For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith, Romans 12:3.
I’ve read in verse 2 that I need my mind renewed and I’m ready to get with the program. I drop my Bible and run to the bookstore returning with titles such as; The Power of Positive Thinking; Your Best Life Now; Be All You Can Be; God Saw The Best In Me; How To Enhance Your Self-Esteem. I am ready to go! Rocket fuel for me! I’m going to renew my mind!
Then my eyes drift to verse 3 in the Bible I dropped in my rush to the bookstore: …I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think…
I just wasted $105.00 at the bookstore. But I don’t get it. Verse 2 tells me to renew my mind and then verse 3 tells me not to think more highly of myself than I ought to – what gives? I thought self-esteem was what this was all about? Isn’t it about “Who I am in Jesus”?
While chapters 1 – 8 portray our justification, sanctification, and glorification; chapters 12 – 16 remind us that we are part of the Body of Christ and members one of another.
Can we imagine a pastor saying to his congregation, “Don’t think too much of yourself.” Oh yeah, that sure is going to build attendance. What’s the likelihood of seeing a book in your local Christian bookstore titled, “How not to think too much of yourself – the secret of using sound judgment when thinking about yourself”?
Paul begins unpacking what it means to present our bodies as living sacrifices and what it means to have renewed minds that are not conformed to the world by striking at the heart of the way the world thinks – the world and the individuals in the world think too much of themselves, they think too highly of themselves – and consequently not highly of God and not highly enough of others.
If two of the most important words in Paul’s writings are “in Christ”, close behind them are the words “one another”. In Christ we are members of one another. We are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”
The renewal of the mind entails the way I think about myself and the way I think about others; and the way I think about others incorporates the understanding that we are members one of another. But do we actually think like this? Do I think like this? Do you think like this? Is this our default mode? Is this our nature? Do the actions of our bodies indicate that this is the way we think and that this is what we believe?
Much popular Christian teaching is focused on strengthening our opinions of ourselves; self-esteem on steroids. This is not the path of renewal in Christ. For one thing it really doesn’t matter what I think about myself; what matters is what Christ thinks about me. Secondly, as we learn to be His disciples and as we know the all sufficiency of the Cross of Christ and the Christ of the Cross – then we live lives with consciences that have been cleansed by Christ – and we also live lives that are under no illusion of the depth of our pride and vanity and capacity to sin outside of Christ. The more secure I am in Christ; the more He is able to reveal the depth of my pride and vanity.
Thirdly, the renewal of the mind means that I recognize that we all have a measure of faith that God has allotted. As verses 6ff teach, we are to be good stewards of the grace and gifts that God has given us – stewards in the context of members of the body of Christ.