I was intrigued, though wary. The email had a link to some videos, so I headed on over to YouTube, and this is what I saw:
You're discontent. You feel depressed and worthless because you don't live up to other people's standards, or even your own standards. But the truth is, you're awesome. You really are all of the things you want to be (beautiful, smart, funny, etc.), you just don't realize it. Sure, you don't live up to other people's standards, or your own, but you meet all of God's standards. You're worthy of God's love. In fact, He loves you so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for you, just to convince you of your value in His eyes. Find comfort and hope in telling yourself, "I AM AWESOME."
Is that a fair representation? I think so.
I also think this is an inversion of the true Gospel.
The Gospel says, You are a wretched sinner (Psalm 51:4; Psalm 53:3; Romans 3:23), a rebel against God (Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:3), deserving of His wrath (Romans 6:23, Romans 1:18), but God sent His Son to die for your sins (Ephesians 1:6) in order to reconcile you to Himself (Romans 5:11). If you repent of your sins and believe in Jesus (Mark 1:15), you will be saved (Acts 4:12).
The Gospel also answers the question of why: Why does God redeem you—an enemy and a criminal—with the highest imaginable price, the blood of His Son? Was it to show you how valuable and worthy you are? No way! That would be a direct contradiction of the Gospel which at its very essence says no man is worthy, and that God gives grace apart from any worthiness in the recipient of His grace. Very simply, God demonstrates His love toward sinners in this way for one reason, that He might receive glory:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:3–6)
This video represents nothing more than the false gospel of self-esteem so prevalent in our culture today. The fancy word for it is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
The message that you shouldn't put your faith in worldly things is correct. Sure, don't put your faith in your hair product, your shoes, or the number of Twitter followers you have. Don't put your faith in your looks or your reputation. But what's Jon Jorgenson's solution for this misplaced faith? What should you put your faith in instead? Yourself, obviously. According to this self-esteem gospel, the coup de grâce to all your insecurities and failures is resting in the mantra "I AM AWESOME."
This is a false gospel which flips the true Gospel on its head. It says, "It took a king to die for you" (an actual quote from this same video series): look how valuable you are in God's eyes! The true Gospel says, It took a king to die for you: that's how hopelessly far away from God you were; your rebellion against Him was so terrible and caused you to be so undeserving of His love, that only the perfect Son of God could sufficiently satisfy the wrath of God against you.
I've been reading an old puritan classic by Jeremiah Burroughs called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (1648; Banner of Truth, 1964). You could say that Burroughs is dealing with the same big issue as the video above: discontentment. I've copied a pretty extensive (but still abridged) excerpt below for you to read, and you must read it. We live in a day where our brains have turned to mush because we get our theology from 5-minute YouTube videos of effeminate men massaging lies into our hearts. Begin to recover your mind by diligently reading good things like the Bible and books by faithful men. It will take discipline, but it will bear fruit in your life. Here goes:
I. The lesson of self-denial.
…Just as no one can be a scholar unless he learns his ABC, so you must learn the lesson of self-denial or you can never become a scholar in Christ's school, an be learned in this mystery of contentment.…Now there are several things in this lesson of self-denial. I will not enter into the doctrine of self-denial, but only show you how Christ teaches self-denial and how that brings contentment.
1. Such a person learns to know that he is nothing. He comes to this, to be able to say, "Well, I see that I am nothing in myself." That man or woman who indeed knows that he or she is nothing, and has learned it thoroughly will be able to bear anything.…God would not have us set our heart upon riches, because they are nothing, and yet God is pleased to set his heart upon us, and we are nothing: that is God's grace, free grace, and therefore it does not much matter what I suffer, for I am as nothing.
2. I deserve nothing. I am nothing, and I deserve nothing. Suppose I lack this and that thing which others have? I am sure that I deserve nothing except it be Hell.…If we had deserved anything we might be troubled, as in the case of a man who has deserved well of the state or of his friends, yet does not receive a suitable reward, it troubles him greatly, whereas if he is conscious that he has deserved nothing, he is content with a rebuff.
