What would Jesus undo?

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One of the most interesting aspects of ministry is discovering the kinds of issues people want addressed and then working with my worship team to do so.

Our current series takes the old cliche WWJD; i.e., “What Would Jesus Do?” and instead tackles the question: WWJU; i.e., “What Would Jesus Undo?”

I believe one of the issues Jesus would “undo” would be our societal emphasis on “self-esteem.”

Now, I’m sure some of you are probably thinking, “Why would Jesus UNDO that?” When someone doesn’t have a good self esteem they feel discouraged, defeated, depressed. They make poor choices, get into destructive relationships and don’t live up to their potential.

Yes, but what about having too much self-esteem? You think too much of yourself you can become delusional and very annoying.  

While a realistic view of yourself is what’s best, “How do you get there?”

The term “self-esteem” is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth. Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, is known for creating a theory of psychological health: “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.” Maslow says we need esteem both from others and for ourselves to achieve our full potential.

While genetics can influence this - more often it’s life experience that forms our self-esteem. Too much criticism: low self-esteem. Too much praise: high self-esteem.

So where’s the balance - and how do we get there?

Jesus tackled both extremes of this issue.

• To the arrogant Pharisees, Jesus said “It’s not about you!”

• To the humble Gentiles, Jesus said, “It’s not about you!”

Our human condition is based upon cold, hard, historical, biblical facts we can’t avoid. We are sinful humans with no worth in and of ourselves. Only in knowing Christ as our Savior, do we have “worth.”

Don Matzat wrote a book titled “Christ-Esteem,” emphasizing our need to find our identity - our “self” worth - in Jesus Christ. Our “self” is the problem - Jesus is the solution. This is why Jesus says to be His disciple we need to “deny ourselves.”

In his classic work, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote:

“Are you hurting enough to give up on yourself? Are you unhappy enough and miserable enough to turn away from yourself with all your problems and failures and seek relief in a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ? Many claim to be hurting but are really not hurting … enough.”

To help illustrate his point, Matzat shares this story:

Two friends are standing on an ocean shore watching a man swimming. Suddenly, that man screams for help. The one friend turns to his “excellent swimmer” friend and shouts “Help him! He’s in trouble!” His friend calmly responds: “Not yet.”

The man in the water begins fighting for air - kicking and screaming. “Save him!” The man begs his friend. His friend calmly responds: “Not yet.”

Finally, the man stops thrashing and kicking and begins to sink. The “swimmer” then jumps into the water, pulls the man to shore and saves his life. The friend says, ”Why did you wait so long to save this man? He could have drowned!” His friend responds: ”I had no choice. If I had gone to him immediately, he would have panicked and pulled me down with him. I had to wait until he stopped kicking. Then I could save him.”

The question I wanted this column to raise is this: “Are you willing to stop kicking? Are you willing to let Jesus save you?”

All our faults and failures in this life are what God uses to remind us of our need for Jesus. The more we’re focused on our “self” the less we think we need Him.

I grew up in the Lutheran Church, learning the basics of biblical teachings through Luther’s Small Catechism. Luther breaks down the Apostles’ Creed into three “articles.” The first article and explanation is as follows:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.

All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. […without any merit or worthiness in me.]

For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

This is most certainly true.

Isn’t it time we stop kicking?

Live a Life that BEGS the question.

Rev. Dr. Martin J. Brauer is pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 700 W. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park, TX. He lives with his wife, Leona, and dog, Tica, in Leander. Contact him at mailto:mbrauer@gstx.org.

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