Self Esteem

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My mama told me when I was young

We are all born superstars She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on In the glass of her boudoir

"There's nothing wrong with loving who you are" She said, "'Cause he made you perfect, babe" "So hold your head up girl and you'll go far, Listen to me when I say"

I'm beautiful in my way 'Cause God makes no mistakes I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way Don't hide yourself in regret Just love yourself and you're set I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Songwriters: Paul Blair; Fernando Garibay; Stefani Germanotta; Jeppe Breum Laursen. © GARIBAY MUSIC PUBLISHING; HOUSE OF GAGA PUBLISHING, INC.; SONY/ATV SONGS LLC; WARNER-TAMERLANE PUBLISHING CORP It's a good definition of what our society means by self-esteem – the idea that by being true to ourselves we will save ourselves – we're all superstars in our own way. 83,402,382 views on you tube, album sold over a million copies in first week. Functions as an anthem for our generation not. It's not just the under 18s either a couple of weeks a go you could have seen two contestants on the most watched TV programme in the U.K. fighting over being able to sing this song because it expressed their own view of life so precisely.

There's something particularly 21st Century about this idol of self-esteem. It's no longer our place in society or role within the family unit that we look towards to provide us with meaning, hope, satisfaction and ultimately salvation – it's us. Self-esteem is almost the ultimate expression of this; it asks us not to idolise money, power or status but to idolise ourselves:

Don't hide yourself in regret, Just love yourself and you're set If we can express our real identities truly whether that be in our careers, our creativity or sexuality then we'll not just be happy but we'll achieve a form of salvation.  We'll save ourselves.

What I want to argue tonight is that this 'gospel' of self-esteem is a lie. It's a lie that robs us of the real confidence and worth that we can have by trusting in God our redeemer and instead fools us into worshipping an imagined version of ourselves. So my big idea this evening is:

God's greatness, not ours, provides real confidence.

Our text tonight is just one verse from Isaiah 41.14:

14 Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you, declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

We'll look at it under two headings:

1. We are small and unworthy v14a 2. Our Redeemer will help us v14b

1. We are small and unworthy v14a

The idol of self-esteem places confidence in the real us but the real us is small and broken.

Isaiah is speaking to God's people as they are opposed, currently, by Assyria and later by Babylon. Despite constant reminders of God's judgement Isaiah is a hopeful book, so what kind of half-time pep talk will God deliver to his people to encourage them as they face terrible opposition? Look at how God describes even his own people; Israel in the first half of v14:

'Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel…'

God says two things about us; first that we are worms and second that we are small. Small worm, probably not a description you were expecting to have applied to you tonight. We'll take each of those terms in reverse order: a) We are small

God refers to his people as 'little Israel' why does he do that – is it simply a term of affection? Certainly there is affection for us here but I think there's more to it. God gives Israel a reality check; they are small, they are insignificant; that's the truth. God did not choose Israel because they were larger or more impressive than the other nations, quite the opposite in fact.

Consistently throughout scripture men are reminded of their smallness, particularly in comparison to God. For example in Job 38 God says to Job:

Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? We are small; we're limited even at our most brilliant we're reminded of our smallness. Our increasing understanding of the world around us only serves to show us how much we've yet to understand. Creation; whether it's the wonders of the solar system or the intricacies of life itself shouts you are small. As John Piper has said:

'You don't go to the Grand Canyon to boost your self-esteem'

The idol of self-esteem can't cope with this; if we're to put our confidence in ourselves then we must be big, we must be in control but were not and so we live in fear of failure, of our smallness being exposed.

b) We are worms

Secondly, God describes his people as worms: Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel…'

Why does God call his people 'worms'? Is it simply a continued comic illustration of the gap between God's greatness and our smallness? Well, certainly it functions in that way but a worm is in fact a very good description of us and not just because of its comparatively small size.

Isaiah's hearers would've understood the term 'worm' not just as an insignificant or small creature but as one associated with uncleanness and death. The worm is rotten and unclean and we by nature are like that, we truly are worms; small, broken, dirty and unworthy of any esteem. The problem with self-esteem is that it ignores this fact.

You see it's actually very easy to undermine the 'gospel' of self-esteem if you apply it to: murderers, rapists or paedophiles – should everyone really be true to their inner desires? No of course not we say bad, evil people should be restricted but good, moral, upstanding people like you or I should be free to express ourselves in whatever way we see fit. What we fail to realise is that our hearts are filled with darkness; with real objective evil.

The truth is that freed from all restrictions people do not blossom into creative, passionate, brilliant and loving individuals. Freed from restriction people tend toward selfishness, violence and hate. We are worms because in our heart of hearts we are sinners; selfish, broken, pitiful and ashamed. Self-esteem can't deal with this so rather than talk about sin we talk about behaviour caused by low-confidence or a lack of self-esteem. But we all know there's something more to it than that.

Back in October a two year old toddler was run over twice by a white van on a small street in China. The man who ran the toddler over, stopped to check what had happened and then drove off, crushing the girl gain. Eighteen people just walked straight past that bleeding toddler's body. It was a shocking incident and one that asks some very difficult questions about human nature but we can't call it extraordinary. The most unsettling thing about incidents like this is that all of by nature are capable of such acts. We are worms.

