*So…Self-serving attribution bias…do you ever struggle with that?
*”How in the world would I know…I don’t know what you are talking about.”
*Fancy name for…”Taking credit when its not really due, and not taking blame when it is.”
*One researcher wrote…”People seek a positive image of themselves and their environment with such vigor that reality is at times selectively interpreted and at others time patently ignored.”
*This has been called…”nature’s eldest law”…”a way for the individual to protect the fragile ego from the blows of reality.”
*Yet another argued that this “trait” was the result of “natural selection”…we have evolved this way of thinking…
*Thus, by default…it must be a good thing…since natural selection is always “intelligent in its design”
*Finally another wrote that this widespread feature of human thinking allows for the maintenance of mental health.
*The conclusion, among many psychologists has been that this kind of thinking…which is basically, dishonest thinking…not fully accepting blame… when not taken too far…is positive, its good for you.
*You are less likely to have depression, you will live longer, be more successful…when you have just enough of this self-serving bias…when you slant life in your favor just enough.
*So in others words…a mild degree of living in a state of illusion helps you.
*I just can’t buy that.
*Helps you how? Helps you for how long? And Helps you at what cost?
*Is it really true that we require a certain amount of unreality…mild delusion…in how we view ourselves…in order to maintain mental health?
*Does this strike you are contradictory?
*Do our egos really need protection from the blows of reality? *Does this mean we should nurture unreality thinking?
*How do we do turn this on and off?
*How does this impact relationships?
*Something vital to human well being but something we seem to be, on the whole, bad at. *Maybe the two facts are tied together…
*Our self-serving bias and the fact that we are often crummy at relationships.
-“We need to feel good about ourselves”
-“This feeling good about ourselves requires some level of taking credit when there is none, and refusing blame when there is some.”
-This approach is very hard on relationships…especially when you have two people doing that to each other in order to feel good about themselves.
*I propose there is another way.
1. Not a self-serving bias (avoiding blame)
3. A realistic estimate…to move towards seeing ourselves as we really are.
Rom. 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: 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.
*Paul equates humility with a “sober judgment”.
*Humility…don’t think too high of yourself…instead be sober in your self-estimate.
*So this is not…”don’t think more highly than you ought”=think bad about yourself.
*This is to think in a “realistic-thinking” kind of way about yourself.
*Do so in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you
*This is important…this “faith” he is talking about…is not a subjective, individualized approach to thinking about yourself.
*Not “I have this much faith, you have that much.”
*This is the objective standard of faith that all believers have in common…THE Faith itself…THE Gospel. *This is the yardstick by which we are all to measure ourselves.
“Don’t have a self-serving bias, but think realistically about yourself…do this by thinking of yourself in light of the Gospel, the truth.”
*What might that mean?
1. I am made in God’s image
2. I am sinful, I deserve God’s judgment…on my own; there is nothing good in me.
3. I am forgiven because I have believed the gospel…Christ has saved me.
4. I will continue to need the gospel and forgiveness and grace…because I am now a forgiven sinner…I am not sinless.
*When I sin, I can take blame and not be shattered…my ego doesn’t need unreality…it has the gospel.
*I am accepted and loved because he is good not because I am. *This is clear thinking.
*We spent most of the month of May looking at bad thinking patterns contrasted with good thinking patterns in the Psalms.
1. Emotional reasoning
3. False Dilemma
4. Self-serving bias
*We want to think clearly and correctly about life, ourselves, others and God…so we can live the good life on the good path.
Psa. 51:0 For the director of music. A Psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Psa. 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
*We looked at this Psalm the last week in February…but it is important enough to look at again.
*The background is:
*David impregnated a loyal soldier’s wife, then had that soldier killed in order to cover his crimes.
*The Bible doesn’t sugar coat its heroes…David, the greatest of all kings…commits horrible crimes…yet God is not done with him.
*This fact alone is significant.
*It is also important to note that the truth is, the Bible does not present any man as a hero…the only superstar in the Scriptures is the Lord Jesus…he is the lone heroic figure.
*Back to Ps 51…this is David’s confession of sin and expression of confidence.
