“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3)
There’s a difference between being self-obsessed and having a reasonable idea of who you are.
Now, clearly, you must examine yourself “to see whether Christ be in you,” (as Paul put it in 2 Cor 13:5). It is quite right to take a little time, now and then, to evaluate yourself and where you are in your Christian life and experience. Paul instructs his people to do so. “For by the grace given to me,” that is, on the basis of his being an apostle he exhorted them to think through where they were.
But do it reasonably. Don’t overrate yourself. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” It’s almost as common as thinking too little of yourself.
So how do we avoid being swamped by self-obsession or “roller-coastered up and down with the rush of our fluctuating feelings” (as someone said to me!)?
The answer, of course, is to discover how God sees you. Who I am is who God says I am. And the verse gives us two polar perspectives – a kind of latitude and longitude- to give us our exact position.
The first instruction is to think “with sober judgment” about yourself. I take this to mean to remember that at heart you’re a scumbag, the product of a long line of miscreants who have rejected God’s direction right back to Adam and Eve.
In fact, Jesus took it further, telling a group of argumentative critics that they were children of their father, the devil. It seemed pretty harsh, but their long-term treatment of him bore out his analysis.
The other, polar opposite, perspective with which to understand yourself is to think with “the measure of faith that God has given you.” That is, look back to consider all that God has done in your life, the way He has led you, helped, directed and challenged you.
You are loved! You are chosen! You are “accepted in the Beloved!” How dare you think so little of yourself! His grace is powerfully at work in you.
John Newton is quoted with saying, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour.” He went on to say, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
Lord, I am starting my new day,
Soberly acknowledging that though I am a great sinner, You are a great Saviour!
Your grace is extraordinary.
Your power and love have enriched and illuminated my life.
And you will lead me home.
I am your child. I am in your plan and purpose
And “all I have needed, thy hand has provided.”