Self esteem and positive affirmation gospel

SERMON TOPIC: Self esteem and positive affirmation gospel

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 14 September 2014


Sermon synopsis: If I were to tell you:

Start your day by declaring, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”

you may be tempted to think that this was a quote from an email or SMS encouraging Christians to make daily positive affirmations about themselves – which will then be fulfilled the more they say it.
In fact that is a passage of Scripture. But where is it from and what is the context?
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Describing the last days the apostle Paul says:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of Godhaving a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.



I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.

If I were to tell you:

Start your day by declaring, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”

you may be tempted to think that this was a quote from an email or SMS encouraging Christians to make daily positive affirmations about themselves – which will then be fulfilled the more they say it.

In fact that is a passage of Scripture. But where is it from and what is the context?

We’ll see later!


America’s largest Mega-church pastor, Joel Osteen’s book, “I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life” is basically positive thinking theology. He believes that speaking declarations out loud will make them come true.

“If you want to know what you will be like five years from now, just listen to what you are saying about yourself. With our words, we can either bless our futures or we can curse our futures.”

“You can change your world by changing your words…”

“You’ve got to send your words out in the direction you want your life to go.”

“… those words go out and come right back in and affect your own self-image.”


While many Christians hold this strange kind of theology and even confuse it with Biblical faith, it has nothing to do with the Bible. God’s Word doesn’t teach that we go around making false positive declarations about ourselves – Christian Science does. And Biblical faith is not based on a good self-esteem, but rather confidence in God despite our human failing.

If it were true, then clearly many godly men in the Bible could have ‘benefited’ from the modern teaching on self-esteem and positive confession. Here are some Old Testament examples of low self-esteem, which certainly do not portray the positive affirmations some claim we ought to be making about ourselves:

Agur says “I am the most ignorant of men” (Prov 30:2).


Job thought it would be better if he had not been born (Job 3:11) – but God blesses and restores him. And that despite his negative confession.

Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?

Abraham realises that God is not obliged to grant his request (Gen 18:27).

Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes

Leah knew that Jacob loved Rachel more than her (Gen 29:33) and affirmed this in her speech. A negative confession, we’d be told by some today.

… I am not loved…

But what does the Lord do? – “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.” (Gen 29:31)

Jacob considered himself unworthy of God’s blessings (Gen 32:10) – but God blessed him anyway.

I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.

Gideon didn’t believe he could save Israel (Judges 6:15) – but he did! Yet we are supposed to believe that if “we confess it, we possess it”. In humility he calls himself “the least in my family”, but the angel calls him “mighty warrior.”

How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.

Ruth doesn’t consider herself worthy of being noticed by Boaz (Ruth 2:10), but she is.

Why have I found such favour in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?

Saul (when he was still righteous) doesn’t believe he should be king (1 Sam 9:21) – but he becomes king anyway.

But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin?

Mephibosheth feels unworthy of David’s favour (2 Sam 9:8), but gets it regardless.

What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?

Elijah says that he is no more righteous than his ancestors (1 Kings 19:4), but becomes one of 2 men in the Bible who never die.

Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.

Isaiah feels unworthy to be in God’s presence (Isaiah 6:5), but become God’s prophet.

I am a man of unclean lips

Jonah wishes himself dead (Jonah 4:8), but was God’s instrument for saving a city.

It would be better for me to die than to live.

The following list from David (showing his take on positive affirmations) is not exhaustive:

“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men…” (Ps 22:6).

“I am lowly and despised” (Ps 119:141).

“I am the utter contempt of my neighbours; I am a dread to my friends— those who see me on the street flee from me” (Ps 31:9).

“All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse” (Ps 102:8).


Here are David’s ‘positive confessions’ or affirmations about himself:

“I am poor and needy” (Ps 40:17, 70:5, 86:1, 109:22).

“I am faint… I am worn out” (Ps 6:2,6).

“I am lonely and afflicted” (Ps 25:16), “I am about to fall” (Ps 38:17).

“My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught” (Ps 55:2).

“I am the song of the drunkards…I am scorned, disgraced and shamed… I am in pain and distress” (Ps 69:12,19,29).

So David confesses “I am poor”, but becomes a king.


Here are some NT examples of low self-esteem:

The Prodigal believes himself to be an unworthy child (Luke 15:19).

