What if God offered you something far superior to the myriad of self-help formulas on the market today? Would you accept the Lord's offer?
The first thing you need to understand in this regard is that in order to be improved, you need to be removed.
Imagine being delivered from shame, perfectionism, despair, self-hatred, lingering fear, and constant regrets. I am talking about life on a higher level that God can supernaturally create within your heart and mind.
Man naturally assumes that greater self-esteem can alleviate his personal doubts. But at the end of the day, all the self-esteem in the world still leaves you feeling insecure due to your imperfections. It also provides no protection whatsoever for your heart when you come under criticism. An obsession with self makes a person thin-skinned and rather quick to become angry and defensive.
You see, a self-centered mentality is essentially a self-centered sinkhole. The biggest reason self-esteem will ultimately fail you is because the person at the center of that equation is flawed. No matter how hard we try, there are always areas in our life where we come up short. And these pesky shortcomings chip away at our peace of mind. So what is the solution?
If you want to be improved, you need to be removed.
Jesus Christ was of course the greatest Person to ever walk on our planet. But in order to understand the true source of power in the lives of his followers, you need to wrap your mind around the miracle of Christian conversion.
Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spirit…you must be born again” (John 3: 6-7). The Holy Spirit essentially performs surgery on your soul and gives birth to your spirit. Self goes under the knife and is put to death, as Christ enters your soul to live within you. (2 Corinthians 13:5) It is circumcision not of your body, but of your sinful nature. (Colossians 2:11-12)
Man is the author of self-help formulas, while God is the author of Christian conversion. With this supernatural dynamic in mind, the following passage of Scripture could literally revolutionize your life.
In Galatians 2:21, the Apostle Paul wrote:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the Law, Christ died for nothing.”
Self-righteousness prevents man from believing in Christ. And self-esteem arouses arrogance and insecurities, leading you to either become proud or to constantly berate yourself. Meanwhile, self-help formulas merely seek to improve self but are unable to remove self. A me-centered approach never produces lasting peace.
If ultimate success depends upon us, we are doomed. Each one of us is a flawed human being who eventually gets trampled by our shortcomings, doubts, fears, and failures. That is, unless we get out in front of ourselves…by having ourselves removed from the equation…and replaced with the One who is perfectly able to meet the deepest needs of our soul.
French theologian John Calvin said, “Whoever is not satisfied with Christ alone, strives after something beyond absolute perfection.”
Perhaps you have invested years of your life striving to be a perfect person. You have sought to better yourself in every way imaginable…except one. Christian conversion.
But for the first time in your life, the true meaning of Scripture and Christianity has made a dent. It has struck a chord. It has raised a couple of questions in your mind. "What would happen within my soul if I died to self and rose again through faith in Christ?" "How much contentment would Christian conversion produce in my heart and mind?”
You will never know until you take the step of faith necessary for conversion. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
When a person is converted, he or she is instantly saved, redeemed, born again, justified, and forgiven. And Jesus Christ immediately begins to live in you and through you. At the same time, the old nature (self) fights to remain on the throne of your heart, even though there is a perfect King who now sits there.
When self tries to continue controlling your thought life, just remember: “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ’No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)
Maintaining self-control is a key aspect of Christian discipleship. While Jesus reigns in the heart of believers, we still need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit by saying “No” to sinful thoughts and selfish desires.
This, my friend, is the great exchange. Self is not improved. Instead, self is removed. Christ sits on the throne of your heart once you are converted through repentance and faith in Jesus. (Acts 11:18; Romans 6:13) Receiving Christ as Savior involves relying upon his sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. (John 1:12; Galatians 2:16-17)
Self-esteem, self-righteousness, and self-help formulas produce a death grip on man's heart, soul, and mind. Thankfully, you can be set free through Christian conversion by turning to Christ in repentance and faith.
Perhaps the words of this prayer reflect the desire of your heart:
“Dear Lord, I surrender myself to you. I believe you died on the cross to pay for my sins. Wash me, Jesus, with your precious blood. Remove self from the throne of my heart and replace it with your majestic and powerful presence. Live in me and through me Lord Jesus from this moment forward, and fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.