Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Our topic in this segment of our program today is what the Bible has to say about self compared to ideas about self we find prevalent in the world, and to a large degree in professing Christianity. The world tells us, primarily through the so-called "wisdom" of psychology, that self is the key to fulfilling human potential, that without a good self-image it’s impossible to improve one’s status or situation in life, and the universal dilemma for humanity is people generally have too low a view of themselves.
Moreover, unless we first love ourselves, we can’t love others. And, Dave, as you know, some well-known evangelical leaders have tweaked around the great commandment to confirm that false teaching. Let me quote it for you, and, Dave, you tell me what the problem is here. I’m going to take Luke:10:27. It says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbor and thyself.”
Dave: As thyself. (Laughing)
Tom: Oh, it says, “as thyself.” I thought it’s taught that there were three commandments here, Dave?
Dave: Well, Tom, I don’t know what translation the Bible they get that from - in fact, they don’t.
Dave: They're changing the Bible to agree with psychology, and it was Erich Fromm, I guess - when was it? 1945? - he wrote a book, Man Against Himself. The first one that I know of who propounded that “love your neighbor as yourself” meant you have to first love yourself before you can love your neighbor, and that was picked up by Robert Schuller in his book Self Love: The Dynamic Force of Success, and on and on it goes. You hear it from the best pulpits today, unfortunately. I couldn’t find a verse, and I certainly can’t think of one - I’m thinking as hard as I can right now - where the Bible tells us that we think too lowly of ourselves, or that we need to increase our self-esteem or appreciation of ourselves. That is not our problem, in fact. The problem is self. And that’s why Jesus said, “Except a man deny himself and take up the cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple.”
So this comes, actually, from psychology, and in fact, it was Bruce Narramore - he’s the nephew of Clyde Narramore, sort of the granddaddy of Christian psychology in America, you could say - and Bruce Narramore said it was humanistic psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow who first made us aware of the need of self-love, self-esteem. And, wow! We thought, That’s a pretty good emphasis - maybe we should adopt that as Christians, too. Go back to the Bible and see if this isn’t what the Bible has always been saying, except nobody ever recognized it.
So you would have to say, Tom, you want to go back and read the writings of - well, the great Christians, I guess, if we can call a Christian great - we’re not supposed to be great. But those who have been looked to as leaders in the Christian world - some of the best authors: Andrew Murray, I think, wrote nearly 200 books. I don’t find any of them extolling “self.” Read A.W. Tozer.
So oddly enough, in 1,900 years of studying the Bible on their knees, no Christian leader that I know of until the 20th century ever saw the need of self-esteem in Scripture - not one!
Tom: But, Dave, I just quoted the great commandment. Isn’t the interpretation of that - by many, sadly - is that we need to love ourselves first. This is the order: you can’t love your neighbor until you first love yourself, and you certainly can’t love God until you love yourself. Aren’t those three commandments that we are supposed to do?
Dave: It’s quite simple. If we first of all need to have courses in loving ourselves, which is the situation in the church today - they are literally teaching you to love yourself before you can love neighbor or God, because it says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
But Jesus didn’t say, “Take a course in this.” He said, “Love your neighbor as you already love yourself.” So if we inadequately love ourselves, then Jesus is saying, “Inadequately love your neighbor as you already inadequately love yourself.” That certainly is not what Jesus is saying. What Jesus is saying... What do you do in the morning when you get up? You brush your teeth, you comb your hair, you feed yourself, you clothe yourself - give a little of the attention to the neighbor that you already give to yourself. I don’t think any child - and you’ve had 5, we’ve had 4 in our family - I never had to teach any of them to be selfish. We had to try to teach some of them to consider others. You bring a plate of cookies into a group of grammar school kids - isn’t it amazing? They all look for the smallest one so they can let the other person have the larger one...no, they all look out for themselves. Looking out for self, for number one, is the instinct of the fallen creature living in sin and rebellion against God, and yet looking out for number one. I mean, we’re being trained in that. The business world is being trained in that. That’s not biblical, Tom.
Tom: Right, and it’s not biblical even to interpret this verse in Luke as being three commandments. I’ll go back to Matthew. You want simple math here, Dave, Matthew:22:37: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” There's just one commandment there.
Dave: Tom, you can’t get around it, what these guys are teaching, because then they say, “Well, but the second commandment is divided into two, or three,” you know.
But anyway, Tom, it’s a tragedy. You carry a big burden when you put yourself first - husbands and wives, if each one is going to put himself first, we’ve got problems in that marriage. You have to put the other ahead of you; my wife must be ahead of me. I love her, so what do I do? I want to bless her, I want to help her. I’m not demanding, “I want a 50/50 deal out of this. Now you’re not being fair to me." As soon as you go down that path, you’ve got problems.
Furthermore, the scripture very clearly says, Philippians [2:3]: “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Now, that’s pretty clear, and Romans 12 warns us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. And, as I mentioned, I don’t know anywhere in the Bible that it warns us not to think too lowly of ourselves, because we don’t have that problem.