I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

Yet his father throws a party for him – and restores him.

John the Baptist considers himself an unworthy predecessor to the Messiah (Acts 13:25).

… he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

Yet Jesus says of him, “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt 11:11)

Peter doesn’t believe he merits Jesus’ company (Luke 5:8)

Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!

Yet not only did Jesus not go away from him (which should have been the result of his negative confession), he becomes the “apostle to the Jews” (Gal 2:8) and writes 2 epistles.

The blind man at Bethsaida

When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” (Mark 8:23-24)


Mark 8:25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke the man for a “negative confession” because he still couldn’t see properly even after Jesus prayed for him. Instead Jesus simply prays for him again.

Look at these affirmations that Paul makes about himself:

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Tim 1:15)

What a wretched man I am! (Rom 7:24) 1

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. (Rom 7:18 NASB)

1 Even when Paul is forced to defend his apostleship to the Corinthians, he apologizes for stating his own case when giving his pedigree and qualifications. “In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool” (2 Cor 11:17). He ends by saying, “I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing” (2 Cor 12:11).


Paul writes:

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle…” (1 Cor 15:9).

I am less than the least of all God’s people (Eph 3:8).

Yet despite these negative confessions, Paul is the foremost “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13) and wrote half the New Testament.

And here’s what D.L. Moody, the greatest evangelist of the 19th century, said of himself:

“I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I have ever met.”


Some however clearly understood the value of high self-esteem. Look at this positive confession (made by Satan) and note the high self-esteem and assertiveness – (Isaiah 14:13-14).

I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.


But God says: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12, see also Rev 12:7-9) So the Bible does not teach that what you say you get, provided you are very positive. Satan says “I will ascend to heaven” and gets thrown out of heaven down to earth.


Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee who also had very high self-esteem and practiced positive affirmation (Luke 18:11-14).

God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.

In contrast, Jesus then tells us of a man with low self-esteem, “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said…”

God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Jesus says of the tax collector:

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Despite the positive confession of the Babylonian harlot, God says of her: “She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” (Rev 18:8)

I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn. (Rev 18:7)

Then we have the positive confession by the Laodiceans, which sounds so reminiscent of much of the Western church today (remember this?):

“I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” (Rev 3:17a)

But Jesus says of them:

“you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev 3:17b)

Their affirmation would sound fitting to most “positive confession” proponents. But it did them no good.


Imagine the modern message going to the 2nd to 3rd century Church – while the martyrs were being led out to be eaten by the lions?

Friends, your best days are not behind you. They’re still out in front of you.

Therefore we conquer in dying; we seize the victory in the very moment that we are overcome. Bound to a stake, we are burned on a heap of wood. This is the attitude in which we conquer, it is our victory robe, it is our triumphal entry.

What Tertullian actually said

And what of the martyrs who died to give us the Bible in our own language?

Choose to start your day by declaring what God says about you. Declare, “I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am healthy and strong.’’

What Tyndale actually said

A modern televangelist writes: “Choose to start your day by declaring what God says about you. Declare, ‘I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am healthy and strong.’’ Friend, when you start speaking like that, all of heaven takes notice… Blessings are set in motion. Before you know it, you are living the good life He promised and moving forward into the destiny of blessing He has in store for you!”

What Tyndale actually said while in prison, before being strangled and burnt at the stake: “My overcoat is worn out; my shirts also are worn out. And I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening; it is indeed wearisome sitting alone in the dark.”

Ed McCully, Peter Fleming & Jim Elliot

You are destined for blessing! Are you living the good life that God has prearranged for you?

And what about our modern missionary martyrs who died while fulfilling the Great Commission?

What Jim Elliot actually said

5 missionaries martyred in Ecuador in 1956 in an attempt to share the gospel with the Waodani tribe

He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

And if it isn’t true for the church throughout the ages, but only for those who preach in the US (the richest country in the world) – then it isn’t true at all.

If it wasn’t true for Tyndale who gave us our Bible in English, then it isn’t true for me.

If it wasn’t true for Paul and James who were beheaded, or Peter and Andrew who were crucified, then it isn’t true today. If it didn’t apply to those who wrote the Scripture, how can it apply to us?

If it doesn’t apply to the persecuted church in North Korea, China or Muslim countries – how can it apply to Western Christians? We need to move away from this childish view within Christianity which ignores the problem of pain and suffering.


