Stripped of Self-Righteousness

“Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross.  For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away.  It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves.  Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross.  There these noxious weeds shrivel and die.  They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are.  For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed.  It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior we urgently need.”

John Stott “The Cross of Christ”

Look Away From Self

“It is the Holy Spirit who turns our eyes and our thoughts entirely away for self and ‘unto Jesus’.  It is the work of Satan on the other hand to turn our eyes back upon ourselves, for it is the evil one who is constantly encouraging us to put self first.  He does this in two ways:  he tells us, first of all, that we are too sinful, too depraved, that we cannot have enough faith or repentance, for God to save us.  He tells us that we are too weak to hold out, that the Christian life will not bring us joy.  On the other hand, Satan tells us that we are too important to humble ourselves in God’s sight, not bad enough to need God’s forgiveness.

On the opposite side of the picture, the Holy Spirit tells us that Christ is all and we are nothing, that it is not our hold upon Christ but His hold upon us that saves us.  The Holy Spirit tells us that our joy is in Christ and not dependent upon outward circumstances, that our salvation is in Christ and not in any merit of our own.  ‘Look unto Jesus,’ the Holy Spirit tells us–not to ourselves, not to our surroundings, not even to our loved ones.  We can never find happiness by looking for it in our feelings, in our circumstances or even in our belief in Christ.  Happiness is only to be found in Christ Himself.  Iti is not what we are but what Christ is that gives us rest unto our souls.

The only way we can overcome Satan’s temptation to us to look to self is by ‘looking unto Jesus,’ keeping our eyes solely on Him.  his death, His sufferings, merits and constant intercession for us at the Father’s right hand should be uppermost in our thoughts.  It is Christ who is our Mainstay when we lie down for the night and when we awaken at daybreak.

….It is only by looking unto Jesus and contemplating the love of God revealed in Him that we can see vice in its true colors and come to know the joy of walking in His steps.”

Keith L. Brooks

 

My Testimony

I was recently asked by one of the elders of our church to give my testimony as part of one of our Sunday evening worship services in July 2010.  I thought I would  post what I wrote and shared with my church family.

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1975.  My parents were both Catholic and raised my brother and me to be the same.  I attended a Catholic elementary school for first through eighth grade.  My parents were married very young and they didn’t have a good relationship.  My Father had a terrible temper and treated my Mom badly, including physical abuse.  They fought a lot and I can remember hiding in my room whenever they argued and being very afraid that my Dad would turn on me in anger.  When I was 8, after my parents had separated and reconciled one time, they finally decided to divorce.

By the time I entered high school, my Dad was remarried and stable.  I moved in with my Dad and Stepmom and began regularly attending an evangelical church.  I was sitting under sound teaching and the Bible began to make sense to me and I knew what it said was true.   I knew I was a sinner that needed a Savior.  I am not sure exactly when I became a Christian but it was early in my ninth grade year of High School.  I was baptized about a year later.  I had a hunger and desire for God’s word and developed regular devotional times, was active in youth group and service to the church body even as a young person.  I met Mike when I was 19 at my best friend’s wedding.  He was the best man for his twin brother and I was the maid of honor.  We developed a friendship which grew stronger and we were married shortly after.

Over the years, unbeknownst to me, I slowly slipped into a performance relationship with the Lord.  About 2 years ago, the Lord brought me to despair over besetting sin in my life.  I was frustrated and struggling even to the point that I doubted my faith.  I wondered why things were so difficult and often questioned why I seemed to have no love for God.  I can remember sitting on my bed in despair and saying to myself “I’ve got to be missing something”.  I figured that I just wasn’t trying hard enough to overcome my sin, I wasn’t serving enough, or I was doing something wrong and God was displeased with me.

In early Spring of 2008, I purchased a book by Elyse Fitzpatrick called “Because He Loves Me”   The Holy Spirit used it to completely change my life and correct a huge area of un-Biblical thinking that had been affecting my view of God and my relationship with Him.

