What keeps more people from seeking salvation in Jesus? Is it their sins or their self-righteousness? In The Method of Grace, George Whitefield cautions:
. . . .before you can speak peace to your heart, you must be brought to see that God may damn you for the best prayer you ever put up; you must be brought to see that all your duties — all your righteousness — as the prophet elegantly expresses it — put them all together, are so far from recommending you to God, are so far from being any motive and inducement to God to have mercy on your poor soul . . .
Before you can speak peace in your heart, you must not only be made sick of your original and actual sin, but you must be made sick of your righteousness, of all your duties and performances. There must be a deep conviction before you can be brought out of your self-righteousness; it is the last idol taken out of our heart. The pride of our heart will not let us submit to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But if you never felt that you had no righteousness of your own, if you never felt the deficiency of your own righteousness, you cannot come to Jesus Christ. There are a great many now who may say, Well, we believe all this; but there is a great difference betwixt talking and feeling. Did you ever feel the want of a dear Redeemer? Did you ever feel the want of Jesus Christ, upon the account of the deficiency of your own righteousness? And can you now say from your heart, Lord, thou mayst justly damn me for the best duties that ever I did perform? If you are not thus brought out of self, you may speak peace to yourselves, but yet there is no peace.
It is a difficult hurdle to be sure. David Brainerd was brought to this point. While wrestling with himself and with God over the state of his soul he found himself trusting in his piety as security against “God finally casting him off”. His thinking ran along the line that God would have more difficulty casting him aside after all he had done for God. Yet, twas grace that taught his heart to fear: he came to the terrifying liberating truth that his Bible reading, his prayers, his acts of devotion were singularly devoted to his own well being and safety and not from love to God. “As I saw that I had never [truly] done anything for God”, Brainerd wrote in his diary, “I had no right to expect anything from God but perdition.”
We are all tempted to say, at least to ourselves, “I’ve followed Jesus all my life!” But, have I trusted Him? Have I served Him for His own sake, for His own glory, for regard of His infinite worthiness? Or . . . for me?
Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.
O soul, learn to sing, “not what I feel or do,” then fly away to Him who lived the life you should have lived and died the death you should have died! Say to Him and to yourself, “I needed you to die for me!” And say to Him and to your own soul, “And, thank you that you were happy to do it!”
Sink in the need but rise in the joy of the love that casts out all fear!