The degree to which I understand my own sinfulness is the same degree that I will appreciate God’s grace. Perhaps the greatest need in modern Christians’ lives is to properly estimate the degree of our own depravity. If only we would comprehend how perilously close to Hell we would be this very second if it was not for intervening grace. In my pastoral ministry I regularly note just how aloof the people of God are concerning the fullness of our qualification for God’s wrath. We give much lip-service about our sin and our need for grace but, in my estimation, we are really not fully convinced. What do I base this assessment upon? Many things, but here is a small sample.
How is it that you and I can be so appalled when someone does us wrong? We can often tell you the hour and the day when the sin against us occurred. We remember the details of the offense, the specific words involved, how it made us feel, what the repercussions of the wrongdoing were and what difficulty and hurt it bought to us. Our inner judge has easily weighed the evidence and declared the offender worthy of sentencing. When it comes to justice, we are skilled in bringing evidence, assessing the matter with scrutiny and rendering a verdict. We are proficient when evaluating the sins of others against us yet, it seems at times, we are not as thorough in dealing with our own sins and failures with the same intensity. When showing up in the court of our conscience to deal with what we have done we find that the inner judge is not as tenacious. He or she becomes lenient and quickly takes into consideration the extenuating circumstances. Interestingly, the case against ourselves lacks clarity; details are forgotten, intensity in our own prosecution lessens and we are quite relieved when there is no striking of the gavel as we are dismissed from court with all the charges against us dropped. Isn’t it amazing that when we the defendant facing charges in the courts of our own hearts that the judge is so casual, indulgent and understanding of us? One might think that the judge is not impartial when we are appearing before him in our own hearts. Let’s confess together that justice is more cushioned when we apply it to ourselves than when we bring it to others.
“Self-image, the concept we have of ourselves, must begin not by looking in the mirror but by looking into the face of God.” – Sam Storms
When we take long, serious looks at who God is in His word we will begin to have two changes occur in our hearts. Firstly, we will become awed of God as we see the extent of His own holiness, power, authority and righteousness. You cannot help to be stunned by His fathomless immensity. Secondly, you will begin the necessary experience of simultaneously seeing yourself as revealed in Scripture. This experience must take your breath away because the Bible reveals us to be patently sinful, worthy of death, deserving of Hell, incapable of self-rescue and unable to be defended on the grounds of personal merit. Because of our undeniable sin, we are condemned and doomed by the holiest and highest Authority in existence. Then comes grace. Then we see mercy. Our ears are opened to the hopeful truth of forgiveness and compassion and rescue and love. Calvary appears and the One upon the cross asks His Father to forgive us in our ignorance. We bow our hearts to Jesus Christ and we are then set free from the verdict of justice for all eternity. Joyful gratitude rushes in to purge our former fears and we go forth as pardoned criminals who have been transformed into lavishly welcomed sons and daughters of God. Grace swallows condemnation! Mercy digests the gavel! Rescue masters rejection and we…are…saved.
When that last paragraph begins to take root in your life’s philosophy you will find that another change occurs: you will then be much more interested in putting to death your own sin than you are in exposing the sins of others. Your zeal in defending yourself will morph into a commitment to inspecting yourself. It will be your flesh that you nail to the cross, not your fellows. Redeeming grace grants us a Godward focus and we discover that He prefers to deal with us when we look to Him…rarely, if ever, will He engage you to look to Him so He can deal with another. You have something to think about today. No more grudges. No more vengeance. No more self-defense. As you have received grace and mercy from Him…pour it all out on behalf of others.