Stop Telling Me I’m Beautiful!
A recent article I read underscores a critical issue for anyone concerned with the Gospel. It hits a tone highlighting a need for each of us to reorient around Jesus and away from the ‘goodness of man’. In summary we could simply remind ourselves it is the ‘goodness of God’ which leads us to repentance and not the ‘goodness of man’.
You can and should read the article for yourself. While it is directed toward women, it can be widely applied to a ‘man-centric’ sickness affecting our Christian Faith. Again the central question has to do with how I diagnose and find a solution for a fallen nature.
For me a pivotal phrase in the article is this: “If I judged Christianity by its women’s conferences, I’d be led to believe that the Bible is no more than a series of compliments from God to man.” She goes on to say the real problem is not resolved by ‘shallow encouragements’. It is resolved by the truth.
The Gospel Answer
The truth is God has given us a new nature, only enjoyed by the death of the old. This death is not easily entered. Instead, unconvinced the ‘old us’, is beyond repair, we are unconsciously disposed to preserve it. Somewhere inside we believe it can be coaxed into righteousness, only delaying the inevitable. We lean toward ‘reform’. But reform is like a coat of paint on a condemned building – a fix that cannot last. Like our fallen nature this building proves impossibly resilient against our efforts to rehabilitate it. It must die!
The preaching of the Gospel is designed to accomplish this. At least the Apostle Paul thought so and this is what he said about it.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” –Romans 1:16-17.
The key is in the Gospel’s ability to reveal the righteousness of God.
The Righteousness of God
Man’s basic need is not to be convinced he is beautiful, but that God is righteous. This message in turn has a caustic effect on my sense of goodness. Paul’s response was a complete rejection of his own need to be good (Philippians 3:7-9). This Gospel augments God while diminishing us. It will force me to lose my regard for our own righteousness. This is the point at which the Pharisee’s really began to struggle. And so telling me ‘I’m beautiful’ is counterintuitive to the Gospel.
We are not improved by exalting our goodness but by elevating His. Our awareness that only He is righteous causes a mysterious shift in the heart. As we are increasingly repulsed by our own goodness we truly turn to Him. This is the essence of repentance; it is a turning away from my righteousness and toward His. That inward turning is the greatest challenge for ‘good people’. When you work hard at producing a form of godliness it is hard to let it go. This is the real battle for faith.
Our core problem is we are a lot like those of the TV show Hoarders. We cannot let go of our prized ‘old nature’, secretly believing it to have some unappreciated value. We cannot shake the optimistic belief that our old nature can be salvaged. Only a revelation of God(ultimate good) can change our perspective.
This is where supernatural revelation enters. God must be revealed! I cannot discover Him by speculative reasoning. He is truly unfathomable. The preaching of the Gospel does this for me. So please… when I am in the throes of death, mourning and lamenting my seemingly inescapable fallen nature, let me break free. Do not tell me I am beautiful!