Following up on Tim Keller and John Newton’s thoughts on superiority and inferiority complexes, here are some wise thoughts form David Powlison’s chapter “Who Is God?” in Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture:
Left to ourselves, we think we are either too good to need grace or too bad to receive it.
Are you too good to need a major redemption?
Do you counsel someone or live with someone who is “above” needing Christ?
Do you work with someone who lives for his or her desires: superiority to others, aggrieved self-pity, greedy cravings for more and better stuff, the insect of sexual lust, well-nursed grievances, chasing pipe dreams of success and happiness?
Grace pesters and pursues us—it is grace, after all, that makes me even aware that sin is my deepest problem.
Are you a wife who has contempt for your husband?
A husband who has written off your wife as a hopeless case?
A teenager who feels justified in feeding dark thoughts?
A parent who frets or seethes at your children?
A single whose life is stained by disgruntlement because you’ve been shafted by life?
Grace wakes you up to your need for grace. You were dead and dark (2:1-3; 5:8). God made you alive (2:4-10). Don’t go back into darkness (4:17-19). Walk in light (5:9-20).
Perhaps you have been sinned against terribly.
Perhaps your own selfishness and sense of entitlement make you magnify minor offenses into capital crimes.
Perhaps your own sins provoked others to retaliate sinfully, reaping what you sow.
In any case, the riches of mercy for you can make you merciful to others.
Grace turns you upside down: the self-righteous and destructive become the grateful and constructive.
Are you too bad to receive grace?
Grace woos and comforts us when we think we are too far gone to be rescued.
How could you be too bad to receive what is for the bad?
Perhaps you are tempted to despair about yourself.
Perhaps someone you counsel is tempted to give up: “God could not possibly love me or help me. My failures are too much, too often, too strong. My sins are incurable. My situation is hopeless. I’m stuck and will never change. God is as disgusted with me as I am disgusted with myself.”
Is there anyone whose badness exceeds the diagnosis God makes of each of us?
You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (2:1-3)
If the diagnostic shoe fits, wear it. But then look at the wonderful, specific cure!
Is there anyone whose badness is so bad that it exceeds the scope and power of the cure?
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (2:4f).
God lavishes grace on us in Christ.