Beloved, what prevents you from being bonded to Jesus? What keeps, you a Christian, from being more deeply, practically, and permanently bonded to Christ?
…”Well of course,” you say, “it is sin.” Of course it is sin. You are exactly right. In particular it is the sin of self. Self-sufficiency and self-reliance keep you and I from clinging to Christ. Those last two bug-a-boos arise from PRIDE. As long as you and I think ourselves able (think too much of ourselves, aka: pride) we will never flee to the cross. A reminder of our enemy is helpful (and terrifying).
“Pride is a deep-rooted and self-preserving sin; and therefore harder to be killed and rooted up than other sins. It hindereth the discovery of itself. It driveth away the light. It hateth reproof. It will not give the sinner leave to see his pride when it is reproved; nor to confess it if he see it; nor to be humbled for it if he do confess it; nor to loathe himself and forsake it, though conviction and terror seem to humble him. Even while he heareth all the signs of pride, he will not see it in himself. When he feeleth his hatred of reproof, and knoweth that this is a sign of pride in others, yet he will not know it in himself. If you would go about to cure him of this or any other fault, you shall feel that you are handling a wasp or an adder; yet when he is spitting the venom of pride against the reprover, he perceiveth not that he is proud; this venom is his nature, and therefore is not felt or troublesome. If all the town or congregation should note him as notoriously proud, yet he himself, that should best know himself, will not observe it. It is a wonder to see how this sin keepeth strength, in persons that have long taken pains for their souls, and seem to be in all other respects the most serious, mortified Christians! Yet, let them but be touched in their interest or reputation, or seem to be slighted, or see another preferred before them, while they are neglected, and they will boil with envy, malice, or discontent, and show you that the heart of sin, even selfishness and pride, is yet alive, unbroken, and too strong. Especially if they are not persons of a natural gentleness and mildness, but of a more passionate temper; then pride hath more oil and fuel to kindle it into these discernible flames. He is a Christian indeed that hath conquered pride.” (Richard Baxter, Christian Directory, 207)
The enemy is real…and the enemy is within (shout out to the great book, The Enemy Within, by Kris Lundgaard). This enemy of our joy must go–it must be mortified (that is slain, killed, eradicated…and that mercilessly). Sin, and self, and pride are THE metastasizing cancer of our souls.
Self is so wicked, so joy destroying, so God-dishonoring that Jesus reminds us to pick up our cross, every day, and crucify our self upon it!
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Jesus “means to renounce self—to cease to make self the object of one’s life and actions…. God, not self, must be at the center of life” (Walter Wessel, Mark, 697)
So how does God remove this disease, this voluntary slavery, this thief of life and godliness?
God uses the chemotherapy of suffering to kill the cancer of sin.
The comfort of God is the death of self.
Here are a few passages to ponder:
2 Cor 12:10
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Cor 1:3-4, 9
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our affliction,
so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God…
9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
Isaiah 40:1, 29-31
1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God…
29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Did you see it? Suffering tends to remind us that we are not able, not sufficient, not powerful, and not strong. When self-reliance is slain, the soul seeks God. God helps the helpless. God rescues the dependent, the destitute (of self), the broken (from self-reliance), the humble (those empty of self) that He might receive the glory!
“…call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
When you and I cease from self…and instead cling to Christ…His strength, and wisdom, and goodness, and worth are on display! God is seen most glorious when you and I praise Him and cling to Him to affliction.
10,000 Blessings in The Wonderful Counselor,