Results tagged “Self-Righteousness” from Reformation21 Blog

Souls Always Need More Curing

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David Powlison, in his excellent book Seeing With New Eyes, touches on the reality of indwelling sin--particularly with regard to what we believe and how it impacts our actions. Powlison rightly insists that all believers live in a tension between the flesh and the Spirit in this life. Employing the illustration of "competing voices" he writes,

"In each saint, the cravings and works of indwelling sin grapple against the Holy Spirit's desires and fruit (Gal. 5). It is no surprise, then, that in life stories you often notice competing voices jostling for the final say. A transcription of what takes place in a person's soul reads like a courtroom drama where different witnesses tell contradictory stories about what happened."

He then gives the following example:

"A man may repent of a criminal lifestyle and find genuine new life in Christ. But, at the same time, in the name of Christ he embraces a bizarre eschatological scheme and a political conspiracy theory. He may genuinely turn from violence and drug addiction--high hosannas! At the same time he may become newly self-righteous toward former partners-in-crime and adopt the abrasive manner of the person who led him to Christ--a Bronx cheer for such results. Souls are cured, but they also sicken in new ways. Souls always need more curing."

I was struck with the profound simplicity of the last two sentences. "Souls are cured, but they also sicken in new ways. Souls always need more curing." Who among us could be so blind to the fact that our souls are constantly in need of more curing? The reality is that most of us are not readily aware of our need for more curing--particularly when it regards a self-righteous attitude or posture toward others who are struggling with sins other than our own at present. This, in turn, reminded me of one of Jonathan Edwards' reflections on the reality of self-righteousness in the lives of believers. In his sermon, "Bringing the Ark to Zion a Second Time," Edwards wrote: 

"A man is brought, when converted, wholly to renounce all his sins as well as to renounce all his own righteousness. But that don't argue that he is wholly freed from all remains of sin. So no more is he wholly freed from remains of self-righteousness. There is a fountain of it left. There is an exceeding disposition in men, as long as they live, to make a righteousness of what is in themselves, and an exceeding disposition in men to make a righteousness of spiritual experiences, as well as other things...a convert is apt to be exalted with high thoughts of his own eminency in grace." 

This is, of course, squarely in keeping with the teaching of our Reformed Confessions about the nature of sanctification. For instance, Westminster Confession of Faith (Ch. 12.2) declares, "Sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh."

No matter how long we have been Christians, of this much we must be certain: Our souls always need more curing. The blood of Jesus never stops cleansing the consciences of believers. There is never a time in our Christian lives when we do not need the cleansing blood of Jesus and the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. There is never a time when we do not find "a continual and irreconcilable war" within. There is always more pride to be leveled. There is always more self-righteousness to be mortified. There is always more love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control to be nurtured in our lives. There is always more greed, lust, envy, laziness, sinful anger, bitterness, jealousy, gossip and slander that needs to be mortified within our hearts and lives. Our souls always need more curing. The good news? God has promised to cure the hearts of His people by the Gospel throughout the time of our sojourning here until He brings us to glory. Only then will we be able to say that our souls need no more curing.



Media Motives Matter

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In this social media age, the Christian would do well to remember Christ's warning, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:1).

"Sound no trumpet," Jesus says, when you give (Matthew 6:2). It is quite an illustration Jesus offers. Here is a person who gives, but before they do so they blow a horn. That will gather some attention! They desire to be seen. They want to be thought well of. They long to be honored.

We don't sound trumpets (that seems a little over the top) but we have other means in our day of being recognized--especially on social media. Many master what has been called the humble brag: "I am so thankful for so and so's thankfulness for me." We are so humbled that we retweet their thankfulness! Virtue-signaling may be the greatest temptation. Of this we have we have made an art-form. It seems the louder and more recognizable, the better. Beware, Jesus warns us, be careful that you aren't doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Motives matter. Jesus warns that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is what marks the life of the hypocrite (o how that stings!). It is the hypocrite, Jesus says, who does righteous deeds to be praised by others (Matthew 6:2). Jesus is concerned with a false righteousness that is no righteousness at all. The motive proves wrong. "Give me applause. Honor me. Celebrate me." We all know that pull, because we all feel it at times and given into it at other times. The desire for the praise of others dominates like few other desires.

Here there is great danger. Here is a trap many fall into and never recover from. The praise of men, like a black hole, pull one deeper and deeper into it. Its gravitational pull is hard to break. And it has no bottom and it provides no light. Let us run from it with every fiber of our being.

Notice, that the hypocrite possesses a religious life. He/she looks alive but there is in fact no life there. Like a corpse prepared for a funeral visitation--everything is in its place. The face has been painted, the skin reflects color, the outward appearance looks living, but there is no life within. Many live such a life on social media before a watching world. We know it is watching and we live for its applause.

Let us not live for the praise of others. Others celebrating us is no sign that God celebrates us as well. Motivation matters. God cares not about the quantity of our service if it is not quality service. And doing good deeds for the praise of others, even on social media, fails to pass the quality standards of God. It proves to be false righteousness. A person living in this way is but a shell of a Christian and the acts they are doing are but a shell of Christian acts. It is all hollow on the inside.

Let it instruct us that Satan doesn't hate or work against the person who makes a show of godliness; he opposes those who are truly godly. What Satan hates, we are to love. What he loves, we are to hate. He had no problem with Balaam as a prophet or Judas as a disciple. In fact, he welcomed their professions. And he welcomed their deeds. But God did not.

Practicing righteousness before others in order is self-serving and is in fact an unrighteousness. And for this Jesus says we will receive no reward from God (Matthew 6:1).

Yet, Jesus says there is a reward. "Truly, I say to you they have received their reward" (Matthew 6:2). Those making a show of righteousness are paid in full. They received a receipt written in bold letters--paid! They should expect and will get nothing more, for they have already been paid in full. With what? Jesus answers, "The praise of men." And what a poor payment that is--a payment fleeting and vapid. And how much was lost!

What God thinks of us not only matters more than what men think of us; it is the only thing that matters. Labor for the rewards above. Set your mind on things above. What this world offers proves too fleeting and what we lose is too great. Let us not practice our righteousness before men for the approval of men, even on social media.