What happens to the self under the Christian faith? It is an important question as the self is the only thing we own. It is the only thing we will take out with us when we go out of this world. It is the thing we have to live with while we are here. You can’t blame some people for not wanting to live with themselves forever. The self is not a good companion.
The View of Modern Psychology
Modern Psychology says three things about the self: know thyself, accept thyself, and express thyself. I would have to reject this view of personality of the modern psychologist. What is the matter with these three things?
1. First of all they say, know yourself.
But, you cannot know yourself studying yourself in relationship to yourself and others. You have got to know yourself in relationship to something beyond yourself, higher than yourself–God. You have got to know the purposes and that plan. The Christian faith teaches that [as a believer] you are a child of God and your destiny is to be made like the son of God [Rom. 8:29].
2. Second, they say accept yourself.
But how can you accept an unacceptable self often full of conflicts, confusion, fears, resentments, self-preoccupation and guilt? To tell a man to accept himself under those circumstances is to tell him the impossible. You cannot accept yourself because yourself is not an acceptable self.
3. Third, express yourself.
But you get a dozen people together, all of whom want to express themselves, and then what have you got? What is the matter with these things? They lack one thing, and that one thing is the thing that the Christian faith would put into it: Surrender yourself, give back to God the one thing you own; lose it in a higher purpose–a higher will.
Self and the Christian Life
1. What will happen to that self when you surrender yourself to God? Does He say, “Now that I got him, I wipe him out?” Did God create us to annihilate us? Then what kind of a Creator would He be?
The more I belong to God and His Kingdom, the more I belong to myself. Bound to Him, I walk the earth free. Low at His feet I stand straight before everything else. I lose my life, but I find it again [Matt. 16:25]. I am never so much my own as when I am most His. So the self is not wiped out. It is cleansed, and because it will live with God, it can live with itself. And if you can live with yourself, you can live with others. I cannot only accept myself, but I can love myself.
2. Christianity teaches self love. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” [Matt. 22:38]. You can love yourself because you love Something beyond yourself.
I accept myself because I have been accepted by Him [Eph. 1:6]. I cannot reject what he accepts. I cannot despise what He loves. If He loves me, I love myself. So you find yourself in the place where you can take the second point of psychology, accept yourself. We do now. It is wonderful to be able to live with the self you can accept.
3. Then third, you can express yourself. Why? Because Paul said, “FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST” [Phil. 1:21]. When I express myself, then I express Him. So I can express myself. I’m a witness to what He is and what He does for me.
It is a wonderful thing then to lose your life in a will, a purpose, a higher purpose that your own, and it comes back to you again. The self is not wiped out. You now know yourself, you accept yourself, and you express yourself. These three things can be acceptable because in front of all three of them, you surrender yourself.
Yourself in your own hands is a problem and a pain, but yourself in the hands of Christ is a possibility and a power. If you will surrender yourself to Jesus Christ today, you will find yourself again no longer a problem but a power, no longer a conflict but a conqueror. It is wonderful to be His because when you are His, you are your own.
From a recorded sermon, “What Happens to the Self” by E. Stanley Jones
Headings and bracketed references added – JBW
E. Stanley Jones was used of God to be one of the most influential missionaries of the 20th century. For more about his legacy and books, visit www.estanleyjonesfoundation.com/
Counselor and author, Altha Burts, provides an inspiring collection of grace-oriented Bible studies written by her team at Stay Up Higher. Visit http://www.suhministry.org