"My heart I give Thee, Lord, eagerly and earnestly." - John Calvin
Friday, November 6, 2009
The Sorrow of Moral Self-Improvement
"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation."
- Matthew 12:43-45
Jesus is here addressing the Pharisees. In Luke 11:39, Jesus acknowledged the external righteousness of the Pharisees. In fact, He even encouraged His disciples to follow their instructions (Matthew 23:3). Yet He also compares them to "whitewashed sepulchers" ("tombs," verse 27), because they exhibited an external righteousness, while remaining spiritually-dead inside.
Thus is the fate of the self-reformed man. And there are many such men, whether we are talking about the criminal that reforms his life, or the alcoholic who gives up drink, or the adulterer who returns to his wife. But the warning of Jesus is that reform doesn't save a man, but rather it leaves him yet a sinner in Satan's power. Satan is unafraid of self-reform, because it merely deepens the deception of the self-improved man. Rather, it is only sanctification by the Holy Spirit, arising from redemption in the blood of Christ, which breaks the power of sin and Satan over fallen man. As Paul testifies (Romans 8:29-30), "For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified."
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43