Book Review: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

“The self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism.” Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

The quote above is a great reminder for me that I have a long way to go!  My pastor mentioned this book in his sermon at Cedarcrest Church this past Sunday.  I have a lot of respect for both our pastor and Tim Keller, so I immediately downloaded it to the Kindle app on my iPad.

This book has revolutionized my thinking on what it means to truly follow Christ and abandon the trappings of this world.  I have studied a lot about humility over the years, but the idea of “self-forgetfulness” explains that concept in a way that I have never considered.

I’ve pasted several things below that I highlighted while reading…

  • What are the marks of a heart that has been radically changed by the grace of God?
  • I think the image suggests four things about the natural condition of the human ego: that it is empty, painful, busy and fragile.
  • Spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God.
  • The ego often hurts. That is because it has something incredibly wrong with it. Something unbelievably wrong with it. It is always drawing attention to itself – it does so every single day. It is always making us think about how we look and how we are treated. People sometimes say their feelings are hurt. But our feelings can’t be hurt! It is the ego that hurts – my sense of self, my identity. Our feelings are fine! It is my ego that hurts.
  • The way the normal human ego tries to fill its emptiness and deal with its discomfort is by comparing itself to other people. All the time.
  • ‘Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next person. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about.’
  • Paul is saying that he has reached a place where his ego draws no more attention to itself than any other part of his body. He has reached the place where he is not thinking about himself anymore. When he does something wrong or something good, he does not connect it to himself any more.
  • The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.
  • True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.
  • A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person. The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself.
  • Here is one little test. The self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism.
  • Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?
  • Could you explain to someone else how the gospel can (and should) transform our sense of identity? How much do you experience that transformed sense of identity?

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