Men, for the most part, are not lost enough in their own feeling for a Savior. — Richard Sibbes)
It is possible to be blinded by what we believe is our own goodness. “I’m alright,” we think. “I gave my life to Christ a long time ago. I’m just trying to live day by day.” We misunderstand the dire nature of our weakness, our sinfulness, and our spiritual desperation. We often do not see clearly how much we need the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.
Are you keeping watch on yourself? Taking note of your own heart? Have you understood your failures, your tendencies to serve self, work for self, promote self, seek self? Or have you thought also, “I’m alright,” believing that sin must be some outwardly obvious act to be “sin,” blinded so easily by your need for the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ?
Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but the humble will be exalted. These are the words of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel; this is not the only place in the Bible where similar warnings are spoken to sinful men. Why the warnings? Because our sin nature cries, “Me first! Look at me! Aren’t I wonderful?” or else, “I’m awful, undeserving of attention. Do not look at me. I cannot believe that Christ’s atonement is sufficient to cover my sin.”
Neither of these are attitudes are founded in the gospel, and both are rooted in pride.
The person who displays the first attitude forgets that Christ alone is perfect in splendor and holiness, wholly magnifying and reflecting the glory of the Father. They forget that the whole point of the story of salvation as told throughout the Bible purposes to put on display the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. They resist the reality that apart from Christ they can do nothing, and they believe that Jesus is merely a means to an end: a better life in eternity, a better life now, perhaps even a reason to stumble into sin because “grace abounds all the more.”
This person is greatly deceived and is not lost enough in their own feeling for a Savior.
The second person equally forgets that Christ alone perfect in splendor and holiness, wholly magnifying and reflecting the glory of the Father. They forget that the atoning work of Christ upon the cross is indeed sufficient to save unworthy, rebellious, repentant sinners. They believe that self-deprecation is the means to eventual glory—because doesn’t self-deprecation mean that they are humbly working their way to heaven?
This person is also greatly deceived, ironically so, and is not lost enough in their own feeling for a Savior.
In both cases, pride is present, but in different forms and degrees. The pride of the first says, “All of these wonderful, freely bestowed spiritual blessings and gifts must mean that I am doing exactly what God wants me to do. He must be so pleased with me!” The pride of the second says, “I cannot believe that any of these bestowed spiritual blessings and gifts are freely mine Christ, so I will continue to work for them. I will assert my own worthiness by continually asserting my own unworthiness!”
Both of these cases involve people greatly deceived, who are not lost enough in their own feeling for a Savior.
So what is it to be lost enough? What is it to know true humility, to be brought low, the kind of humility which Christ says he will exalt on the Last Day?
Sibbes says this about the genuinely humble sinner saved by grace, whom he calls a bruised reed:
A set measure of bruising of ourselves cannot be prescribed, but it must be so far as (1) that we may prize Christ above all, and see that a Saviour must be hadthat we reform that which is amiss, though it be to the cutting off of our right hand, or pulling out of our right eye. (12, emphasis mine)
So, according to Sibbes, the genuinely humble believer: (1) Sees his or her need of salvation because of seeing clearly the great, saving glory of Christ in the gospel and; (2) Turns from those sins which would keep them from reflecting the great, saving glory of Christ and drawing near to Christ, through the gospel, in tender fellowship. As the Bible says, a broken and contrite heart the Lord God will not despise (Ps. 51:17).
May we become broken and contrite people who are increasingly aware of how much we need the mercy and grace of God shown in Jesus Christ because we are soaking in the perfect, unmatched glory of the Son in the Bible. May we become people who realize that it is only through divine humbling in the gospel that we will eventually be exalted with Christ in the heavenly places.
May we become people who run straight-away to Christ our Advocate when he convicts us of sin because we trust that he has taken that sin and shame away, as far as the east is from the west, replacing it with his spotless record of righteousness.
May we find ourselves truly lost in our feeling for a Savior.
…a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Is. 42:3)