I used to think that legalism was externally imposed. I had recently read Bridges’ Transforming Grace and had begun to see the grip that legalism had on my life. My security in God’s love was not based solely on Christ’s imputed righteousness, but in my ability to meet a certain standard of performance in a given day or week. If I was obeying God and faithful in the word, I felt secure. If I had sinned in some way or forgotten to do my Bible reading, I was totally destabilised. I became insecure and unable to minister confidently until I had gotten back on track and succeeded in doing right for a period of time.

Around that time, John Vaughn shared a quotation from C.S. Lewis with me. This quotation resonated with my soul because it reminded me of the depth of my depravity. That encouraged me because I had come to realise that if my security was based on my performance, I would never be secure. But that if my confidence before God was in the righteousness of Christ alone, I need never be insecure, even when I had failed God… again.

No sooner do we believe that God loves us than there is an impulse to believe that He does so, not because He is Love, but because we are intrinsically lovable. The Pagans obeyed this impulse unabashed; a good man was ‘dear to the gods’ because he was good. We, being better taught, resort to subterfuge. Far be it from us to think that we have virtues for which God could love us. But then, how magnificently we have repented!

As Bunyan says, describing his first and illusory conversion, ‘I thought there was no man in England that pleased God better than I.’ Beaten out of this, we next offer our own humility to God’s admiration. Surely He’ll like that? Or if not that, our clear-sighted and humble recognition that we still lack humility. Thus, depth beneath depth and subtlety within subtlety, there remains some lingering idea of our own, our very own, attractiveness. It is easy to acknowledge, but almost impossible to realise for long, that we are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us.

–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves: Charity

Mere flashes of reflected glory!

Grace to you.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.


  1. Jason Harris 31 July, 2012 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Sorry I accidentally had comments closed. Fixed now.

  2. Kezia Dennison 31 July, 2012 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Thanks. =)

    The beginning of this post describes me to a T. I used to even base whether or not I could pray for anything on whether I’d been good enough to deserve to have it answered. Sometimes I still find myself falling back into that way of thinking and struggling with the insecurity that comes with it so this post was really encouraging to me. Thank you for sharing it… =)

  3. Krupakanth 1 August, 2012 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this! While reading thru, I felt as if you were describing my life. How true it is that we can never be secure if we based our security on performance, you’re spot on!

  4. Larry 1 August, 2012 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    Jason, love this post. Kezia’s application of it to prayer is similar to an experience I sometimes have during prayer, of ‘realizing’ that I’m praying, then thinking something like ‘hey, isn’t that good, that you’re praying.’ And then my conscience returns the verdict, ‘well, that ruins that!’

    In this state, one solution to an infinite regress (of rejecting those thoughts, then ‘realizing’, ‘hey, isn’t that good, that you’ve rejected those ideas,’ etc.) is to approach God, “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace …” (Heb 4:16), and that gets me out of the self-praising self-remonstrating cycle. This all from that part in the C.S. Lewis quote, “we next offer our own humility to God’s admiration. Surely He’ll like that? Or if not that, our clear-sighted and humble recognition that we still lack humility.” That’s a similar infinite regress.

    So, please don’t say, “thanks Larry, another thing I now need to fight off during prayers!” because what I also mean to say is that an awareness (before or after the prayer) of ourselves, of little soldier Jason, for example, getting to approach God’s throne with his stuff, is extremely bracing, and edifying, and very good place for the stuff to be.

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