1. David’s Ruthless self-assessment:
*Blot out my transgressions
*Wash away my iniquity
*Cleanse my sin
*My sin is always before me
*I have done what is evil
*You are right when you judge
*I have been sinful from birth
*In this clear-headed and ruthless self-assesment: he is not looking for someone else to blame, or excuses, or reasons for his sin…he assumes full responsibility.
*Some would say this borders on pathology…that this kind of “self-loathing” is dangerous. *He is not self-loathing…and the pathology is in the sin, not in the confession of the sin. *The sickness is in the sin, the health is in the honest confession.
*We looked several weeks ago at the necessity of nurturing a hate for sin.
*I told the story of my friend whose 17-year-old son spent 20 years in prison for a single night of rebellion.
*How much it cost the entire family…broke his wife’s health.
*How could God not hate sin we sees the cost so clearly? How could we not?
*In the same way…how could we not want to know what is real about our culpability?
*We don’t want to think we are right when we are wrong…there is no health in that, no future in that, no change in that.
*We want to know what is most true…so we can live in that truth.
*I think it is nonsense to think that our mental health depends on a degree of self-serving bias.
*This might be true if our mental health were divorced from the truth of the gospel.
*We have the great opportunity to live in the harsh light of reality…and at the same time not have to worry about our fragile selves surviving.
*Because the light reveals both our sin and his grace…not just our sin.
*A worldview is not what you see but the lens through which you see everything.
*The worldview of many who have come to the conclusions I mentioned is not founded on the gospel.
*For them, I must hide some of myself in the shadows in order to survive…why?
*Because the light of reality can expose my sin, my failure, my need…and leave me right there…exposed…naked…shamed…because there is no savior and no salvation for them.
*But we know the same light that exposes sin and need…reveals love and grace.
*1John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
*God is light, there is no darkness at all…there is no room for unreality…we don’t need it for mental health…it is contrary to spiritual and ultimately mental and relational health.
*If we walk in the light as he is in the light…we have fellowship…relationship with each other…and the ongoing cleansing of sin through the gospel.
*If we claim to be without sin…such as in the self-serving bias “its not my fault”…we deceive ourselves. *If we confess our sins…we experience forgiveness.
*We are children of the light…we want to walk in the light and have our sins exposed, our faults exposed…we don’t need to fear exposure.
*Because that very same light that exposes sin…cleanses sin.
*We don’t need a little bit of self-deception in order to avoid depression and anxiety…in order to be successful.
*Regardless of what research has shown regarding the self-serving bias…it does not take into account the gospel.
*In the gospel we are first exposed by God…our need is revealed…but we are not left exposed, we are covered by his grace.
*Is. 6:1 Isaiah had a magnificent revelation of God…and his response was…
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
*Isaiah was exposed…he saw himself in the light of God’s holiness…and he feared for his life. *It was unbearable to see his sinful self in the full light of God.
*No wonder self-serving bias has been found universally across the planet…every race, gender, and every age.
*We don’t want to see ourselves as we are.
*But God made provision here for Isaiah…and this provision was a foreshadowing of the gospel.
*His guilt was removed and his sin atoned for.
*Look at another place where sin was exposed by God then covered by him.
*Adam and Eve sinned, then in their shame they tried to both hide from God and cover their own shame.
*The pitiful attempt to hide from God as well as to use some vegetation to cover their nakedness was typical of how humanity would respond to shame going forward.
*Hiding from God and futile attempts to cover our shame.
*The first couple did receive God’s judgment…but also his mercy, and this show of mercy covered their newly found shame and also foreshadowed the gospel.
Gen. 3:21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
*A sacrifice was made to cover their shame…a greater sacrifice would cover ours.
*Let’s go back to Ps 51…second part of David’s response to his own failure.
2. David expressed confidence in God’s Forgiveness:
*David confessed…held nothing back…but look at his confidence in making this confession.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
*Clean, whiter than snow, joy and gladness, pure heart
*The gall of this guy…he committed adultery and murder…how can he presume that these wonderful things will happen to him?
*He doesn’t deserve this, he deserves to suffer and die. *But his confidence is in the grace of God.
*My Grandson, just three is devastated when I tell him “no”…not just in the sense that he is not getting what he wants…
*But he is undone by the idea of being wrong…you can see it in his face…its almost shock, dismay…he can become emotionally flooded.
