The Path to True Christian Joy
“We are only proud of being more successful, more intelligent or more good-looking than the next person, and when we are in the presence of someone who is more successful, intelligent and good-looking than we are, we lose all pleasure in what we had. That is because we really had no pleasure in it. We were proud of it. As Lewis says, pride is the pleasure of having more than the next person. Pride is the pleasure of being more than the next person. Lust may drive a man to sleep with a beautiful woman just to prove her can do it and to prove he can do it above the others. Pride destroys the ability to have any real pleasure from her.”
Keller has written a wonderful little exposition of 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 in this wonderful little book. With astonishing clarity, he identifies one of the root causes of ungodliness and its correspondingly painful consequences as the selfishness of our ego. He gives us a blessed glimpse of “self-forgetfulness”, the right gospel-humility of a Christ-like believer. This identification of the problem is shockingly precise; almost every sentence correctly diagnosed my heart. Unreservedly, I cannot stress enough how important and powerful an insight this is.
The conciseness of this book is to be lauded. This is a rare delight in Christian literature; far too many works make an excellent point in their first chapter, only to repeat that excellent point for a dozen further chapters. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is incredibly restrained in that regard. The problem is that in this rare case, it should not have been. Envisaging the attractiveness and simple rightness of the self-forgetful person is genuinely breath-taking, but when it comes to any real practical development for how to achieve it, the book is noticeably silent. Keller’s remedy is for us to realise that we perform based on the imputed righteousness that we already have: “In other words, God can say to us just as He once said to Christ, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” Yes! But taking a further step back, Keller does not tell us how to realise this truth.
Deep down one senses that this could have been gargantuan. Keller kindles an intense desire to be the self-forgetful person. And desiring is, of course, the start of radical change in our walk with Jesus. Keller knows this. He also (surely) knows that this book will not solve the problem, but rather pushes in the right direction in which, understandably, years of prayer, Bible reading and Spirit-sanctification will be necessary to see the craved changes. Yes, somewhere in this book is a call to revolution that could change the everyday breathings of Christians into steadfast joy. But, in a sentence I do not hear myself say often, more would have been helpful.