January 28, 2013

10 to 1 - The Math of the Gospel

The famous Scots pastor, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), was eminently quotable. Perhaps his most celebrated statement is: “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” Would that every pastor thought that way! M’Cheyne also said, famously: “A man is what he is on his knees before God, nothing more.” Would that every Christian believed that!

But for all his wonderful (and needful!) sayings about self-examination and personal holiness, M’Cheyne knew better than most of us how to look away from himself, and unto Jesus. He knew that, if we only always look at how we are doing – how we are advancing in holiness; how we are when on our knees – we will soon find ourselves cold and lifeless in the Christian faith. Love and zeal for Jesus are not cultivated by looking long at ourselves, but at Jesus! And so M’Cheyne gave this marvelous advice to those who might spend too much time, and place too much weight, upon introspection:

For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.

Splendid advice, I say! “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.” In other words, and on the one hand, it is not wrong for Christians to engage in self-examination (we are, M’Cheyne says, to take a “look at self” every now and again). And yet, while it is right and necessary that we do so, we mustn’t linger long in front of the mirror … but turn our gaze quickly to the Lord Jesus Himself! It is in fixing our eyes on Him that we gain the strength to run with endurance the race set before us (Heb. 12.1-2). It is in gazing at Him that we find ourselves transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3.18). And it will be in looking, again and again, at Him that the Holy Spirit will breathe into us a desire for the aforementioned personal holiness and fervent prayer! So take M’Cheyne’s advice, I urge you: “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.” 10 to 1! This is the math of Christian health! Really, it's the math of the gospel itself – the good news is about Jesus, not us

Over the course of two posts, in order to urge you on in this pursuit, let me mention three common Christian ills that such gospel math will cure:

1. Doubt. Many a Christian – especially in more serious circles – struggles with a lack of assurance. Perhaps you are one of them ... always asking: Do I really believe in Jesus? Am I truly born again? Do I have enough evidences of grace to say, assuredly, that I am in Christ? Those are not bad questions – especially if there is little or no evidence of fruit in our lives. But many people who are producing fruit (albeit slowly) doubt their salvation unnecessarily. They forget that their surety lies, not in how much they love God, but in how much He loves them … enough to send His Son to be the propitiation for their sins (1 John 4.10)! Looking too much at self will do that to you. It will take your eyes off the wonderful news of the cross, and make it seem as though the marrow of the Christian life lies in the Christian’s love for Christ (rather than Christ’s love for the Christian)!

Don’t mishear me, now. Christians should (and must!) love Christ … dearly so! But our affections are so fickle; so tainted with the residue of indwelling sin; so clouded over with failures that it is never safe to base our supposed standing with God on how well we love Christ. The fact is that you will never love Him as He deserves! But He loves you more than you deserve! And that is where both M’Cheyne, and the New Testament writers, would have us focus our attention. “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.”

See part 2.


Anonymous said...

Such wonderful advice! McCheyne is one of my favorites--a true hero of the faith. Mr. Roberts said something tonight in his sermon, finishing up 3 messages from 1 Peter, chap 1, about the new birth. It was nothing 'new' to me--the truth of regeneration/being born again--but he reminded us that just as a person is never born as an adult, naturally speaking, so a christian is not born mature in the faith. It gave me greater reason to fix my hope in Him Who had patience and longsuffering with one such as Peter. It was helpful, as this post is. Thanks always.

Kurt Strassner said...

Amen. Many blessings to you, Ms. Kathy.