I’m nearing the end of Counsel from the Cross, and this is likely my last excerpt from it. Dennis Johnson and Elyse Fitzpatrick have certainly made my blogging easy the last month. This is from one of the final chapters on The Gospel Story verses our own Story of Self Glory.
… many Christians … are “swimming in a sea of narcissistic moralism.” We think we can live happy, perfected lives if we just ferret out the right key to get God to unlock all his treasure and make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. Make no mistake: this moralism—whether for more shallow endeavors such as just having a “good day” or for nobler goals, such as making life better for our families or assuring ourselves that God still smiles on us—is, as Horton writes, narcissistic. It is all about us and all for us and our glory.
Although all true Christians recognize their need for a crucified Savior to begin their life of faith, most of them fall back into their innate belief in self-glorification once they get saved. Whether Happy Moralists or Sad, nearly all Christians believe that the answer to their problem is just around the corner. They will have it once they find the secret to their perfect life, once they throw off that distressing habit, once they find the right spouse/child/job/home/church, once they uncover their idols, once they learn how to pray the magic words, and on and on their whole life through.
The Happy Moralist will read one self-help book after another, while the Sad Moralist will seek deeper and deeper self-understanding and repentance. In fact, we are so proud and convinced of our perfectibility that even living in the light of the gospel can be twisted into a secret self-improvement regimen….
Oh. My. Word. They really nailed it with that last paragraph. The answer to all this? LAY DOWN YOUR DEADLY DOING (your deadly self analyzing and introspection that leads to condemnation and discouragement and your deadly self-discipline that leads to pride and Jesus-less self confidence.)
Utterly despairing of our ability must lead us to Christ and to trust in him to work in us and make us willing and able to serve him (Phil. 2:12). Paul prayed that God would make the Thessalonians “worthy of his calling” and the Lord would “fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
All our obedience, every resolve to do good, and every work of faith is “by his power” and so that the Lord Jesus would be glorified because of the grace he gives.
Yes, we must pursue obedience, but that obedience must always be cruciform, formed by Christ’s cross. We must seek to obey because of the cross, find the grace to obey because of the cross, and live free from condemnation whether we succeed or fail in light of the cross. The cross must be our only story, as Paul boldly proclaimed: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2).
The cross must be my only story. I meditate today on what it looks like at each turn of my day to rest in its shadow.