Sin and Self Esteem
2 Peter 1:5
Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue.”
We should not seek holiness in order to feel good about ourselves, to blend in with our Christian peer group, or to avoid the sense of shame and guilt that follows the committing of persistent sin. Far too often our concern with sin arises from how it makes us feel. Sinful habits, sometimes called “besetting sins,” cause us to feel defeated, and we don’t like to be defeated in anything, whether it’s a game of Ping-Pong or our struggle with sin.
I once spoke at a retreat on the importance of putting on Christ-like character while at the same time seeking to put off sinful habits. After my message, four or five people came to me asking for personal help in dealing with some particular sin in their lives, but no one came asking for help in putting on any Christ-like virtues. As I pondered the possible reason for this, I realized that sinful habits make us feel guilty and defeated. The absence of Christ-like character usually doesn’t have a similar effect, so there’s less motivation to seek change in our lives.
We need to work at ensuring that our commitment to holiness is a commitment to God, not to our own self-esteem. Frederick W. Faber, a nineteenth-century British writer, showed great insight into this tendency (I’ve paraphrased his words for clarity): “When we sin we are more vexed at the lowering of our self-esteem than we are grieved at God’s dishonor. We are surprised and irritated at our own lack of self-control in subjecting ourselves to unworthy habits. The first cause of this is self-love, which is unable to stand the disappointment of not seeing ourselves in time of trial come out beautiful, erect, and admirable.”
From the Navigators holiness daily devotional by Jerry Bridges. It is such a great organization. Check them out if you are looking for great Biblical discipleship. Here is the book, Holiness Day by Day.