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)