Remember. We are told to remember many things. Our parents told us to remember to brush out teeth before bed, remember to clean up our room, remember to finish our lunch at school, etc. God tells Israel to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8) and to remember the day when they left the land of Egypt (Deut. 5:15). Remember.
Forget. We are told to forget many things as well. If we receive new training on the job we may be told to forget everything we thought we knew about how we did our job previously. While encouraging us in our Christian life Paul tells us, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:14). He also encourages us to forget about ourselves. Really?
This is exactly what Tim Keller brings out of Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 3:21-4:7 in his new book the Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. The primary verses in this section are as follows:
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor. 4:3-5)
In addressing the many divisions that were in the church of Corinth “Paul shows that the root cause of the division is pride and boasting” (p. 8). It is pride and boasting that shows we have a high view of self. But lest we think we can just think lowly of ourselves and be getting it right Keller reminds us, “A person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person” (p. 32).
If we are not to think too highly of ourselves or to lowly either, then how are we to think of ourselves? We are to be self-forgetful. How does this work? Keller explains:
A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person. The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself. (p. 33)
So Paul will not be judged by others, but neither will he judge himself. It is only the Lord that judges. And here is where the freedom of self-forgetfulness comes in. “But Paul is saying that in Christianity, the verdict leads to performance. It is not the performance that leads to the verdict” (p. 39). The deal is that before we can even perform any of the good works we were created for (Eph. 2:10), we have been declared righteous in Christ at the moment of our salvation. It is then out of this declaration of being found righteous in Christ that we can and do perform these good and righteous works. This is the freedom of self-forgetfulness!
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness was truly a joy to read as well as a reality check as it exposed the depths of pride in my heart. I read the whole thing in one sitting which is best but I encourage readers to read it all the way through several days in a row. The further you read the more the point becomes clear. Just when I thought I had an idea of what gospel-humility was I read this book and realized I still had no idea. This is a must read for any Christian living in the self-absorbed culture of our day that has crept its way into the pews of our churches and the seats of our homes.
NOTE: I received this book for free from 10ofthose.com in return for a review and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable one.