I realized that I was living as though I didn’t need Jesus anymore after being saved.  I had thought the pursuit of holiness and progressive sanctification was all about me and my own effort.   When things seemed to be going well for me-I was obeying, serving, didn’t miss devotional times and had regular prayer I was tempted to be self-righteous and prideful and believed God would bless me and be pleased with me. When things in my walk weren’t going so well; I was stuck in sin, not reading my Bible, etc., I was bogged down in despair and guilt feelings overwhelmed me.  I wondered how displeased God must be with me and what I needed to do to make up for it or I lived in fear of Him punishing me.  I really don’t believe I had any joy in the Lord and I certainly didn’t have a love for Him.  I was probably more afraid of Him than anything else and everything I did was out of duty or because I knew I had to or punishment was coming!  This is what I mean when I say I was living in a “performance relationship” with the Lord and the standard was MY own performance and most often my LACK of it.

As I read “Because He Loves Me”, the Lord revealed to me the errors in my thinking.  He showed me that I was living as if Christianity was a self improvement program and that I had forgotten the good of the Gospel.  He showed me that I need the Gospel just as much now in my Christian life as I did to get saved in the first place.  Now I am seeking and asking the Lord to help me apply the Gospel to everyday situations in life.  For example, I recently took my 4 children to piano lessons.  It is about a 30 minute drive one way to our piano teacher’s home.  Upon arriving, one of my children informed me that they had forgotten their piano books.  My first reaction was anger and self-righteousness.  I had thoughts like “I drove all this way and you can’t even remember your books?  Don’t you see the sacrifice I am making?  Now what are we going to say to your teacher?”  I was ready to yell and complain.  Then the Holy Spirit began to convict me.  Much of my anger was rooted in not wanting to be embarrassed in front of the piano teacher-I didn’t want to look like an irresponsible Mom and ruin my so called “reputation”.  I didn’t want to extend grace because my child was making me look bad.   Even after apologizing profusely for the mistake; I still wanted to hold it against them.  To borrow the phrase from Jerry Bridges, I began, by God’s grace, to “preach the Gospel to myself”.   The Gospel tells me that I don’t deserve a good reputation, only Christ does, yet He was willing to give that up for me.  The Gospel reminds me that my sin murdered the Son of God, yet because of His sacrifice, I have been forgiven.   When I think about all that Christ gave up for me, all that I have been forgiven, and that He lived a perfectly sinless life in my place,  whatever is tempting me to sin all of a sudden seems a lot less attractive.  With the Lord’s help, in this particular situation, I was able to turn from my sin, talk to my children about the good of the Gospel and ask forgiveness right away.

I wish I could say that I did this perfectly every day, the truth is that I don’t, and I am still learning and really feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of the depths of the Gospel.   Even in my failures and sin though, I am learning to be thankful.  My sin reminds me of my desperate, moment by moment need of Him.  Instead of hours or days of self recrimination and guilt after failure, I am learning that I can come to Him in faith, knowing that His Son has paid the penalty for my sin.  I have no fear of Him and know there is no wrath left for me because Christ bore it all on the cross.  My heart and affections are warmed and my love for Him grows as I remember all He has done and His great love for me, despite my continual failure.  This gives me the courage and motivation to get up and fight besetting sin again.  I am learning to look to Jesus and His perfect work instead of staying focused on myself.

After all these years, I am realizing that God doesn’t want duty driven, outward obedience.  He wants my heart, He wants my love, and He wants a relationship.  Now I can honestly say I want that too and I am so thankful for His mercy and grace.  He could have left me stuck and miserable in the way I had been thinking but He didn’t.

I’d like to close by reading Ephesians 2:6-7:  “And God raised us up with Christ  and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”  It’s ALL HIM!!!

Kristen Keating

He Did Not Spare Even His Own Son!

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

“Our text tells of the gracious character of our loving God as interpreted by the gift of His Son.  And this, not merely for the instruction of our minds, but for the comfort and assurance of our hearts.  The gift of His own Son is God’s guarantee to His people of all needed blessings.  The greater includes the less;  His unspeakable spiritual gift is the pledge of all needed temporal mercies.  Note in our text four things which should bring comfort to every renewed heart.  The Father’s costly sacrifice. Our God is a giving God and no good thing does He withhold from them that walk uprightly.  The Father’s gracious design.  It was for us that Christ was delivered up; it was our highest and eternal interests that He had at heart.  The Spirit’s infallible inference.  The greater includes the less; the unspeakable Gift guarantees the bestowment of all other needed favors.  The comforting promise. Its sure foundation, its present and future scope, its blessed extent, are for the assuring of our hearts and the peace of our minds.  May the Lord add His blessing to this little meditation.”

