Yesterday, I listened to a Matt Chandler sermon and to start it off he said, “If I can be honest, when I became a Christian at 18, I thought at age 34 I’d be holier than I am now.” Too bad the audio was corrupt and I only heard 14 minutes of the sermon! Nevertheless, when Chandler said that, I couldn’t help but cry out to God in my heart (I was at the gym, so no verbal processing) that I want to be holier than I am.
Later in the day, I was reading Religious Affections. Johnathon Edwards has a way to make the Christian heart examine itself more thoroughly and seriously than most things I’ve read, outside the Bible. In section 6 he talks about true “evangelical humiliation,” that is, true humility. He writes:
Humility, or true lowliness of mind, disposes persons to think others better than themselves: Phil 2:3, “In lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves.” Hence they are apt to think the lowest room belongs to them, and their inward disposition naturally leads them to obey that precept of our Savior, Luke 14:10…It is not natural to them to think it belongs them to teach, but to be taught; they are much more eager to hear, and to receive instruction from others, than to dictate to others: James 1:19, “Be ye swift to hear, slow to speak.” And when they do speak, it is not natural to them to speak with a bold, masterly air; but humility disposes them rather to speak, trembling. Hosea 13:1, “When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.” They are not apt to assume authority, and to take upon them to be chief managers and masters; but rather to be subject to other: James 3:1-2, “Be not many masters.” 1 Peter 5:5, “All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.” Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
I find in myself a desire to do those things well, by the Spirit. Yet, so often — too often — I come up miserably short. I’m not humble, usually ever. And I see that my biggest battle is to make myself my god. That’s when I really need to cast myself upon the grace of God in the gospel and kill sin by the Spirit (Rom. 8:12-13; Col. 3:5). Instead, I can tend to kill sin with the spirit moralism and simply replace my “one black devil to let in seven white ones that were worse than the first,” as Edwards says.
Christ needs to be my righteousness. I need to believe that, and have faith that God loves me because of his Son, and he sees me as he sees Christ. When this happens, I’m compelled and delighted to obey, and holiness becomes a joy, not a legalistic triumph.