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One swallow doesn't make a summer
- Jacob Ninan
This proverb refers to the migratory bird swallow appearing as summer starts. What it says is that if we saw just one swallow, that is not enough to say summer has arrived. Technically speaking, one data point does not indicate a trend!
If someone is talking about being kind to the poor and I mention how I gave some money to a poor man years ago, that doesn't prove I am a kind man. If I am a kind man, that will be seen as a characteristic of my life and not some rare thing that happens once in a while.
But this is one way we try to justify ourselves and paint ourselves in a good way by quoting examples of how we have done some good thing. One of the biggest hindrances to our sanctification is this habit of justifying ourselves. Whenever the Holy Spirit tries to show us something of our lack or failure, we immediately point to some incident where we behaved in a good way. What we are trying to say is that if we have done such a thing we can't be really bad! But where does it take us? Nowhere in the direction of becoming more like Jesus, but only digging deeper with our foundation of self-righteousness.
Jesus came to save sinners (Lk.5:32), and if we recognise we are sinners who need a Saviour we can go to Him and receive salvation (Mt.11:28). But if we smugly say we are righteous we will remain in our sins (Jn.9:41).
The spirit of the times tells people to keep a good self-esteem. We are supposed to keep positive thoughts about ourselves and shoo away every negative thought that comes! But in spite of all our efforts our self-esteem is so brittle that we get into despair and depression often. So we try all the more to tell ourselves how good we are, how great we are, etc., and get angry with people who point out anything wrong with us. We choose preachers who will make us feel good with soothing and comforting promises and always hold a bright future for us no matter how we live (2Ti.4:3). Even though we get such booster shots every Sunday, our immunity doesn't even last till we reach home after church!
God wants to heal our wounds and strengthen our muscles. He doesn't just wave a wand over us (even through 'anointed' people who make us swoon before them), and the realities of life keep bursting our bubbles of imaginary grace. He wants to forgive us only when we confess our sins (1Jn.1:9), and He wants to give us victory only when we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Lk.9:23;Ro.8:13). How can even God help us if we keep telling ourselves, "I am good!"?
Our fight is not against people (Ep.6:12), but evil, deceitful spirits who are trying to manipulate the thoughts and values of the whole world so as to turn us away from God. 'Clever' ideas are coming out through the media and from so-called experts, with the ultimate goal of making us feel self-sufficient with no need for God. Thinking 'positively' and rejecting all 'negative' ideas is one subtle attack they use in this war.