While self-esteem, self-love, and self-worth are often co-opted by our fallen inclination to find satisfaction in ourselves instead of in God, there is a sense in which the gospel does cause indeed our understanding of ourselves (as new creatures in Christ) to be positive. In his book, Created in God’s Image, Anthony Hoekema perceptively explains:
The Christian life involves not just believing something about Christ but also believing something about ourselves. We must believe that we are indeed part of Christ’s new creation. Our faith in Christ must include believing that we are exactly what the Bible says we are.
All this implies that the Christian believer may have – and should have – a self-image that is primarily positive. Such a positive self-image does not mean “feeling good about ourselves” on the basis of our own achievements or virtuous behavior. This would be sinful pride. The Christian self-image means looking at ourselves in the light of God’s gracious work of forgiveness and renewal. It involves giving God all the praise for what he by his grace has done and is still doing within us and through us. It includes confidence that God can use us, despite our shortcomings, to advance his kingdom and to bring joy to others.
This Christian self-image, when properly understood, is the opposite of spiritual pride. It goes hand in hand with a deep conviction of sin and a recognition that we are still far from what we ought to be. It means glorying not in self but in Christ.
The Christian self-image is never an end in itself. It is always a means to the end of living for God, for others, and for the preservation and development of God’s creation. It leads us outside of ourselves. It delivers us from preoccupation with ourselves and releases us so that we may happily serve God and love others.
Our self-image as Christians, therefore, must not be static but dynamic. The believer may never be satisfied with himself or herself. He or she must always be pressing on, in the strength of Christ, toward the goal of Christian perfection. Christians should see themselves as new persons who are being progressively renewed by the Holy Spirit.
It is said that sometimes an airplane pilot is not sure whether the plane he is piloting is flying upside down or right side up. At such times he needs to look at his instrument panel to find the answer to his question. By way of analogy, perhaps we could think of the Bible as our instrument panel. Keeping our eyes on the Bible will help us to remember who we really are.
Pgs. 110-111. (Bold emphasis added)
R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)