I read this today over at The Broken Messengers blog. This sums up everything I think about what state our "religion" Christianity is in. I can only pray that we wake up and see the truth!
Forgive yourself! Jesus forgives you! So just forget about your wretched state as you live on in victory. Victory, of course, is that the devil has been defeated. And “defeated” means he’s completely powerless so that while you are assaulted with temptation to commit every kind of sin, you nevertheless can forget them, sweep them aside and put the idea of your own sin as far from your mind as possible in order begin a life where taking up your cross for Christ is defending the “Great New Evangelical Political Cause” or promoting the latest program that is a sure fire catalyst to a modern day “Great Awakening.”
Your life looks no different than everyone else in the world? No problem. You are in bondage to a certain sin or to a host of them? Forget about it. You work hard to rule keep and hide your envy, lusts and bitterness (when it doesn’t slip out accidently that is) so that the world sees your “righteousness?” Right on good brother, keep at it, and don’t forget to pray daily for wealth, personal security and over everything you fear losing! And so the drumbeat of modern evangelical thought goes on: wash thoroughly, rinse, and repeat.
And almost no one is asking questions. No one is wondering why a nation that self-identifies itself as being 80%+ believers of a God, 60%+ Christian and over 33% as born again believers is mired in apathy, hypocrisy and indifference. No one wonders why this “Christian nation” is filled with homogenized earthly pleasure seekers that fills the nation’s pews so that weekly fresh promises to live better lives for Jesus can be professed (all the while, they have inwardly convinced themselves they will fail again, just as before). And so it is that from the pew they run for comfort to the many cares of the world, and every appeasing doctrine, to find solace from every challenge or warning that pricks their conscience.
But it’s okay. Speaking the right slogans, saying the right things, conjuring the right emotions and professing Jesus is all that matters. Speak Jesus and therefore you believe. Confess Jesus and therefore you will go to heaven, no matter what life you live in wake of this confession. Even though we’ve read some scary passages together, it really does not matter what you believe and desire to hold alongside him. We have freedom in Christ! Therefore, there is no real expectation as to how we might live in our faith to him.
That, unfortunately, is the party line today, and the doctrine is treated as impervious as granite and is as chiseled in stone as the Law of Moses.
So you say, “Forgive yourself!” Why on earth do I have to forgive myself? What value is there in me forgiving myself? I, a sinner, am now going to forgive my sinful self? That is completely empty of all worth! Not only does it ring hollow, I have most of the current evangelical landscape as my defense as to why I should reject it wholeheartedly!
What is wrong with saying, “I am a sinner and hate my sinful heart and therefore look to Christ alone to be redeemed of it, irregardless of what I think of myself?” What is wrong with asking God to drive me to repent of every careless word and evil thought and to loathe the evil heart from whence it came? What is wrong with me expecting that my faith includes believing that Jesus has begun the process of eventual completed perfection right now, this very day, here on earth? In fact, how is it biblically correct if I do forgive myself? Didn’t David weep over his sin and state that a broken heart was a pleasing sacrifice to God? Wasn’t Paul a lamenter of his condition and the advocate of holiness as apart of faith? O, Wretched man that I am indeed! But thanks be to my Lord Jesus who has saved me from this body of death (Romans 7).
This invasion of doctrine concerning self-forgiveness, that comes in more flavors than a Baskin & Robbins, has been growing over the last century and is now taking its toll. It is the perfect example of the marriage between narcissism and faith. How am I feeling? How am I doing? Is this faith in Jesus really taking hold within me? Do I have the strength to obey? The mantra is I, I, I, not Christ, Christ, Christ, and it’s nothing less than a cover for self-exultation. Worse, we are asking advice from the very thing that is central to the problem at hand.
And it may come as news to you, but narcissism and faith are mutually exclusive. The former cares only of inward desires and its own condition the later concerns itself with the external things that look to Christ: loving God and loving others.
But for many of us, our desires for Christ are as dead as driftwood and yet we wonder, “Where is Jesus?” and “Why don’t I feel the Spirit?” When in fact, we are idolaters of the world and at the same time spiritual junkies looking for a quick spiritual fix as we resolve ourselves to a faith that sees Jesus only in terms of the gifts of God, rather than the worship the God himself by which these gifts then come.
This is not a call to abandon self-examination; it is a call to a true faith that is tested by it. By faith, we need to ask that Christ pull our perception of faith out of our own hands and cast it onto its proper place: on Jesus. So that as we live by faith we are continually suspicious of this heart that is desperately wicked and unknowable, but also in faith we do not learn to ignore our hearts - we learn to look beyond them.
For this is a substantial part of faith: trusting in Christ, in spite of your total lack of holiness, and believing that he will make you holy like he is holy. It is not, however, trusting in yourself because Christ has forgiven you from all sin, nor is it trusting yourself because you think you are freed from depending on him for everything the rest of your life.
But this kind of thinking and talk about holiness and obedience is tantamount to “crazy talk” these days. Never mind the warning passages of the Scriptures, we have got our theological “proof texts” that allow us to lay claim to salvation no matter how we live. Never mind the doctrines that deal with joy in living righteous under faith.
And I can hear the protests now: “Aren’t you made in the image of God?” Yes, I am. “Aren’t you fearfully and wonderfully made?” You bet.
But isn’t there room for self-loathing of that part that is not of God? Hating that part of us that is intrinsically wired into our very consciences and hearts, is that not a good thing for us to do? Why would I want love that part, whose very nature is to deceive me into thinking that I am loving God, when I am really just screaming blasphemy at him to my own blindness - yet to my heart’s primal delight. There certainly isn’t much of that kind of talk (let alone action from it) going on around Christendom today. For the most part, we hang our doctrines not on the fruits of true repentance, but on doctrines that tolerate, allow or fully support self-love. But coming to hate wickedness while living for the promise of righteousness, in Christ and by faith, is the Gospel. At the very least, that is a significant element of faith, and so please pardon me if I can’t bring myself to forgive myself.
Self-loathing is ever the companion of true repentance. The Lord will bring those whom he loveth, to adore him in self-abasement; while true grace will always lead them to confess their sins without self-justifying. -Matthew Henry, Commentary on Job 42, www.biblegateway.com.