View of Self
One characteristic of my preaching is my emphasis on sin. I routinely speak of topics like guilt, depravity, wickedness, selfishness, a dirty conscience, and idolatry. This type of preaching can be interpreted negatively. “Why does Pastor Chance keep telling us how bad we are?” you might think.
The justification for this preaching approach arises from Scripture. Scripture repeatedly commands us to exalt God (Ps 145:1), to thank him (Ps 107:1), to praise him (Is 43:21), to boast in him (1 Cor 1:31), to worship him (Deut 6:13–14), and to delight in him (Ps 37:4). Scripture also repeatedly commands us to deny self (Luke 14:26), to not boast in self (Jer 9:23), to not trust in self (Prov 28:26), to kill sin (Rom 8:13), and to even hate one’s life (Luke 14:26).
These two ideas—a low view of self and a high view of God—are not unrelated to each other. Rather, there is a reciprocal relationship between them. The higher we view ourselves—“I’m basically a good person,” “I’m not that bad,” “God will accept me because I do good things”—the lower we view God— “God’s not that great,” “I will pray to God when I need him.” Conversely, the lower we view ourselves—“I am utterly depraved,” “I have no hope in this world”—the higher we view God—“to God be the glory forever,” “God alone saves,” “Christ is my only hope.” The relationship is like a pulley system—the harder you pull on one end, the more the other end is affected.
A biographer of Jonathan Edwards captures this idea when he writes, “[Edwards] learned by experience . . . that while those who have little awareness of the real nature of sin may assert man’s ability to repent and believe . . . those who know the true condition of human nature can find comfort only in the knowledge that God saves by his sovereign good pleasure and for the praise of the glory of his grace” (Murray, Jonathan Edwards, 102–03).
Scripture teaches that if you want to grow in your love for Christ, you need to grow in your hatred of sin. To see more of Christ’s grace requires that we see more of our guilt. The lower you place yourself before God, the higher he will be to you. As Jesus says in Matt 23:12, “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” To God alone be the glory!