Self-righteous-adjective; having or characterized by a certainty, esp. an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior.
Prisoners of self-righteous religion think that they are free. They rarely ever see the bars. To them, grace is either unnecessary or virtually ineffective; at best its a nice hood ornament on their Cadillac of self-made goodness. Talk of grace usually grates against the sense of their own freedom. It makes it sound as if they really need help, or worse yet, rescue. And so it should be expected that the subject of grace would cause quite a stir.
The archenemy of the self-righteous is the Biblical declaration that all men everywhere are sinful to the core. It rains on the parade that celebrates human achievement. But the fact cannot be any clearer than it is in Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of his heart was only evil continually.” That is the description of all men apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Men are hopeless and helpless; lost and undone; condemned in sin. The robes of the self-righteous are prison clothes. They are locked up in their condemnation while they believe that they are free.
One of the central elements of Gospel Christianity is the understanding that man is radically depraved. Sin has touched every area of our life and has rendered us as utterly ruined before the Righteous God. We are spiritually dead, deserving of Divine Wrath, and bound in our spiritual and moral inability before a Holy God. That means, in the words of Christ, “no man can come to Me (Jesus) unless the Father who sent Me (Jesus) draws him” (John 6:44). In other words, because of our sinful radical depravity no man has the ability to come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for his eternal salvation. There is no inherent ability in man to obey the command of God to repent and believe the gospel.
But doesn’t man have a free will? The simple answer is “yes”. Man’s will is free…free to choose whatever he wants. And that is precisely the problem. Why? Because in his depravity man only ever wants evil (re-read Genesis 6:5). So, given the opportunity man will only ever reject God because man hates God (cf. Rom. 8:7-8). I heard someone say that if you could open the door to hell and preach the Gospel the inhabitants of hell would yell, “Shut up!”, and slam the door in the face of the preacher (cf. Rev. 9:21; 11:10; 16:9, 11, 21).
Yes, sin is that bad and that deep and that willful
Grace destroys pharisaical Christianity. Let’s face it, we are all tempted to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. That’s a very real danger for all of us. We have the tendency, because of all that we have been given, to think that we are really something. We can look at others who simply manifest their radical depravity and we can think that they are really, really bad. We start to play the Pharisee. You know how that works don’t you? “Oh, look at that person! Can you believe that they walk around in public looking like that?” Or a hundred other ways that our disgusting self-righteous attitudes bleed through in our daily lives. But grace absolutely explodes self-righteous, legalistic pharisaism. How? Because my evil heart is just as evil as your evil heart! I ain’t no better than you and you ain’t no better than me. We all stand in desperate need of grace and that grace doesn’t come with a price tag. In other words, it is not for sale! You didn’t earn your salvation any more than you earned the privilege of being born in America. God did that and He is the One who is responsible for your salvation. Because, all things being equal, if you were given the opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel in your flesh you wouldn’t believe any more than the demons of hell believe.
I’ve got to tell you, this kind of teaching is so very freeing. I really, really hope that you understand that. You see, because of this grace, I am free to confess my sin and my sinfulness to God and to you. I don’t have to be ashamed that I need Christ for my salvation and that I need the church for my sanctification. Let me explain. In the past decade and a half I have found that we in the church are pretty good and being private people. We typically don’t want other people involved too deeply in our lives. And when this comes to either confessing our sins before one another or asking for help in a particular area of another brother in Christ, we are very guarded. But now, since the cat is out of the bag that we are all radically depraved, we no longer have to fear what others will think of us.
Hey, if you’re struggling, it’s okay to say so. It’s okay to come to the elders or to another mature believer and ask for help. We all deal with the same stuff.
So, having understood the truth we are now able to bid good riddance to Joe-pharisee. Grace reigns here!