“Pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil. It was when the now fallen angels began to look upon themselves with self-complacency that they were led to disobedience, and were cast down from the light of heaven into outer darkness. Even so it was, when the Serpent breathed the poison of his pride-the desire to be as God-into the hearts of our first parents, that they too fell from their high estate into all the wretchedness in which man is now sunk. In heaven and earth, pride-self-exaltation-is the gate and the birth, and the curse, of hell. Hence it follows that nothing can be our redemption but the restoration of the lost humility, the original and only true relation of the creature to its God. And so Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us partakers of it, and by it to save us. In heaven He humbled Himself to become man. The humility we see in Him possessed Him in heaven; it brought Him, He brought it, from there. Here on earth “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death”; His humility gave His death its value, and so became our redemption. And now the salvation He imparts is nothing less and nothing else than a communication of His own life and death, His own disposition and spirit-His own humility-as the ground and root of His relation to God and His redeeming work. Jesus Christ took the place and fulfilled the destiny of man, as a creature, by His life of perfect humility. His humility is our salvation. His salvation is our humility.”
– Andrew Murray (from “Humility”)
“Behold, I have set before thee, life and death, fire and water. Choose whither thou wilt. Here lies the whole of the divine mercy; ’tis all on this side the day of judgment: till the end of time, God is compassionate and long-suffering, and continues to every creature a power of choosing life or death, water or fire; but when the end of time is come, there is an end of choice, and the last judgment is only a putting everyone into the full and sole possession of that which he has chosen. But your (false) notion of a goodness of God at the last day supposes, that if a man has erroneously chosen death instead of life, fire instead of water, that God will not suffer such a creature to be deprived of salvation through a mistaken choice; but that in such a creature, he will make death to be life, and fire to be water. But you might as well expect that God should make a thing to be, and not to be at the same time; for this is as possible as to make hell to be heaven, or death to be life: for darkness can no more be light, death can no more be life, fire can no more be water in any being through a compassion of God towards it, than a circle could be a square, a falsehood a truth, or two to be more than three, by God’s looking upon them.”
– William Law (from “An Appeal To Those Who Doubt”)
God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That he chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on his part, caused by nothing outside himself, determined by nothing but his own mere good pleasure; for he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11). That he did create was simply for his manifestative glory.
Do some of our readers imagine that we have gone beyond what Scripture warrants? Then our appeal shall be to the Law and the Testimony: “Stand up and bless the Lord your God forever and ever: and blessed be Thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise” (Neh. 9:5). God is no gainer even from our worship. He was in no need of that external glory of his grace which arises from his redeemed, for he is glorious enough in himself without that. What was it that moved him to predestinate his elect to the praise of the glory of his grace? It was, as Ephesians 1:5 tells us, “according to the good pleasure of his will.”
-Arthur W. Pink
The following quote was in direct reference to 2 Corinthians 1:9 “We had this sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God that raiseth the dead.” This passage inspired John Bunyan to reflect on the nature of suffering in the Christina life.
“By this scripture I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon every thing that can be properly called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyment, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them. The second was, to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is to ‘look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.'”
– John Bunyan
You may be familiar with the term “do a good deed daily” or some version of it. The idea is that we should approach every day with the goal of doing at least one good deed at some point throughout our day.
I grew up with the phrase. My dad encouraged me to look for opportunities to help others and to be a good citizen. Often my “good deed” was something small like picking up a piece of litter, but for a little kid that seemed like a big deal.
I’m in my mid-twenties now and I still occasionally think about that phrase. The other day it popped into my head when I was on my lunch break and a homeless man approached me asking for assistance. My gut instinct was to brush him off and go about my business, but for some reason that phrase came to my mind. I told the guy I would buy him lunch if he came and joined me.
I want to be abundantly clear that this one act of kindness was not all that noble on my part. The extra lunch only cost me about seven dollars. I had to give up my quiet lunch hour so I could listen to a stranger ramble about his troubles, but nothing about this situation constituted a real sacrifice on my part.
It’s also worth mentioning that I did not buy this guy a meal because I was truly concerned for his wellbeing. I wish that had been my motivation. No, my prime motivation was a combination of not wanting to feel guilty and wanting to use this as a sermon illustration later. It turns out that I can be selfish even when I’m buying a homeless guy a lunch.
Lunch with this stranger came and went without incident. I ended up taking longer than I hoped. Eventually I told him that I had to get back to work, and so we parted ways. As I was leaving I remember feeling really good about myself. I was running a little late and needed to get back to work, but I knew that if someone said something about my tardiness I could tell them of my good deed and come off looking like a saint.
I was so busy basking in the glow of my own self-righteousness that I barely noticed a second homeless person approaching me. This time it was a lady. She tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I could go back in the restaurant and buy her a bottle of water. It was a very hot day, and I easily could have spared the five minutes and $1.50 that it would have taken her to get a bottle of water, but I didn’t.
I told the lady “Sorry I’m in a hurry and I already did my good deed of the day…” The last part just came out of my mouth subconsciously. I later realized that was treating my charity like a chore. In my mind I had already earned enough credit to hold on to my “good guy” title for the day. I had no need to be kind to two people on the same day. What would be the point of that?
As I was driving away I began to feel regret about not getting that poor woman something to drink. I began to wonder why I had instinctively reacted that way. Then I began to reflect on whether I had truly cared for either of those people at all. The truth is that I did not really care about either of them. I had simply seen them as obstacles in life that needed to be dealt with.
I think a lot of us have that tendency. We approach righteousness and goodness as a scoreboard rather than as a lifestyle. We believe that we are good people if the number of good deeds we do can somehow outweigh the bad ones. Christians, however, should know that this mindset is inherently flawed.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
– Matthew 22:37-40
Our prime motivation in doing good shouldn’t be to get rack up enough good deeds to meet some arbitrary “good person” quota. It should be out of love for God and love for our fellow man. Had I truly been loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind, I guarantee you that those interactions and the way I reflected on them would have been completely different. On the same note, if I had truly loved my neighbor as myself then I’m sure I would have done more than simply tolerate one and dismiss the other.
The problem with us as human beings is not that we do not do enough good deeds. Our problem is that even when we do “good deeds” we often do them with the wrong motivation. As long as we are satisfied with our “good deed of the day” and our own self-appointed righteousness, we will never truly be a reflection of Christ in this world that desperately needs Him.
No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.
— C.S. Lewis, From: Letter to Mary Neylan (January 20, 1942)