For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews’ religion … and I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it was the good pleasure of God…[HE] called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me… (Gal 1:13-16, ASV)
I ran a Google Search on the word Self Confidence this morning and it returned 29,100,000 (that’s 29 million!) hits. Self Confidence is the phrase of the hour. In our culture it seems to be the answer to every problem – the panacea of societal ills. Is there crime? People lack self confidence. Is a man an adulterer? He suffers from low self love. Is someone overweight or lazy? She is a victim of low self esteem. Psychology tells us that we can love ourselves into fulfillment and we can use that positive energy to shape ourselves into what we want to be.
But what about all the people that make it – athletes, musicians, movie starts, politicians, successful business men, etc.? If this “self love” philosophy is correct, these are the folks that should feel the most self satisfied, and yet your local gossip rag is filled with stories of externally successful people whose lives are spinning out of control – Brittany Spears, anyone?
So how are you doing on self confidence? Are you struggling to love yourself enough to pull yourself our of your present doldrums and elevate yourself to a position of acceptance and fulfillment?
Christianity, in contrast, presents a starkly contrasting philosophy of life. Sacrifice yourself to God, and surrender yourself to Christ. Dispair of your own self love and self confidence, which is only a thin external veneer, and place your confidence in Jesus Christ! Paul says it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
In the verses from Galatians 1:13-16 at the top of the post, the Apostle Paul had just finished castigating the Galatian churches for turning from Gospel of Grace, which he had preached to them, unto a false gospel rooted not in Christ, but in their own goodness. Here he goes on to use himself as a living illustration of a man who, in the eyes of men, was good. Paul would have been considered by anyone a good (a very good) man.
As a Pharisee, Paul would have had a high regard for marriage and abstinence, he would have been generous with his money, he would have fasted twice weekly, and devoted himself to self sacrifice, the study of the Scriptures, and moral purity. Above and beyond that, Paul describes himself as not only having been faithful to his high religious ideals, but as having excelled beyond his contemporaries. And yet, this same Paul, who was such a religious and good man, was the same who said the following:
For we [CHRISTIANS] are the [TRUE] circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (Phil 3:3-9, NKJV)
The word flesh here means human will power. Note carefully that Paul states that if anyone could have confidence (or boast in) his human religious will power, it was him: “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so…“. But, he states that after coming to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, all those good deeds now to him seem “rubbish” (“dung”, KJV). All his giving, all his fasting, all his study, all his self sacrifice is but LOSS if he does not have Christ. All Paul’s hard work adds up to a dung pile, and the ONLY righteousness by which he can stand before God on the last day comes to him by “faith in Christ”. This is the “righteousness which is from God by faith“.
So, are you a good person? Do you have self confidence? Do you believe that learning to trust in yourself is the ultimate goal in life?
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Matt. 16:24-26, KJV)