Chapter Three

Attitudes Toward Self

Part Two
What effect did Jesus have on the first-century people who followed Him? Were his followers a group of depressed, anxious people who were down on life, down on themselves, and in general "a bunch of real losers"? Were they a bland, disinterested, unexcitable people with little feeling? Were they an optimistic, hope-filled group who possessed a purpose in life?

The gospels make it evident that one never became less a person by following Jesus. Being Jesus' disciple was not a debasing, degrading experience. Many rejected Jesus, refused faith in him, and resented His teaching. However, those who followed Him came from every conceivable background composing an interesting cross section of first-century society. Among those who followed Him were the typical "average person", social rejects, prostitutes, despised tax collectors, religious radicals such as the Zealots, and even a few prestigious people. Did these followers consider themselves the world's great failures, the scum of the earth, or a worthless people of no significance? The gospels and Acts reveal such attitudes did not characterize Jesus' followers. They followed Jesus to escape guilt, not to find it; to destroy defeated lives, not to find defeat; to get away from purposelessness, not to produce it. Following Jesus made them persons of value, not miserable, beaten failures.

Jesus did not say, "Come unto me burdened, and I will increase your burdens. I will make you know how miserable and worthless you are. I will fill your lives with guilt, anxiety, and self-contempt." The life Jesus offered was based on a unique concept of self: a person alive in Jesus must respect himself because he is a child of God. This chapter is devoted to the second parameter attitude self: "I am God's child."

God's Child
From Jesus' ministry onward, Scripture stressed each Christian was God's child. John wrote of Jesus,

But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12,13)

The right to be God's child is dependent on receiving Jesus. An act of God makes a child of God out of each person who believes on Jesus and is born of God.

Caiaphas declared that it was expedient for Jesus to die to preserve the nation. Caiaphas did not comprehend the significance of his statement, but John wrote,

Now this he said not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not for the nation only, but that He might also gather together into one the children of God that are scattered abroad. (John 11:51,52)

The idea that Jesus died to gather into one the children of God was new to first-century thinking. Becoming God's children was a new emphasis. While the Jews considered themselves God's people, their common emphasis stressed their being descendants of Abraham. Though God had long prophesied He would create His family from all peoples (Hosea 2:23 with Romans 9:25, 26; Romans 15:8-12 with corollary Old Testament references), the fact that God's family was not to be limited to the Jews was new to their thinking. The universal family of God would come into existence because Jesus would die for the people.

After Jesus' death, all who entered into Christ became sons of God. Paul wrote, "For ye are sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26, 27). Faith combined with being in Christ produced sons of God. The moment they were baptized into Christ they became sons of God.

No passage more beautifully emphasized the reality of God's family than I John 3:1-3.

Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this cause the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him even as he is. And everyone that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

The Greek language stressed two things in verse one. "Behold, what manner of love" is written to express astonishment. John said, "Let me show you an incredible fact about God's love", or, "Let me reveal a fact about God's love so astounding it is virtually unthinkable." "That we should be called children of God" is written in a verb tense to emphasize a present, real, continuing fact. Being called God's children is not a pleasant thought or an inspiring idea. Divine sonship is an accomplished, continuing fact. Apart from the Greek, this incredible act of divine love is evident. How could God look upon beings He created as His own children? That is precisely what God did, and it is an act of love which defies comprehension. Elevating Christians to the status of His own children was not a symbolic act, a meaningful gesture, or the conferring of an honorary title. In actual relationship Christians became His children, brother and sisters of Jesus in the same divine family.

God will yet accomplish something more astounding than making Christians His children. What is yet to come for those who are God's children is beyond explanation or description. This second great act of God can be understood vaguely in this: when Christ returns, Christians shall be as He is. The hope of that glory, privilege, and existence is a basic motivation for Christian living. The desire to be a part of God's eternal family in heaven causes the Christian to devote himself to purity with Jesus as the standard.

The Value of Sonship
The second parameter attitude of a Christian toward self is based on the understanding that God valued his life so much He made him His child. The privilege of salvation is sonship with God. A Christian is not a created "thing" to God. He is not an impersonal "something" to be used and discarded. He is not a possession to God. In the slave-master world of the first century, slaves were possessions valued for their service. Masters cared for their slaves not out of concern for their well-being but as a matter of good business in protecting their investment. God does not and never has regarded Christians as pieces of property which have value only to the extent that they can render productive work.

The New Testament abounds with evidence of the Christians' value to God as His family. God so valued Christians that He send His Son from heaven, let Him be born as the creature He helped create, let Him be a true man on earth, and committed Him to death. God let Jesus die only because He valued those people who would accept Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus valued Christians so much that He accepted and completed that mission. He did so only because He valued those who would come to Him in faith and obedience.

One of the most powerful, encouraging promises ever given Christians is Romans 8:31-39. Paul declared to all those who continue in Christ that God is for them. He is on their side. He cannot lose interest in them nor desert them. No power in heaven, on earth, or in hell can separate the believing, trusting Christian from Christ's love. Nothing outside of the Christian himself has the power to come between the Christian and Jesus' love. The foundation of that assurance is the fact of Jesus' death. If God valued the Christian to the extent that He did not hesitate to allow Jesus to be sacrificed cruelly on the cross, God will not refuse those things necessary for the Christian's spiritual needs and spiritual well-being. Because of the value God places on the Christian, because of the sacrifice God made for the Christian, and because of God's determination to sustain the Christian, the Christian is more than conqueror through the loving Savior.

