January 31, 2013

The Math of the Gospel, part 2

In the last post I suggested that Robert M’Cheyne’s famous statement – “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ” – is good, gospel mathematics. Here is how we become healthy, happy, and holy in Christ – not by constant introspection, but by looking away from ourselves, and to the author and perfecter of our faith; not by over-much emphasis on the subjective aspects of Christian piety, but rather on the objective truth and beauty of Jesus! And at a 10 to 1 ratio!

“For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.” If we adopt this strategy, at least three common Christian ills will be cured. The first is doubt, or the lack of assurance of our salvation. We become more and more certain of our acceptance with God, not by constantly analyzing our own varied and paltry attempts at loving God, but by grasping how much He loves us in Christ! And the way to grasp His love is to think far more often about it, than we do about our own; by taking ten looks at Jesus for every one look at ourselves!

But there are other ills – sometimes diametrically opposed to one another – that beset even earnest Christians. And yet they, too, may be cured using the same biblical strategy: “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.” Let me list two more such ills:

2. Pride. Some Christians look in the mirror, and see every reason for doubting their salvation. Others’ mirrors seem to flatter them – something like the wicked stepmother in Snow White – into thinking that they really are among the fairest of people! They have arrived … or so they think, when looking in the mirror. Their problem is the exact opposite of the person who looks in the mirror and (rightly!) sees no reason why Christ should love them. And yet the solution is the same. Look away from the mirror, and look ten times more often to Jesus! For, when we look at ourselves under the bright hue of His perfect holiness, love, and beauty … the portrait in the mirror begins to show up for what it really is – a poor, poor imitation! So, if you struggle with spiritual pride, heed M’Cheyne’s counsel: “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.”

3. Drought. Sometimes our one look at self reveals to us, not that we should doubt our salvation; nor that we are the picture of Christian piety; but that our souls, though truly saved, have grown a little dry and dusty. This is where that one look comes in handy! We do need to practice self-examination so that we realize when our soul is sliding into lethargy, coldness, or drought! But, while the look at self can reveal the problem to be tackled, it cannot provide the cure! An illustration may help us here. Your lawn will not turn from brown to green, this August, simply by your analyzing how dry it has been. You have to turn on the water! And you will need to spend a lot more time with the hose in your hand, than in talking about how bad the drought has been! And so it is with spiritual drought. Look at self, yes! But once you have seen that the grass needs watering, stop looking at the grass, and get yourself in a hurry to where the water may be found – namely, in Jesus (John 4.14)! For every look at your dry, parched soul … look ten times more often at the fountain of living water that is Jesus!

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