One of the top issues people tell me they struggle with is self-esteem. We hear messages
from all kinds of sources about how we need to increase our self-esteem. We need to feel better
about ourselves, they say. But what I’m interested in is what the Bible says about self-esteem. I
think that for the most part it says nothing about it. There’s nothing about how we need to learn
to love ourselves more. In fact the issue with self-love is that there’s too much of it. If you truly
hated yourself, you’d be glad when you fell and broke your leg. You’d find relief when you hurt
yourself. Though some people do feel a certain relief from inflicting pain on themselves, it’s not
from hating oneself, but it’s from hating what you have become.
To find an answer in the Bible for self-esteem we have to find out how the Bible
identifies the problem. First of all consider this. The world ‘esteem’ is a judgement word. How
do you or others esteem or judge you? How do you judge yourself? Now, the Bible has a lot to
say about judgement. So here’s where we’re going to start.
Let’s get one other thing clear. How we esteem ourselves is of little real consequence.
We can make whatever judgements we want about ourselves, true or false, lofty or humble, but it
won’t change much. We can think positive about our looks, but if we really aren’t high on the
scale of looks, how far will that take us? What really matters, and what really lasts the test of the
storms of life is the truth about who we really are.
There’s nothing like the estimation of God towards us that matters. If you accept the
reality that He is omniscient - knows everything - then you can know that His judgement is going
to be sound. Psalms 139 says that He knows everything about us. He created us, He loves us,
and He is able to fix our lives when they are broken. So the question is, how can we know what
God is thinking about us? What is His judgement of us?
I know that you’re probably aware of all of the verses that declare us sinners in His sight.
We have transgressed. We’ve missed the mark. In short, the Old Testament is pretty much about
working the truth of the law of God into humanity. We are sinners who have fallen far short of
God’s intention for us. Isaiah even says that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags. “But we
are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a
leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Is. 64:6
I have had the sense for many, many years that the single issue that keeps people bound
up is an issue of law and grace. We have taken the law of God into the court room scene in our
minds and declared ourselves guilty. It makes no difference if people are God fearing or not,
Christian or not. The fact is that the principle of law has been well worked into the fabric of our
souls. In fact we have been created to know in our souls that we have fallen short. The dignity
and respect that is to have defined our lives as creations of God has been deeply tainted.
The broken child who was never properly parented and loved often grows up angry
because his heart knows that his dignity has been robbed. He is thirsty for honor and value and
he’s angry about it. He may get into an angry gang because they have decided that venting their
anger on the world will gain them respect.
Then there are the hurting children or the fearful children who are also responding to the
loss of well being that has come from life. It may or may not be one’s upbringing, but sooner or
later the inevitable happens. We find out that we have the mark of failure on our souls. We have
sinned. If we’re honest, we will come to acknowledge that we have some moral issues that are
woven into our souls. The law has declared us guilty in the eyes of God.
The world teaches us to better ourselves to increase our self-esteem. We also hear of the
need to start thinking positively about our self-image. But that’s like putting band aids on a
deeply rooted legal problem. The Bible is clear that no one can save themselves from the marks
of sin. No one can erase their transgressions in the courtroom of heaven. No one can restore the
marks of a fallen soul. The answer to a self-esteem problem is neither performance, positive
thinking, nor denial of the issue. In fact the worst thing that a person can do is try to fool
themselves into thinking that the court room of heaven has exonerated them of their guilt by the
way they feel. A hard heart to the irremovable stain of sin will fall far short on the day of
judgement. That’s why dealing with self-esteem by being all that we can be is so dangerous.
Self-esteem is a judgement call that we agree or disagree with. It’s not a call we can
make ourselves. We can either listen to others, and measure ourselves by them. Or we can listen
to God in the Gospels. Here is where grace comes in.
In the courtroom scene between our ears the law has been fulfilled and done away with by
the grace of God through the work of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:4; James 2:23; Colosians 2:14 It is
now the grace of God that is to rule our lives - not the law of sin and death. You cannot be
convicted of a crime for which there is no law. You cannot be judged for a law that does not
exist! In the courtroom of heaven Jesus has come to pay the full penalty for your transgressions
and He has become your righteousness. I Cor. 1:30. You become the righteousness of God in
Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21
How you are esteemed or judged by God is what matters. If you confess your sins, He is
faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you from ALL unrighteousness. I John
1:9 Your challenge becomes one of learning to believe in grace with at least as much passion as
you have believed in law all of your life. You are no longer under the law but under grace if you
are in Christ. Romans 6:14 Sin shall no longer have dominion over you under grace, this verse
says. But if don’t learn to live under grace then you will not have power over sin and the old
guilt will keep coming back.