Arthur W. Pink quoted from “Climbing the Heights”

Are You Cross-Eyed?

“Your mind can only protect against the deceit of the flesh if you are cross-eyed.  That is, you can only keep the rottenness of sin and the kindness of God in mind if you fix your eyes on the cross.  What shows God’s hatred of sin more than the cross?  What shows God’s love to you more than the cross?  If you want to know exactly what sin deserves, you have to understand the cross.  If you want to know how infinitely deep the root of sin reaches, you have to think through all the implications of the cross.  If you want to know how far God was willing to go to rescue you from sin, you have to see his precious son hanging on the cross for you.”

Kris Lundgaard “The Enemy Within”

Always in Need of God’s Grace

“If God’s blessings were dependent on our performance, they would be meager indeed.  Even our best works are shot through with sin–with varying degrees of impure motives and lots of imperfect performance.  We’re always, to some degree, looking out for ourselves, guarding our flanks, protecting our egos.  It’s because we don’t realize the utter depravity of the principle of sin remaining in us and staining everything we do that we entertain any notion of earning God’s blessings through our obedience.  And because we don’t fully grasp that Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins, we despair of God’s blessing when we’ve failed to live up to even our own desires to please God.

Your worst days are never so bad that you’re beyond the reach of God’s grace.  And your best days are never so good that you’re beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Jerry Bridges “The Discipline of Grace”

Remember Jesus

1 Corinthians 11:24
This do in remembrance of Me.

“It seems then, that Christians may forget Christ! There could be no need for this loving exhortation, if there were not a fearful supposition that our memories might prove treacherous. Nor is this a bare supposition: it is, alas! too well confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact. It appears almost impossible that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the dying Lamb, and loved with an everlasting love by the eternal Son of God, should forget that gracious Saviour; but, if startling to the ear, it is, alas! too apparent to the eye to allow us to deny the crime. Forget Him who never forgot us! Forget Him who poured His blood forth for our sins! Forget Him who loved us even to the death! Can it be possible? Yes, it is not only possible, but conscience confesses that it is too sadly a fault with all of us, that we suffer Him to be as a wayfaring man tarrying but for a night. He whom we should make the abiding tenant of our memories is but a visitor therein. The cross where one would think that memory would linger, and unmindfulness would be an unknown intruder, is desecrated by the feet of forgetfulness. Does not your conscience say that this is true? Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus? Some creature steals away your heart, and you are unmindful of Him upon whom your affection ought to be set. Some earthly business engrosses your attention when you should fix your eye steadily upon the cross. It is the incessant turmoil of the world, the constant attraction of earthly things which takes away the soul from Christ. While memory too well preserves a poisonous weed, it suffereth the rose of Sharon to wither. Let us charge ourselves to bind a heavenly forget-me-not about our hearts for Jesus our Beloved, and, whatever else we let slip, let us hold fast to Him.”

Charles Spurgeon “Morning and Evening’

Jesus Fastens His Life to Our Life

“My dear friend, one thing is certainly true about Christ.  All that He has ever been He must forever be.  All that He was to those first disciples, He must be ready to be to any one, even the least of His disciples.  His power is nothing at any one point if it is not powerful at all points; nothing, if not eternal.  How is it possible, then, that Christ should do for you and me what he did for Peter and John, and Matthew and Nathanael?  It is not hard to see, and to many people living just such lives as we live it has become the most real of experiences.  Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, fastens his life to our life.   By His life and death, bearing witness of His love, He twines Himself into our being.  To love Him becomes a real thing.  He is close by our side.   He is right in our lot every day.  Then as we go on living thus with Him some crisis of our life occurs, some need of action.  We are put to some test, and as we stand doubting, or as we go and do the act in our low way, Christ, right by our side, does it in His higher way.  Not that His hands visibly touch our tools and do the work we have to do.  But it becomes evident to us what He would do under our circumstances, what one only thing it would be possible for Him to do as we are situated.

The gates of that nobler life which He has opened shine before us, and his love draws us on to be with Him.”

