I still believe that this formula holds true, but what does that mean for those of us who have never had any great need. This is why McManus's statement about Paul got me thinking. Paul thought of himself as the worst of all sinners, even though that was not actually the case. Now, I'm not saying that we, as believers, should go around thinking of ourselves worse than we actually are. But for most of us I don't think that's a problem. Most of us think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
I think that most of us have no idea who we really were before we met Christ. Many of us have not led overtly evil godless lives, don't think we were that bad before salvation, and so have a diminished view of God's grace. What if we could gain a proper perspective on who we actually are, what we were actually like before Christ, and what we actually deserve.
The hard truth is that we all deserve hell. God is a holy and righteous God. We are his creation, created in his image to love him and enjoy him forever. But before God, in his sovereignty, snatches us out of our damned fate, we live in total rebellion against him. Rebellion against the One who created us and loves us more than we love ourselves. And then even after salvation, many of us would rather go on loving ourselves and enjoying our things more than him.
I'm not saying this to depress you, but to encourage you. Perhaps until we have a proper view of ourselves, we will never have a proper view of God and what he has done for us. Just the fact that he allows me to live another day is grace. Add to that the fact that he has given me clothes to wear and a house and a car and a ministry and a loving family… that's even more grace. The fact that he allowed me to marry the sexiest woman alive and has given me two beautiful daughters… more grace. All these things are what theologians call prevenient grace, and that's just the beginning. Scripture tells me that even while I was still a sinner, an enemy of God, Jesus died for me. That's grace! Then his Holy Spirit illuminated my mind so that I might understand the truth of the gospel and respond to him… more grace! Then when I responded to him, he forgave me of my sin… GRACE! Not only did he forgive me, but Scripture tells me that he accepted me into his family and even made me a joint heir with Christ!!! What the crap?!?
When I deserved death, hell, and damnation, he gave me life, heaven, and salvation. When I deserved nothing, he gave me everything. When I deserved to be cast away from his presence forever, he adopted me as a son.
GRACE!!!!!! I'm tempted right now to scream it at the top of my lungs. GRACE!!!!!!
So perhaps I should slightly modify my original formula:
The better we perceive our great need
The more we understand his great grace
The greater our response of gratitude