Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to Get the Lasting Inner Applause

"Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."
This passage from Jeremiah 9 is what Keller unpacks in his sermon, Sickness Unto Death (available for free on his podcast). The sermon weaves in elements from Soren Kierkegaard's book of the same name. Keller explains that these verses in Jeremiah are a radical reshaping of our self-image and the way we look for the verdict that we are okay. We often look to other people to say "Well done", but of that Keller says:
"Outer applause never translates into the inner applause that we need: the permanent, settled certainty that we are praiseworthy, love-worthy."
He goes on to say that Paul loves these verses. Paul quotes them in 1 Corinthains 1 and then rephrases them here in 1 Corinthians 4:
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me."
These verses fly in the face of most modern psychological advice. Today, the cure for low self-esteem is to have high self-esteem. Instead of caring what other people think, you should only care about what you think. But Paul says something utterly different. We ought not to have low self-esteem or high self esteem, but instead look to the verdict that can only come from God.

And again in Galatians 6, Paul sums up everything he's been saying about the gospel in verse 14, by summarizing Jeremiah 9:23-24:
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...
This is the key to having this radically new self-image. We must learn to not just acknowledge the work of Christ, but boast in it. And there, boasting in the cross of Christ, is where we get that inner applause we are longing for.

Keller, toward the end, summarizes it this way:
"What happened at the end of Jesus' life? The greatest somebody in history became a nobody. The one person whose life deserved absolute applause, was mocked, was jeered, was spat on, and was rejected even by God. Why? 2 Corinthians 5:21 says 'God made Him who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.' What does that mean?

On the cross Jesus Christ got the verdict that our performance deserves. Deep in His heart, He heard 'Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire,' so that when we embrace Him by faith, we can hear deep in our souls, 'Well done, good and faithful servant'...

Jesus got the verdict that our performance deserves, so we can get the verdict, the applause, the praise that His performance deserves."

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