I tend to be an introspective person. This is not a virtue or a vice; it’s simply the way God made me, and it’s complete with its benefits and struggles. Sometimes I wish I was different (something introverts do a lot), but, by God’s grace, I am what I am, and I must make do with what I’ve got.
Believe it or not, a tweet has rattled my little introverted world of self-examination. Earlier this week, Desiring God hosted a conference for pastors on the topic of prayer. Typical of these kinds of conferences, my twitter feed was bombarded with listeners tweeting good quotes from the messages. The little 140 character note that stayed with me was not a quote from any of the speakers themselves. It was a quote from the long-dead Robert Murray McCheyne:
“For every one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.”
I am guilty of abusing 1 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” I’ve used that as an excuse to constantly and continually dwell upon me. Scrutinizing my every action and motivation; dissecting every word and deed. I dwell more on my faith than my Christ. And the result is a very self-centered and self-belittling lifestyle that paralyzes forward progress in Christ.
Our hope is not in faith, it’s in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the source, the sustenance, and the satisfaction of our lives. The constant need to examine my faith, examine my faith, examine my faith— is rooted it self-trust. The underlying assumption is that it’s my faith that earns God’s smile, completely forgetting that faith itself is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-10). We can’t trust our faith, it’s often feeble and frail. What we can trust is a strong, faithful, merciful Savior. Our hope is not in faith. It’s in Christ.
I’ve thought of a few signs that might mean you’re putting faith in faith instead of Christ, or that you’re looking to closely at yourself instead of Christ:
- You live with a low-level constant tinge of guilt, that you’re not doing enough.
- You doubt your ability to overcome sin issues in your life.
- You sink into depression you feel your faith is weak.
Consider this quote by A.W. Pink that I came across in his old book Spiritual Growth:
“Nor are the justified bidden to ‘live upon their faith,’ though many try to do so. No, the believer is to live upon Christ, yet it is only by faith that he can do so. Let us be as simple as possible: I break my fast with food, yet I partake of that food by means of a spoon. I feed myself, yet it is the food and not the spoon I eat…The Christian makes a serious blunder when he attempts to live upon the faith he fancies he can find or feel within himself: rather he is to feed upon the Word, and this he does on the Word, and this he does only so far as his faith is operative– as faith lays hold of and appropriates its holy and blessed contents.”
To grow in faith, look to Christ, not to faith!