LISTEN TO THE MUSIC VOL. II SERMON SERIES
OCTOBER 10, 1999
It is true from the moment the doctor placed you in your mother’s arms for the very first time. By the time you have celebrated your fifth birthday, it has become so entrenched in your spirit that you do a push back when people try to change it or alter it in any way. During your junior high and high school years you struggle with it and find ways to help it. Some of the ways work, some don’t. In your adult years you understand it a little bit better and you see different avenues that you can take to negotiate your way around it. You see that it effects how you deal with everyone, even your relationship with God. Bottom line, it is the subterranean issue that drives so many – self-esteem.
Self-esteem. I know, I know, from the moment those two words roll off my tongue, questions came to the surface. “Ed, self-esteem? This is church, man. Shouldn’t self-esteem be reserved for the couch in a counselors office?” “Ed, I am a believer. I am a Christ follower. If I worry about self-esteem and having a healthy view of myself, can’t that lead to an ego trip and self-absorption?” Or maybe you are a confident man or woman sitting there with your arms crossed saying to yourself that you don’t need to hear a talk on self-esteem, that you are loaded with confidence. You may be saying that you have lots of the toys and trinkets of success, that maybe you have hit some potholes along the way but that you have it together.
Listen to me. How we process this issue has huge implications. I want to ask you three questions and as I ask them I want you to answer them silently with either a yes or a no. Do you ever find yourself wanting to be someone else, a friend, an acquaintance or an all-star or a rock star? Do you? Yes or no. Question two. Do you ever find yourself being overly critical of your life or the lives of others that you rub shoulders with? Question three. Do you ever find yourself worrying about the opinions and comments of others? Does that occupy your mind? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to do some overhaul work on your self-esteem.
Pop psychologists popularized this concept but the roots of self-esteem revert all the way back to the Garden, all the way back to the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve struggled with this whole deal. Prior to their fall, they had the ultimate self-concept. They saw themselves through the lens of the Lord. Enter the Evil One. Satan tempted them to look to the tree of life, at some produce. He said in no uncertain words, if you partake of the fruit, you will become like God. You know the story. They looked to the tree. They tasted the fruit. And this is the first instance we have of a man and a woman looking away from God to another source for significance. And from that debacle on, we have all been struggling with the self-esteem issue ever since.
That brings me to the first thing we need to understand about our self-esteem. Most of us solidify our self-esteem from the outside in. When I was in the second grade, a music teacher walked in front of the classroom and said, “OK, children, this morning we are going to sing a rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. One and a two and a three.” And we all started and he shouted, “Stop, stop.” He pointed at me and said, “What is your name, young man.” I replied, “Ed Young.” He said, “Mr. Young, sing the song right. Quit joking around.” I said, “Yes, sir.” We started again and quickly he shouted for us to stop. “Mr. Young, I am not going to tell you again. You cannot sing that low. You are just trying to impress someone. Now sing it right.” Let me stop here. My voice has always been very, very low. Ask my Mom the next time she is visiting. She will tell you that when I was a baby in the church nursery, the workers would shake me and tickle me just to hear my low, bellowing laugh. I never had my voice change at thirteen or fourteen because my voice has always been very, very low. Back to the second grade and to the music teacher who was embarrassing me. “Ed, come to the front of the classroom and you sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in the right voice. Kids were laughing. He was snickering. And that damaged me a little bit. That was a wound on my spirit.
So this morning, from this stage, I want to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in my voice. Now you know I love to imitate people; Mick Jagger or Phil Collins. But I am going to sing this in my real voice. Hey, that felt good. I tell you this story just to illustrate a point. That was a minor event compared to some of the major, traumatic wounds you may have absorbed during your life’s journey. Maybe a parent or another authority figure or some situation has wounded you. And the problem is, a lot of us Band-Aid the gaping wounds. We think that if we Band-Aid them from the outside they will slowly be absorbed into our spirit and that treatment from the outside can give us good self-esteem. And most of us turn to looks, labels and levels for our self-esteem.
Our foundational text this morning is I Samuel 16:7 from the Old Testament. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance….” We live in Dallas/Ft. Worth, an area that is famous for its flash and dash with boatloads of cash. We want to show people who we are and what we have. And a lot of us are obsessed with pects and tris and quads and abds and excess flab, aren’t we? We think a lift or a peel or a weave or a tuck will get the job done. All that stuff is fine and dandy, but it is not going to take you where you want to go. If you think looks will do it, you are setting yourself up for frustration and failure.
But so many of us are into our looks. Have you ever met someone who on the outside looked very attractive, but once you get to know them, their beauty turns into ugliness? Isn’t that weird? The first time I every really noticed this was in college. I lived in a co-ed dorm, the athletic dorm at Florida State University. Co-ed, that’s another story. We had a full bar in our dorm. There was a girl in our dorm named Brenda. Let me tell you how beautiful she was. The guys named her Beautiful. She was a cross between Tyra Banks and Ellen McPhearson. The girl was a showstopper. When she would walk through the cafeteria, we would just stare. But if you got to know beautiful Brenda, she had the personality of a pit viper like one the Crocodile Hunter would feature on the Discovery Channel. She spent a lot of time on being beautiful, believing that looks would do it but looks just didn’t work.
