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

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”

Daily Meditation on God’s Love

“It’s essential for us to think about God’s love today because it is only his love that can grant us the joy that will strengthen  our hearts, the courage that will embolden us in our fight against sin, and the assurance that will enable us to open up our lives to him so that he might deal powerfully with our unbelief and idolatry.  If we’re not completely convinced that his love is ours right now-fully and unalterably ours-we’ll always hide in the shadows, focusing on our performance, fearing his wrath.  Prayer will be hard because we won’t want to approach him or be transparent before him.  Witnessing will be a chore, for who would want to talk to others about a god who is demanding, angry, or cold?  If we don’t consciously live in the light of his love, the gospel will be secondary, virtually meaningless, and Jesus Christ will fade into insignificance.  Our faith will become all about us, our performance, and how we think we’re doing, and our transformation will be hindered.

What must we remember?  Simply that God loves us so much that he crushed his Son so that we might be his and that this love isn’t based on our worthiness or performance.  His love doesn’t fluctuate from day to day.  It was settled the moment he set it upon you before the foundation of the world.”

Elyse Fitzpatrick “Because He Loves Me”

Heart’s Ease

“Oh set your hearts to the consideration of the incomparable unparalleled love of Jesus, in dying that cursed death of the cross for sinners.  Consider and meditate, hold your hearts to it, until your hearts be affected with His love, His love that passeth the love of women, love passing understanding.  And consider how well He deserves and how much He challenges your love.  Consider once again, what a most lovely person Jesus is, who is altogether lovely, the “brightness of his Father’s glory, in whom dwells all fullness,” Heb 1:3, and in whom is all power in heaven and earth, Matt. 28:18, and labor to affect your hearts with His most admirable excellencies, and then come unto Him weary and heavy laden with your sins, willing to part with them all; give up your whole selves to Him, give Him your whole hearts, and take Him for your Head and Husband, for your only Lord and Savior; enter actually into covenant with Him, to become His, and His alone, and  His forever.  Thus work out your salvation and your consolation, by believing in Jesus, in blessed, all-sufficient Jesus, trusting to Him, be trusting all with Him, and God will work in you “both to will and to do.” Phil. 2:12, 13.  Use these means in the strength of God, and doubt not, but in the use of them, you shall obtain this precious faith; which having and acting, you shall find it to be your heart’s ease in all your heart trouble.”

John Bunyan “Heart’s Ease in Heart Trouble”

“In your pursuit of godliness, have you left Jesus behind?”

The title of this post is a quote from one of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s books entitled “Because He Loves Me”.  Reading that book, by the grace of God, turned me around spiritually.  It is my hope that this blog will be a tool that points to Christ and that it will bring glory to Him.  It is not my plan for this to be a blog in the traditional sense (where I write about my life, opinions, etc.).  My desire is to have a place where one can read Biblical, cross-centered quotations as an encouragement in daily God-honoring  living.

“True Christianity is not a program of self-improvement; it’s an acknowledgement that something more than self-improvement is needed.  What’s needed is death and resurrection; gospel words, gospel constructs, gospel motives, gospel power–a loving Redeemer.”

Elyse Fitzpatrick (Because He Loves Me)