist H. Norman Wright describes self-esteem as one’s sense of personal worthiness, as the feeling of “I am good.” According to television preacher Robert Schuller, “Low self-esteem is the core root of sin… and the doctrine of sin is the reason why Christians have behaved so badly for the past two thousand years.”

What lies. Is this starting to smell like a certain deceiver that we know? The ploys of Satan behind this seemingly harmless concept of self-esteem become clear when we examine these statements in the light of God’s Word. As Sandra rightly put it, the Bible is full of God’s thoughts on man, giving us an accurate image of ourselves. “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands…none who seeks for God…none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). God describes the nature of fallen man in Genesis 6:5 – “Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Wow. To teach self-confidence before God and to claim that Christ’s death enhances our sense of self-worth grossly distorts the gospel and destroys the grace of the cross. Before God, I am not good. I am a poor, miserable, totally depraved sinner in need of his undeserved mercy and forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross not because I’m valuable, but because I’m unworthy – so unworthy that only the Son of God in human flesh could redeem me.

Jonathan Edwards once said, “Of all kinds of knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are the most important.” In my own life, I realize that all the times I try to put on that mask, that image of how I want others to see me, it is because I forget who I am in God’s eyes, as revealed in His Word. I forget that my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. I forget that there is nothing inherent about me to boast in or to flaunt to others. I forget that I am forgiven and adopted as God’s child. I forget that I am a recipient of and eternal debtor to God’s abundant grace and mercy.

Now I do find worth and value in these truths. And sure, you can call it self-esteem. But this self-esteem is not one that denies sin. It is rooted in Christ’s victory over sin and covering of sin. Proper Christian self-esteem comes from God’s regard of me as good and beloved in Christ. It is from God’s forgiveness and acceptance of me in Christ. It is my thankful and humble reception of that verdict and esteem of God, all because of Christ.

The American church offers its people a velveteen cross, easy to bear – a soft, psychological solace for those needing confidence within. But we ought to know ourselves better than that. We sin not because we think too little of ourselves, but because we fail to think highly enough of God. May we turn our attention, energies, and concerns not to self-esteem but God-esteem. We can rest assured and rejoice, because that true confidence that our hearts and souls are longing for is made fully available to us in our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

– Jenny Liu

Accepting “No” as God’s Will

When you pray, are you really praying for God’s will, not yours, to be done?  Or are you really trying to get Him to affirm and do your will?  A good test of this is to consider your response when God’s answer to your prayers is, “No.”  Please consider this as you read RC Sproul’s thoughts on this.

What theologian has had the greatest impact on my life?  That’s easy.  RC Sproul.  Hands down.  But you could poll tens of thousands of others and they’d give you the same answer.  His impact has been THAT pervasive.  He has been God’s gift to many of us in our lifetime and has been used profoundly to help shape our souls to more appreciate and revere the holiness and righteousness of God.  For me, I also have the honor to be friends with one of my heroes, a privilege I thank God for.  He has helped me immensely in my ongoing journey from an anthropoentric rebel to an undeserving theocentric child of God.

 – Arthur

I am astonished that, in the light of the clear biblical record, anyone would have the audacity to suggest that it is wrong for the afflicted in body or soul to couch their prayers for deliverance in terms of “If it be thy will….” We are told that when affliction comes, God always wills healing, that He has nothing to do with suffering, and that all we must do is claim the answer we seek by faith. We are exhorted to claim God’s yes before He speaks it.

Away with such distortions of biblical faith! They are conceived in the mind of the Tempter, who would seduce us into exchanging faith for magic. No amount of pious verbiage can transform such falsehood into sound doctrine. We must accept the fact that God sometimes says no. Sometimes He calls us to suffer and die even if we want to claim the contrary.

Never did a man pray more earnestly than Christ prayed in Gethsemane. Who will charge Jesus with failure to pray in faith? He put His request before the Father with sweat like blood: “Take this cup away from me.” This prayer was straightforward and without ambiguity—Jesus was crying out for relief. He asked for the horribly bitter cup to be removed. Every ounce of His humanity shrank from the cup. He begged the Father to relieve Him of His duty.

But God said no. The way of suffering was the Father’s plan. It was the Father’s will. The cross was not Satan’s idea. The passion of Christ was not the result of human contingency. It was not the accidental contrivance of Caiaphas, Herod, or Pilate. The cup was prepared, delivered, and administered by almighty God.

“In all our prayers, we must let God be God.”

Jesus qualified His prayer: “If it is Your will….” Jesus did not “name it and claim it.” He knew His Father well enough to understand that it might not be His will to remove the cup. So the story does not end with the words, “And the Father repented of the evil He had planned, removed the cup, and Jesus lived happily ever after.” Such words border on blasphemy. The gospel is not a fairy tale. The Father would not negotiate the cup. Jesus was called to drink it to its last dregs. And He accepted it. “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

This “nevertheless” was the supreme prayer of faith. The prayer of faith is not a demand that we place on God. It is not a presumption of a granted request. The authentic prayer of faith is one that models Jesus’ prayer. It is always uttered in a spirit of subordination. In all our prayers, we must let God be God. No one tells the Father what to do, not even the Son. Prayers are always to be requests made in humility and submission to the Father’s will.