Well known charismatic, David Wilkerson (of “The Cross and the Switchblade” fame), wrote in the late Keith Green’s Last Days Ministries newsletter, that he too has seen many Christians “throughout our nation, whose faith is shipwrecked” because of the ‘faith’ movement.” He wrote that they began to “believe that getting every desire of the heart depended simply on getting their formulas correct.” 1

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David Wilkerson


He continued, “They were challenged to launch out in God for prosperity, perfect health, and whatever else their minds could conceive. Conceive then believe. That includes removing from your vocabulary any negative thoughts, words, or confessions.” Wilkerson comments, “My friends, that kind of theology is silly,” and proceeds to present the correct teaching about God’s nature and loving relationship in the believer’s life. 1

1 Ibid


Of course all this doesn’t mean that we must be negative, cynical and pessimistic. Christians should be the most positive people around and this reflects in our speech.

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Col 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…

Our outlook on life and our speech should be positive and optimistic. But this is a display of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives – not because we are trying to create a new reality by making positive statements which deny the truth and reality of our situation (i.e. Christian Science).



Paul speaks of people in the last days being pre-occupied with having a positive self-image:

2 Tim 3:1-5 People will be lovers of themselves… boastful, proud… conceited…

Yet many Christian leaders now promote the very love of self that Paul warned would characterize men in the last days.


In the counselling section of Christian bookstore you might see these titles (Remember “People will be lovers of themselves”):

Love Yourself 1

The Art of Learning to Love Yourself 2

You’re Someone Special 3

Self Esteem: You’re Better than You Think 4

1 Walter Trobisch 2 Cecil G. Osborne 3 Bruce Narramore 4 Ray Burwick


Self-Esteem: The New Reformation 1

Self-Love: The Dynamic Force of Success 2

Improving Your Self- Image 3

1 Robert H. Schuller 2 Robert H. Schuller & Norman Vincent Peale 3 H. Norman Wright


The predominant view found in modern Christian counselling is that almost all ills in society can be attributed to low self-esteem.

In fact, prominent Christian personalities can be heard to claim that society’s greatest problem is that of “low self- esteem”, and that everything from abortion, school drop- outs, teen pregnancy to rape, robbery, and poverty can be solved if only we help people to esteem themselves more highly; to love themselves more and more; and to realize their great self-worth! 1

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This preoccupation with self is the result of the godless psychology which has crept into Christian theology and counselling. A typical Christian psychologist writes:

“Our attitude toward ourselves—our self-concept or our self-image—is one of the most important things we possess. Our self-concept is the source of our personal happiness or lack of it. It establishes the boundaries of our accomplishment and defines the limits of our fulfilment. If we think little of ourselves, we either accomplish little or drive ourselves unmercifully to disprove our negative self-evaluation. If we think positively about ourselves, we are free to achieve our true potential.” 1

1 Bruce Narramore, You’re Someone Special


(Robert) Schuller wholeheartedly agrees with humanist-secular psychology that every human being may and should esteem himself as fundamentally good, worthy, and capable. Schuller, therefore, explicitly denies that there is any such thing as original sin. Quoting from Schuller now, “Adam’s sin should not be charged to his children.” Schuller states that “the doctrine of sin is the reason why Christians have behaved so badly for the past two thousand years.” … Of course, the man is a nominally Christian preacher. And, therefore, he must do something with the basic doctrines of Christianity. What he does is to re-define them. According to his re-definition, the truth of inherited sin becomes this, that everyone is born with a negative self-image, an inferiority complex that must be overcome. 1

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According to his re-definition of the cross of Jesus Christ, the truth about the cross is that the cross shows us how worthy every man is, for Jesus died for every man. And He would not have died for unworthy people; therefore, everyone is shown, by the cross of Jesus Christ, to be good and worthy. The cross, of course, was not Jesus’ satisfaction for sin, but it was only intended to show you and me that if we have a dream, as Jesus had a dream, we must be willing to pay a certain cost in order to attain our dream. The good news, according to the gospel of Robert Schuller, the message that he hopes will become the heart of the new reformation, is this message: Every man and woman is good. You only have to realize this and you only have to exercise your inherent ability. 1

1 Ibid


But until the advent of humanistic psychology and its influence in the church, Christians regarded self-esteem as a sinful attitude.

