The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thinking Too Highly of Ourselves

There's a problem infecting Western Christianity today. We're more enthralled with ourselves than with God. We think high thoughts of ourselves and low thoughts of our Creator. We're obsessed with our own needs and ignore His sovereign purposes. We love sharing our life experiences with anyone who'll listen, yet we're ashamed to tell His story.

Why is this? I believe it goes back to the root of what we've been told from the moment we were introduced to the general tenor of Christianity in the Western world - be it as a child or an adult. The typical gospel invitation makes much of us. It's sold like a business transaction with the primary beneficiary being us, not God. Does the gospel benefit us? Of course! But Jesus did not primarily come to make much of Himself or us. He came to make much of His Father (John 8.54; 12.27-28; 13.31-32; 17.1). God's glory first. Our welfare second. The Creator's exaltation first. Our intrinsic value as creatures next. If it was so for God's Son, should this divine priority be any different for those He came to save?

But the very "self" that's being solicited in so many evangelistic appeals is one and the same with pop-psychology and modern therapy. It just has Jesus language slapped on it. How is it different from the Oprah montra of, "You can be whatever you want to be! [Solution?] You just need to love yourself."? Some evangelical authors, seminar holders, pastors and evangelists often say the same thing. "Jesus loves you! [Conclusion:] So you can have whatever you want to have; be whatever you want to be; do whatever you want to do!" It's a gospel of self-actualization; Scripture calls for death to this self - called the "flesh" in the NT, which comes from the first Adam and is wickedly rebellious to God and His ways. But once we die to it through the cross of Christ (Rom. 6.6-7), we find resurrection life on the other end (6.8-9; cf. Gal. 2.20).

We're misssing out. On joy. On love. On true usefulness. By making much of ourselves and not God, we've become false converts (at worst). We've retarded our Christian growth (at best). Some of us need to go back to the roots of our American Christianity and realize we were lied to. God did not come to make much of me. He came to make much of Himself through me. But before He can even do that, I must so identify with His Son's death that it becomes mine. And why must I die? Because the rebel needs to be order for Jesus to be reflected. And this does not come from first loving myself. It comes by despising that which is in me that wants to eat forbidden fruit - constantly. And when this starts happening, the Holy Spirit is at work. The gospel's grip is taking hold.

"We cannot seriously aspire to [God] before we begin to become displeased with ourselves." - John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. by John T. McNeil, Vol 1 (37) 

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