Self in light of the cross

I’m three chapters from the end of The Cross of Christ–and I’m going to get it finished! Not that the book isn’t engaging. In fact, I’ve already finished reading the book–and have my notes all on paper. It’s just getting them on the computer that’s the problem. That and trying to figure out when to post them without loading you down with too many “thinking” posts. But I want to get them done by next Wednesday–so here goes!

Notes on John Stott’s
The Cross of Christ
Chapter 11: Self-Understanding and Self-Giving

The ways worldly people look at themselves can easily be divided into two broad categories: self-love or self-loathing.

The cross leaves room for neither.

Rather, the cross calls believers to a life of self-affirmation and self-denial.

It’s strange, isn’t it, to put those two together?

The world’s attitudes, self-love and self-hatred, are mutually exclusive–but they are both rooted in pride. The cross’s attitudes, self-affirmation and self-denial–despite their apparent contradiction–are complementary. Both of these are rooted in humility.

The cross’s self-affirmation is different than the world’s self-love. While the world encourages unconditional acceptance of self (both the good and the bad) as “self-esteem”, the cross affirms both the fallenness of self and its worth to God. The cross says that I have value, not because I am particularly special, but because God has valued me.

“As William Temple expressed it, ‘My worth is what I am worth to God; and that is a marvelous great deal, for Christ died for me.'”
~Quoted in John Stott’s The Cross of Christ

The cross’s self-denial is also different from the world’s self-hatred. While the world loathes itself and engages in self-destructive behaviors, the cross calls us to recognize and identify with Christ–and to “reckon [ourselves] dead to sin” (Romans 6:11).

The world’s view of self leads to self-centeredness. Either one idolizes self, placing self as lord and following its every whim, or one villifies self, making self the enemy and focusing energy on self-destruction.

The cross’s view of self, on the other hand, leads to others-centeredness. One’s self is affirmed–but not in such a way as to inspire self-worship. One’s self is denied–but not with self as its object. Rather, the affirmation of self leads to worship–and the denial of self to service.

It is in the cross that we lose our lives in order to gain them (Luke 17:33).

I love how C.S. Lewis describes the effect of right relationship with God on “self”:

“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become….It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires…It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own….Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look to Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

(See more of my notes on The Cross of Christ.)

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