Book review: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

The Freedom of Self–Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy

Title The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy
Author Timothy Keller
Pages 48
Publisher 10Publishing
Year 2012
ISBN 978 1 906173 41 8

There are two kinds of people in this world--those who think too much of themselves, and those who think too little.

This very short book (a pamphlet, really) offers a third alternative. Keller suggests that our problem is not that we have too much self-esteem or too little self-esteem: our problem is that we think about ourselves too much.

The book is essentially an exposition on how Paul sees himself in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7. It's short enough that it can be quoted in full:

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 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. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Paul's answer to this problem is to not focus on what others think of him, or even what he thinks of himself, but rather what God thinks of him. After all, God's judgement is the only one that matters.

This is profound. Our identity has now moved from being subjective (the opinions of others or even ourselves) to being objective (as belonging to Christ). I certainly found this insight very helpful in how I view myself.

The book is short--you can easily finish it in one sitting. And it's cheap (Kindle and iBook versions are available). There's no reason not to get it.

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