Do you have a realistic perspective of yourself in relation to God? Very few people do!
“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15). How can God work with us if we don’t have that “little child” mindset? God dwells in the high and holy place. He inhabits eternity. Unlike you or me, He is holy, which means that holiness comes from God.
This is the great God who takes the initiative in our lives. We are the weak, the base and lowly of this world, but God is transforming us into something spectacular, something beyond our imagination. We need to have a childlike attitude and realize it is God’s doing, not ours.
We do have an important part in God transforming us: We must allow Him to work with us and cooperate with Him in the process. He doesn’t build His character in us by fiat. If He did, it would not be character; instead, we would be robots. But though we allow God to work with us, it is not our righteousness or our goodness making it happen. He isn’t working with us because we sought Him out or because we were righteous before He entered our lives.
God is the one who dwells in the high and lofty place! And the humble and contrite are those who will dwell with Him and inhabit eternity. We must have that “poor” and “contrite spirit” (Isaiah 66:2) if we want God to work with us.
“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). If we don’t understand that God’s goodness leads us to repentance, we are despising the riches, the goodness, the forbearance and longsuffering of God Himself. Even when we repent, it is God’s goodness that leads us there; it’s not of our own doing.
Think about the example of Job. Job appeared pretty righteous on the outside and was difficult to live around because his self-righteousness radiated off of him. Think about what God had to take away from him to get his attention. Job had to endure a lot of suffering for God to bring him to repentance and humility.
In the middle of all that suffering, notice what Job said: “God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live” (Job 27:5-6). That is quite a statement. Not even a word about God’s righteousness! God could not work with Job until He crushed his self-righteousness.
“Job was the epitome of a self-righteous person,” Mr. Flurry writes in How to Be an Overcomer. “But this has been a big problem throughout the history of the Church. It is human, and very natural, to be self-righteous.” If you rely on human will, then you will end up becoming self-righteous.
“In Job 29, Job uses I, me or my 52 times in 25 verses—more than two per verse! Job was self-oriented, as all self-righteous people are. They have a horrible problem with selfishness (ibid).” This problem can reveal itself in many ways.
Even being overly shy or quiet is self-centered. When you are quiet because you’re worried that people won’t accept what you say or won’t like you, then your mind is focused on the self.
Maybe you don’t have that problem. Maybe you talk too much, focusing on your talents, your strengths, your abilities or your accomplishments. That is the same problem. It revolves around self-focus. We want to be balanced. We should strive to not be overly quiet or overly talkative. There is so much depth in this.
‘I Abhor Myself’
Later, Job finally saw himself for what he really was. “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth” (Job 40:3-4). When he really saw himself, he didn’t just notice a few flaws he needed to overcome. He didn’t think that he was imperfect but still “doing pretty good.” No, he recognized that his entire being was vile!
Job came to have much the same viewpoint as Herbert W. Armstrong, who said that once God had destroyed his self-confidence, he realized he was “a worthless burned-out ‘hunk of human junk’ not even worth throwing on the junk pile of human derelicts” (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong).
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (New King James Version).
After thoroughly humbling him, Job finally recognized his evil. For the first time, he realized that human will couldn’t accomplish anything.
In Job 40:4-5, Job tells God that he is just going to shut his mouth and learn. Too many people are out of God’s Church because they don’t have the attitude of being a student, or disciple. They want to come in and do all the teaching. But we must realize, God and Jesus Christ are the ones who do the teaching. And God puts the ministry in their offices so He can use them to teach us.
“Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be witholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not” (Job 42:1-3). Job was beginning to see that he spoke about a lot of things he thought he understood, when in reality, he didn’t know what he was talking about. He recognized his arrogance and how full of himself he had become. He saw that he was relying on his human will.
“Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand [ask] of thee, and declare thou unto me” (verse 4). Job was becoming a student. He was asking God questions and prayed that God would answer them. He was going to God for understanding, instead of assuming he knew everything.
“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (verses 5-6). Job abhorred himself! He realized that he wasn’t worthy for even the junk pile. He recognized what a “wretched man” he had become. Job was driven to repentance—but it was God who got him to that point. Then God could really do something special with Job.
What About Us?
If we don’t have God’s righteousness in us, we cannot be resurrected into God’s Kingdom. People try to build their own righteousness, but it doesn’t work. The reason is that they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3). Too many people are hard and unwilling to humble themselves before God’s government. You cannot receive God’s righteousness unless you are humble, childlike and teachable.
If we really understand that of ourselves we have no righteousness, we will be motivated to seek and build the righteousness of God within us through His Holy Spirit. Only when we understand how much we lack righteousness of ourselves will we seek to build that righteousness. But we won’t get it if we don’t examine ourselves honestly, with God’s help. True Christians need to think deeply about this subject.
We must realize that of ourselves we are notgood people. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). The phrase “filthy rags” in the original Hebrew means “menstrual cloths.” That should drive home the point of what our righteousness is apart from God.
In the October 1964, Plain Truth, “We do not even have the kind of love that fulfills God’s law and makes us righteous,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “Love is of God, for God is love! And it takes the love of God in our hearts poured out by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the law and give us God’s righteousness (Romans 5:5). The law is spiritual (Romans 7:14). We are carnal. It takes a spiritual love to fulfill a spiritual law. The Holy Spirit within us is merely God’s law in action! And since God alone can supply the love that makes us righteous, it becomes God’s righteousness, not ours.”
Glory In the Lord
Nobody calls out God’s name on their own. “And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:7-8).
Think about a floral vase. It is useful and beautiful and holds water and flowers. The designer of the vase is not holding the flowers, the vase is doing that. We are being molded by God into His beautiful image so we can produce fruits for Him. You can’t take credit for being useful and beautiful any more than that vase can. It takes a “Master Potter” to turn us into something like that. God is making all of us king-priests—wise and useful for Him. We must see ourselves for what we are apart from God. Then God can mold us into something special.
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). God is the one who started a “good work” in us. We must rely on Him and keep going back to Him, remaining in a humble and childlike attitude. God began the good work, and He needs to stay involved to finish it. Whatever trial you may have, go to God as a little child and ask Him what you’re supposed to learn from it. Look to Him to tell you where you need to change.He is the one molding and shaping you into something useful for His purpose!
Always keep this humble attitude. Let God finish the good work that He began in you. Give Him all the glory and honor for His good works as He re-creates Himself in you. “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).