For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 (NASB)
The heart of man is supremely fixed on self, and the culture we live in furthers the notion that man is by nature "good." Parents are taught to promote self-worth in their children through verbal encouragement and schools facilitate this by removing competition for winning first place in games, or having winners at all, (by the handing out of trophies and ribbons to all the children) using pass only grading systems (no one fails) and ceasing the use of letter grades so children don't feel bad about getting a "C" compared to the other children in the class. This is supposed to promote a healthy self-esteem according to guys like Richard Narramore.
Biblically, there is no such thing as self-esteem, the words are not in the Bible. You would not know that by what you hear from some pulpits these days. Some schools of theology teach that God saved man because He found him worthy of being saved. This is saying that man is good and God added to his goodness. This is a lie from the pit of hell. As much as I want to think that I am worthy of God, and that I was so special that God died for me, nothing is further from the truth. No one is worthy of God's favor. No one is good enough to merit His love and grace.
Isn't that the whole point of grace in the first place? Grace is unmerited favor! It means that I am not good enough, I bring nothing, my so-called righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and there is nothing whatsoever that I can do to change those facts on my own.
I ask once again, how can a sinner in need of salvation ever understand that he or she is a sinner in need of salvation apart from accepting the reality of their condition apart from Christ?
In reality, what promoting "self-esteem" does for a person is to insulate them from the gospel. Don't misunderstand what I am saying here; I am not promoting cruelty or suggesting we never share a kind or encouraging word to our children or to each other but this whole idea of promoting a positive self is devastating our society.
Paul tells us to take a realistic view of ourselves through the lens of Scripture, and to see ourselves as God sees us. From God's heavenly perspective, we are horribly broken and in desperate need of His help. We are alienated from Him because of our inborn sin (Romans 2:5;Colossians 3:6,7)) and our wicked hearts (Jer. 17:9) that lead us toward every kind of depravity.
A propped up self-esteem also leads a person toward feeling oriented living. They have to feel good about themselves, have the approval of others all the time, always succeed, and never be imperfect. This in turn leads to a growing fear of man lifestyle.