God has an interesting way of teaching me about my need in him. Last week I went to an AA meeting for an assignment from school, and realized that I too, am an addict. I am addicted to doing and thinking all the terrible things that I know are wrong and ugly. Although on the outside I might look so good and strong – I am fully aware of the reality of the many selfish and prideful things that daily pass through my mind.
Sometimes our challenging circumstances humble us not through the pressure of the situation itself, but through the illuminating experience of seeing our own self centered reaction. We are crushed by the fact that our problem of pride and selfishness runs much much deeper in our hearts that we had ever imagined. It is then that we realize our desperate need of God’s grace on our foolishly independent hearts. Even the reason that we are unhappy about our pride is often a prideful one – we think we are capable of better. We are helplessly confident in the foundation of our own hearts, minds, abilities – even though we might know that there is no solid reason to do so except that fact that we want so desperately to prove our independence.
It is in the daily, life challenges that I really see my need for grace. The more life presses down on me and challenges me, the more my pride and self-centeredness comes oozing out of every corner. Even though this is a fact that I hate, it is a reality that I need to come to grips with before I can deal with it correctly. And it is that precise act of coming to grips with the depth and magnitude of my pride and selfishness which is most difficult and most humbling.
It leaves us completely empty handed as we come before the cross of Christ, understanding that, without his help, even our reason for repentance is misdirected in its motives. As one of the puritans once wrote, “Even our tears of repentance must be washed in the blood of the Lamb.” His grace works in the heart that asks for mercy even in its ability to ask for mercy.
All this serves to point out an important reality – we all have some sense of a good and noble standard, and none of us live up to that standard. Many people react to this by simply dismissing it and saying that they do their best and that is good enough. But if we are honest with ourselves, we will start to see how short we fall of true goodness and beauty.
This is what is most staggering to me about the christian gospel – its aim is the very foundation motive of the heart. As we allow it to fire at that foundation, we are crushed, as it opens our eyes to the depth to which we have been permeated by self centered thinking. And as it opens our eyes to this disgusting reality, it gives us Christ, who has taken the full weight of this disgusting reality upon himself, tasted it, and was crushed and alienated because of it. We find our life in him who teaches us of the reality of our death.
“…as it is written:
“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.” (Romans 3)
“The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
“Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps. 19:12-14)
In the words of Thomas Watson, “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”