By Robbie Pruitt
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” –Romans 12:3
In 2007 Paula White published a book under the genre of “Christian Living” entitled You're All That: Understanding God's Design for Your Life. At first glance this book is appealing and draws the reader in with the hope of understanding God's design for their life. After getting into the book, however, the author rarely focuses on the biblical God, and instead focuses on the reader and on herself. This book’s subject is the individual and not the creator. White makes the case that we are “all that” and puts emphasis on self much more than God. Scripture is clear that the focus should be on God and not on us. As a matter of fact, scripture speaks clearly that we are not “all that,” contrary to what White’s book title has the reader believe. The title is misleading. Scripture is clear, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Author and theologian G. K. Chesterton is credited for answering the question "What's wrong with the world?,” posed by The Times, with this wise response: “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G. K. Chesterton.” This is a very different outlook on self than the one that Paula White illustrates in “You’re All That.” Chesterton’s response is also a more biblically accurate view of self and the fallen nature of humanity. It is not that we are “all that,” it is that the God we serve is “all that.” God should be our focus and should be elevated and we should be submitted to God in humility. John the Baptist said it this way in John 3:30, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” This statement puts self in the right place and exalts God.
The believer should never boast in themselves or rely on themselves alone. The self taught theologian, preacher, evangelist, and author A.W. Tozer says, “Boasting is particularly offensive when it is heard among the children of God, the one place above all others where it should never be found” (Tozer, p. 74). Tozer goes on to say that “Boasting is an evidence that we are pleased with self; belittling, that we are disappointed in it. Either way we reveal that we have a high opinion of ourselves” (Tozer, p. 76). According to Tozer the Christian should look very different than a boaster or braggart. Tozer paints this picture for us of the victorious Christian: “The victorious Christian neither exalts nor downgrades himself. His interests have shifted from self to Christ. What he [or she] is or is not no longer concerns him. He believes that he has been crucified with Christ and he is not willing to either praise or depreciate such a man.” (Tozer, p. 76 ).
Paul addresses this issue of self in Romans 12:3 when he tells the church in Rome that they should not think more highly of themselves than they ought to. Paul writes, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Paul also addressed this with the church in Galatia when he wrote to them saying, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3). To claim that we are more than we actually are is a lie. This is the worst form of deception, because it is self-deception. Tozer states that “self-deception is the most deadly, and of all the deceived persons, the self-deceived are the least likely to discover the fraud” (Tozer, p. 96).
If we are to understand the truth about ourselves and God’s design for our lives we must begin with God and His life and not with ourselves. Jesus said it this way, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). Paul also said that we are to be crucified, or to die, with Christ so that we can live. And when we do die to ourselves, it is not we who live, but Christ who lives within us (Galatians 2:20). The emphasis is on Christ and not self. Tozer points to this truth about God’s work with this assertion: “The man who believes that he is worthy of heaven will certainly never enter that place” (Tozer, p. 10). It is not all about us at all.
God does the work, because we do not have what it takes. We are not “all that.” We are unworthy of God, yet God gives us His grace. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this about grace: “Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God so much cannot be cheap for us” (Bonhoeffer, p. 45). It would also be wise to add: what costs God so much cannot be “about us,” or convey the message that it is we who are “all that.” It is indeed God who is “all that,” and because God has indeed “bought us with a price,” we should “glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. Touchstone Publishers. New York, NY. © 1937, 1959, 1995
Tozer, A.W. Man The Dwelling Place of God. Wingspread Publishers. Camp Hill, PA. © 1966
The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995, S. Ro 3:23
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Ro 12:3
White, Paula. You’re All That. Paula White Enterprises, INC. Faith Works. Hachette Book Group USA. New York, NY. © 2007