Justification 23, Humiliation 7

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 past weeks we have been looking at justification by faith apart from works and the faith that God justifies through. We have most recently been looking at the need for the soul to be broken and humbled by Christ in order to break the soul from any hope of its own strength in order to trust in Christ alone. This will be the last writing on this quote from Brainerd. This week we want to notice the part of Brainerd’s quote where he says “that persons being never effectually brought to die in themselves are never truly united to Christ, and so perish.” We should make it clear that in speaking of dying to themselves he is talking about the self-emptiness and full conviction of being utterly undone in self. While this may seem to be strange language, it is very graphic in its own way.

What can he mean by people being brought to die in themselves and so are never truly united to Christ? The picture that is brought to mind is that from Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This text shows that an individual and Christ cannot be the life of the person at the same time. The self was crucified and died with Christ on the cross and yet that crucifixion must be carried out in life as well. We must die to self so that the life within us will be Christ. We live by faith in the Son of God and not by faith and trust in self. Man can only have ultimate trust in one master and it is either self or Christ. The unity with Christ that Brainerd talked about is only possible if man is not united to his selfish and self-centered heart. If man loves himself above all, he is united to his own interests above all. If a man loves Christ above all, then he is united to Christ and His interests above all.

Another picture that is brought to mind is from Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.” What the text from Galatians teaches is that the true believer in Christ has been crucified or put to death and only then does Christ live in that person. The text from Isaiah 57 teaches that God only dwells in those who are contrite and lowly. Those that are contrite are those that are bruised and wounded for their sin. Those that are lowly have seen what they are before their Creator. So it is not those that are full of themselves that God dwells in, but only those that are wounded and broken for their sin and have seen themselves for what they are before their Creator. These are the souls that can be united to Christ because the union with self-love and self-interests has been broken.

Another passage that is extremely relevant is from Romans 7: “Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” In this text we see that a person has to die to the Law in order to be joined to another. I take this to mean that a person must be dead to earning salvation from keeping the Law or doing the commands of the Law. In other words, a person must be brought to the point of dying to self and its power and strength to keep the Law in order to be married or united to Christ. A person cannot be married (so to speak) to the Law and to Christ at the same time. Men are married to the Law because they believe that they can do something to save themselves. They believe that they are good enough or mostly good enough. A person must die to his own efforts at being good enough and be emptied of self in order to be united to Christ and be filled with Him. We must trust in Him alone.

The danger of not dying to self and its strength and efforts to save self or at least to help save self is that this prevents the soul from trusting in Christ alone. All those that do not trust in Christ alone will perish in eternal torment. Those that have not been united to Christ or married to Christ do not have the benefits that are of utter necessity to salvation. Those that have not been emptied of self are not united to Christ as their Head and so they do not have their sin counted as His and they do not have His righteousness as theirs. This means that their sins are still theirs to suffer for and that they have no righteousness to enter heaven with.

Now some might argue that this still sounds like works to some degree since a person must die to self. I argue that this is simply a giving up on self and anything that self can do to assist God in salvation. Without this giving up, the soul will not trust in Christ alone. Remember that to be justified by faith without works the sinner must trust in Christ alone. The soul cannot trust in anything it can do in order to totally trust in Christ for salvation. Romans 4:5 sets this out with clarity: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” The person being justified has three things that are true about him or her. One, s/he does not work at all for salvation. Two, s/he believes in Him. Three, s/he believes in Him who justifies the ungodly. We must die to self and its efforts in order for these things to be true of us and to be justified. We must be dead to and emptied of self, to our ability to keep the Law and our own good works in order for us not to work (even a little) for salvation. We must be dead to and emptied of self in order to believe (totally) in Christ. We must be dead to and emptied of self in order to believe that God would justify us while we are ungodly. To be justified by faith alone we must see ourselves as ungodly in order to believe that He justifies the ungodly. This text is simply devastating to any other position.

Another passage in Romans speaks to the same issue. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). This text tells us by implication that we must believe that we are ungodly in order to believe that Christ died for the ungodly. It is not just that Christ died for the ungodly, but that it is while man is helpless. Man is not just hurt a little where he cannot operate at full speed, but he is helpless. Ephesians 2:1-3 shows that man is dead in trespasses and sin. Romans 7:14 and Acts 8:23 tell us that man is in bondage to iniquity and sin. John 8:34 speaks of those who sin as being slaves of sin. II Timothy 2:26 speaks of those being held captive to the devil to do his will. Colossians 1:13 shows us that to be saved a person must be delivered from the domain of darkness. The picture is not pretty for those who do not see themselves as slaves of sin and the devil, that is, totally helpless. Scripture tells us that in one sense man is dead in sin and in another sense he is the slave of sin and the devil. To put those two together, we see that man is spiritually dead by being a slave to sin and the devil. This gives us a picture of man as helpless.

Men must see themselves as helpless in order to give up on themselves and their own efforts. Helpless people see themselves as ungodly, the slaves of the devil, and totally unable to help themselves. Jesus Christ died for the ungodly and we have no warrant from Scripture to think that a person has a right to believe on Christ for salvation without seeing that s/he is ungodly. Christ is the Physician for sinners and no one else. The patient must give up on his own cures and his own efforts and simply lay at the feet of this Physician and trust in Him alone. There can be no help from this Physician until the patient has given up and died to self and his own efforts to cure himself.

This point must be pressed home. The sinner that does not die to the efforts of self has not died to the Law and so is not joined to Christ. As Paul said about his conversion, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died” (Rom 7:9). If a person still thinks that s/he can keep the Law in any way acceptable to God apart from Christ that person has not died to the Law and so will never be married to Christ. The “I” part of Paul and of all who want to be united to Christ must die. All those without Christ do not have eternal life and so perish. All those who want the life of self will have the life of self in hell which is really eternal death. All those that want the death of self and actually die to self have Christ and so have eternal life. There can be only one life inside each person. One life must go. The life of self must die in order to have the life of Christ. This is why we must learn to evangelize seeking the death of self in the people we deal with. This is done by teaching the person the Law in its spiritual applications. This is done by showing people the majesty of God and of how hideous sin is. We are simply trying to show people the truth about themselves so that they can see that they are helpless and ungodly. These are the people that Christ died for and these people and these people alone are those that will trust Christ alone for salvation. They don’t trust in their efforts at dying, but in Christ alone.

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