What a Christian is: Part 3*
Every Christian has a low view of himself––every Christian. That’s not a “should” or an “ought.” It’s not some distant standard to strive towards but always fall short of. It’s an “is”; every Christian has a low view of himself or herself.
We know that because Jesus describes actual, transforming repentance in Matthew 5. He says that the poor in spirit are the ones who receive the kingdom (Matt 5:3). That is to say, those who are not poor in spirit have no place in his kingdom. So, we can confidently say that every Christian recognizes his own spiritual poverty. Of course, that admission invites more humility… there’s an “ought” built in. We ought to be more humble and more lowly because we ought to be more truthful.
But, the transformation Jesus has in mind is more than that. Those of you who are parents know that a child admitting she’s wrong may take some work, but it’s not the same thing as real sorrow. Children may admit the wrong thing they did and still have no remorse. We all can. So, Jesus goes on to describe repentance as not only admitting spiritual poverty, but mourning it. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Real repentance isn’t a matter of just our minds. The transformation Jesus is after begins there, but it must go deeper. If we cannot mourn our sin from the heart, then we haven’t repented. We may regret it. We may endeavor to do better. But, without a sorrow of soul, it’s not repentance. And without repentance, our sin remains unforgiven.
When was the last time you shed tears over your sin? Have you ever?
Anybody can regret consequences. Cain did. But, all he mourned was losing his blessing. Hebrews 12 says, “when Esau desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it [i.e., the blessing] with tears” (v. 17). But, the person who has his eyes opened will see that God is good, kind, holy, merciful and loving. And he will see that he insults him daily; that he takes him for granted daily; that he takes kindness and returns evil daily (Rom 2:4). The truly repentant will regret their offense against him more than they regret personal loss.
So, what if you believe Jesus and trust him, but are not mournful over your sin? Then your repentance is still incomplete. Jesus asks for more than our minds. He wants our hearts. His command to love him doesn’t stop with loving him with our minds, but includes our hearts and souls and strength. Jesus did not die for part of you, but for all of you.
If our hearts will not mourn our sin they are not focused upon Christ. Sometimes we may not realize that distinction. But if we look at the beauty and the glory of Christ, our failures to honor him must lead to sorrow.
Every Christian has a low view of himself. Every Christian mourns their sin. But the same God we dishonor is the one who promises comfort.
*See the June 1 email for Part 2 and the May 26 email for Part 1.