Then we turn to labels. We think if our purse, our shoes, our jeans or our suit has a certain label, it will make us feel good. We trust that Verchase or Armani or St. John or Abercrombie and Fitch or the Gap or Old Navy will give us security. Hey, it is great if you wear that stuff, but it won’t work for self-esteem.
You know what makes me laugh? Car commercials. Have you ever watched a car commercial? It will show you the sleek and sexy lines of the newest car going in and out of a beautiful mountainous road. There is usually a super model in the passenger seat and a regular guy driving. What is going on here? What is being sold here? Self-esteem. If you buy this car, you will feel good about yourself. You can date a supermodel.
Looks don’t do it. Labels don’t do it. Then we turn to levels. Now I am going to stay here for awhile. Levels. A lot of us are worried about what people think about us. And we are so paranoid about what others think that we are not ourselves, we just try to live life like others want us to live. The Bible is riddled with examples of this.
Moses in Exodus 4 is one example. I will give you the quick Reader’s Digest version of it. Moses said, “God, what if the Israelites don’t accept my leadership? What if they don’t believe I have heard from You? What will I do, God?” Later on in chapter four, Moses begins to really whine and get weepy. “God, I can’t speak that well. I am not that eloquent.” God asked Moses, “Who gave you your mouth, gave you your voice. And you have the A-train, Aaron, right beside you. Don’t worry about it. I will use both of you. I am God.”
We are worried about other’s opinions. We think that if we please all these people it will move us to another level and suddenly our self-esteem will increase. Whoa. Parents get into this, don’t they? Oftentimes parents push their children in different activities thinking that if their children perform and do really well, it will increase their self-esteem and they will be able to move up a notch. I am a parent. Look at how good my child is.
And sometimes we hook up with people in relationships who have some serious hang-ups regarding self-esteem. And we even date people like that since it makes us feel better about ourselves. We kind of rescue the other person. “Oh, you are dealing with that? Well, not me. Boy, you have a lot of problems. But I feel really great about myself.”
Then we do something else. I call it the double dis. And before I get into this let me say the following. If you ever are around someone who dogs and dises themselves or others, they are just a walking, neon lit advertisement for a negative self-esteem. Here is how we do the double dis. We put ourselves down, rip ourselves apart hoping that others in our little group or clique will disagree. Then they tell us that we are really great at something and it will bring us to another level. “Oh, no, you haven’t picked up pounds. You are looking lean.” And we think that will raise our self-esteem. “You know I am really not that good at tennis.” We hope our friends will disagree. “Not good? You are great at tennis. You are incredible.” That raises us to another level.
Then we dis other people. We dis our competitors. We are negative about them. We think if we tear others down, it will kind of push us up. Again, it is not going to get the job done. It is not going to take you where you need to go. We try to solidify our self-esteem from the outside in.
But this week, I have been praying that we will change that, that we can learn what it means to have a great self-esteem. The most accurate assessment of who we are is from the pages of scripture. A great self- esteem will occur when you begin to see yourself from the inside out. That is the problem with all the whole New Age Ideologies. New Agers say to look into yourself. There is a major flaw with that. When you look within yourself, you are searching for something in nothingness. But when we come to the point in our lives when we ask Christ to infiltrate us, then He sits in the driver’s seat. He sits on the throne in our lives and our self-esteem permeates from the inside out. It comes from Christ, from who we are in Him.
That brings us back to our foundational text. I Samuel 16:7. We saw that man looks to the outward appearance, looks, labels and levels. “…but the Lord looks at the heart….”. We know Christ, we defer to Him, we realize who we are in Him and then we move from our interior to our exterior because of the octane, fuel and love that Jesus gives us. And let me say this and please don’t misconstrue it. A healthy self-esteem should not be our top priority. But I bump into too many people who go by the label of Christian who say they are working on their self-esteem. Self, self, self-esteem. That is not the top priority. Self-esteem is huge, it is a priority but it is a by-product of our relationship with Christ. A by-product. Remember, the Lord looks at the heart.
And here is how I define a healthy self-esteem. It is looking at your life through the lens of the Lord. Nothing more or nothing less. Specifically think about an Old Testament book, Numbers 13:33. The Israelites were standing on the edge of the Promised Land. They were getting ready to close this incredible real estate deal. And God had promised them that He was going to give them the land but that they would have to fight for it. So right before they crossed into the Promised Land, God told them to send out a secret reconnaissance group to do some checking on the weaponry, the people and the lay of the land. Twelve spies went out. Ten of the twelve spies who reported back had poor self-esteem. They saw themselves from the outside in. And here is what they said. “Hey, guys and girls, the enemy is so huge and powerful that we are like grasshoppers in their eyes.” A lot of us do life like that. “I am just a grasshopper. I can’t step out and take that risk, I am just a grasshopper. I worry about the looks, the labels and the levels. Oh, they are too powerful. I am just an insect.”
