How Do You See Yourself?

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?”But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desirecompassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

(Matthew 9:9–13, NASB95)

How do you view yourself? Pop culture feeds us many answers that you might find coming out of your mouth. But, for those who call themselves children of the living God, how do you see yourself?

Listen to great and godly people describe themselves, and you compare your answer with theirs:

  • The Great Augustine, bishop of Hippo wrote, “Lord, save me from that wicked man, myself.”
  • John Knox, the greatest preacher of the Scottish reformation, “In youth, in middle age, and now after many battles, I find nothing in me but corruption.”
  • John Wesley, the great Methodist preacher wrote, “I am fallen short of the glory of God, my whole heart is altogether corrupt and abominable, and consequently my whole life being an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.”
  • Augustus Toplady, the writer of the hymn “Rock of Ages” wrote, “Oh, that such a wretch as I should ever be tempted to think highly of himself. I am myself nothing but sin and weakness, in whose flesh naturally dwells no good thing.”
  • And finally, the Apostle Paul wrote of himself in 1 Timothy 1:15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Now, I know that Dr. Phil and Oprah, and our schools, and psychologists and lots of preachers even, tell us that we need to have a high self-esteem about our worth. We need to think positively and love ourselves before we can love anything or anyone else….How’s that working for us? We have more crime and more selfishness and more laziness and self-indulgence than ever before, and people are not more happy with more stuff, but less so.

No, we need to turn to the Bible for a correct view of ourselves. Romans 3:10-12 says, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

You see, the truth is, that people will not seek healing if they don’t know that they are sick. So, the first step in preaching the gospel to others and even ourselves is to declare this truth–Man is sinful and desperately wicked and spiritually dead. If we can grasp this and confess it before God, we can move on to respond to the good news of the gospel.

The Bible acts like a mirror revealing what our soul looks like to God. The world acts like a mirror too, but more like a fun-house mirror that distorts the truth and gives us a wrong impression about what we really look like. Don’t settle for the phony idea of who you are by looking to this world for answers. Instead open up the Bible and read about who God says you really are–both as a person who has rebelled against Him, and after being saved by Jesus Christ, as a person who has been forgiven and adopted by Him and is now His child forever. The truth matters and for the one who is willing to face the truth, heaven awaits.

Our Great Resurrection Hope (part 2)

On this Good Friday, we have a wonderful opportunity to meditate not only upon the death of Christ, but upon the hope of his resurrection. Yesterday I posted the first of Four Assurances that Jesus’ Resurrection Gives Those Who are Followers of Jesus Christ: Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection. You can read that post here: https://always-reforming.com/?p=1859

Christ’s Resurrection Reverses the Curse of Humanity (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22, ESV)

In these next two verses, Paul reviews for the church what they already knew, but needed to connect to the resurrection of Jesus. Paul addressed the reality that all people die, and that is why there is a need for resurrection.

Paul lays down two parallel ideas—first, that death came to all of humanity through a single man, Adam, in the Garden of Eden, when he disobeyed God.

Then, secondly, resurrection of the dead has come to humanity through another single person, Jesus Christ, who on the cross obeyed God by dying in the sinner’s place.

Verse 21 gives a profound truth that the world we live in simply cannot grasp as it should. We find that people in general think that they are good people, maybe a little flawed, but good at heart. Nothing serious. Of course, there are a few bad apples that mess things up for the world. But most people are good.

But in the Garden, there was one law given by God. Don’t eat the fruit. That was it. One law. And Adam and Eve broke it. One law. And what was the penalty? Death. A broken relationship with God and death.

Now look at verse 22. It gives more detail regarding verse 21. It uses names here. “As in Adam all die.” Paul is assuming we all know this. Why did my grandparents die, even though they were super sweet people? Because Adam sinned, and all his children sin and the penalty of sin is death.

So, what does that say about my sweet grandparents? They were sinners. And no matter how good you think you are, you will show that you are a sinner in God’s eyes because all sinners die. Death isn’t natural. God didn’t make men to die. He made them to be immortal. Sin brought death. All sinners die.

We all associate with the first man, Adam, who represents us as the human race. He is our head, or leader.

But the second part is true as well. Verse 22 says, “so also in Christ shall all be made alive!”

Here, Christ is described as being a representative just like Adam is. Adam represents the human race. Jesus represents his followers, those who forsake everything and follow Christ. Those who place their every hope and trust in him. Those who are truly children of God and have attached themselves to Christ. Is that you? If it is, then this speaks to you!

Paul is speaking here of the reversal of the curse of sin and death that was brought upon the human race by Adam’s disobedience.

In Romans 5:12 Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, ESV) 

And in 1Corinthians 1:18, Paul wrote, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Those who don’t trust in Jesus Christ for salvation see the death of Christ as foolish, and we as Christians are foolish too. But these are the ones that are perishing in their sins. 

Have you ever gotten yourself in a jam that you simply couldn’t fix? That’s what the human race did when Adam disobeyed God and sinned. It reminds me of when we have gone fishing when my girls were much younger. Sometimes they would get their fishing line all tangled up and the reel looked like a bird’s nest of fishing line. Sometimes they tried to fix it, but soon realized it was too tangled, so they’d give it to me or my wife. Sometimes it was so bad all we could do was cut the line and start over.

