There are times in our lives when we are in need of somebody taking a two-by-twice and giving us a good whollop in order to get through our thick skulls exactly what we should be or should not be doing.
While I cannot count the number of times I have either heard or read the words of Paul in Romans 7, the reading often has conjured the following image in my mind.
“The good I am supposed to be doing is not what I am doing, and the bad I am not supposed to be doing is exactly what I find myself doing.”
I tend to think that I am so thankful that there is a reason for why I am doing what I do. The grace of God sure is great and His tender mercies are new every morning. However, in my surmising, what I have failed to remember is the further truth that the apostle Paul enunciates very clearly, “Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?”
We like the grace part, the tender mercies part, and the words that seem to allow us a “Get Out of Jail” free card when we do sin. Obviously, it must not really be me doing these things, but just my old nature that keeps getting in the way. We appreciate the fact that Paul evidences to us that he was human just like us and that his struggles empower us to work through our own struggles.
Taking this a step further, we recognize our own failings so well that we somehow have come to the conclusion that we have splintered the beams and logs in our own eyes and that all is well. The truth is that it stinks in Denmark and I don’t think it is the cheese.
Our perception of our own miserable failings have enabled us to think that as long as we “claim the victory” and/or “claim Paul’s words as our own” that this equates to having the freedom to chew on all of our Christian brethren who are not nearly as spiritual as we are. We find fault, we nit-pick at others, we castigate, we shoot our own wounded in the trenches, and at the end of the day manage to lay down at night with what we think is a clear conscience before God.
The harsh reality is that our lives are at times no better than those in the church at Ephesus, in that, we have left our first love of the Savior. We have traded in the clear revelation of Jesus Christ for an opportunity to try and justify our own actions, words, or thoughts. The truth is that we can, if we are honest, sometimes be more in love with ourselves than with the Savior.
Or, we may be more like Sardis, in that, our works are not perfect before God. We do not give Him our best in every area of our lives, just the areas that others see. In the cold, dark corners of our heart, we find ourselves attached to the flesh. We are loathe to refrain ourselves from that which brings temporary pleasure. In the meantime, the works we do before God are mere religiosity and not actually from the heart.
Or, is it possible that we are representations of the problems found in Laodicea? In short, we are lukewarm. We are not on fire, but to look at us neither are we stone-cold dead. We are rich and think we are in need of nothing. However, the Searcher of all hearts knows the truth.
Each of the members of these assemblies were called to repentance. They, just as we do, needed to realize and repeat the words of Paul –
“WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM! WHO SHALL DELIVER ME FROM THIS BODY OF DEATH?”
Why is it so much easier to find fault with others than to see the wretchedness of our own souls? Why is it so much easier to call for the repentance of others than it is to cry for continued mercy from God and ask for deliverance from the body of death?
Gypsy Smith, a minister from England in the 19th and 20th centuries, was once asked about the pursuit of revival by an individual attending his services. His reply was, “Go home, find a piece of chalk, draw a small circle on the ground, and then kneel inside the circle? Once you have done this, plead and pray for God to begin the revival with everybody inside the circle. When He changes your heart and the prayer is answered, the revival will be under way.”
How often have we prayed for those around us that God would do a work of grace and shine His mercy upon them when we should be praying for our own souls? Do we pray for revival with a heart that asks God to begin the work with us?
I, for one, have been guilty at times, even here on DefCon, of being more concerned about the foibles, the sins, the errors, and the frailties of others than I have in searching the truth of what is in my own heart. I cannot help but wonder if I had spent even half so much time asking God to reveal the dark crevices of my own heart what it would reveal.
I wonder what a difference it would make both in myself as well as in the way that I approach others. Would the revelation of my inner self cause me to be more and more dependent on the mercies of a Sovereign Savior who paid for the sins, errors, and frailties that I seek to cover?
Would I be much quicker in praying the words of King David in Psalm 51 for my own sin against God than I am in my willingness to write a blog about the sins of others?
Would I be much quicker in throwing aside the shabby, rotten clothes of my self-righteousness and self-importance in order that Jesus Christ may be glorified and in order that we may see the Holy Spirit do His work instead of thinking I can do a better job?
While on my part this is not a free ticket or a stepping away from standing for the truth, my prayer is that the areas the Lord is working on in my life of late will help me to be more careful in what or how I speak or write to or about others. Not everybody who differs in some areas of doctrine is to be considered an unbeliever. I know that I should learn to be more gracious in various areas of my deportment seeking to recognize that while my position may be biblical, my disposition may not be.
From my heart, I wish to acknowledge again that not all of my words here have been gracious. There are times when I was more concerned about tearing others down than remembering the grace of God that has been shed abroad in my own heart. I know that there are still beams or logs that need to be removed and my prayer is that the discipline of a loving Father will be a constant reminder that I truly am a wretched man. I need the constant reminder that I must be delivered daily from this body of death. In my flesh, there is NO good thing and it must be put to death. Yes, the putting to death, or mortification of the body, is not easy, but it is necessary.
With those words in mind, I want to conclude with the words of a beautiful old hymn. However, before I do, I want to apologize for where I have lacked in grace towards our readers. I ask that you forgive me for not always being more desirous of pointing to the Savior than I have, at times, been desirous to point out the sinners. It is my intention to still write truth, but I hope and pray that I will search my own heart before I consider putting either pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard.
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
What can I say when I’m worse at these things than you are? I guess I have to settle for “Me, too!”
Yeah add me too to the me too list!
There’s a couple observations to make. I’d settle it about God and reminders first of all. What He began He will complete in those He began it in and ” it ” is the death and resurrection of our death to be made alive in Him! To that effect what I’m reminded of reading your article that affects me comes into focus by these verses which as I said once God begins that death life work He won’t stop until He is finished! He will use Godly men as well as His own Hand effecting the certain change of our life to the image of Christ!
Here’s some verses that inform me of this:
For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:20, 21 ESV)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20, 21 ESV)
And finally this too:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10, 11 ESV)
Your post is humbling and timely, indeed. A dear sister in Christ and I were talking of this very topic yesterday. We realized that we need to show more love and grace in our speech toward our brothers and we also considered deleting from our bookmarks alot of christian blogs who tend to be rigid, critical, and less than loving and gracious toward their readers, as the influence can be a bit much in forming less than loving thought and speech. Thank you for your vulnerable honesty. It is encouraging more than you know.
Nikki, Michael and Jon,
Thank you for your own thoughts and gracious replies. It is never easy to admit when something has been done or handled in a manner that does not always seek to honor Christ because we seem to want to think that we have The Lord on our side. Somehow this can equate to “our team” being able to wield the battle axes against all enemies of the Cross. Sadly, the “enemies” are not always enemies – they are Christian brethren who disagree on a few doctrines that in the light of eternity have NOTHING to do with our salvation.
As a heads up, after speaking with Chris Hohnholz about this, effective immediately, this blog is going to be headed in a different direction. Our prayer is that with the help of The Lord each post from now on will show grace. This does not mean we will not stand against complete error nor will we compromise on the fundamentals of the faith. It simply means that we want our deportment to match the same levels of grace that has been extended to us by our Savior.