C.H. Spurgeon (19th century): “Self-esteem naturally keeps Jesus out of the heart. And the more our self-esteem increases, the more firmly do we fasten the door against Christ. Love of self prevents love of the Saviour!”

D.L. Moody (19th century): “I firmly believe that the moment our hearts are emptied of selfishness and ambition and self-seeking and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will come and fill every corner of our hearts; but if we are full of pride and conceit, ambition and self-seeking, pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God.”


Dobson objects to such ‘worm’ theology as sinking down before God in a humility that confesses its nothingness, for he confuses recognizing one’s own depravity with self-hatred and personal disgust… He further declares, “Inferiority even motivates wars and international politics.” In fact, he attributes the attempted genocide of the Jews in Germany to an inferiority complex. Things get reversed when discussing inferiority. Suddenly, the most egotistical people are excused with a diagnosis of inferiority. It begins to sound like Isaiah’s prophecy— “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20). 1

1 http:// on_line_resources/ james_dobson_ and_the_gospel_of_self_esteem.htm


Not only is this emphasis on self-esteem not found in the writings of historical Christianity; self-esteem, self-image, self-worth and self-love are not concepts promoted in the Bible. Rather they are drawn from Self-Image Psychology which derives from the branch of modern psychology called Humanistic Psychology.

These concepts and their associated terms are not found within the Evangelical Church until the 20th century with the rise of Humanistic Psychology and its concepts of Self-Actualization and the emphasis on ‘needs’. Humanistic Psychology has played a major role in obsessing this generation with ‘Self’ and was developed by such men as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers… 1

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Maslow’s idea of human development through the Hierarchy of Needs (with the more basic needs at the bottom) is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ teaching. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states that it is the pagans who chase after their felt needs’: “what to eat” and “what to wear”. But he says that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33).


People who think too highly of themselves have the following traits:



Lack of care or concern about others

An inflated sense of their own greatness

Dislike and alienation from other people who don’t appear to adore them

Entitlement - the expectation of having things handed to them without much effort


Paul writes that we should have a modest opinion of ourselves:

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Rom 12:3)

And who can forget Jesus’ words in his Sermon On The Mount:

“Blessed are the meek” (Matt 5:5)?

Jesus also said:

“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10)


So while some would want Jesus to say, “A new command I give you: Love yourself as I have loved you.”

Jesus actually said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13: 34)

Jesus does not command self-love, but rather love for God and love for one another. He didn’t command us to love ourselves, because we already do.

“The object of the Bible is not to tell how good men are, but how bad men can become good.” - D.L. Moody


And so some in the church have taught that when Jesus said “love your neighbour as yourself”, he was advising us to love ourselves first, so that we could then love our neighbours.

Acceptance of psychology’s delusion that a lack of self-love is our major problem meant that Christ’s statement to “love your neighbour as yourself” had to be re-interpreted as a command to love ourselves. Why would Christ command us, if we all lack self-love, to love our neighbours as we [fail to] love ourselves? Christ’s apparent error is now corrected by books and seminars teaching us how to first of all love self so that we can fulfil His command. 1

1 content/ problem-self-love


In contrast, simple exegesis of Christ’s command to “love your neighbour as yourself” would derive from Scripture the following: (1) clearly we must already love ourselves, or such a command would be foolish; (2) this is confirmed by Ephesians 5:29 (For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it…), which is substantiated by the obvious fact that we feed, clothe and care for ourselves and seek to satisfy our own desires; (3) we are thus commanded to manifest love for our neighbours in the same way; i.e., by caring for them as we care for ourselves; and (4) the fact that this command is necessary indicates that, rather than lacking in self-love, our problem is an excessive amount of it, which causes us to be selfish and thus to neglect caring for others. It is this self-centeredness that Christ seeks to correct. 1

1 Ibid


Twenty centuries ago, the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians (5:29), “no man hates himself–no way, man–he pampers himself!” (personal paraphrase). When we place that text alongside Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour as you love yourself,” (properly exegeting the term, ‘as’), the Scriptures say to us, “You love yourself plenty. As a matter of fact, you need no training in this. As a matter of matter of fact, you love yourself too much. Therefore, how about taking the energy you’re pouring into yourself and donating it toward someone else.” Contrast this meaning to the (unintentional) harmful ways of the self-esteem movement, which have falsely convinced us that our greatest problem is the lack of self-love, rather than the presence of it. 1