Tom: Dave, earlier you mentioned Andrew Murray. Let me tell our listeners a little story about you - this is a true story. There’s this guy driving down the freeway in Los Angeles, and this was back in the days where people would hitchhike along the highway, so he stopped to pick him up. The hitchhiker gets into the car, and as they're driving along, the hitchhiker looks over and he sees some books, you know, right next to the driver. And he takes a look at them and he says, “You must know Dave Hunt.” Is this a true story?
Tom: Because, Dave, there were books back then and still today that you tell people, "You have to get this, and you have to get that." One of the books is Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray, and let me give you a quote from that book: Andrew Murray writes, “Self is our greatest curse; but praise God! Christ came to redeem us from self, and there you have the reason why many people pray for the power of the Holy Ghost, and they get something, but, Oh, so little! because they prayed for power for work and power for blessing, but they have not prayed for the power for full deliverance from self.”
Dave: Tom, I don’t know how we can explain it, because I know there are people out there who are getting upset because they've heard the opposite. All we can say is check the Bible.
You know, Paul called himself “the least of all saints.” He called himself “the chief of sinners.” So if there is anyone who needed help from modern psychology, who needed to build up his self-esteem and his self-image, it surely would have been the Apostle Paul. But you can go right down through Scripture - you can go to Job. Job said, “I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear; now mine eyes seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
You know, if you want to compare yourself with others, you are a fool, the Scripture says. When we get a glimpse of God - wow! And I was talking to Him about it this morning on the way here: “Lord, I am worse than nothing! How can You even accept me? And, Lord, how can I even dare to talk to You?” Because God is so far beyond us. He is perfection, and we are imperfection.
You know, I learned a little lesson, Tom. I was speaking at - I think it was in Canada, and I guess I was talking about this, at least in some degree, and I said, “Would anyone here in the audience who has never sinned raise your hand.” Well, I knew nobody would raise their hand - in fact, a lady on the front row did raise her hand! [Laughs] And... wow! I hardly knew what to say, you know! I don’t remember what I said, but afterwards her granddaughter came up to me and said, “There is no way she could say she has never sinned!”
So it depends, I guess, in our own eyes... The Scripture says that we are wise in our own conceit. We look at ourselves, we think we're okay. Well, you might think you’re a pretty good tennis player, for example - you can beat your kids [laughs] and maybe a neighbor. You get up against the world champion, then you find out you just don’t know anything about tennis, and you are pitiful on the tennis court. And that’s the way it would be with us if we would get in the presence of God, we realize.
So Job said, “Now I have seen you." Wow! "Now I have a little comprehension of who you are, Lord, and I abhor myself, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
Well, Tom, all of this talk is really beside the point, because what does it matter what I think about myself? What does it matter what others think about me? They may really - and I do get a lot of criticism; many lies are told about me. One of the lies that I’m glad was a lie was, in fact, several times it's been reported that I am dead, that I died, and I’m certainly glad that wasn’t true at the time. But it really doesn’t matter, all that matters is what does God think of us? Wow! And He looks upon us with love. He accepts us in Christ. He sees us in Christ. If that were not the case, Tom, we would not have any place in His presence forever. But now we are in Christ Jesus, and He has redeemed us, and that’s all we can look to. “God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Tom: Dave, one of the other books that I'm sure the hitchhiker found in that car was probably a book by Tozer. I want to give you a quote from Tozer, and then, you know, and then I'm going to put you on the spot. First of all Tozer writes: “His interests," talking about the Christian who has turned from self to God, "his interests have shifted from self to Christ. What he is, or is not, no longer concerns him. Christ is now where the man’s ego was formerly. The man is now Christ-centered instead of self-centered, and he forgets himself in his delighted preoccupation with Christ.”
Now, you write, “How does the biblical Christian reach this point?” And then you say, “It is gloriously simple.” Well, how so, Dave?
Dave: [Laughing] Well, you’d better tell me! What did I say?
Tom: You know, “...surrendering one’s self completely into God’s hands. Why would you choose anything else? Why would you go anywhere else?” Nothing else makes any sense, honestly.
Dave: Tom, truth is simple. I don’t know what scientist, Nobel prize winners, I could quote, but you could quote a number of them who would say that when you're seeking an explanation, a scientific explanation, and you come up with something that’s complicated, it’s probably not true, because truth is simple. E = MC2. Well, we presume that’s still the truth; that’s a simple formula. And this is a problem, Tom, in the church and the Christian walk. Everybody is looking for a formula - I shouldn’t say “everyone,” but many people are looking for a formula. And when a preacher or a Christian writer comes along and says, “Now, here’s the way to do it….”