*He is a great kid, so much fun…but in his childish heart and mind…he cannot handle “I am wrong” …not yet.
-Parents will wonder “Who taught my child to lie to cover their rebellion, their mistakes…we didn’t.” *You didn’t have to…Adam did…its called sin nature.
*They often will lie to avoid being wrong, or seen as bad…even when you have not treated them in ways that make them feel shame.
*We don’t grow out of this after our pre-teen years…it remains a struggle. *Less so when we learn to see ourselves in the light of the gospel.
*David didn’t confess that he deserved any of the mercy of God…he fully confessed his failure.
*It was his confidence in God’s mercy that fueled his confidence of being forgiven and restored.
3. David’s honesty with his sin and confidence in God’s mercy…positioned him to honor God with his life.
Ps. 51: 13 THEN I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
*Isaiah experienced this was well…
*He was cleansed of his sin…8 THEN I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
*Most people expect God to be perfect and but most do not expect Christians to be.
*What they do expect, and rightly so, is for Christians to be honest about their failure…and to be confident of God’s grace.
*This is evidence of living what we believe.
*The result of experiencing God’s grace…for David and Isaiah…was that they were sent out to be personal witnesses for God.
*They were not disqualified from being witnesses to the grace of God by their sin…they were, after all, testifying to the grace of God.
2 Cor. 4:5 “We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord…” CONCLUSION:
*What drives the impulse to deny, cover, avoid, honesty with our own sins? *Maybe at the root, its fear
*Maybe fear drives our shame, our anger, our hiding, our denying.
*Fear…I will be undone. I will be rejected. My goals will be blocked. I will be seen for who and what I am…a fraud, a failure, weak, sinful, whatever.
*We must not hide our sins…we must not give in to fear of exposure…if we do we will not prosper, and I’m not talking about finances…I’m talking about life itself…a life on God’s path.
Prov. 28:13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
*The antidote to this fear that drives our hiding and sliding away from God and others is love…not courage…but a focus on God’s love.
1John 4:17 But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
*The perfect love here is God’s love for us…because of the Gospel we do not have to live in fear of punishment.
*Punishment revealed in…shame, exposure, loss of respect, God making us “pay” through bad things happening, or turning his back on us.
*Evaluation question: When things go wrong in your life, do you automatically assume you are paying for something you did wrong?
*It’s possible this is the case…but often it is not the case.
*Why do we live in this state of fear that we will be punished rather than believing that we are being loved…even when, especially when, things are not going well?
*We don’t fear being honest with our sin. *Again, the same light that exposes us, heals us.
*I am not advocating confessing your sins on Facebook…or using honesty with your sins like some badge of honor.
*The starting point is in our own hearts…what are we afraid of and why?
*Last week as I prepared to speak to some folks I didn’t know very well, some not at all…I became afraid of failure.
*As I prayed about it sitting in my chair about to speak I asked myself (and God)…what if I do fail…get nervous, stumble, sweat…what is I fail…what then?
*Well I would have stumbled, sweated…looked weak, looked bad, nervous…what was I really afraid of? *I said “Ok, God…I may stumble on my words …but I choose confidence in you.”
*This is a trifle of an illustration…but I think it is fundamental to what we are talking about.
*We must choose whether we will live in fear…self-protect, hide, let shame or fear of shame drive us. *Or whether we will live with confidence in his love…this applies to seeing ourselves honestly.
*We must not assume that we must live in fear rather than in confidence in his love.
*Brutal honesty with our own sin can be a step of faith that can feel like you are stepping off a cliff…even though you are stepping onto a stable, firm place.
*If I was David…I’m not sure I would be able to show my face in public again…let alone lead a nation…but he did.
*His shame did not define him…and he did have shame, plenty of it…but he stepped up and accepted God’s restoration.
*These words feel weak and inadequate to me in expressing this truth.
*I pray God will add his power and adequacy to them.
*Put your confidence in his love, not in your own feelings of fear that drive shame.
*Confess and renounce your sins…in appropriate ways…and you will find mercy, you will prosper.
*Do not attempt to protect your fragile self…from the harsh blows of reality…open your fragile self to the love of God.
*The same light that reveals sin and shame, heals sin and shame…so we must not avoid the light, we must live in it.