Pr 30:12 There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of spending a couple of days interacting with Jerry Bridges. If you’re not familiar with his books, you are missing something indeed. Titles like “Respectable Sins”, The Pursuit of Holiness” and “The Joy of Fearing God” are as close as you can get to Puritan reflections on the Christian life by a modern author. A profoundly humble, sweet and studious man, he impacted me (and countless others) powerfully through his writing and preaching ministry.
Dr. Bridges (he didn’t like being addressed that way because his doctorate was honorary – but I cannot speak in lesser terms out of respect) was invested in campus ministry all of his life. Well into his 80’s when he came to speak for us, he had a great heart for youth. Discussing that in a drive to a speaking engagement, I asked him what had been the biggest challenge in evangelizing collegians over the years – and he didn’t hesitate in his response: He said that people no longer have any concept of themselves as sinners in need of a sin-bearer.
In the words of our text, they are clean in their own eyes, while at the same time, not washed of their filth.
Indeed, as the popular preaching of God’s Word in our generation (at least in American Evangelicalism) has become increasingly fixated on a Gospel of the American dream – “Come to Jesus so He can make life what it ought to be” – and at that, the kind of life even those are far removed from Christ as can be, would want too. The preaching of Jesus has become the religious equivalent of Hamburger Helper. Jesus will give you more money, a prettier wife, a more attentive husband, a faster path to career objectives, healing from every discomfort and above all – will demand absolutely nothing of you. Just pray the prayer and MAGIC!
What is missing? No conviction of sin. No sense of being the enemy of God as one seeks to live life only for themselves without a moment’s concern for who made them and for what purposes. Errant at times? Sure. After all, no one’s perfect. Broken? Yeah, but in ways therapy can fix easier and faster than reconciliation to God. But sinful in the sense of truly guilty and deserving of Hell before an ineffably holy God? Nope. I just need Jesus to add the right spices to life to make my macaroni and ground beef a savory dish. All of which, de-gospels the Gospel. Makes the substitutionary death of Jesus on the Cross a mere emblem of some kind of odd love, but not the taking of my guilt and shame upon Himself so that I might be cleansed from cosmic rebellion and made a new creature – acceptable to God because of Him.
The preaching of the Cross necessarily fixes upon Christ dying in the sinner’s place, because apart from it, we stand guilty, condemned and justly on our way to an eternal Hell.
Beloved, we dare not lie to ourselves so as to be clean in our own eyes – or we cannot be saved. Because in the final analysis, the thing we need to be “saved” from, is the just wrath of God upon us for our sin. And until we are washed from our filth in the blood of the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World”, we remain under that wrath – on death row, awaiting the carrying out of the execution order.
Those who set themselves to continue in rebellion against the right of God to exercise His supremacy over their lives – by refusing the salvation and Lordship found in Jesus Christ alone – will perish in an eternity of judgement. That is what the Bible teaches.
But to those who own their guilt and sin, and who flee to Christ for forgiveness – there is cleansing, reconciliation to The Father the transforming Spirit to restore Christ’s image in them – eternal life!
Where you stand this very hour in regard to either condition, has its stated and inevitable consequence.
Unbeliever – won’t you come to Him today? This is the truly good news of the Gospel – there is forgiveness of sins in Jesus.
Christian – won’t you glory in your king who has become to us: Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption? (1 Co. 1:30).