We’ve been talking about The Purpose Driven Life, and we won’t go back to that - we’ve got 40 days of a program to go through to find out God’s purpose for your life. I don’t think it’s that complicated. I yield myself to Him: “Lord, this is Your day. This is the day You made. You have redeemed me; You bought me with Your blood, Lord Jesus. I’m not my own. I belong to You. Now, Lord, I just put myself in your hands. I’m trusting you to guide me, to use me. I am unusable, Lord; I’m pitiful. I’m really a liability rather than an asset to the kingdom of God. So, Lord, I’m not offering you anything except just my empty self. In fact, emptied of self, ‘nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.’ Now, Lord, what are You going to do with me today in your grace and in your mercy?”
I think that’s fairly simple. It doesn’t involve some steps, 12 steps; it doesn’t involve 40 days; it doesn’t involve principles. I’m sorry, Tom, I back off when a preacher or a writer says, “Now there are certain principles that we have to learn, and if we follow these principles…” Well, I can’t follow the principles, because I'm a fallen creature. I am unworthy of anything.
So it’s not Dave Hunt following some principles, but it’s “Lord, I am crucified with Christ. I’m finished.” Now, if I’m going to have any life, and if I am going to experience the power of God, it’s going to be by God’s grace, and it will be by Christ living in me in the power of His Holy Spirit. So that’s what I need to concentrate upon.
Now, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t lessons that I should learn from the Bible - many terrific lessons, and I’ve certainly recommended often the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs is terrific, and it gives you some things to look out for and to understand. Solomon said, “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.”
So, there is an understanding of life, of the Christian life, and so forth, that we need to have. But basically, I need to surrender myself to Christ and allow Him to live His resurrection life in me. And the life He gives and the life He lives through us is resurrection life, and that’s only for dead people, so I must be crucified with Christ first of all.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, you write, “What is it above all that stands in the way of new life in Christ?” And your answer is something that has to resonate in everyone’s heart - I know it does in mine. You say, “It is the fear of the death of self, of giving up life as one would live it in exchange for the life that Christ offers.” It’s fear, it really is.
Dave: Yes, I guess I've said it a number of times, Tom (I don’t remember on this program), but when Ruth and I were first married - that will be 55 years ago in June, if the Lord spares us until that time - we got on our knees, and we were praying, “Lord, we just want whatever you want.” One of the verses that we had talked about when we were engaged, in Proverbs: “A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.” And we talked to one another about that. You know, we can plan our life ahead, you know - next week, next month, you know, what are we going to do, when are we going to retire, what’s this going to be, and so forth. But God doesn’t want us to do that. He directs us a step at a time. Something I will never forget as we surrendered ourselves to the Lord, “Lord, we just want in our marriage, in our lives, for our children, whatever, we just want whatever You want.”
And I can tell you that I had a thought in the back of my brain: “Oh no! He’s going to ship us off to Red China as missionaries to be martyred by the Communists,” you know! That’s the fear we have. As soon as you...“Okay, Lord, I’m going to surrender myself to you,” we think, Uh-oh, now what’s He going to do? But I am surrendering myself to infinite love; I am surrendering myself to infinite wisdom. Can I trust Him? That’s the problem. Do I really trust Him? Can I say with Job - and even as I speak these words, Tom, I can be tested on this, as I have been throughout life over and over. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." Okay?
I’ll never forget, Tom, the day I learned - the evening that I learned - five dear friends, missionaries in Ecuador. Three of them were very good friends of mine: Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully. Our youngest son is named after Ed, and Ruth and Mary Lou were pregnant with their first children, you know, at the same time - we were very close. When I heard that they had been killed in Ecuador, trying to reach the Auca Indians - when I heard...there’s Ed McCulley, my dearest friend at that time in my life - he’s floating down the Curaray River with an Auca spear in his back - what a blow! "God, how could you do it?"
We stood around the piano as Mary Lou McCully played, “We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender.” And Ruth and I were the only non-family members in that small family group. We took the boys down to San Pedro and saw them off on a ship - you didn’t fly in those days - and if God would protect anybody, surely He would protect them.
Wow! It just knocked me for a loop. I had to really talk to the Lord about it. Well, you know, perhaps more people have come to Christ through their death than would have through their life. We don’t understand all of this, but “We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender." That was their theme song, you could say: “We go not forth alone to meet the foe, strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender, we rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go.” And I can tell you I thought those words through again and again: “Safe in thy keeping tender.” What kind of tender keeping is this, Lord? They died horrible deaths down there. But that is what it means to surrender to Him. “Lord, we're in your hands. What do you want?”
Tom: Well, let’s have a quote from Jim Elliot. He writes, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Dave: You can’t argue with that, Tom. I can’t keep this life, so let’s exchange it for the life to come and let Christ have His way in us. We’re not heroes when we do that. Nothing else makes sense. And if we think we're heroes, then we are dishonoring God. What we are saying is, “Well, Lord, you know, we could really find a better life for ourselves, but we’re going to knuckle down and live this straight-laced, narrow-minded, sober and sad, self-denying life, you know, because otherwise You might zap us.” No, you couldn’t make a better bargain than to give yourself to the Lord, and let Him take it from there!