The prayer of faith is a prayer of trust. The very essence of faith is trust. We trust that God knows what is best. The spirit of trust includes a willingness to do what the Father wants us to do. Christ embodied that kind of trust in Gethsemane. Though the text is not explicit, it is clear that Jesus left the garden with the Father’s answer to His plea. There was no cursing or bitterness. His meat and His drink were to do the Father’s will. Once the Father said no, it was settled. Jesus prepared Himself for the cross.

Excerpt from R.C. Sproul’s, Surprised by Suffering.


A special time with Joni and Ken at the IDC!

Last weekend, a group of 16 TDers and counselors who raised over $1,200 for V4V had the privilege of visiting the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, and having a special luncheon with Joni and Ken! It was an amazing and inspiring time… taking a tour of the IDC, hearing from Joni in her art studio, singing the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” with Joni in the front lobby, hearing about the life changing work that God is doing through the ministry, and being treated as special guests of honor. Praise God for a special and unforgettable time! Check out the video below to see some highlights from our visit!

And below is another video that was shown to us, giving us a compelling picture of what the ministry of Joni and Friends is about.

The Cosmic Cube: Explaining Life

Could you ultimately explain any aspect of life in a way that would make sense not only to the human mind, but also with proper deference to the mysteries of life?  In “The Cosmic Cube” chapter of our worldview series of essays, we have been addressing the need to look outside “the box” to answer many of life’s most important questions inside “the box.”  In this final essay of  “The Cosmic Cube,” Sandra reminds us of some essential things to consider.  Please do just that.  – Arthur

“Hurry up, Mom!  I see a caterpillar on our passion vine,” cried Angela.  I hurry up and go outside to bring in the little crawling caterpillar.  We love bringing in the caterpillars.  We love watching their amazing metamorphosis take place before our very eyes.  This past winter, we brought in 15 caterpillars and watched all of them transform into butterflies.  Since our passion vine had very few leaves, Daniel, Angela and I rode our bikes one Sunday to the South Pasadena High School field to get some of their passion vines’ leaves.  I love seeing the caterpillars get bigger and fatter as they continually eat and shed their skins.  They are very dainty eaters, taking small bites on a leaf until they have eaten it all.

After they have eaten and gotten quite plump and large, they start crawling around, looking for a place to attach the end of their bodies.  They anchor themselves and then hang down in the shape of a “J”.  Unlike a moth, they do not “spin” a cocoon; rather, they just allow their bodies to start “metamorphosizing” until their outward body starts hardening.  Eventually, all the spikes from their caterpillar bodies collect into a little ball and fall off.  After a couple of weeks, we see the chrysalis start getting darker and have a couple of white dots on the sides.  We see it start to wriggle and know that it is almost time for it to “hatch”.  In an instant, it bursts from the thin skin of its chrysalis and emerges as a butterfly.  At first the wings hang limp and the antennae are twisted together, but soon the wings starts to flatten out and expand, and before we know it, it is starting to flap its iridescent wings.  They are beautiful and glorious.

We always make a ceremony of releasing our butterflies, and I always cry out to them, “Have a good life, butterfly!”  During one recent release, we witnessed one of our butterflies not even being able to get away from our house before a bird came and snatched it in its beak!  The kids ran into the house hysterical, screaming.  It was very traumatic to see the “circle of life” take place before our very eyes!

What if Angela was to ask me, “Mom, why does the caterpillar transform into a butterfly?”  Well, could I answer that question with solely natural, physical explanations?  I could just say that they were programmed that way, but then I would need a programmer.  I could also say that caterpillars are unable to mate, so they need to turn into butterflies so that they can mate and propagate the butterfly population, but then I would need to introduce the idea of male and female and the amazing fact of life, to be able to reproduce itself.  It is pretty obvious that the answers to these and other questions lie outside “the cube“ that we call this universe.

Where did the life-giving substance of water come from?  It is one of the few liquids whose frozen state is less dense than its liquid state, so ice floats to the top.  If this wasn’t true, the oceans and lakes would all eventually freeze over as the frozen blocks of ice drop to the bottom and would not be exposed to the sun to melt them.  Water is the perfect liquid that all life needs to exist.  It is totally “recyclable” and cleanses itself as it goes from earth to the heavens and back down again.  Within the cube, one person can only hypothesize that our “blue planet” is a result of an “intense bombardment of the inner solar system over 4 billion years ago.”

As hard as it is for us to answer the most basic questions of our world, it is even more difficult for us to answer questions of love, ambition, hate, jealousy, ideas of immortality, and other questions unique to man.  Like Del Tackett says, “there is no direction/area in life where God has not spoken….”  God’s fingerprint is on everything inside this cube.  Man reveals his blindness and distorted heart when he refuses to not only acknowledge, but more importantly, to worship the obvious Creator of everything inside this cube.

So, why does the caterpillar turn into a butterfly?  Perhaps the Lord wanted us to have the constant illustration and reminder that that all Christians are naturally caterpillars that, one day, will hang up this body and miraculously go through a metamorphosis where we are transformed into glorious “butterflies” whose likeness to our former selves are barely recognizable.  The mystery of the butterfly, as well as millions of other facts of creation, are remarkable and amazing.  Let us never fail to declare it to be so!  But let’s not stop there.  Everything found in the finite cube points to the greater Truth of the one and only God who is infinite and holds this cube in the palm of His hand.

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the works of His hands.”  Psalms 19:1

– by Sandra Hsieh