February 22, 2016

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Last week I went to my local Christian bookstore to bring in some used books in exchange for store credit. I had a few books in mind that I wanted to get, but ended up with completely different books!

I brought home these two and I'm excited to read them. The first is Randy Alcorn's novel, 'Safely Home' and secondly is A.W. Tozer's book 'God's Pursuit of Man.'

While I was browsing through the store the title of a booklet, by Tim Keller, caught my eye. It was called "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy."

I debated on whether to purchase it or not and I ended up going home without it. I thought a lot about it in the days afterwards and decided to look it up on Amazon. The Kindle version was only $1.99 so I quickly bought it. I sat down and read it through in one sitting, it's only about 40 pages. : )

But what a moving 40 pages!

The booklet is really a study on this passage in 1 Corinthians 3:21- 4:7...

"So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours,

whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,

 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"

What does Paul mean by this? About caring little about others judging him and not even judging himself?  Or that his conscience is clear, but he is not innocent? What does this have to do with high or low self-esteem? And why is he talking about court?

This little booklet goes into all these questions and explains them well. I admit I was moved to tears several times at the beauty of the gospel, shared within it's few pages.

The booklet is divided into an introduction and three chapters:

Introduction: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

1. The Natural Condition of the Human Ego

2. The Transformed View of Self

3. How to Get That Transformed View of Self

Tim Keller's thoughts on high and low self-esteem stood out to me the most in chapter two. What is self-esteem and is it something Christians should even think about? He compares Paul's life to todays self-esteemed obsessed world.

He says here:

"If someone has a problem with low self-esteem we, in our modern world, seem to have only one way of dealing with it. That is remedying it with high self-esteem. We tell someone that they need to see that they are a great person, they need to see how wonderful they are. We tell them to look at all the great things they have accomplished. We tell them they just need to stop worrying about what people say about them. We tell them they need to set their own standards and accomplish them - and then make their own evaluation of themselves.

Paul's approach could not be more different.

He cares very little if he is judged by the Corinthians or by any human court. And then he goes one step further: he will not even judge himself. It is as if he says, 'I don't care what you think - but I don't care what I think. I have a very low opinion of your opinion of me - but I have a very low opinion of my opinion of me.' The fact that he has a clear conscience makes no difference. 

Look carefully at what he says in verse 4. 'My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.' His conscience may be clear - but he knows that even if he does have a clear conscience, that does not necessarily mean he is innocent. Hitler might have had a clear conscience, but it does not mean he was innocent.

What would Paul say to those who tell him to set his own standards? He would say it is a trap. A trap he will not fall into. You see, it is a trap to say that we should not worry about everyone else's standards, just set our own. That's not an answer."

He goes on to explain why this is not an answer and why we shouldn't judge ourselves.

He says here:

"When Paul says that he does not let the Corinthians judge him nor will he judge himself, he is saying that he knows about his sins but he does not connect them to himself and his identity. His sins and his identity are not connected. He refused to play that game. He does not see a sin and let it destroy his sense of identity. He will not make a connection. Neither does he see an accomplishment and congratulate himself. 

He sees all kinds of sins in himself - and all kinds of accomplishments too - but he refuses to connect them with himself or his identity. So, although he knows himself to be the chief of sinners, that fact in not going to stop him from doing the things that he is called to do."
This is important.

We should not connect our sins with ourselves and our identity, but instead, as Christians, our identity should only be in Christ. He is our righteousness. We die to self and live for Christ. We think on Him and live in obedience to Him. We care only what He thinks. He is our judge. We repent and move on. God deals with our sin, and removes it from us as far as the east is from the west (Psa 103:12). We live for Christ.

With the rising movement of self-esteem, even in the church today, self-forgetfulness is a foreign concept, but it's what Paul taught and lived and what we are called too as well.

Live for Christ.

He then talks about gospel-humility:

"Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, 'I'm in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?' True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. 

The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings."

A few things to think about! I will leave you with this beautiful quote...

"The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less."

And I would add: ...And thinking of God more. : )

Buy the Kindle version HERE  on Amazon


  1. I was humbled throughout that book. It is one to read over and over.

    1. I want to add it to my re-read pile, which is very small. (I don't usually re-read books, except the Bible) : )

      Glad the book moved you too.

  2. I read this some time ago but need to pick it up again - I have forgotten much of it, and it's a subject about which I need to repeatedly adjust my thinking.

    1. I so agree, I need to adjust my thinking to God's Word too and books like this are so helpful and encouraging in doing that.

  3. That sounds like a really good read. Reminds me too to cope with my reading list. It's getting longer.

    1. It is a wonderful little booklet. Hope you get a chance to read it. : )

  4. I love when small books turn out to be fantastic! It just goes to show that a book doesn’t have to be 240 pages in order to be meaty. Thanks for sharing about this one.

    1. Me too! This one definitely was worth reading. : )

  5. Thanks for sharing this review today on Tuesday Talk.
    I was "parked" by you there and glad to find your insights!
    I hope you have a blessed week~

    1. Thanks Melanie, hope you have a wonderful week too. : )

  6. Tim Keller is a great author, and I really appreciate it when authors condense their most important points into pamphlet-style books. That lets me absorb the most important info from tons of different books. Thanks for participating in the #LMMLinkup.

    1. I love these little booklets too. They are also great to share with others who may not like to read a lot.

  7. I love Tim Keller's work. And I love this idea of self-forgetfulness! Jesus didn't think of Himself. He thought of us. Striving to be like Him is our goal and self-forgetfulness is part of that! I love this simple but powerful thought!!!
    Blessings and smiles,

    1. Tim Keller deals with it well in this book. It's not a natural thing for us as human beings, to be self-forgetful, it's really a God changing thing. It's something He does in us. I love that. : )

  8. I'm adding it to my list now ... :) Thanks for the recommendation and for linking up at #ThreeWordWednesday.

  9. Wow, thanks for the heads up. I love the challenges Tim Keller gives. I'll look for this one. I just finished reading a book called Raising Uncommon Kids that focuses on passing the grace of selfless living on to the next generation. You can probably guess that the main point is: do it yourself first!

  10. It's a powerful book and one we should all read ... more than once! I'm visiting today from Missional Women. Have a great week-end and keep recommending great resources.

  11. I am most intrigued by Timothy Keller's book! And I love that it is short and available on the Kindle! Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. I love the reminder not to connect my sin with my identity! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday this week! Oh, and I absolutely love Safely Home!!! You are in for a treat!

    1. I'm looking forward to reading 'Safely Home'. Glad you loved it Tina!


Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )