Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Amazing Grace of Self-knowledge

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. The devotional is abbreviated and my thoughts are in red.

For I know my transgressions. Psalm 51:3

I have counseled people for many years, and one of the things that has impressed me over and over again is how self-deluded people (including me) can be. It's amazing how hard it is to see ourselves with accuracy. It's been my experience over and over again that we see the other person with a fairly high degree of accuracy but can't seem to see ourselves with the same precision.

This is why we need other people in our lives. They can see what we can’t.

I have had angry people get quite angry when I've suggested that they are angry! I've had controlling people posit that they think themselves to be quite serving. I've watched vengeful people seem unaware that they lived to settle the score with others. I've worked with men eaten with the cancer of lust who tell me that sex isn't a big struggle for them. I've had bitter wives give me the litany of ways they think that they are loving their husbands. I've counseled a gymnasium full of teenagers who really do think that they are wiser than the surrounding authorities. I've sat with ungracious and legalistic pastors and heard them talk of their allegiance to a theology of grace.

Self delusion is a very powerful thing. The heart is deceitful above all things. Jeremiah 17:9

Why are we so deluded? The reasons are many. We make the mistake of comparing ourselves to the diluted standards of the surrounding culture, standards that fall far below God's will for us. We also make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others, always able to find someone who appears to be more sinful than we are. We spend so much time arguing for our righteousness that it leaves little time to reflect on the reality of remaining sin. Add to all of this the basic nature of sin. Sin is deceitful. It hides, it defends itself, it wears masks, it bends its shape into more acceptable forms, it points fingers of blame, and it even questions the goodness of God. Sin always first deceives the person who is sinning the sin.

The only good standard is God’s word. The world, the flesh and the devil will try to muddy the waters so we don’t see clearly. If we want to escape delusion then we need a daily immersion in the Word.

So, since sin is by its very nature deceitful, we need help in order to see ourselves with accuracy. Another way to say this is that personal spiritual insight is the result of community. We don't get it all by ourselves. We need a ministry of two communities in order to see ourselves with the kind of surgical clarity with which David speaks in this psalm. First, we need community with God. He's the ultimate opener of blind eyes. Through the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit we begin to see ourselves with accuracy and become willing to own up to what we see. But the Spirit uses instruments, and this is where the second community comes in. God employs people in the task of giving sight to other people. For David, that was the prophet Nathan.

Nathan was the voice of confrontation, exposure and judgment. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can voluntarily put people in our life to be the eyes we lack. We need someone to give a different perspective in our life. That can keep us from horrible situations and compromise.

There are a whole lot of people who are blindly stumbling their way through life. But their blindness is made even more powerful and dangerous by the fact that they tend to be blind to their blindness. A physically blind person is never blind to his blindness. He's immediately confronted with the fact that he's unable to see, and he gives himself a whole catalog of ways to live inside the boundaries set by this profound physical deficiency. The scary reality is that one of the things that keeps spiritually blind people blind is that they're not only convinced that they see, but they're also convinced that they see quite well! And so they don't seek help for their blindness. Why seek help for a condition from which you are convinced you don't suffer?

Again, the things we are blind to can be clearly seen by others around us. The wise person establishes a relationship with at least one other person to help fill that gap.

A question from the meditation:

In what ways has God's grace enabled you to know yourself better today than you once did?


Get this book and join the journey:

Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy


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