A few months ago, I had a conversation with a woman at church. She had expressed a desire to feel closer to God. Before answering her concern, I decided to concisely share the Gospel. I explained, “Coming to Christ means confessing that you are a sinner. You are not good.” She immediately stopped me, “I am not a sinner. I am a good person. Everyone tells me that I am good, kind, and compassionate. I help people out. I am not a sinner.”
Upon hearing this blatant statement of human sinlessness, I had her read out loud from Romans 3:10-12: “‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Having read the universal truth of man’s depravity, I said, “Who is good?” She answered, “No one, but I am good.”
This is an example of “Except Me” theology. I define it as taking a promise or statement of God and inserting “except me” in order to remove yourself from its application. For this woman, Romans 3:10-12 said, “None is righteous [except me], no, not one [except me]; no one does good, not even one [except me].” She twisted the straightforward reading of the text to say the exact opposite.
Another text—which self-righteous individuals manipulate—is Ephesians 2:8-9. Since they are trusting in their good works, they distort the Bible to say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith [except me]. And this is not your own doing [except me]; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works [except me], so that no one may boast [except me].” When a person has a proud view of self, he has no need to run to Christ and hang on for dear life. Therefore, salvation to him is faith plus works and not faith alone.
For secularists, they change the Bible to deny a coming death and judgment. Many times, while preaching on campus, I have heard students laugh when I say, “You are going to die someday.” They wrongly assume that they will live forever. I will even quote to them Hebrews 9:27, but they only hear: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once [except me], and after that comes judgment [except me].” They boastfully proclaim that they are the exception to the rule. How many graveyards are filled with people who thought the same thing?
In addition to the previous examples, the convicted, depressed, and downcast can often repeat this error. For example, the man who is burdened with a heavy weight of guilt—like Christian from Pilgrim’s Progress—may not trust in God’s promise. John 3:16 becomes “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him [except me] should not perish [except me] but have eternal life [except me].” Out of prideful self-pity, he thinks, “I am outside of God’s reach. He cannot save me. I have sinned too grievously. I am forever doomed to hell.”
For the depressed man, he rejects Matthew 11:28-30 as applying to him: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [except me]. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls [except me]. 30 For my yoke is easy [except for me], and my burden is light.” The depressed man believes that Jesus can do nothing for him. He may be able to lift the heavy burdens of others, but his miseries are too heavy even for the Lord of Glory.
Finally, the downtrodden Christian is tempted to dismiss God’s sovereignty during trials. Romans 8:28-29 does not apply to him: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good [except me], for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son [except me], in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” The downtrodden Christian believes that nothing good can come out of his trial. He goes into a “Woe is me” perpetual cycle. Instead, he should remember God’s sovereign control. Through his unbelief, he also rejects God’s purpose; He “predestined” all Christians “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God uses the trial as a means to shape a believer into Christ-likeness. As a result, all trials are for a Christian’s good since they contribute to his spiritual growth.
What error do all of the people in these examples make? They trust in their feelings and perceptions more than the Bible. In effect, they are calling God a liar. 1 John 5:10 says, “Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar…”. Moreover, it is an attack on God’s omniscience. Those in unbelief think, “God clearly does not understand my situation. The Bible does not and cannot apply to me.” Therefore, God did not have the knowledge of all human situations before composing the text. Consequently, the Bible is not sufficient. It must be supplemented by roller coaster emotions and illogic from finite beings.
Friends, do not make the same mistake. Your situation is not special. Do not pretend that your circumstances deviate from Solomon’s teaching, “there is nothing new under the sun.” You are not the exception. On the contrary, you are the rule.
Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History and from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity. He is a PhD student in Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. In April 2016 Brandon accepted the call to pastor at Faith Baptist. He loves history and reading and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.