Some people approach their tangled up sin-filled lives like that. They pridefully say its not that bad, and they try too “fix” it themselves. Sometimes they take it to others who claim to be experts for help. But these “experts” have a mess in their own sin. Some take their sin-filled lives to Jesus Christ. He alone can fix it. 

On the outside it looks like we are all the same. We are all heading toward death—both Christian and unbeliever. But there is a difference. The Christians identifies himself with Christ, and in doing so he joins Christ in the resurrection that will come one day.

But the unbeliever is still identified with Adam. In Adam all die. We are all in Adam and so we all feel the effects of the curse of death. But in Christ those who identify with Christ in faith shall be made alive because Christ’s Resurrection Reverses the Curse of Humanity.

Fearing God the Father

“Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!”
(Psalm 112:1, ESV)

There used to be a time when people would speak in reverential tones of certain men and women as “God fearing.” This person was known for living a life that was pleasing to God, and was utterly trustworthy and faithful. You would not find a God-fearing man or woman in the company of certain people, or involved in sinful activities and conversation.

God-fearing people were thought of this way because society in general knew what the Bible said. They knew what God expected of men, but they knew that most people only paid lip-service to what the Bible said. But a God-fearing man or woman was different.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines the fear of the Lord like this: “It is a fear conjoined with love and hope, and is therefore not slavish dread, but rather filial [fatherly] reverence.”

We notice here a mixture of fear and love, and it is connected to a fatherly love which is co-mingled with respect. Charles Bridges defined fear of the Lord in a similar manner. He wrote, “[The fear of the Lord is] that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law.”[1]

Bridges, like Easton’s definition, uses the Father and child imagery to help define the fear of the Lord, writing of the child of God and his heavenly Father. This image of God as Father is replete throughout the Bible.

Fear the Father as Creator

In Deut. 32:6 it says, “Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” (ESV). Just as a father provides, protects, and leads his family, so too the Lord had done the same for Israel. But shockingly, Moses’ words reveal that Israel was acting like an ungrateful and rebellious child that has no fear of breaking his rules nor of disrespecting him before the watching world.

The prophet Isaiah also testified against this lack of the fear of the Lord in Israel at a much later time. In Isaiah 1:2 the prophet brought the Word of the Lord saying, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.” (ESV). Notice what the Lord says here—he has reared and brought them up. This reality should have brought him that fear we are looking at. They should have loved and respected him, but they did not.

In Isaiah 64:8,the prophet used the father metaphor alongside another picture of God as a Potter. In this passage, it says, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (ESV). This text looks forward to the coming Millennial Kingdom when the heart’s of God’s people shall turn and embrace the Messiah that they have rejected.

We see in these words the recognition that the Lord has made them and he is free to do with them as he sees fit. One day Israel will humble itself before the Lord in national contrition and joyful submission. God can do what he wants because he is not only Father, but he is Potter, who has made the clay into whatever he sees fit.

Fearing the Father as Wisdom

Probably most familiar to us is this aspect of the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (ESV). When we consider the fear of the Lord as Father and Creator, we can better see why to reject the Lord and His commands is foolish. A child, who has little strength, wisdom, experience, power, and influence is foolish to put off the care and counsel of a father who gives these to his children.

When the Lord spoke to Job and began prodding him to answer his questions, like a child who quickly has learned that he is over his head, he simply put his hand over his mouth. This is wisdom, knowing that the Father knows best and that our finite minds cannot begin to grasp his infinite plans for us.

Fearing the Lord as Judge

This is very different from the idea of fearing the Lord as Father and Creator. It is the fear that comes when a wayward child has been disobedient and has turned aside from the father’s ways. It is also the fear that does not come from a child of God, but from the fool that despises the Lord and his commands. It is not a true and pure reverential fear mixed with love, for there is no such love in the rebellious creature. This fear is a craven, slavish fear that the disobedient slave has when he fears his master will discover that he has been stealing from him secretly. Except our Lord is not blind to those that have offended him.

An example of the wayward who fear the Lord is found in Ezra 10, where the people have come to understand their disobedience in intermarrying with the pagan nations around them, something God had expressly forbidden Israel from doing. In verses 1-4 we read that the fear of the Lord (“trembling” in v. 3) has led to repentance and obedience. But the wicked fear the Lord in a different way, a way which is fearful of judgment to a point, but will not lead to any true changes in their lives.

Belshazzar did not repent when he saw the hand of God writing on the wall. He trembled in fear, but did not turn from his sin (Dan 5:9). When Paul preached the gospel before Felix, the Acts 24:25 says he was “alarmed” about the coming judgment, but he did not repent. And when James speaks about the demons believing and shuddering, we do not say that they have repented of their wickedness (James 2:19)!

Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (ESV). The wicked flee from a judgment that will one day overcome them. They cannot escape the Lord’s righteous judgment. But the righteous do not flee the Lord even though we fear him. He fears him with reverence as our Father and Creator.

Fear and love meet in the fear of the Lord. He is our Father, Creator, and God. These should endear him to us and motivate our hearts toward worship. If they don’t, if we need manipulation, fear of judgment or punishment, we are not children, but slaves. Children don’t have that sort of fear of a righteous Father. They love him, respect him and desire to please him.

[1] Quoted by Bruce Waltke in NICOT, Proverbs 1-15, p. 101.