Book Review on The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness
By Timothy Keller
Reviewed By Casey Yates
Less than 40 pages, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness might be New York Times best-selling author Timothy Keller’s smallest book, but it is packed full of truth both challenging and encouraging.
Keller uses teaching from Paul’s letter to the divided Corinthian church and vivid imagery to illustrate that our natural human egos are empty, painful, busy, and fragile, constantly trying to build a personal identity around something other than God. This leaves us in imminent danger of always focusing on ourselves, and with egos vulnerable to being overinflated or deflated at any given moment.
In contrast, Keller uses Paul as an example of one whose identity isn’t focused on what he or others think about himself. He points out that Paul’s personal sin doesn’t alter his sense of calling to Christ, nor does he find his worth in the good things he does. Paul’s behavior does not alter his sense of identity. Paul’s identity is found in Christ - in who He is and what He has done on our behalf.
So, how can we obtain this kind of self-forgetfulness? The author reminds us of C.S. Lewis’ concept of “gospel-humility,” defined as “not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” Keller dives further into this concept and points us to the freedom we find when we discover such self-forgetfulness.
Using the illustration of a courtroom throughout the book’s final chapter, Keller reminds us that Jesus Christ went on trial in our place. The verdict has already been given and our performance should be a reflection of that verdict; not the other way around. He cautions us against repetitively putting ourselves back in the courtroom, trying to find our real identity, saying that “true Christian identity operates totally differently from any other kind of identity.”
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is written in Keller’s signature style of taking solid theological truth and making it easily relatable. This book is a much needed reminder that our lives are really not to be lived focused on ourselves, but on the God who placed us here. It left me thinking about how often I let my ego’s natural tendencies take over and forget where my true identity lies. I appreciated the author’s encouragement to remind ourselves of the gospel daily so that we do not get distracted by our ego’s natural tendencies, but rather become overwhelmed by the true Christian joy found in self-forgetfulness.
Meet the Author!
Casey Yates is a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend and speech-language pathologist. Casey loves all things Christmas, British historical fiction, walks, pie and coffee. Lots of coffee.