Well, two of the twelve spies, Joshua and Caleb, took out a big old can of Raid, figuratively speaking, and took on the grasshoppers. “Grasshoppers, we can take out those guys. We know God. God has already given us the land. Let’s go for it. Let’s claim the land.” They saw themselves through the lens of the Lord. What a difference. What a change.
The words are true. They really are. Because in God’s economy, if you know Him personally, you are an all-star. He says, “Get your game on.” God also says, “You are a rock star.” If we are connected with Christ, we are embedded in the rock. And Jesus is our number one fan. He wants the best for you and the best for me.
Let me read Psalm 19:14. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” We have an incredible intrinsic worth. If we could put a price tag on our lives it would simply read: Jesus. Our self-esteem is not secure in what we have or have not done. It is whom we know and who we are. But there is a giant paradox out there. On the one hand you have man created in the image of God with a great potential for goodness and kindness. On the other hand, you have got man who is capable of horrendous and heinous acts, who is capable of sinning spectacularly before a Holy God. Psychologists and biologists and every other kind of ologists have tried to reconcile these two natures but they cannot do it. Their arguments are weak. The only thing that can bring together this whole deal is when a person bows the knee to Christ. Once that happens, then we discover why we are wired the way we are. Then we discover why we have a particular skill set. Then we become who we can be in Christ.
Jesus says, “Be yourself.” If you were not you, there would be a hole in history, a gap in God’s created order.” Quit trying to be someone else. Quit worrying about looks, labels and levels and be yourself. But it starts with a relationship with the Lord. That is where it starts.
Please look at the side screen. There is a diagram for you. The moment Christ infiltrates your heart, self-esteem comes from the inside out. Basically, I have a couple of goals in my life, just two. It is very popular these days to talk about mission statements and goals. Well my mission statement is two fold. Number one. My goal is to make introductions. I want to introduce people to a saving knowledge of Christ, not a religious trip but a relational trip. That is what I want to do. And if you know Christ personally, that should be one of your goals. The Bible says so.
My second goal in life is helping people to see themselves through the lens of the Lord and that occurs when we begin to grow and develop and mature in our faith. That is part of being a disciple. That is part of growing deep. When people discover who they are in Christ, the self-esteem starts happening from the inside out. And the results are amazing.
What actually happens when you see yourself through the lens of the Lord? Let me share with you real quickly four fabulous things that will occur. First, I understand from Christ that I am forgivable. For some of you here, those could be the most important words you have ever heard. You are forgivable. I am forgivable. Colossians 1:14. “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness, brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves in whom we have redemption for the forgiveness of sin.” Is that cool, or what? If I have come clean, said to God that I have messed up, then my sins are forgiven and forgotten. If I ever bring up the past, I am doing something that God does not do. The Evil One does that. So whenever you think about that past, tell the Evil One that he is a liar, that you are forgivable. Satan may tell you that you can’t be used at the Fellowship Church, in one of the ministries, sing, run a camera, act, preach, help in preschool, be active in children’s church. Those are just lies because you are forgivable.
Also the Bible tells us something else. I am acceptable. Romans 15:7. I was doing a talk about five years ago at a Pastor’s conference about acceptance, but I told them to take their Bibles and turn to Romans 7:15. So I read the wrong verse and realizing it said to myself, who cares. God accepts me whether I get the reference wrong or not. I don’t know why I just shared that. Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another then just as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God.” We should, as a church, welcome everyone, accept everyone, not where they are but where we want them to be. People matter to God, they should matter to you and to me.
Also, I am lovable. Jeremiah 31:3. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with loving kindness.” Next weekend I will spend the entire session talking about the love of God. I beg you to be here and invite your friends because we are going to dissect what this love thing is all about. I am lovable. There is nothing I can do to make God love me less. That is the kind of God we serve.
Fourthly, I am powerful. Acts 1:8. “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” I not talking about physical power, I am talking about true power. The moment Christ takes residence on the inside of our life, He places the Holy Spirit there. The word power in the original is pronounced dunamis. We get the word dynamite from that word. One of my favorite shows when growing up was Good Times. Remember, Jimmy Walker would say dyno…mite. If you were born past 1965, you have no clue what I was talking about just now. Don’t worry about it, ask someone. I had a Jimmy Walker hat, and Jimmy Walker shirt with him saying dyno….mite. Well, just think of Jimmy Walker. That is the kind of power we have. We can tap into that kind of stuff if we do the self-esteem thing right.
We are not talking about pride here. Pride is all about me. You can’t say the word pride without saying the word I. It is not a prideful thing. It is not what I have done, how I can perform. It is who I am in Christ. Because in God’s economy you are an all-star. So get your game on. And you, if you are connected to Christ, are a rock star. Live it out. Look at your life through the lens of the Lord because the facets are truly fantastic.