Dave Hunt writes:

As we have so often noted and documented, this pop psychology myth, having been introduced into Christianity by leaders of impeccable reputation, has become so popular that today it is the prevailing belief throughout the church. It is as though Paul actually wrote, “…in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be haters of their own selves, and as a consequence will need to undergo therapy and attend seminars in order to learn to love themselves properly…” Such mutilations would be required before one could derive the current self-love/ self-worth fad from Scripture. 1

1 content/ problem-self-love


Ironically a secular psychologist Dr. Roy F. Baumeister 1 concludes that people with high self-esteem tend to have low self-control.

His excellent research lays the self-esteem myth to waste. Criminals, he has discovered, do not suffer from low self-esteem. They are not acting out their outrage at being oppressed, suppressed and abused. They are dangerous because they are narcissists. 2 They believe that what they want, they deserve to have, and the ends justify the means. 3

1 Baumeister is Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. He has authored nearly 300 publications and has written or co-written 20 books. He earned his A.B. summa cum laude from Princeton University and his M.A. from Duke University. He earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University. 2 A narcissist is someone who has excessive self-love and who is self-centred. Narcissism says: “All that matters is Me!” 3 John Rosemond, Dec 2, 2001, “Unearned praise leads to mediocrity,” at (Dec 8, 2001)


Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University says, “We need to stop endlessly repeating ‘You’re special’ and having children repeat that back. Kids are self-centred enough already.” 1

After analyzing 16,475 college students over a span of more than 24 years, a group of researchers concluded that today’s collegians are far more narcissistic than previous generations. By 2006, two-thirds of all students had above-average scores on a standardized inventory test that indicated various degrees of self-centeredness - a 30% increase since 1982. 2

1 2


Twenge and her researchers traced the upsurge in narcissism to what they call the “self-esteem movement” that sprang up in the 1980s. They believe the effort to build self-confidence has gone too far, and that parental permissiveness is part of the problem. In her book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before, Twenge asserts that narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favour self-promotion over helping others. They are also more likely to commit infidelities in their personal relationships, be emotionally cold, lie without remorse, and exhibit violent behaviour. 1



The problem with the world is not lack of self-esteem but the opposite – pride and failure to take responsibility for our sin! R.A. Torrey records the following story related by the U.S. evangelist D.L. Moody:


I was invited one day, some years ago, to visit and preach in the Tombs prison, New York. I had supposed that I should address the prisoners face to face, as I used to talk to the prisoners in the chapels of most of our jails. But when I got there, I found I had to stand on a little iron railing running from one tier of cells to another. There was a tier above and one below, and one on the same level with me. There I talked to a great, long, narrow passageway - to gates, to bars, and to brick walls. It was pretty hard preaching. I had never attempted to preach in that way before. I did not know, when I got through with it, how they had received me; and so I thought I would go and see them.


I went to the first cell door and looked in. I found the men playing euchre. I suppose they had been playing all the time that I was preaching, and took no interest in the sermon.

I looked into the window, and said, ‘How is it with you here?’”

‘O chaplain, we do not want you to have a bad idea of us.’

I said to myself, ‘There is no one here to be saved, for there is no one lost.’

And I got away as quick as I could. I went to another cell.


There were 3 or 4 men in there; and I said, ‘How is it with you here?’

‘Well, stranger, we will tell you. We got into bad company, and the men that did the deed got clear and we got caught.’

I said to myself ‘There is no one here for Christ to save, for there is no one lost.’

And I went along to the next cell; and I said, ‘Well, my friends, how is it with you?’

One of them said, ‘A false witness went to court and swore a lie upon me.’

He was perfectly innocent, and ought not to be there.


I went on to the next cell, looked in, and said, ‘Well, my friends, how is it with you?’ They were innocent, thank God! But the man that did the deed looked very much like them. The people thought they were the men, and they got caught. They were perfectly innocent. They were not the men.

I went along to the next cell. But no sooner did I ask the same question than they said they had not had their trial. They were going to have it that week, and they would be out on next Sunday. And so I went on. I never found so many innocent men. They were all innocent. I found a great many innocent men under lock and key, and they were all trying to justify themselves. There was no one guilty but the constables, the justices, or magistrates. They were the guilty ones.