3. I can do nothing. Christ says, "Without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Why should I make much of it, to be troubled and discontented if I have not got this and that, when the truth is that I can do nothing?…Do but consider of what use you are in the world, and if you consider what little need God has of you, and what little use you are, you will not be much discontented.…
4. I am so vile that I cannot of myself receive any good. I am not only an empty vessel, but a corrupt and unclean vessel: that would spoil anything that comes into it. So are all our hearts: every one of them is not only empty of good, but is like a musty bottle that spoils even good liquor that is poured into it.
5. If God cleanses us in some measure, and puts into us some good liquor, some grace of his Spirit, yet we can make use of nothing when we have it, if God but withdraws himself. If God leaves us one moment after he has bestowed upon us the greatest gifts, and whatever abilities we can desire, if God should say, "I will give you them, now go and trade", we cannot progress one foot further if God leaves us. Does God give us gifts and abilities? Then let us fear and tremble lest God should leave us to ourselves, for then how foully should we abuse those gifts and abilities. You think other men and women have memory and gifts and abilities and you would fain have them—but suppose God should give you these, and then leave you, you would utterly spoil them.
6. We are worse than nothing. By sin we become a great deal worse than nothing. Sin makes us more vile than nothing, and contrary to all good. It is a great deal worse to have a contrariety to all that is good, than merely to have an emptiness of all that is good. We are not empty pitchers in respect of good, but we are like pitchers filled with poison, and is it much for such as we are to be cut short of outward comforts?
7. If we perish we will be no loss. If God should annihilate me, what loss would it be to anyone? God can raise up someone else in my place to serve him in a different way?
Now put just these seven things together and then Christ has taught you self-denial.…Christ teaches the soul this, so that, in the presence of God on a real sight of itself, it can say: "Lord, I am nothing, Lord, I deserve nothing, Lord, I can do nothing, I can receive nothing, and can make use of nothing, I am worse than nothing, and if I come to nothing and perish I will be no loss at all, and therefore is it such a great thing for me to be cut short here?" A man who is little in his own eyes will account every affliction as little, and every mercy as great.…
There was never any man or woman so contented as a self-denying man or woman. No-one ever denied himself as much as Jesus Christ did: he gave his cheeks to the smiters, he opened not his mouth, he was as a lamb when he was led to the slaughter, he made no noise in the street. He denied himself above all, and was willing to empty himself, and so he was the most contented that ever any was in the world; and the nearer we come to learning to deny ourselves as Christ did, the more contented shall we be, and by knowing much of our own vileness we shall learn to justify God. Whatever the Lord shall lay upon us, yet he is righteous for he has to deal with a most wretched creature. A discontented heart is troubled because he has no more comfort, but a self-denying man rather wonders that he has as much as he has. Oh, says the one, I have but a little; Aye, says the man who has learned this lesson of self-denial, but I rather wonder that God bestows upon me the liberty of breathing the air, knowing how vile I am, and knowing how much sin the Lord sees in me. And that is the way of contentment, bu learning self-denial.
8. But there is a further thing in self-denial which brings contentment. Thereby the soul comes to rejoice and take satisfaction in all God's ways; I beseech you to notice this. If a man is selfish and self-love prevails in his heart, he will be glad of those things that suit with his own ends, but a godly man who has denied himself will suit with and be glad of all things that shall suit with God's ends.
This sort of thing is all over the preaching and writing of old Puritans (and incidentally the pages of Scripture, too), and it's a perfect antidote to the self-esteem gospel.
The world tells you, You're not that bad. The Gospel says, You're far worse than you ever imagined.
Now ask yourself: Which one causes you to place your hope in the God who saves? Does believing in your own merit cause you to cry out to God for help? Do you go to God and say, "Lord, thank you that I'm beautiful and worthy and awesome!" Or do you go to Him and say, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"?
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:9–14)
The self-esteem gospel will never satisfy you; it leaves you emptier each time you come back to it. Sure, there's a brief catharsis in being told that you're worthy and wonderful and deserving of God's love, but if you're honest with yourself, it's a pretty hard lie to believe when you see how far you fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23).
Telling yourself you're awesome doesn't solve any of your problems. If you think you deserve good things, that you're worthy of God's blessing, you are no better than a Pharisee, trusting in yourself that you are righteous. "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time" (1 Peter 5:5–6). Do not take it into your own hand to exalt yourself. If you do, you can be sure that God will oppose you.