It’s quite likely that you’re a great encourager . . . of yourself. I know I am.
I slip into spending my days blowing the winds of affirmation for every brilliant decision, every sacrificial service, every exercise of godly discernment, every carefully crafted word. I give myself to self-exaltation. I want others to think I’m as great as I think I am. Moreover, I can want God to think that I’m as great as I think I am. Given all that I do for him, he must be really glad to have me serving his church.
No one may ever know if or when I have these thoughts, but there is a huge problem. My private thoughts of affirmation sow seeds of gospel deprecation. I subtly place my hope and my identity in my actions. My life and ministry become about what I accomplish and what I do or don’t do compared to others. Like the Pharisee of Luke 18, my personal words of encouragement function to declare that I am that I am not like other men. I am a functional Pharisee. My sin takes God’s gracious inclusion of me in his work and assimilates it into the Glorify Me project.
The songs we sing in gathered worship should present an antidote to our pharisaical hearts. We need to sing songs that help us enter into the rest of Christ’s finished work. We need to be reminded that there is no level of activity or perceived righteousness that we can attain to make us any more justified before God. We are all in desperate need of God’s mercy and our only hope for righteousness before God is in Jesus Christ, and him alone.
Every week our songs give us an opportunity to exhort one another that we be not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). We can be challenged to die to our legalistic mindset and find life and rest in Christ. Do your songs accomplish this? If not, consider singing “Not in Me” this week. Find your rest in what Christ has done for you.
Not In Me
Words and Music by Eric Schumacher and David L. Ward, © 2012
No list of sins I have not done, no list of virtues I pursue,
No list of those I am not like can earn myself a place with you.
O God! Be merciful to me. I am a sinner through and through.
My only hope of righteousness is not in me, but only you.
No humble dress, no fervent prayer, no lifted hands, no tearful song,
No recitation of the truth can justify a single wrong.
My righteousness is Jesus’ life. My debt was paid by Jesus’ death.
My weary load was borne by him, and He alone can give me rest.
No separation from the world, no work I do, no gift I give
Can cleanse my conscience, cleanse my hands, I cannot cause my soul to live.
But Jesus died and rose again. The pow’r of death is overthrown!
My God is merciful to me and merciful in Christ alone.