Justification 22, Humiliation 6

Especially, I discoursed repeatedly on the nature and necessity of that humiliation, self-emptiness, or full conviction of a person’s being utterly undone in himself, which is necessary in order to a saving faith, and the extreme difficulty of being brought to this; and the great danger there is of persons taking up with some self-righteous appearances of it. The danger of this I especially dwelt upon, being persuaded that multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here; so that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish.

(1949 Moody edition of The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 354)

In the past few weeks we have looked at the extreme difficulty of being brought to the state of being utterly undone within a person’s self. The person that is not undone within self is still trusting in self and therefore not justified by faith alone. We looked at the danger of people having self-righteous appearances of this which means that people are deceived about justification by Christ alone. Last week, using a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, we saw how it is Christ that prepares the soul for Himself by preparing the heart to be unprepared in order to receive Him by faith alone. The fallen man thinks that he can prepare himself, but only Christ can prepare the heart so that it can see just how unprepared it really is so that it is Christ alone through faith alone that saves. Grace never saves the soul that prepares itself, but only goes to the soul that has nothing of itself to offer. Christ sends the Spirit to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment in order to strip the soul of any merit in its own eyes. It is the soul that is empty of its own strength that is lying helpless before the cross that cries out for grace apart from the efforts of self.

But Brainerd says that that “multitudes perish in this hidden way; and because so little is said from most pulpits to discover any danger here.” Here is a sobering truth. In the Gospel of John we see that many believed in some way, but they fell away later on. We see in John 6 that many believed, followed Him and yet many left after some hard teaching. “And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” 66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:65-66). Why did they leave Christ? Because the person that has not denied self will at some point deny Christ. Many appear to follow Christ for some apparent worldly benefits until something happens that cross the self-centered part of man. Then it appears better to them to stop following Him. Self still reigned.

Jesus taught that many would come to Him crying “Lord, Lord” and then point out all the religious things that they had done (Matthew 7:21-23). But they will be told to depart. Other passages warn people not to be deceived implying that many would be deceived. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor 6:9-10). Galatians one shows that there is only one Gospel and those who teach differently are to be cursed. But it is a great danger for those who listen to teachers that will not preach the true Gospel or point to the pitfalls of those who are deceived. The Scriptures also warn us constantly of false teachers. We must never think of men being deceived as something distinct from the doctrine of justification by faith alone (without works).

The doctrine of justification by faith alone (without works) is such a wonderful doctrine in that sinners are saved to the glory of God and that the nature of this Gospel instructs us about the doctrine itself. God saves through faith because faith is a spiritual action and that faith requires the emptiness of man to where he is humble and broken. We see people falling on both sides of this doctrine. Many are deceived about justification and think that they can live in sin because it is Christ alone that justifies. Others think that if they are very moral people then they are justified. Both are equally damning. It is on both sides of the issue that people are deceived, but Brainerd is focusing on the one side. It is here that many moral and religious people are deceived. It is here that the hidden snares and traps are laid out by Satan for the unsuspecting to fall into. It is at this point that so many preachers are defective because they do not see the great dangers of the deception of people that profess to trust Christ alone and yet are holding to some hidden reserve of self. They never gave up on self and so never really believed.

As stated in previous weeks, justification by faith alone (without works) is the Gospel which tells us that Christ alone saves. There is nothing that man can do to pay for one sin or obtain one crumb of righteousness toward his own salvation. It is all Christ and Christ alone. For a person to trust in Christ alone, that person must not trust in self at all. This shows the necessity to apply the Law in its spiritual meaning to the soul. That strips man of all self-righteousness and leaves him to rest on Christ or deny the Gospel in some way. But the heart is so deceitful that it will grasp at anything rather than to give up on self. That is why it is Christ that must strip the soul of self because self will never strip itself of self. Whatever the self does, it does it for self. But self loves the appearance of things and not the reality. Self hides under the guise of tears and religious activities. Self hides itself under outward repentances and inward convictions. But self is still hiding despite all the religious things that it does. Self must be exposed by the light of the Word to see what it really is or it will remain hidden and the soul will be damned.

Preachers are not immune to this either. It is so easy for preachers to believe the confessions and professions of the congregation, not to mention their own. It is so easy for preachers to be so concerned about the size of the congregation that they will not go after the hidden self in the people. People tend to leave churches when their self is being exposed. Why is that? Self does not want to be exposed so self will find something wrong with the preacher or the church as an excuse and leave. It is far easier to soothe souls and say nice things to get people to stay. Surely we want people to stay, but we must be like Christ when He spoke hard things to the crowds. Indeed the vast majority left, but at least they were not deceived into thinking that they were followers of Christ.

Preachers must be willing to preach to the heart in order to expose that self to the light of the Gospel. They must be willing to suffer ridicule and small numbers in order to be faithful to the Word of God and to the souls under their care. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds” (Jer 17:9). Only the Lord really understands the heart and it is His Word that He uses to show people the state of their hearts. We can also remember all the teachings about false shepherds in the book of Jeremiah when they cried “peace, peace” when in fact there was not peace. Preachers are under the same indictment if they are speaking soothing words of peace to souls that do not know God in reality. As in Jeremiah as well, many were teaching the Word but in ways that deceived people. Orthodox preachers can deceive people to if the preaching does not go to the heart and try to distinguish between true motives and loves and the false ones.

Listen to some words from Jeremiah: “For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. 9 ‘For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD” (29:8-9). Many orthodox ministers will agree to this verse. However, the orthodox have the same problem but in a different way. People are converted just because they say that they believe. People are converted just because they are orthodox in doctrine. People are converted just because they agree with us and back us up. We must remember that God has put ministers over the souls of people and they will answer to Him for that. Orthodox teaching can deceive people just as easily as liberal and heterodox teaching can. The unexposed self deceives self by its orthodoxy.

My plea (though Brainerd) is that preachers would take seriously the doctrine of justification by faith alone (without any works at all) and apply it to their own hearts and the hearts of the people. The Word of God must be applied to the heart so that the hearts of the people would be exposed to themselves. People must see that they want to be deceived and that they want to be saved apart from denying self and being emptied of self and all of its own efforts. What they must see is that the insidious self in them is their greatest enemy and not their friend at all. They must be emptied of all efforts at saving themselves and of obtaining any merit for themselves if they will be saved. But again, it must be stressed that Christ through His Spirit is the only One that can do this. Self will never deny itself in reality though it will try to deny self something in order to deceive self about it. To the degree that pastors do not do this is the same degree that they are guilty of not preaching the Gospel. If we are not willing to preach in ways that try to show people that they are deceived and are taking up self-righteous appearances of religion, then we are not willing to preach the Gospel of justification by faith alone. If Christ saves sinners only by faith in Himself, then self must not have a hand, finger, or even a hangnail helping Him. Salvation by Christ alone means by Christ alone. Self must be utterly undone in order not to try to give a hand. Self is the instrument of the evil one to keep people from seeing the glory of the Gospel and trusting in Christ alone. He tries to get people to trust in some little part of self and overthrow the Gospel in their hearts. Preachers must make this known.


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