You see, God doesn’t just forgive us of our sins. He delivers us from them. He takes the
power out of them in our lives by giving us something better. But if we don’t dare to live in the
Spirit by faith, we will live under the law through the fleshly acts of performance orientation.
We’ll continue to try to do God’s job our way. We’ll continue to try to make ourselves better by
our strength instead of by the Spirit of God.
You see, once you start learning to renew your mind on words of faith in the grace of
God, you will be led to live by the Spirit instead of by the old nature. Without this your
experience of freedom will become quickly tainted and ineffective to keep you in a place of
peace. Peace is the result of righteousness in your soul. God has made you righteous, and
therefore He has declared you righteous. But if you still live by the fleshly efforts of pride,
making yourself better by your own ego, trusting in your ability to be good, living in mere self
discipline instead of discipleship, you will fail in a legalistic sort of human, religious
righteousness, and it won’t work for you.
Another view of this same issue of law and grace is then understood as the difference
between soul and spirit or flesh and spirit. To live by faith in God’s grace is to live in the Spirit
verses living in the fleshly man. It is to learn to find your well being and dignity and respect by
the power of God instead of your own efforts. It is learning to live by the truth so you can gain
emotional control. Up until this time you’ve allowed your emotions to rule your thoughts, and
you’ve failed to have a healthy esteem in the times of your human failures. You’ve let the old
law of sin and punishment gain a foothold. With such a mind set you will have no power over
your old sinful tendencies which are rooted in you doing what you wanted or needed to feel good
The disciples had as hard a time with this as you do. Some of them were arguing with
each other over who would have the greater ministry when Jesus was gone. This was on the eve
of His crucifixion! Real mature, hey? So when Jesus turned and questioned them about this He
told them that they would be sifted by Satan like wheat. They would deny Him and flee from
Him when He was taken by the Jews and Romans to be killed. They doubted it, but He knew
they must see just how strong this fleshly, human tendency to get out of its own pain really was.
Their human pursuit of glory - called pride - was powerful, deceitful, and very hard to get rid of.
They said, “We will follow you anywhere, Jesus.”
By morning Peter had cursed and said he didn’t know Jesus. Then he had gone out and
wept. But Jesus told him that He had prayed for him and when he was converted again, to go and
strengthen his brethren. Conversion means going from a place of pride to a place of humility.
God often allows us to be defeated in our human efforts to do Godly or religious things, but for
the wrong reasons. He lets hard times and storms come, not to punish us but to allow us to see
how unable our natural man is to do and to be what God has created for us.
Peter’s esteem of himself was at a new low when he went back to fishing after Jesus died.
Satan was sifting him and beating his soul to a pulp. But his faith would be needed to pull him
through. He would need this lesson before he could go and minister to others. Without it his life
in the ministry would chew him up and spit him out.
This is why he couldn’t believe it when he was told Jesus was alive. His pride was in the
way. Pride can’t believe God, and pride can’t see self for what it really is. Belief in the
resurrection was and is necessary for salvation, yet Jesus’ own disciples struggled to believe!
They needed to go through their own dark nights in the tomb of their own souls before genuine
faith could be birthed. Faith in self must die, sometimes a terrible death as Satan accuses and
reviles, before the faith of God can be born.
Finally it was born in these men. Jesus scolded them for their unbelief, but then He gave
them His peace. They were still called to be His apostles. They were just learning what it really
meant to live by grace with no expectation of return. God just blesses because of His loving-
kindness. As John would later show us, if God didn’t forgive us we could accuse Him of being
an unjust God. Jesus paid the penalty for sin and proved that sin was conquered by His
resurrection. If there was one sin He could not have conquered in all of the world, He could not
have risen from the dead! That is our faith.
Now, to live in this takes some time. It takes time for God to bring us through the
revelations of our fallen condition and unbelief. It takes time to feed our spirit man until it is
stronger than our carnal, fleshly man. We’ve been living all of our lives by a “you sinned, you’re
guilty, you must be punished,” mentality. Don’t expect it to change overnight. And don’t expect
it to change at all unless you start diligently feeding your soul on the words of grace through
You see, self-esteem is challenged daily. The answer is not self-esteem but agreeing with
God’s esteem of us. When Israel was chased by the Egyptians, they worried at the shore of the
Red Sea. But God let their enemies chase them to lead them to their defeat, not to defeat Israel.