Phillips Brooks (Quoted from “Climbing the Heights”)

Redemption

“I am crucified with Christ:  Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

“Sing, my soul, sing about Redemption, and forget not to revel daily in its rich refrain:– ‘The Son of God who loved me and gave  Himself for me.’  Here is love’s ultimate goal– ‘Me.’  The poor, wretched, guilty, vile sinner is looked upon, longed for, and loved.  Jesus, the tender, sympathizing Saviour, has set His holy heart upon the sinner.  He must seek him; He must save him; He must succor him; He must have him.  Oh, blessed be God that I am that sinner and Jesus is my Saviour.

Here is Love’s uttermost gesture:–‘gave Himself for me.’  To gain the sinner, to gather the guilty, to rescue the rebel, to lure the lost, Love will go to the uttermost gesture of grace and give Himself a ransom for all, including me.  It is indeed an uttermost gesture.  He cannot do more.  He will not do less.  It is Love’s uttermost limit of love.”

John Ridley

Practical Thoughts on Sanctification

It only remains for me now to bring this subject to a conclusion by a few plain words of application. The nature and visible marks of sanctification have been brought before us. What practical reflections ought the whole matter to raise in our minds?

(1) For one thing, let us all awake to a sense of the perilous state of many professing Christians. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord”; without sanctification there is no salvation.

Then what an enormous amount of so-called religion there is which is perfectly useless! What an immense proportion of church-goers and chapel-goers are in the broad road that leadeth to destruction! The thought is awful, crushing, and overwhelming. Oh, that preachers and teachers would open their eyes and realize the condition of souls around them! Oh, that men could be persuaded to “flee from the wrath to come “! If unsanctified souls can be saved and go to heaven, the Bible is not true. Yet the Bible is true and cannot lie! What must the end be!

(2) For another thing, let us make sure work of our own condition, and never rest till we feel and know that we are “sanctified” ourselves. What are our tastes, and choices, and likings, and inclinations? This is the great testing question. It matters little what we wish, and what we hope, and what we desire to be before we die. Where are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified or not? If not, the fault is all our own.

(3) For another thing, if we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain—we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith, for peace and reconciliation with God. We must place ourselves in His hands, as in the hands of a good physician, and cry to Him for mercy and grace. We must wait for nothing to bring with us as a recommendation. The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.

(4) For another thing, if we would grow in holiness and become more sanctified, we must continually go on as we began, and be ever making fresh applications to Christ. He is the Head from which every member must be supplied.

To live the life of daily faith in the Son of God, and to be daily drawing out of His fulness the promised grace and strength which He has laid up for His people—this is the grand secret of progressive sanctification. Believers who seem at a standstill are generally neglecting close communion with Jesus, and so grieving the Spirit. He that prayed, “Sanctify them,” the last night before His crucifixion, is infinitely willing to help everyone who by faith applies to Him for help, and desires to be made more holy.

(5) For another thing, let us not expect too much from our own hearts here below. At our best we shall find in ourselves daily cause for humiliation, and discover that we are needy debtors to mercy and grace every hour. The more light we have, the more we shall see our own imperfection. Sinners we were when we began, sinners we shall find ourselves as we go on; renewed, pardoned, justified—yet sinners to the very last. Our absolute perfection is yet to come, and the expectation of it is one reason why we should long for heaven.

(6) Finally, let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification, and contending for a high standard of holiness. While some are satisfied with a miserably low degree of attainment, and others are not ashamed to live on without any holiness at all—content with a mere round of church-going and chapel-going, but never getting on, like a horse in a mill—let us stand fast in the old paths, follow after eminent holiness ourselves, and recommend it boldly to others. This is the only way to be really happy.

Let us feel convinced, whatever others may say, that holiness is happiness, and that the man who gets through life most comfortably is the sanctified man. No doubt there are some true Christians who from ill-health, or family trials, or other secret causes, enjoy little sensible comfort, and go mourning all their days on the way to heaven. But these are exceptional cases. As a general rule, in the long run of life, it will be found true that “sanctified” people are the happiest people on earth. They have solid comforts which the world can neither give nor take away. “The ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness.”—“Great peace have they that love Thy law.”—It was said by One who cannot lie, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—But it is also written, “There is no peace unto the wicked.”

J.C. Ryle  “Holiness:  Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots”

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.