The way many of us think about sanctification is, well, not very sanctified. In fact, it's downright narcissistic. We thinking about how we're doing, if we're growing, whether we're doing it right or not. We spend too much time brooding over our failures and reflecting on our successes. We seem to believe that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian.
Reflecting this common assumption, someone who was frustrated with something I had written said to me not long ago, "Don't you know that the focus of the New Testament is the personal holiness of the Christian?"
What? Seriously? To keep calm, I replayed Mr. Miyagi in my head, "Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out …"
The truth is, we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves, and we justify this spiritualized navel-gazing by reasoning that this is what God wants us to be doing.
There is nothing in the gospel that encourages us to focus on ourselves. Nothing! It's never honoring to God when we take our eyes off of Christ. Never! In fact, the whole point of the gospel is to get us out of ourselves and to "fix our eyes on Christ" (Heb. 12:2). The truest measure of Christian growth, therefore, is when we stop spiritually rationalizing the reasons why we're taking our eyes off of Jesus to focus on ourselves.
It's sin that turns us inward. The gospel turns us outward. Martin Luther argued that sin actually bends or curves us in on ourselves. Any version of "the gospel," therefore, that places you at the center is detrimental to your faith—whether it's your failures or your successes, your good works or bad works, your strengths or weaknesses, your obedience or disobedience.
Ironically, I've discovered that the more I focus on my need ...