First, let me say that the title of this piece deals with each one of us as individuals, and individuals within the church; however, we are all members of the body of Christ, and as such what affects one of us, affects us all. Paul addressed the subject matter here to the Church in Galatia, and some of us have learned very little about grace in over 2000 years.
The need for justification starts in us as small children–we learn to do things looking for the validation of our parents and our peers. As we grow older, many of the dire circumstances and tragedies in our lives come from a feeling of not being justified by our job, friends, peers, and spouses. We seek validation, or the “stamp of approval”, in our lives. We all long for it, and many times when we do not receive it, we become angry and bitter, but such is not the case in Christ.
In life we are constantly working hard looking for a passing grade for our lives. We see it in self-help books, seminars, and programs, but when it comes to our salvation, there is nothing we can do to add to what Jesus has already done for us. There are many of us within the Body of Christ who think that things are riding on our own abilities. We look to our own activities with God to work out our salvation. This leads to what I call “Spiritual Narcissism”. Let me explain it like this–if we acknowledge what God has done in Christ Jesus for our salvation, and think that we can add to grace by the things which we can do, this is “Spiritual Narcissism”. There is nothing we can add to that which has already been done.
Paul explains it in Galatians 3:3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?
What Paul is saying here is–don’t be fools, quit acting crazy. For only a crazy person would think they could complete their own salvation by their own efforts because it was already done by God. If you weren’t smart enough, strong enough, or righteousness enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it now? The only righteousness we have is in Christ Jesus. It is only God’s amazing grace that gets us in–no matter how hard we try by our own blood, sweat and tears–nothing we do keeps us in, perfects us, or makes us pleasing in the sight of God. It is the enemy that wants us to think that we must do things to be closer to God, and “earn” our salvation. It is this thinking that leads many astray with cults and false religions. Spiritual Narcissism at its core is based on our own efforts and activities as a way keep us pleasing in God’s sight–not true.
Today’s modern church is full of activity. Many seem to think that the busier they are filling their lives with activities and doing things for God will keep them in His good graces. Again, not true. Our value to God is not connected by how much we accomplish for Him, or do for Him. Many of us do these things looking for justification, validation, or a stamp of approval from God, but these things are of no value to God for our righteousness, as our righteousness is found in Christ Jesus alone, in the grace that He provides freely.
Much of our own self-worth and identity comes by what we can carry out. I myself have faced this in my own life. But in grace there is nothing we can do to add one iota to the sacrifice of Jesus. There is nothing–no matter how pious our efforts–that we can do to add anything to our salvation.
If you hear, Jesus paid it all, but you need to do . . . that is a lie of the enemy. Jesus paid it all–Period!
The underlying sin of all sins is that we as the redeemed cannot trust the grace which was poured out for us at Calvary, and we think that we must help our own cause by taking matters into our own hands and do things to earn our justification from God. That is “Spiritual Narcissism”–thinking that we can add anything at all to grace. Many times we look at ourselves as disappointments and failures and think that we must get things done by own efforts, by our own hands. This is thinking outside of grace, and it is wrong. This kind of lie from the enemy enslaves, making us try to perform and accomplish those things which cannot save or redeem, as only Christ is our salvation. He alone is our Redeemer.
Understanding who we are in Christ will guide our lives to be at peace with the grace which has been given unto us. We need not look at who we used to be, who we are now, or even who we will be in the future as a result of our own efforts. It is not about looking inward, it is about looking outward, looking to Christ and His finished work alone–He paid it all. God does not keep score. In Christ it is done. Finished. Over. We are justified, validated, and given God’s stamp of approval by the blood of our Savior Jesus. Jesus paid it all, while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for all of us.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God
On a personal note- I am one of the ones who many times in life thought I had to do something proactive to help validate my salvation. As grey now sets into my temples, I have now comfortably settled into His grace . . . Darrell