He allows battles to come into our lives, not to defeat or punish us, but to teach us how to wage
war successfully on our enemies. We’ll all have days where we can easily make the wrong
judgements about others simply because we have not made the right judgments or estimations
about our own value and dignity. Then we see these enemy challenges as threats to our esteem,
when the truth is, nothing can change our honor and value in God’s eyes. Our own unbelief is
the only thing that will defeat us. If God is for us, and He is, then nothing can stand against us
unless we let it with our pride and self driven self-esteem.
God’s love means His divine esteem and respect towards us. He has a very high regard
for us. He proved it when He sent His Son to die for us. The word, love, means regard or
respect, and signifies the dignity and honor that He holds for us. His thoughts are not our
thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. God showed His love (divine honor, respect, and value) for
us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 That being the case, how
much more precious are we to Him as those redeemed followers of His Son?
A dear friend of mine once heard God say to him, “Unless you know that I love you,
you’ll never make it.” He doesn’t just love us when we’re good. He doesn’t just keep us when
we’ve thought all of the right things. That wouldn’t be grace, but rather is it human merit.
When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted, Satan said to him three times, “If you
are the Son of God...” Luke 4 Satan was tempting and testing Jesus by challenging His identity.
That’s how he works to defeat us - right where our esteem of self is weak. If we don’t believe
who we are in the estimation of God through Christ we will accept the threat and eventually sin
against God and others. We’ll blame them for our own wrong judgments of ourselves. They’ll
say things and do things, sometimes to us, and we’ll blow it way out of proportion because we
are insecure in the love of God. Somewhere self is still on the throne trying to build self up.
We usually get hurt, get afraid, or get angry because we don’t trust God in grace - only in
human performance. But listen, God knows that the only way we’ll defeat sin, temptation and
Satanic attacks is if we trust in Him when we’ve been good, and when we’ve been bad. He
surely is not going to turn His back on us when we need Him most. The cure for self-esteem
issues is not found in trying to talk God into helping us, healing us and forgiving us. The cure is
found in letting Him talk us into receiving the presence of His love and mercy.
You can choose to nurse your wounds, self-esteem problems, and you can have a pity
party if you want to. You can try to think your way past how miserable you feel about yourself or
others too, but it won’t help. Or you can put God thoughts in your head until they sink down into
your spirit. You can begin to memorize the powerful words of God’s peace and promises. You
can change your thoughts for His thoughts. You can change the whole rule of law in the
courtroom of God between your ears. You can accept that the law of sin and death that
condemns you is gone, and you can replace that with the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,
which is grace. God did not condemn you in the flesh. He condemned sin in the flesh that God’s
righteous requirements would be fulfilled in you. Romans 8:1-4
Now if you have been deeply bruised or allowed yourself to get weakened for whatever
reason, you will need some healing in your life. Don’t go blurt out your feelings to just anybody,
but do talk to those you can trust. Find people who won’t give you a bunch of advice. You just
need to let your emotions become healed up. Give it time. Know that God is near to the
brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. He does not despise a heavy heart, even
though in our heaviness we think God is maybe against us. Psalms 34:18; 147:3 Once healing
starts to come you will be in a position to apply the truths of this message to be able to stay free
once you are free.
People with self-esteem issues need to get deeply steeped in the words of God’s grace.
Of course we know that grace is no license to sin, for God did not save us to sin but from sin.
One purpose of grace through faith is to give us the divine authority to believe God for the
fulness of the Spirit to come in. This is not merely all about renewing our minds so our thoughts
will be healthier. It is for the purpose of becoming strong in faith that the Spirit of the Lord may
have continual access to fill you up with the thirst in your heart. It is this satisfying fulness of the
Spirit that gives us power over the sin that has been canceled in our justification. That’s a big
word that simply means you are justified in saying you have become forgiven, holy, and pure in
the sight of God.
If you honestly confessed and repented of your sin in the fear of God, and if you are
purposing to follow Jesus as Lord, He will put His Spirit within you. That’s being born again.
You are a new creature with the rights of an adult son in the Kingdom of heaven. Now the Holy
Spirit will begin dispensing those rights and benefits to you. If you have decided to follow Jesus,
and you haven’t already done so, you should begin looking at the material in this web site on
discipleship. God forgives and cleanses and heals His disciples.
Once you start finding your personal value in God then your values will change because what you hold as valuable now is God’s power and love. Your treasure is no longer your own ego and ability. This way your life will glorify and honor God naturally because He is meeting your deepest needs.
You can either work on your self-esteem, or you can get well.
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