“The most common remedy for most behavioral and mental disorders today is some form of self-worth enhancement. It pervades our educational institutions, the psychotherapeutic and counseling system, the personnel and motivational industry, advertising, and even the church.” (John Piper)
The line goes: We act in harmony with our self-portrait. Behaviors flow out of identity.
If we have positive self-regard, we will act in healthy, constructive ways. If, on the other hand, we see ourselves negatively, we will behave badly. So if we want to change for the better, we have to work on our self-image.
Sounds right. But not entirely true.
In the book of Proverbs we read: “Where there is no revelation, the people perish” (29:18). Revelation means “vision or disclosure from God.” The word perish means “to cast off restraint.” Taken together, we could paraphrase, “In the absence of a vision of God, people break loose and run wild.”
Failure to behold the beauty and glory of the living God leads to ruin and destruction.
Put another way: Not knowing God leaves us vulnerable to our passions. The Apostle Paul declared, “Since they did not see fit to have God in (their) knowledge God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom. 1:28, literal translation). Suppressing the knowledge of God will make you a casualty of corruption.
How we see God—not ourselves—is the crux of the matter.
A.W. Tozer in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy, wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . . A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. . . . I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”
I am not arguing that self-image is unimportant. How we see ourselves certainly influences how we live. But infinitely more important is how we see God. This ultimately determines lifestyle choices and attitudes.
At Life Challenge Ministries, we want to help men and women, first and foremost, to know God. To see His splendor. To gaze upon His loveliness. We want to be a vessel which helps people develop God-esteem (self-esteem will naturally follow).
Mental and emotional health is found in knowing God. This is the pathway to wholeness and freedom. The Apostle Peter understood this. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . . .” (2 Pet. 1:3).
Knowing God—beholding his brilliance—humbles us, strengthens us, enlivens us, . . . satisfies us. Witnessing His wonderfulness makes us feel secure and at peace and gives joy to the heart.
Pastor and author John Piper writes, “We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for images, everything is disordered. The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. When it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center.”