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ES Book Reviews: "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness" Timothy Keller

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Do you find yourself worrying what others think of you?

Are you riding the emotional rollercoaster of self-talk that can either build you up or tear you down?

Does your sense of value and worth depend on your achievements? Or are you defined only by your sins and failures?

Do you live trying to draw attention to yourself? Or do you constantly feel ignored?

I think it’s safe to assume that we all battle with questions like these, questions of self-worth, value & identity.

And that’s why we all need to read The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, a short & punchy book by Tim Keller, that gets to the heart of these questions & reveals how the gospel of grace transforms our self-worth & identity.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness reads like a sermon – beginning by unpacking a Bible passage, exposing our gospel need, and then pointing us to the spectacular grace of the gospel to transform our hearts and lives.

The book opens with a passage from 1 Corinthians (3:21-4:7). Keller highlights that Paul is addressing a church filled with division, pointing out that the root cause of this division is pride & boasting – the Corinthians are pretty full of themselves!

But before we’re tempted to start judging the Corinthians, Keller quickly holds up the mirror for us to consider our own lives – exposing the natural condition of the human ego. Highlighting the language Paul uses when addressing the Corinthian church, Keller helps us to see that the natural state of our ego is empty, painful, busy and fragile. And because of this, our self-worth, value and identity are broken.

Keller helps us to see that Paul’s own view of himself reveals what a gospel-transformed sense of worth and identity should look like. Paul’s identity is not tied up with what others think of him, and what’s more, (and this is the absolute thump we all need to hear) he doesn’t even care about what he thinks of himself!

This is the gospel clincher of the book (and why everyone should read it) – a life transformed by the gospel, “is not a self-hating person, or a self-loving person, but a gospel humble person” in other words a “self-forgetful” person (p.33). Someone who realises that the only opinion that matters for shaping our identity and self-worth, is the One who redeemed us, adopted us, and gave us his Son’s perfect righteousness.

How’s this for a quote to stick on your wall:

“the only person whose opinion counts looks at me and he finds me more valuable than all the jewels in the earth” (p.42)

In light of the remarkable grace of the gospel, we experience the extraordinary joy & freedom, of not having to think of myself.

If you’ve been following the book reviews on the ES blog, you’ve probably got a whole list of books on your “to read” list. Can I suggest bumping this one to the top of the pile! Not because it’s better than the rest, but because you’ll get the joy & satisfaction of finishing a book! It’s short (only 44 pages), it’ll take you max. 30mins to read, you can squeeze it in to a bus trip, a lunch break, or a COVID test queue. And even better, it’s cheap – even the tightest student budget can afford this one – and if you can’t I’ll lend you a copy!!

This is a book we all need to read – so that we can all know & experience the joy and freedom of self-forgetfulness!

Flinders ES- Lauren H

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness

Tim Keller (10Publishing, 2012)

Reformers Bookshop: $5.49

Koorong: $8.99

Kindle Ebook: $1.99

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