I got discouraged. I thought I would give it up; but I kept on, and I found one man in a cell alone. He had his elbows on his knees, and had his head buried in his hands. As I looked in, I could see the streams of tears running down upon his cheeks. They were the first tears I had seen. It did me good to look at them.

I said, ‘My friend, how is it with you here?’

He looked up. It was a look of remorse and despair. He said, ‘0, sir, my sins are more than I can bear.’

‘Thank God for that!’ said I. ‘Thank God for that!’ ”

‘Ain’t you the man that’s been preaching to us?’

‘Yes, sir.’


‘And yet I thought you said you was a friend to the prisoner; and you are glad that my sins are more than I can bear?’


‘Yes? Then you are a queer kind of friend. How is it that you are glad my sins are more than I can bear?’

‘I am glad that they are more than you can bear. For if they are more than you can bear, you can cast them on the Lord Jesus.’

‘He will not bear my sins. Why I am the worst man living today.’


And he began enumerating his sins, and what a load it was for him to bear. It was refreshing to stand there and hear him tell me. It was the Lord Jesus that had got into that cell and into that man’s heart, and I told him so; then I told him to pray to God to forgive him and to take away his sin. He thought God would never forgive such a sinner as he was.

I told him: ‘You can get all those sins, multiplied by ten thousand, forgiven; because you have committed probably ten thousand more sins than you have thought of. You can sum them all up, and write underneath, “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth from all sin.”’ And I stood there and preached the Gospel to that thirsty soul. He seemed to drink it in. I said, ‘Let us get down here and pray.’ And we did, he inside and I outside.


And after I got through prayer I said, ‘My friend, now you pray.’ ‘I pray! It would be blasphemy for me to pray — for a wretch like me to call upon God.’ I said to him, ‘Call upon God. Ask for mercy. That’s what you want. Ask him to have mercy upon you.’

The poor wretch could not lift his eyes towards heaven. He knelt down on the pavement, and all he could say was, ‘God be merciful to me, a vile wretch!’

After his prayer I put my hand through the window in the door. He got hold of it and shook it, and a hot tear fell on my hand. That tear seemed to burn into my very soul. I said ‘I am going to the hotel between nine and twelve o’clock. I want you to join in prayer, and make up your mind that you will not sleep tonight till you know.’


That night I got much interested in prayer for the man. My heart was so overborne that I could not go back to Chicago without going down to the prison to see him. I went down, and I got the governor of the Tombs to let me in, and I went to his cell; and when I got there and saw him, the remorse and despair had all disappeared. It was all gone. His face was lit up with a heavenly glow. He seized my hand, and tears of joy began to flow.

He pressed my hand and shook it, and said: ‘I believe I am the happiest man in the whole city of New York. I thought when they brought me to this prison I should never go out again. I thought I never could walk down Broadway again. I thought I never could see my godly mother again. Now I thank God that they brought me; for if they had not I would never have known Christ.’


He said, when he prayed the Lord Jesus heard his prayer. I asked him what time of the night he thought it was; and he said he thought it was about midnight that the Lord Jesus came into that cell and saved his soul.

My dear friend, can you tell me why it was that God came into that prison, and passed by cell after cell, and set that one captive free? It was because he took his place as a poor lost sinner, and asked for mercy. The moment sinners do that and cry for mercy, they will get it.



not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive

reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission 1

Scripture says:

Matt 23:12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Eph 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle…

1 Pet 3:8 … be compassionate and humble.

Matt 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

1 Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary


… God my Saviour… has been mindful of the humble state of his servant… He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. (Luke 1:46-52)

The mother of our Lord said the following in her prayer:

Gal 5:19-20 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: … selfish ambition…

Phil 2:3-8 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who… made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself…

James 4:6-10 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.


1 Pet 5:5-6 All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another… Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves. - D. L. Moody.


The Bible says that too much self-love makes you unaware of your sinful state:

“In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” (Psalm 36:2)

And the final outcome for those who are self-seeking?

Rom 2:5-8 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.


Rather than self-love and teaching that God wants you to be successful, reach your full potential and fulfil your dreams; Jesus taught self-denial:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24)



Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

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