The Positive Self-Image Movement - Humanistic or Biblical?
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide Biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
The search for "positive self-image" movement has existed outside of Christian circles for many years, but in recent years it has begun to gain acceptance even in many Christian circles. Humanists have long promoted the idea that people commit crimes not because humans are by nature sinful and unclean, but people commit crimes because they see themselves as the worthless type of person who would commit crimes. This thinking has finally trickled down even to such things as diet books, where people are told that they eat too much because they do not have a good "self-image," but with a little boost to their "self-image" they can begin to feel better about themselves, and as a result, they will not eat so much. Today there are all sorts of motivational programs available that work on this principle, and many within Christian circles are even claiming Biblical justification for the movement.
Proverbs 20:24 explains what is wrong with this type of thinking. The Bible teaches that man is by nature sinful and unclean. This condition, which goes to the very root of what we are (since our fall into sin), cannot be overcome by our own efforts (Ephesians 2:8-9). It can only be overcome by the grace of God in forgiveness which is followed by His help in cultivating a new image - not a new self-image, but the image of Christ (see Colossians 3:5-11). At the same time the Lord is also involved in the way of the evil. Romans 1 explains how God punishes those who reject Him with deeper and deeper earthly degradation in an effort to show people that they must seek their help in Him. All of this supports what Proverbs 20:24 says.
An accurate Biblical and therefore Gospel-centered view of who and what we are as individuals is based on an accurate understanding of the Bible's teaching on creation. There certainly are many ways in which we can find joy and feel good about ourselves and others.
Many work for a while. But only God's way can provide real and lasting joy and peace with God. And it is only when we are at peace with God that we can find lasting peace and satisfaction with what He has made - including ourselves. This is why, without Christ, we are nothing - and with Christ we have so much that we need not seek a "boost" from anything else in the creation.
Perhaps the main reason that people in Christian circles are looking to the "positive self-image" movement for some meaning and power, and perhaps even finding more power here than they do in their churches, is that so many churches today have abandoned the Biblical teaching on creation - which leads to a loss of other Biblical teachings (since they are all linked into a Christ centered whole). The end result is that many churches today represent an outward form of Christianity, but one without the power of God. Many Christians today have lost sight of the power and the meaning that is found in the phrase "in Christ." If you tour the catacombs in Rome, you will see where the bones of generations of faithful Christians have been laid to rest in compartments in the walls.
And on the covers to these compartments you will commonly see those words which, to these Christians, said all that needed to be said: "In Christ." We can see the power of this statement in Romans 8:29-30 - power which can provide more for our lives as individuals than any "self-image" campaign.
Romans 8:29 begins by talking about how God knew the faithful, and Ephesians 1:3-6 explains that He knew us even before the creation of the world. Here we see the personal and individual love of God in which He loved us and saw and knew us with a love which literally spans all time and matter - a love which only God could have, and yet a love which is personal and individual for each of us. His deepest desire, we see here in Romans 8:29, is that we be conformed to the image of His Son - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Here is the image we are created to seek, the image in which we find lasting peace and joy.
In contrast to the image we own, Christ is perfect God and perfect man, blameless and powerful. Verse 30 goes on to tell us that what is Christ's becomes ours through the calling of His Gospel which calls us to saving faith in Christ in which we are justified and in which we shall be glorified. But note that the focus here is not ourselves, and what we think of ourselves, but Christ and what He has accomplished for us because of God's love which crosses all time, from before the creation, and comes into our individual lives today! This is "In Christ."
If we want to think about ourselves as individuals in Biblical terms, that is, as Christians, each of us must conclude that without Christ we are indeed nothing - but when we identify ourselves in Christ, we are all that He makes us. Whenever we try to seek something in ourselves of any worth, our flesh and its self-serving ego are distracting us from the glory and honor that is due Christ, Who is all in all. And as we learn what we are in Christ (this is an ongoing learning for our whole lives as we grow in the Scriptures), we will find that there is no need to "pump ourselves up," since what we are made in Christ is so much greater and more real and powerful than anything we could imagine for ourselves!
Copyright Â© 1984 Bible Science Newsletter, Pastor Paul A. Bartz. Creation Moments, Inc. PO Box 839, Foley, MN 56329