"The death of self-importance"
I have been steadily working my way through an old classic. I doubt that many Christians even know about the author still less the work. But in its day it was hugely popular and, as I read it, I can see why. The book is "The Life, Walk and Triumph of Faith" by William Romaine. Romaine was an Anglican minister during the evangelical revival led by George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley in the 18th Century. Like them, he had a passion for Jesus and a desire to share him. He challenged formal religion and sought, as did the Wesleys and Whitefield, for real conversions, for heart religion.
Let me share with you some of his words and my thoughts on them.
"The infinite wisdom of God so contrived the way of our recovery that without Christ we can do nothing." (p192). Sin is our striking out from God, our desire to be independent of him and to rule our own lives our own way. What Romaine is pointing to is very insightful. He is saying that the very cure for our sin of independence comes through a restoration of dependence. To even get saved from our sin we need to cast ourselves in total dependence on a sovereign Lord who tells us that unless he draws us to Jesus we cannot come. The very means of salvation shows our need for staying in dependence on God, through Christ Jesus. Salvation undercuts the sin of self-importance. And, because God always intended for creation to be the means of glorifying himself in his Son, the means of salvation, or return from sinful independence, is in Christ and glorifies Him. Wisdom indeed!
Romaine has hit on a very profound truth. It is one that Jonathan Edwards also saw. And it shows how a freely willed, none grace enabled faith is unable to attain salvation in so far as it seeks to rest any merit in the freedom of choice. Freedom of choice, one that stands independent of God and claims the right to weigh up God versus not God, is a freedom that claims to stand able to judge God and is therefore sin. And this truth also shows why it is that Jesus demands an end to self. It is proud, independent, allegedly self-sufficient, self that stands aloof in its sin. And it can do so even when claiming to love God. Self is our bitterest foe. It seperates us from union with God in Christ. That is also why union with Christ is needed for our salvation, for in it we move from independence to dependence. So, says, Romaine, "Living by faith is the death of self-importance." (p193).