Some individuals proudly proclaim themselves to be “self-made” men. Others, less boisterously, indulge in self-esteem because of their own accomplishments. There is, in some respects, such a thing as a self-made man. But what a pitiful work he has wrought! First, any accomplishment in the flesh, done according to man’s will, is destined for the dung heap and, finally, the flames. It is worthless. Second, man has no ability apart from the Lord’s bestowment (Jam. 1:7): he has no strength, determination, or courage apart from what has been given him from the Lord. The self-made man has usurped the gifts of God in order to exalt the vileness of the flesh.
The Word has cursed the self-made man—or anything done in the flesh—regardless of how good it may appear to be: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant’” (Jer. 17:5, 6). The man who relies on the flesh is like a plant in the desert: his foliage and fruit are not only sparse but also worthless. They are sparse because he is in a “land of salt” and a desert in which nothing can grow; they are worthless because the land in uninhabited so he can not bless others, and others cannot bless him.
However, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit” (vv. 7, 8). One who trusts in the Lord is blessed, for he puts his trust in the only God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
What makes trusting in the arm of the flesh so egregious is that, spiritually speaking, there is only one arm: Jesus Christ. Isaiah asks, “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (53:1). The message that follows reveals Jesus Christ to be that “arm of the Lord,” who is the power of God, the One who both revealed and unleashed His power by His vicarious death and resurrection. Asaph writes: “Thou art the God that doest wonders . . . . Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people” (Psa. 77:14, 15, KJV). Redemption came by Jesus Christ. If there is any doubt that “the arm of the Lord” refers to Christ, read Jeremiah 27:5 along with John 1:3: “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm.” “All things came into being through Him [Jesus Christ]; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
Thus, there is only one arm: Jesus Christ. There is only one power, one source of ability, one life, and one giver of life: Jesus Christ. The self-made man or the man who glories in the work of his own hand is using Christ’s own power to deny Christ. He is attributing to the flesh what Christ alone can do. Here is idolatry: worshiping self rather than the Lord. Here is blasphemy: attributing to man the gifts, the blessings, and the power that are Christ’s alone. For, you see, we have nothing and are nothing—absolutely nothing—apart from Him. Whether or not we acknowledge Him, he is responsible for the sum total of our existence.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. He will be like a strong tree, planted near the waters that flow with life. And though the heat of trials comes, he will not wither, for the Lord will sustain him. He will never lose his usefulness, for the Lord will see that he continues to yield fruit. Friend, are you a “self-made” person? Have you taken secret pride in what you have accomplished? Those accomplishments will perish. Look to Jesus Christ—the arm of the Lord—in whom are “power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12b).
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