Reading a book lately that contained the following quote: “The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through us until the proud self within us is broken”.
This put me in mind of Psalm 115:3
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
Is the first statement true? Does it agree with the verse? Does it disagree? Is Jesus Christ unable to live in us and reveal Himself to us until our pride is broken? And if Jesus cannot do anything in us until our pride is broken, who is going to break it? We won’t. We will not do anything until God does a work in us.
Salvation happens when God the Holy Spirit comes, through the giving of the Gospel, and gives life, or regenerates the sinner. This act of regeneration is said in Scripture to be a resurrection of the dead (Ephesians 2:4-6), a creative act of giving light to the blind (II Corinthians 4:6), a release from slavery (Romans 6:18). Those are all powerful acts of an all powerful God who if He did not do them none would be saved. They are all acts done to people who have not yet had their proud self within them broken.
So, maybe the author meant that once a person is saved, Jesus cannot reveal Himself and break the remaining sin in a person’s heart. But if a person is truly saved he already has the Holy Spirit in him working on him. A lot could be said about that but it boils down to this. It is not that Jesus Christ cannot reveal Himself through us until our pride is broken. It is that He will not.
Jesus will not honour sin. In this sense it may be said that He cannot do something. The only things God cannot do are the things He chooses not to do. But He most certainly does reveal Himself to proud unbroken people. It is called salvation. We repent. We ask God to break our proud hearts. We ask for softening. But make no mistake. Only those who have already had their hard hearts broken will ask God to soften them. This is the plain teaching of Scripture (Ezekiel 36-37).
We need to be careful how we choose our words. Take a look again at the above statement. It could be interpreted to mean that we have a power that God does not. We simply cannot conclude that. Does all this mean that the reason we sin and remain so spiritually anaemic is because God chooses not to make us spiritually vibrant? No. People are saved when the Gospel is declared to them and the Holy Spirit, through that declaration gives life to the dead so that they turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in the new believer and starts His work of sanctifying him and bringing him to greater conformity to the image of Christ.
But we are still sinners and we still have a lot of the old nature in us and sometimes we listen more to the dictates of our old nature than we do to the proddings of the Holy Spirit through the Word. We ignore His work and we refuse to use the things He gives us to help us in our progress. What He gives us is the Word of God, prayer, the fellowship of the saints, the sacraments. When we neglect these things we dry up spiritually. Could God break through in other ways and make us more holy? Of course. He can do whatever He wants. But we shouldn’t count on it. He has already given us everything we need for life and godliness and it is up to us to use what He has given. It is not God’s fault if we do not.
Why are some believers spiritually alive and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit better than others? Because they are in the Word, prayer, church and the sacraments. It is available for all believers, if only they would. It is not that God cannot move them. It is that He has already done what we need and we simply do not contact Him and put those things to work. We can be more spiritually vibrant. God could zap us with that vibrancy, but He has chosen to do something better. We need to put it to work.