The uncomfortable truth is that we are both small and sinful. Its uncomfortable and so we are tempted to pursue a gospel of self-esteem which ignores these realities.

So we idolize our children; we restrict competition and accept bad behaviour as just being part of their character seeking to protect them from failure from a dent to their all-important self-confidence. Or we idolize our appearance; we attempt to give ourselves a confidence boost by buying the most on-trend, well-fitting for our body shape clothes or by working out but pay far less attention to our selfishness, our anger or our failure to match up to even the standards that we would wish to live by, never mind God's requirements. Self-esteem demands a cover up, a fig-leaf that tries to mask the truth - that in reality we're not all that impressive. In reality we are truly small, and not just small but broken and pitiful as this verse also describes us.

But that reality is exactly what makes the second half of this verse so incredible, so precious to those who listen to it.

2. Our Redeemer will help us, v14b

The reality is that we cannot save ourselves we are wretched worms who require merciful rescue from God. We have to be honest about our condition in order to accept God's salvation. The gospel of self-esteem robs from us the joy of knowing a God who has loved us in spite of our uncleanness because it robs us of the joy of our salvation. We cannot understand God's mercy if we do not understand our sin; our small worm-likeness.

- Won't understand our need of rescue. - Won't enjoy the richness of God's mercy.

God promises even more to us than simply rescuing us worms from the fire. God promises to re-make us as we truly are – images of him, of God. For a Christian our source of self-respect is much deeper than the false gospel of self-esteem. We are God's children, heirs of his grace, chosen to be his people a royal priesthood. God's greatness, not ours, is where we should find our confidence.

Read v14:

14 Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you, declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

When Israel is in distress, with her fortunes failing and her enemies encircling God does not give Israel a pep-talk. God doesn't tell Israel to believe in herself, he tells her to believe in God: 'I myself will help you'. God tells his people to derive their confidence from the God of the universe who is also their redeemer.

For the Christian there is really no such thing as self-esteem, in the sense of a confidence coming from within. The very nature of being a Christian demands that we lay down anything which might cause us to be self-confident at the foot of the cross. Our esteem, our confidence comes from without from the firm promises God has given us, from the lavish grace he has set upon us; his people.

This confidence is the complete reverse of the shaky and shallow promises of self-esteem. This confidence does not demand a cover up, its foundation is not small and worm-like but infinite and holy.

a) The LORD - infinite

We are small but God is infinite, he is the LORD read v1-4:

1 Be silent before me, you islands! Let the nations renew their strength! Let them come forward and speak; let us meet together at the place of judgment. 2Who has stirred up one from the east, calling him in righteousness to his service? He hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him. He turns them to dust with his sword, to wind-blown chaff with his bow. 3 He pursues them and moves on unscathed, by a path his feet have not travelled before. 4 Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD— with the first of them and with the last— I am he.

This is the LORD, YHWEH who is our Redeemer. He is the one who call the nations before him as judge of all. H e is the one in control of geo-politics who raises up nations and causes the fall of empires. He is the first and last, alpha and omega. The one on whom no limits can be set. He is our help. God is not just powerful, he is good.

b) Your Redeemer the Holy One of Israel - holy

He is our Redeemer the Holy One of Israel.Read v8-10:

8But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, 9 I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. 10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I will uphold you with my righteous hand. God is righteous, he is true, he is holy. Every thought, every desire, every fibre of his being is right, it is good. God instructs us to place our confidence in him, in the one who is always faithful and unchanging, one whom upon there is no shadow of doubt cast. He is our Redeemer, the Holy one of Israel.

Isaiah says to God's people; yes you are small, small and insignificant and more than that you are worm-like your sin is fetid and unclean before God. You have no reason to place any confidence in yourself. And yet v8 tells us that God has chosen Israel to be his servant. God chooses people with nothing to recommend themselves to God to be his people, he chooses Israel and he chooses us.

When we realise the reality of this, the 'gospel' of self-esteem seems pitiful and small. Just a fig-leaf masking the truth that we all know deep down.

The Christian Gospel offers something very different, it offers us freedom;

- Freedom to admit our shortcomings, to admit our sin.

- Offers us a Redeemer, the King of all Kings who knows the depths of our sin and yet chooses   to love us anyway.

- Freedom from shame, Jesus rids us of the shame of our sin on the cross he offers forgiveness and cleansing; a truly fresh start.

Don't be afraid place your confidence in the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Trust in the one who sees you sin and yet sent his son to be despised, to be esteemed not, to die on a cross of wood to take away your shame and to give you a new and transformed life in him. Put your confidence there. Next Steps:

Admit the depth of your sin. Stop covering it up, it is real and it is serious but I can be forgiven. Have you forgotten it's offensiveness?

Place your confidence in your Redeemer again. Remember that he has made you, he has formed you in your mother's womb and he has set his love upon you in Jesus.

Live in the freedom that the real Gospel provides. Don't hide your short-comings repent of them. Model this to your home group, to your children to your work colleagues. Be refreshingly honest about your smallness.

14 Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you, declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Let's pray.

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