My life offers sufficient evidence that, “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). The prosecution can rest its case, for I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). With the apostle Paul, I willingly say, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24).
The only appeal I have left is to ask God to have mercy on me, a sinner (Luke 18:13). My life is evidence that, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11-12).
Perhaps you’re thinking that I am preparing to confess some horrible thing that I’ve done. Is this just a bunch of self-deprecating humility to alleviate my conscience? Or, is it an exercise in false humility so that I can be proud of how humble I am?
My spiritual growth should have moved me beyond the claims of these Scriptures! After all, I am a pastor with almost 30 years of ministry!
But this is not about a particularly grievous sin in my life. And the suggestion itself might betray a failure to truly understand the gospel.
I’d like to be able to tell you that spiritual growth will negate these truths about human sinfulness, but It doesn’t.
It’s impossible to grow closer to God in a way that decreases your awareness of how much you need “an advocate with the Father” who is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins”? (I John 2:1-2).
Does spiritual growth diminish our sense of need for mercy and grace from God? When we become more godly, do we feel less wretched?
Is it possible to get to a place where we can stand in God’s presence and pray, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people”? (Luke 18:11). At what point do I stop standing at a distance with downcast eyes, beating my chest and pleading for the mercy of God? (Luke 18:9-14).
We must come to a settled place where we “know and rely on the love God has for us” (I John 4:16). Yet such confidence is never based on our record. Even if we show sacrificial love for God or others, we must quickly confess that, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (I John 4:9). Our only hope is “that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.” For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (II Corinthians 5:17-21, NLT).
The truth will never change
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”
“This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus”
“Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law” (Romans 3:23-28, NLT).
The closer we become to God, the more we’re aware of how desperately we need mercy and grace from God. If I give people any other impression, I’ve drifted into a self-deceptive kind of self-righteousness. It’s not that we do more sinful things but that we understands how sin has pervasively invaded every sphere of life in a fallen world.
We cannot speak of any acts of human beings as purely good or good in a way that contributes to the righteousness provided in Christ alone (II Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:21;Ephesians 2:8-10;Titus 3:5). God is always leading us back to grace to confess our unworthiness and to celebrate His mercy in Christ.
Still amazed by grace,