The human heart is an idol-making factory. John Calvin said it, and sadly, I agree. Today’s devotional reading begins by saying that self-righteousness is the last idol that is rooted out of the heart, and while I know that he means prior to salvation, that capacity to turn to idols creeps back again and again. While Christians do worship the Lord Jesus Christ, other gods tug at our loyalty.
Few true believers would say that there is salvation in any other name, but one definition of an idol is “something we depend on for our decision-making, emotional well-being, and mental stability.”
In matters of the will and choices, mine can be affected by my peers, advertising, personal preference and a host of other influences. Instead of asking God about the options before me, I might consider what is the most expedient, will make or save the most time and money, or will give me the most pleasure or comfort. While some might say that God does not care what I wear or which restaurants I eat at, He does care about what motivates me. Is it Him? Or a lesser god?
Emotional well-being certainly should not depend on pills or booze, but how many Christians seek things like achievement, popularity, possessions, prestige, and a host of other things to make ourselves feel good about ourselves? We glory in the things that we can do, the pats on the back we can earn, the growing numbers in our class, none of which are bad things, but I notice in my own heart how these push aside the joy of the Lord and replace it with a temporary delight that does not last.
Ideally, total mental stability might be a myth, but if I am comfortable and safe, my mind can rest easier. If my life is productive and healthy, I feel more secure, worthy. If I do not sin, I am much more stable than if my life has drifted off course. But then, in creeps that pride that tips my thoughts in the direction of “look at me; I am a saved and successful Christian” tinted with the self-glory that somehow I have caused it.
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 23:5–6)
Of course I say that no one is saved by their own merit nor do we deserve any good at the hands of God, yet in the heart lurks that prideful notion that I had something to do with my righteousness, even if it is merely the statement that “I accepted” Christ rather than He grabbed hold of me.
The righteousness of Jesus Christ is a great mystery. Why should a holy God endue this on sinners? Why did He leave us with our dead, sinful nature that continually tries to replace what Christ has done, or at least take credit for it? Why this battle between the rule of self and a complete and willing surrender to the will of God?
Human pride flies in the face of the grace and gift of God. Human pride wants to put faith in itself rather than follow Abraham who “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Human pride does not want it to be true that we need “the LORD our righteousness.”
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
And because of (God) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
This gift of faith and salvation did not come from the market place or any other place, nor did I purchase it by my own efforts. It is only mine because Jesus reached out His nail-scarred hands and gave His righteousness and Himself to me.