2-12 Our Desperation
2-12-1 The Problem Of True Humility
I sense there is a certain energy, a certain dynamism, which is missing in our spiritual lives. We read of the possibility of " all joy and peace through believing" , of living a truly dynamic spiritual life, of the matchless devotion of Paul... and we see a great gap between these high ideals and our own spiritual experience. We may have a sense of boredom, of comfortable numbness which enables us to go on living at our present spiritual level without growing any stronger. Why don't we experience the dynamism which we should? What are we missing?
One of the fundamental reasons, it seems to me, is that we fail to appreciate the seriousness of sin; we fail to know and feel our utter desperation. Because of this we fail to appreciate the depth and length and height of the love of God in Christ; we don't come to really know the height of the excellence of the grace of the Father and His Son; we fail to appreciate the wonder and yet the terror of the cross; we read the account of the crucifixion, or Paul's expositions of the atonement, and somehow it fails to move us any more. And most crucially, we are left with what I would call the problem of a true humility. We appreciate the need for a thorough-going humility and yet somehow there seems nothing we can consciously do to acquire it. We are happy to trundle along as we are, rather than experience any fire of devotion to God, any flame of praise springing up deep within us, as a result of realizing the urgency of our position and that great salvation which has been brought to us. We all too often come to the end of a day feeling that we have at worst been only little sinners. We sin, yes, we admit it, on an almost abstract level. But life simply goes too fast to stop and consider that we used or thought a bad word, showed indifference rather than a true love... and so the day slips by, nothing pulls us up in our tracks, we read and mentally make a few notes, we hear our Bible studies, we attend, and reflect a very little; we break bread, and hold our attention for a few uncomfortable minutes on the cross and our redemption and our response and yes our failings and then off we go, back to another week, of the same. Serious self-examination just isn't on our agenda. As the days, the months, the years slip by, we become self-righteous, critical of others without an awareness that we are living by grace, lacking that true humility which is vital for our salvation... a sense of haziness descends, as the terror of sin recedes in our perception. Things which earlier pricked our conscience gradually become accepted as part of life, both individually and collectively. The self-anesthesia of sin is part of that downward spiral of spirituality which our nature is so capable of. We come to see humility as something altogether abstract, something which is necessary; and yet the real thing becomes somehow distanced from us.
There are three aspects of Bible teaching concerning sin which, if meditated upon, should help us; lead us on, overcoming the problem of a true humility,towards the sense of true desperation with our natures and subsequent zeal of response which we fain would have. It is true that life goes just too fast to stop and formally repent of every sin. And yet there must be an overall sense and awareness of sin's seriousness and our subsequent desperation, which makes us know that sinfulness and feel it's weight, and thereby enable us to feel and know the sense of the lifted weight which there is through Christ. According to the Lord's own teaching, there are in some ways only two types of believer: either we are the self-righteous Pharisee, or the publican who beats his breast in self-loathing, hating his corrupt heart, begging for “mercy” [Gk. propitiation], confessing that he is the sinner (Lk. 18:13 Gk.). Paul, in one of his many allusions to the Gospels, reached the same height of contrition when he said, in total honesty, that he was " [the] chief of sinners" . Note too how the Greek word for “mercy” occurs only in Heb. 2:17- Jesus as High Priest makes “propitiation for the sins of the people”. “The people”, all of us, are cameoed in that man.