SELF-HELP SALVATION AND PRIDE
By James Coram, director of THE CONCORDANT PUBLISHING CONCERN
Some Christians think that the gaining of their salvation is, in part, a human achievement. Other Christians think that the maintaining of their salvation is, in part, a human achievement. Yet other Christians think that both the gaining and the maintaining of their salvation is, in part, a human achievement. Even though it be ever so small, many Christians think that their part (which becomes the most important part) is absolutely necessary for the success of their salvation. God’s part, they think, is not sufficient.
What everyone needs most is a willing heart and a change in their stubborn will. But many Christians think that at that point, just when we need Him the most, God lets us down. They think that He will not grant anyone a willing heart or effect a change in their stubborn will. This is something, they think, that they must supply on their own.
Even if we have been graced to come to Jesus, we tend to suppose that this was thanks to ourselves. Indeed, many seem to become much more proud and self reliant after “conversion” than ever before. And they seek to cover this up through much ill-disguised religious parlance in which it is true that they do give much, but certainly not all the credit to God. For example, “The Lord did it all, after I let Him.” or “I could never be where I am today without His assistance.”
This increase in pride is the result of having been subjected to such an abundance of human-independence teaching in an atmosphere in which it is continuously encouraged and reinforced, verified and justified with much approbation and exaltation.
After all, such believers are sure that they, unlike others, have “made their decision for Christ.” And, they say, this has not occurred in the grace of God as a result of their having been chosen before the disruption of the world (even if the Scriptures do say so), but is the result and is thanks to their very own decision. Though others may far excel them in lesser things, when it comes to what is most important, they think it is obvious that they are superior. They think, “At least I was willing and sufficiently disciplined, for when it mattered the most I did the right thing and the switch got thrown, so people like me will go up to heaven while everyone else will go down to hell.”
Just think of it. Picture this type of self-help salvation and pride. For all eternity (or at least for the ages) they will be able to say, “All those miserable sinners burning in hell could have gone to heaven too. Certainly the work of Christ saved no one at all. It wasn’t supposed to. All it did was make salvation possible. Besides, every one of those sinners deserves to be in everlasting burning, for unlike me, they didn’t do what they should have and could have. And here I am in eternal bliss, perfectly good and perfectly happy, even though billions of my fellow creatures are perfectly miserable and doomed to stay that way forever (or at least for the ages). Yet in the end I only got here myself because of what I did, not because of the sacrifice of Christ. I chose to meet God’s demands for His (so-called) free gift and I did so. I wasn’t given any special grace. It wasn’t any easier for me than for anyone else. It’s too late now anyway so let them burn. Too bad for them, but not for me. I’m happy and so is God. In fact we’re all happy here.”
You see, that’s the ultimate selfishness of that view and that’s what it leads to. One can only avoid boasting in self by truly ceasing to believe things and say things that are inherently of a boastful nature.
It is only the word of the cross that effectively and wisely trains us in this true humility so that “if anyone is boasting, in the Lord let him be boasting,” as Paul says. It is an empty gesture to go through the motions of giving all the glory to God, while at the same time continually believing that good decisions and acts are things which ultimately owe their existence to one’s own self, God having but made them possible. May He enlighten us to see truly that it is “in the grace of God that I am what I am.”