“Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’ ?” Proverbs 20:9
Pride is a uniquely human trait. Some pride is seen as being good – pride in your football team, pride in your work, pride in your family, etc. The loyal, confident assurance. I’m not speaking of that kind of pride.
There’s another kind: it’s the prideful attitude of the sovereign self. It’s the kind of pride that says: “I’m a good person. Yeah, I’ve made a few mistakes but all in all, I’m not bad. In fact, I’m doing really well, compared to a lot of people I know.”
I call it the sovereign self because essentially it boils down to an individual asserting themselves as good – but without defining what that “good” is. Only a sovereign being, one who has all knowledge, can legitimately determine that good. And if someone claims to be good, they are making the claim they know what the quality of “good” entails.
Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t agree. And yes, I know, THAT is one of the main issues people have with the Bible (and God, for that matter). For to tell someone he or she is not only imperfect, but far from perfect, is taken as an insult to their, well… pride.
Everyone wants to think of themselves in the best possible light. They want to believe that in general, they are good people. To prove it, they cite all the good things they do: giving to charity, lending their time to others, and even attending church. But even more than that, they list all the “bad” things they do not do. And, they reinforce it by bringing up all the people they know or know of who do those things.
Here’s what God says regarding the “goodness” of man:
“The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Psalm 14:2,3
“Sons of men” means everyone – no one escapes this indictment from God. The eternal God saw then as He sees today that humans are corrupt, inside and out. There’s not one person who is otherwise.
People have real issue with this. I mean, if you want to find out where someone is in relation to the Lord and His Word, tell them what He says about the nature of man. Tell them about the depravity of all people. What you will find is most people reacting with everything from passive disinterest to raging anger, and a lots of different flavors in between.
This truth of the Bible sets them off like nothing else.
Why? I believe it flows from people’s innate, prideful posture. It’s the pride that tells someone he or she is not bad, actually pretty good, and in NO NEED of a savior. To accept anything else is lowering oneself, and pride doesn’t allow that.
Actually, there is a blatant irony in people’s reaction to this indictment of humanity, because a study into the nature of people reveals the only reason they react so strongly is because they know it to be true! Everyone knows their own faults. And they know a lot more of their faults than everyone else combined knows. So, while they may claim innocence, their very own conscience screams at the falsity of their words.
What follows this? Guilt. Guilt that we are not who we claim to be, and thus we prove not only liars, but hypocrites.
Guilt then builds a defense mechanism. It says, ok, I know how morally repugnant I am, I know that I am a slave to degrading passions and lusts, I know that I put my desires and needs over everyone’s, and I feel horrible about it, but because I don’t want anyone to know just how bad I really am, I will reject anyone or anything that tells me I am sick or in need of help. Because, by default, not doing so would be admission…
And so the cycle repeats.
If ever there was a bleak outlook, this is it. But God, in His love, had another plan…
God’s grace is amazing. No, I’m saying REALLY AMAZING! In love, He saw our need and sent the solution. He saw humankind strangled in selfish, prideful thoughts, oppressed on every side by temptation and sin, all the while desperately seeking to show ourselves as confident, successful people. And He saw the endless cycle of failure, coverup, failure, coverup… and knew that man would never achieve the perfection he so desired.
Because man could not achieve perfection, God had to send someone who could!
Enter Jesus Christ. The God-Man, come from heaven yet born of a virgin, living a sinless life while giving loving compassion to those who deserved it the least. While blessing, He was cursed. While giving, He was stolen from. While loving, He was hated. While speaking truth, He was lied about. While encouraging, He was mocked.
Yes, Jesus came to this earth that He might save those who were lost in their sin, lost in their failure. For no matter what they said about themselves, God knew who they truly were. They needed salvation!
When Christ went to the cross, He went to bear the eternal penalty for the sin of the world. The massive, eternal weight of darkness and death came upon Him, and He took it willingly, that we might be freed from its curse. He was the only righteous One, the only person who could ever claim complete holiness, and because of that, He was the only sacrifice acceptable to God His Father to remove the curse of sin.
And surely He did just that. His death paid the penalty, and his resurrection claimed the victory, so that those who accept His gift of love will never have to. That’s right, we don’t bear the guilt or shame or punishment for sin because He already did for us.
So, in an eternal sense, we as followers of Christ can say we are cleansed and pure. Not by our own doing, but by His doing, yes, we are washed!
And what follows? Confidence. Assurance. Hope. And Faith.
Now that is something to be proud of.