Dear friends in Christ,
One of my granddaughters just went into the third grade.  Third grade is a big deal.  She gets number and letter grades for the first time.  In Kindergarten until second grade it was always stickers and stars.  Noelle is a very bright girl.  She taught her brother how to read before he even went to Kindergarten.  She has a constant smile.  I call her Smiley. I found her teachers in school do that too. 
When we visited their house recently, she left out the first number grade paper out for Grandma and Papa to see. She had a ninety three.  She was proud of that and wanted Papa and Grandma Judy to see it. Grandma Judy reminded Papa to compliment her on her good grade.  Okay, but down deep Papa was thinking “93??? Why not a 100%?????  100’s feel better than 93’s. 
Perhaps some of you are thinking that it is good that our grandkids live a good distance from here.  Perhaps some of you are saying that I better keep Pastor away from the grades that my kids get. Perhaps you are saying, “Poor Kristina, Ben and Courtney.  They came away from him pretty well adjusted considering the expecations of their dad.   
 I am not one who believes that we should eliminate the honor role because it makes those who don’t make it feel bad.  I am not someone who believes that everyone should get a trophy.  Maybe you have noticed how competitive I am.  Those who work hard should be recognized.  Those who excel should be recognized.  Those who don’t work hard should not be recognized.    
 There is a lot of talk about the need for self-esteem.  Christians are often criticized for tearing people down all the time because we talk too much about sin. You Christians are good at laying guilt on people. God again Answers Doubts – “Jesus, I Want to Feel Good About Myself.” Jesus would say: 1) Be honest; 2) Believe.
 People often feel good about themselves when they have worked hard to get something done.  Athletes will say, “We left it all out there on the field or on the court.”  They gave it all they had.  Wives feel good when the house is clean and dads when the yard wins yard-of-the-month.   
 When we speak of self-esteem we often understand that to mean to love yourself.  Doesn’t the Bible tell us to do that?  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind; love your neighbor as yourself.”  Or when the apostle talked about the relationship between husband and wife he wrote, “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” But notice here that you love your neighbor as yourself.  Love your wife and so love yourself.  Remember that he also says that a husband and wife are one. If you are one, you are going to love yourself.
 Most of the time when people refer to self-esteem, it means to love yourself without taking anyone else into consideration.  Let’s go back to that awful night in Gethsemane.  The disciples had showed their cowardice.  They loved themselves and chose themselves over Jesus.  They ran away from Jesus and left him alone.  That included Peter. It appears he fled into the shadows but stayed close enough to Jesus to follow the mob who had Jesus in their grasp.  He followed him into the courtyard of the High Priest. 
There Peter got close to a fire to warm himself.  A servant girl saw him in the firelight. But Peter reacted with indignantly.  “Hey woman, are you talking to me?  What makes you think that I was with him?” It went downhill from there. 
A man said that Peter was one of them – one of them with Jesus. Peter’s denials became even louder and more emphatic.  What was that in the background?  A cock-a- doodle-do!  But it went right over Peter’s head.  Jesus had warned this was going to happen.  You know the story.  
Then still another pointed out Peter’s Galilean accent.  He came from the place where Jesus came from. That really made him afraid and paranoid.  He began to curse as if the loudness of his language and the foulness of his mouth were going to convince people that he was speaking the truth.  And there was that rooster” “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” The Scripture says, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
Peter remembered the conversation when he had boasted that he would never fall away even though everyone else would. The rooster crowed, and now Peter ate crow. Peter wept bitterly. 
How do you think Peter was feeling?  Do you think he was feeling good about himself?  How was his self-esteem on the self-esteem meter?  Remember this was the same Peter who had said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This is the same Peter who had said so self-confidently, I will never deny you!  I will even die with you, Jesus!  How do you think he was feeling about himself.  
Self, that’s the problem! Like Peter we are so inconsistent.  We do what is right one time and the next time and the next time and the next time we are so wrong.  Peter confessed Jesus to be the Son of God one time, but the next time, “I don’t know the man! 
