Saturday, May 12, 2007

Amazing Grace; Not Self-Esteem: Living in the Shadow of the Cross

"I have often heard it said, ‘If I had been the only person on the earth, Jesus would still have died for me.’ Although our Lord could have given his life for just one person, it most certainly would not have been because that person was so valuable, but because God was so gracious. Such an occurrence should hardly, therefore, be regarded as a source of pride or self esteem. For me to argue that Jesus would have died for me if I were the only person on earth simply indicates that my sins alone, without the rest of you contributing your share, were sufficient to demand the severe punishment Jesus Christ vicariously assumed in my place. When faced with that reality, we ought to weep for the selfless sacrifice of our Lord instead of finding in it one more opportunity for feeling good about ourselves." (Don Matzat, et al., Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?, Michael Scott Horton, ed. [Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992], p. 256)

"Jesus did not die on the cross to improve our self-esteem. He died to atone for our sin. And yet the cross does teach us a crucial lesson about our worth: We are each worthy of the wrath of God. As a manifestation of God’s unmerited mercy, the cross reveals the depth and seriousness of our sin." (C.J. Mahaney, The Battle Against Sin, Ch. 4, pg. 41, How Can I Change? [Pursuit of Godliness Series, Sovereign Grace Ministries, 1993)

Unless we understand the nature of sin and how offensive it is to God, we’ll never understand why the cross was necessary. We’ll never be amazed by grace.

"It's when I'm aware of sin, that I appreciate grace the most. " . . . It's when I appreciate the depraved state of my heart that "I invariably lift my eyes to the heavens and express my appreciation for the Savior who hung as my substitute, receiving the wrath that I deserve, and I lift up my voice and express my gratefulness to the one that not only hung on the cross as my substitute, but who rose again from the dead, who has ascended, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, who by his mysterious electing mercy has regenerated my heart. . . . The cross reveals the hight of God's mercy and the depth of our sin. The cross isn't a demonstration of our worth and value; the cross is a manifestation of the mercy of God - the identification of the seriousness of sin. And it should produce in us a passion because we have been forgiven much by the Holy One. . . . This is not to deny we are worthy. We are worthy - we're worthy of the wrath of God." (C.J. Mahaney, The Idol Factory)

Let's compare statements from Robert Schuller, Crystal Cathedral; and the great reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin:

Schuller - "I don't think that anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality, and hence counterproductive to the evangelistic enterprise, than the unchristian uncouth strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition."

Martin Luther - "The main benefit of Christ's passion is that man sees into his own true self and that he be terrified and crushed by this. Unless we seek that knowledge, we do not derive much benefit from Christ's passion. . . . He who is so hardhearted and callous as not to be terrified by Christ's passion and led to a knowledge of self has reason to fear."

John Calvin - "I am not unaware how much more plausible the view is, which invites us rather to ponder on our good qualities than to contemplate what must overwhelm us with shame, our miserable destitution and ignominy. There is nothing more acceptable to the human mind that flattery. . . . Whoever, therefore, gives heed to those teachers who merely employ us in contemplating our good qualities... will be plunged into the most pernicious ignorance."

And finally, "When on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted by our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely 'hell-deserving sinners', then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before." (John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ)

2 Comments:

At 5/14/2007 8:36 AM, Blogger Puritan Lad said...

A superb critique of the modern "therapy" gospel. This type of pop-psychological, self-esteem evangelism is doomed for failure for many reasons, not the least of which being that there can be no redemption in "self-esteem".

Keep up the good work.

PL

 
At 5/15/2007 10:34 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

Hey Thomas,

Amen brother. Thank you for your conviction and your commitment for sharing the truth of our Father.

It is hard to witness those in the Church who want to turn a blind eye towards sin and our true condition.

I have to throw up my hands in utter amazement in how any true follower of Jesus Christ could even remotely attempt to share the gospel with anyone without revealing our sinful nature.

Why did Jesus die for us?

Why did Jesus have to die?

Why did God send His only son to be lower for a time then the angles, to be beaten and humiliated and nailed to a cross?

What was the purpose of the crucifixion and the resurrection?

Was it all just to motivate us to be better people and to realize that if we just try a little harder that we can get along better with each other and realize our self worth?

Ummm.... I have to say NO!

It was because no matter how hard we try, we are and always will be effected by sin. Our righteousness is as filthy rags and we in and of ourselves will never measure up to Gods holy righteousness.

We deserve eternal death.

But thanks be to God the Father for sending his only begotten son to die for us so that we may have eternal life and be transformed into the likeness of the one who knew no sin.

But..... after we are baptized into the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, after we are shown the truth of His Word, should we still continue to focus on the Law?

Should we go on focusing on our inability to obey His perfect moral law. Should we try ourselves to be perfect and feel ashamed, discouraged and defeated when we can't?

I believe this is where a lot of the Church today is going with this type of approach to the gospel.

I believe we need to focus on the truth and that is our righteousness is as filthy rags. But when we proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are justified. (just as if we never have sinned) Our sins have been forgiven, past present and future. We are covered by the blood of the lamb and we should now walk in victory over sin. Does this mean that we should continue on in a lifestyle of unrepentant sin, BY NO MEANS! We now see the beauty of Gods law and we want to try to obey it as best we can, we are now guided and directed by the Spirit indwelling in us to pursue Gods holiness and righteousness.

But we need to remember that we will always struggle with the flesh and that our focus should not be on how well we can obey the law but rather, on demonstrating the fruits of His spirit and in allowing others to see Jesus in us.

I thank God every day for His sons righteousness that has been imputed to me and I try my best to be obedient and faithful, but I still continue to fall. I still get angry, I'm still self centered, I still worry about my outward appearance, I still envy and I'm still prideful and so on. So I am so grateful that I can boldly approach my Fathers throne and ask for His forgiveness and receive His strength and encouragement time and time again.

Y.B.I.C,

Dave

 

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