Ephesians 3:20 affirmed God can do "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." The Christian cannot "out need" the available power of God to help him. God's options to aid are not limited to the Christian's imagination.

Peter wrote to persecuted, oppressed Christians, "...casting all your anxiety upon Him (God), because He careth for you" (I Peter 5:7). God will readily accept a Christian's anxiety and bear it Himself. The concerns and stresses falling upon His children matter to Him. That which distressed His children is of personal concern to Him.

To whom are such definite, absolute commitments made? No one makes such promises to worthless, meaningless people. Only to those who are valued are such powerful promises made. God's promises are irrefutable evidence of the value He places on each Christian.

If a Christian understands the value God places on him, he must respect himself in Christ. Christ wants no Christian to feel negative about himself, to be doubtridden about his life, or to be convinced he is good for nothing. He must understand, "Jesus wants me to be filled with spirit and drive, with confidence and determination, and with the conviction He has made me useful and worthwhile."

Servitude And Sonship
The two parameter attitudes of a Christian toward self are (1) "I am Jesus Christ's servant who exists to serve Him to the best of my ability," and (2) "I am a child of God, and I will be loved and valued as a child as long as I live in Christ." At first glance, these attitudes seems to be in contradiction. How can one be both a servant and a son? Does servitude destroy sonship? Does sonship release one from the responsibility of servitude? To properly understand these two attitudes, one must separate two basic realities. Reality one: each Christian has a responsibility to God. Reality two: each Christian has a relationship with God. A Christian cannot have the right attitude toward himself unless he separates the awareness of responsibility from the awareness of relationship.

A Christian's responsibility to God is that of a servant. At great personal cost and sacrifice, God reached down into the filth of sin when the person was spiritually dead and freed him from death by cleansing his life. Jesus literally bought him back from the condemnation of sin with His own blood. Nothing he can do can repay God and Jesus for what They did. He can give no sacrifice that would made it worth Their effort, and he can perform no act to equal Their deeds in providing salvation. Being a devoted servant to the will of God and using all of life to render faithful service is the only way he can return Their love.

A Christian's relationship with God is that of a child with a loving father. God loves him, values him, and holds him as precious. As long as he lives in the Son, no physical or spiritual force can make him less than a loved, valued, appreciated child. He derives his identity and dignity from sonship with God. He can respect himself because God in Christ made him respectable by applying the righteousness of Jesus to his life. In Christ he is somebody! He has the blessing of self-respect, dignity, and unquenchable hope because God created him anew in Jesus.

God expects two things of a Christian in his attitude, toward self. The Christian must not be a person of arrogance, pride, and high-mindedness who considers himself an equal or peer to God. He must not exaggerate his significance and importance nor feel too good nor too important to serve. Neither must the Christian be filled with self-contempt, guilt, and doubt. God did not make him a child for him to debase himself, to feel useless, to feel worthless, or to believe he is valueless. Both of these attitudes are equally wrong, equally sinful, and equally unchristian.

Throughout life a Christian asks himself two questions: "What does God expect of me? How much does God value me?" He must understand the answers to both questions. God expects him to serve Him with all the power of his being. God wants him never to forget he is His child.


  1. What effect did Jesus have on the people who followed him?
  2. Why did people follow Jesus?
  3. What is the second parameter attitude a Christian has toward himself?
  4. Explain what each of the following passages teaches about being a child of God:
    1. John 1:12, 13
    2. John 11:51, 52
    3. Galatians 3:26, 27
    4. I John 3:1-3
  5. What is the privilege of salvation in Christ? Discuss the meaning of the fact.
  6. What does Romans 8:31-39 teach about the value of a Christian to God?
  7. Use Ephesians 3:20 to explain why a Christian cannot "out need" God's available power.
  8. How does I Peter 5:7 emphasize God's care for Christians?
  9. When a Christian understands how much God values him, what fact must he accept?
  10. Carefully explain how a Christian can see himself as a servant and as a son at the same time.
  11. What are God's two basic expectations of each Christian in regard to his attitudes toward himself?
  12. As a Christian walks through life, what two questions must he ask and answer?

Thought Questions

  1. What happens in a Christian's life when he fully understands he is God's servant but does not understand he is God's child?
  2. What happens in a Christian's life when he fully understands he is God's child but does not understand he is God's servant?
  3. What do you regard as the most important lesson in this chapter?
transcribed by Donna Carson
Copyright © 1983, David Chadwell
Chapter Two Chapter Four
table of contents

 Link to a summary of other books by David Chadwell

 Link to   David Chadwell Home Page

From Prodigal To Priest is copyrighted material. Everyone is granted permission to download any or all of the text. Permission is granted to duplicate the material for class studies or small group studies. Permission is granted to duplicate the material to share with others. Permission is not granted to use this material for profit. The specific purpose of placing the book's full text on this Web site is to make the material available to as many people as possible at no cost.
If you read this book, would you e-mail me at stating that you read it? If you share it or use it in a class situation, would you e-mail me and inform me about the use you made of the material? If enough people read the book or make use of the book through Internet access, we will place the full text of other books that I have written on our Web site.
David Chadwell