But then we have made a confirmation vow at the altar and said we would be faithful for the rest of our lives with God’s help.  It felt so right and good on our confirmation day. But temptation stared us in the face and we blinked, and blinked and blinked again.  There have been so many opportunities to value and love Jesus by digging into his word and receive his sacrament for forgiveness and fellowship with God.  But the pillow won out or the golf course or the lake or whatever.  Or there was the time that your boss or neighbor or maybe even your relative who took some shots and Jesus and his precious family and pointed out the hypocrisy.  You never bothered to spring back by pointing out that Jesus came to save the lost, and the church is a haven for sinners, not for the self-righteous.  Blown opportunities to the left and right!  How is the good old self-esteem doing?  If we really and honestly look at ourselves.         
I read something someone wrote about Adam and Eve that I never really thought about before.  After they sinned, they hid behind leaves to cover up their nakedness. Our fallen father, Adam, was asked by God, “Who told you that you were naked?” It seems that before their sin Adam and Eve were so blissfully lost in their worship of God and the wonder of his world that they never took time to really reflect on themselves.  Their minds were so focused on the Lord, and that was all that mattered. 
As they sinned and after they sinned they got lost in themselves.  They were highly into themselves.  The Lord was not all that mattered anymore. That’s why I am wary of getting hung up on self-esteem.  Self love is exactly what got them in trouble.   
An honest look will uncover lots of mistakes and errors.  Let’s quit beating around the bush – sin!  To deny it is nothing but a grand cover up.    
Peter realized what happens when he loved himself and relied on himself.  He eventually wept very bitterly. These weren’t alligator tears.  They were not false tears.  The Bible says there is a worldly sorrow and a godly sorrow.  This was godly sorrow.  I have sinned against you, O Lord!  
Peter saw his sin not just a violation of a moral code like going thirty in a twenty five mile an hour zone, he had sinned against the one who had only been perfectly good to him. He had bragged that he was not the kind of a man who would run out on someone, but clearly he was.  Frankly, he didn’t need a good dose of self-esteem, he needed forgiveness.   
Self-esteem  gives the impression the cure is from within.  The real cure is from without.  When we come to understand that, we are on the right road.  All that really matters is how God feels about us and what he thinks about us.  Yet it is more than what he thinks about us, it is how he sees us.  He declares us forgiven.  He sees us righteous and holy because he has replaced our filthy lives with the perfectly life of Jesus.  It is so effective that he says we are without spot, or wrinkle or blemish.  He says we need holiness and he provides it in Christ. 
While the world fears the psychological damage of calling oneself a sinner, is not truth better than a lie? Too much talk about sin?  Remember if we didn’t know we were sinners we would never know the good and the truth about Jesus. We are running away from the truth. 
The Bible says, “Repent…that times of refreshing may come.”  The refreshing comes in Jesus.  Because of him  no one in this world, no one outside this world can condemn us, not even ourselves. 
The following was written by a layman I know who has it right.  I am envious of the way he said it - that’s my sin – that’s our sin – but he gives us the real story and the real cure. “That moment when you find you've once again succumbed to your pet sin, be it drunkenness, laziness, immorality, gambling, selfish ambitions, pride or pornography, realize that your status has, at no time, changed before God. "For all have sinned and fall short of God's glory, and are justified by faith in Christ Jesus." Yes, my filthy rags of righteousness are no better at justifying me than the tatters of my sinful nature and its awful habits. I am dead in my sins. I walk around all day, every day, in a corpse. Only by God's grace is this corpse infused with a spirit that is alive to Christ. We like to fool ourselves at times that we are pretty good people. Then, when we discover that we are not, we are often overwhelmed with guilt and despair. But we have always had the guilt removed by Jesus on the cross. And righteousness has always been our gift, never our achievement.”
Is there a place in our lives to love ourselves and have this thing that many say is the cure-all called self esteem?  I am not so sure. Self is and can be such a conniving creature and lead us down the wrong path.  Self is a sinner.  There is a place, there needs to be a place for Jesus who cleanses us far cleaner, in fact perfectly as he declares us to be holy.  A book out there has been written about this whole subject.  The author says we should drop the self-esteem and use Christ-esteem instead.  Not a bad way of understanding who we are – the Christ esteemed. Try some Christ esteem. 

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