“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:18,19).
IF THE GOSPEL IS ABOUT GOD SAVING US FROM OUR SINS, THE FIRST REQUIREMENT IS TO SEE OUR SINFULNESS IN ITS TRUE LIGHT. This is not an easy thing to do, especially in our age when the very concept of sin is often scoffed at. We may admit to having made a few mistakes, or even having some dysfunctional habits, but we do not see ourselves as sinful people who need the forgiveness of our Creator. We think of ourselves as good people who might profit from a little improvement. We just need to “come to Christ.”
But Jesus’ diagnosis of our problem cuts deeper. Not even the best of us has a heart anywhere close to the purity that would be needed to live with God in eternity. Deep down, we know we’ve been good when it suited us, but when it didn’t suit us, we did as we pleased, often setting aside what we knew was God’s will. We know, if we’re honest, that self-will has been our master. The heart-penetrating light of truth shows us to be rebels against God.
Ironically, the more respectable our lives have been outwardly, the harder it is for us to see how rebellious we’ve been inwardly. That is why Jesus’ message of repentance was rejected by the religious folks who should have been the first to welcome Him. As they saw things, they had no significant sins to repent of.
Even as Christians (maybe especially as Christians) we are sometimes hindered by an overly optimistic assessment of how well we’re doing. To the Christians in Laodicea, who thought they were well-clothed, Jesus counseled them to buy from Him white garments so that “the shame of your nakedness may not be seen.”
What should be our response when the Lord tries to burst the bubble of our self-righteousness? We should accept the Lord’s diagnosis. Like David, we should admit that God is right and we are wrong: “so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4). If we’re not willing to be honest about how sinful we’ve been, there is no hope for us to be forgiven.
“God has nothing to say to the self-righteous” (Dwight Lyman Moody).