Beautified with Salvation

Beautified with Salvation

Legalism vs Love

She knew how to live a good “Christian” life. She was raised in a wonderful, conservative, godly home and understood how a Christian young lady was to act. She dressed modestly and wasn’t a flirt. She read the Bible and Christian biographies. She was proper and had the right friends. She knew about the Gospel of Jesus. But no one would have guessed that while she lived that perfect outward Christian life, her heart was hard and she had never actually professed faith and believed in Christ as her Savior. She was a hypocrite in every way.

Yes, this girl is me. And it was only a few years ago that I lived in such a way. I was unaware that I, like Peter, was denying Jesus as I chose the benefits of the Christian life, yet continually rejected Him. I was focused on pursuing my dreams and completely content with my life. People respected me and friends admired me. In the world’s eyes, my life was a great success. But I was unaware of the battle taking place in my soul, a battle of Truth versus lies and confusion.  Intellectually, I knew about Jesus and salvation, but I honestly didn’t understand why I needed Him if I was already living such an “upright” life. Why did I need to be saved? I was a good girl, and in my eyes I didn’t have anything to be saved from. I felt able to live this life all on my own.  

Do you see the repeated problem in all this? Me. It was all about me, what I could do and how I lived so comfortably in my own strength. I was blinded by “me” – my morals, my outward good works and numerous accomplishments. It comes down to one word: pride. Pride kept me from seeing the depravity of my inward sins, from understanding my need of salvation, and thus kept me from coming to the feet of Jesus for so many years. To be prideful is to set oneself above others, to be self-sufficient and confident in one’s own strength. That is exactly how I lived. I thought of myself as better than others and relied on my self-righteousness. But despite that confidence and self-sufficiency, there was a nagging feeling and frustration in the knowledge that I wasn’t truly a Christian. I did not understand salvation and had no thought toward my utter need of a Savior.

Psalms 149:4 holds a beautiful promise: “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation” (KJV). Throughout Scripture the words meek and humble are often used interchangeably. This promise of salvation has a very specific requirement – to be meek and humble. It is for those who come humbly before the Lord, understanding their need to be beautified.  

So, do you see what held me back from receiving the precious, saving blood of Jesus? I controlled my life and it was marked by pride. Pride holds us back. I had come to believe Satan’s lie that I was beautiful in and of myself, and that I did not need the beauty of Christ’s salvation. Pride won’t allow us to come before the Lord and bend in absolute dependency on the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  

But where does humility come from? How do we break the stronghold of self-righteousness? A definition of humility is “a deep sense of one’s moral littleness” (Strong’s definition). In my pride I had absolutely no sense of my littleness; I was focused on how I thought I could do good and live morally. I had no idea that no matter how great and numerous my good works, they were as filthy rags before the righteous throne of God. But then those works began to fail me. All that I did in my own strength left me devoid of joy; friendships were not fulfilling, and my pursuits gave no happiness. God used this to turn my eyes away from me and onto Him. How amazing is His grace and love! I now could rightly understand my littleness in relation to Him.   

As I began glimpsing the holiness of God, my sin was exposed and I became broken in humility. Through the realization of my pride, I was enabled to confess my inability and profess belief in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In light of who He is, we can see the depths of our seemingly small sin and understand our inability to live right before the Lord in our own strength. This brings us to the foot of the cross to receive the beauty of salvation.  Only with deep humility can we truly proclaim that our only righteousness is the blood of Jesus.

Now, God is showing me how humility brought me to salvation, but must also continue as a chief attribute of my life as a believer. Do you see that Christians ought to be the most humble of people? We are nothing apart from His saving grace and the only good in us is Christ. With this understanding, how could we ever allow pride to place ourselves above others?  

But is humility something we can simply apply and produce in our own strength? No, it comes from God and understanding our position before Him. Oswald Chambers excellently describes the humility of a Christian: “Humility is not an ideal, it is the unconscious result of the life being rightly related to God and centered in Him.”  We must continually come before Him in prayer, fixing our eyes on Him and dwelling on His holiness. Humility becomes an automatic outflow of our lives as we see God’s grandeur and understand our great need of a Savior.

I was recently reminded of Sodom’s iniquities (see Ezekiel 16:49). Do you know what sin is listed first? Pride. The people of Sodom lifted themselves above God and man. And God destroyed them for it! In 1 Peter 5:5, we read how God treats the proud: “…be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (KJV). God literally sets Himself against the proud who do not give the honor and glory due His name. 

Living a set-apart lifestyle can easily result in an unconscious pride if our focus is incorrect. Have you ever found yourself thinking that you are better than others? I have, far too often. Did you know this is the sin of pride? It comes from setting our attention and trust on ourselves, on our good works. Pride can sneak in as we place ourselves higher and better than others. We quickly lose our sense of “moral littleness” when our attention turns away from God and onto ourselves. Yes, how we live and act is very important. In James 2:26 we read that “faith without works is dead.” Works are an outflow of faith, just like humility is a result of being rightly related to God. Our confidence does not lie in a set-apart life. Our redemption does not come from dressing modestly and acting femininely. We will not be able to plead any number of good works before the throne of God. Jesus Christ must hold the entirety of our confidence, for He is our only hope and righteousness. We must live and interact with others in a way that reflects Christ and our absolute trust in Him, not ourselves.

I now realize the beauty of my testimony does not come from “living the perfect outward Christian life.” It comes from the great God who humbled me and brought me to salvation, that my life may now display His glory. As we become humble before the Lord, we will thus more fully realize the great honor of lifting high the One who has beautified us. Being focused and centered on God results in unabashedly proclaiming the wonderful name of Jesus. For we boast not in our works, not in our strength and righteousness, but in His perfect, pure, and holy righteousness that has been bestowed upon us by His precious blood. Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (KJV). I pray that we would not glory, or boast, in anything but our dear Lord Jesus. May we lower ourselves and become the stage, lifting high the glory due His name.  Oh what a marvelous trade it is, giving up the boasting of our sinful self for the perfect name of Jesus!*

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