What we are (our self or personal identity) is partly the result of the Creation (the image of God), and partly the result of the fall (the image defaced).  The self we are to deny, disown, and crucify is our fallen self, everything within us that is incompatible with Jesus Christ (hence Christ’s command, ‘let him deny himself and follow me’).  The self we are to affirm and value is our created self, everything within us that is compatible with Jesus Christ (hence his statement that if we lose ourselves by self-denial we shall find ourselves).  True self-denial (the denial of our false, fallen self) is not the road to self-destruction, but the road to self-discovery.   So, then, whatever we are by creation, we must affirm: our rationality, our sense of moral obligation, our masculinity and femininity, our aesthetic appreciation and artistic creativity, our stewardship of the fruitful earth, our hunger for love and community, our sense of the transcendent mystery of God, and our inbuilt urge to fall down and worship him.  All this is part of our created humanness.  True, it has all been tainted and twisted by sin.  Yet Christ came to redeem and not destroy it.  So we must affirm it.   But whatever we are by the fall, we must deny or repudiate: our irrationality; our moral perversity; our loss of sexual distinctives; our fascination with the ugly; our lazy refusal to develop God’s gifts; our pollution and spoliation of the environment; our selfishness, malice, individualism, and revenge, which are destructive of human community; our proud autonomy; and our idolatrous refusal to worship God.  All this is part of our fallen humanness.  Christ came not to redeem this but to destroy it.  So we must deny it. John Stott

One thought on “John Stott on the the self we affirm and the self we deny

  1. I so appreciate this quote. Sometimes Reformed Christians can so emphasize justification in Christ that the doctrine has essentially comes to mean that there is truly nothing acceptable about me as I am in myself. In order to accept me, God must hold his nose at who I am and only look at Christ. Such a view is also a distortion of the doctrine of Total Depravity, which does not mean I am worth nothing in total but rather that every part of who I am is affected by sin. Stott’s quote affirms that God redeems not because He wants to reject who I am but rather to fulfill it. Or in the words of Lewis Smedes, I may not be deserving of God’s love, but God considers me worthy of it. I do think that many Reformed Christians, including myself in the past, fail to understand the love of God because of a misunderstanding of this doctrine.

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