By John Sharpe
By God’s wisdom the world came into form and in its midst we live.
In God’s wisdom, he allowed man to be cunning in his own ability to run from reality. I am a believer in the inherent survivalist instinct embedded in us all and I think this instinct arises on so many levels in life, from fear of death to fear of losing control. People generally dread the choices they make in life, yet are not those choices just the ultimate manifestation of their own hearts? The choice shouldn’t be difficult. It is the prior conviction of belief in God that ultimately directs the choice.
When faced with such fear people can become escape artists. I recently realized that I, despite my sincerest desire to follow God the right way, have nevertheless engaged in an elaborate plan to avoid losing control of my vulnerability.
Let me try and explain. In a sequential sense, the day I realized I was following idols (money, luxury, acceptance from others, etc) was the first day of healing. I “woke up” and caught a glimpse of my sin. This set in motion a process of attempts to shed my inclination to sin by reorienting my heart towards God through scripture, fellowship, servanthood and discipline. In many ways, I succeeded. The progress I have made in my quest to “walk the walk” has been encouraging, to say the least, and it is of course clear that my progress is by the grace of God.
However, this progress isn’t so simple. Along the way, in those moments of triumph over sinful nature, when I am alone and feeling encouraged about my forthcoming steps towards healing, there always lurks a tendency to forget why I am trying to change.
It’s very easy for believers to forget that they are being carried by the love of God. Instead of crediting God, they begin to credit themselves. When people start to give themselves credit, they can quickly become blind again. For some, years or decades later at what may seem like the pinnacle point of one’s tireless efforts to achieve true humility, they suddenly may understand that their toil resulted in no real progress towards God at all. At those moments, perhaps people realize that progress and retreat can occur at the same time. They may realize that their version of progress had nothing to do with the furthering of God’s plan. In their dismay, they decide life isn’t so simple, that perhaps it is simply too hard to understand and anger erupts because their toil was seemingly not rewarded by God.
The point is that I have to remember to follow God with discipline and complete focus on HIM and not on me. The cunning way of a man will destroy him if his heart is not anchored in what is good in eyes of Jesus. So how have been an escape artist? Recently, I came to the decision that I was unhappy at my job, for reasons that still seem legitimate, and began to survey life’s landscape for new opportunities. I claimed that I needed “a switch”. Ideas such as living on Kibbutz in Israel for a little while or studying there, attending seminary in California or Texas, and getting a new job in another field reverberated in my mind. As these thoughts burst forth, I thought, “I am being prompted by the Holy Spirit to change”. I was being cunning with myself because I was crafting a path towards securing an escape towards an environment that served my own needs. This is not to say that any of these ideas are wrong; I may very well end up in seminary or Israel someday, who knows. However, these places become objects of my vain affection if my interest in them is really rooted in my own vanity. Unfortunately, that is what happened.
So, I was actually serving my own needs, yet again. I was searching for a way to enter into a new environment for a while to recreate myself. Why? Because I have a tough time becoming vulnerable with others and giving without expectation. But wait! Relatively speaking, I give to others! I know of many instances when I’ve given without wanting anything in return. Ah, yes, but did a couple acts of giving erase my sinful inclination? And as I continued to ponder, indeed, I understood that because no one objected to my gifts I therefore felt as if I gave unconditionally. With more contemplation, I knew that if someone did object for whatever reason, it would vastly affect how I chose to give. And, quite simply, that is not right because the definition of giving is to want nothing in return. If I choose to give someone a gift, it should make no difference to me if they reject the gift or accept it because it has been given unconditionally. If I am concerned if they accept the gift of not, I am thinking about how the act of giving will affect me and therefore, I am not giving unconditionally. On a personal level, this whole problem is rooted in a deeper insecurity about myself and a lot of it has to do with pride and vanity. Period.
Well, my heart dropped when I realized this the other day. But there is hope and I will never, never give up. Have I made progress towards learning how God wants me to live? Absolutely. Do there remain many layers of sin in my life? Absolutely. But I know that the infinite quality of sin is broken at the foot of the cross.
The purpose of this letter is really to encourage my brothers and sisters with regards to the absolute vastness of a person’s ability to mask his or her own sinful nature from him or herself. As we make a sincere effort to follow Jesus, our sin will surely be revealed to us, and we will be shocked and dismayed because we will realize our obvious lack of humility. This realization is nicely expounded upon in the Proverbs 1:18, where it is said, “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Let us not underestimate the power of our flesh and its roots within us. Truly, there is no power that is strong enough to uproot our sinful nature except the Glory of God. And this life of ours is full of surprises and it is tough. But do not let that become an excuse to escape from our demons. Our God is a God of order and of good, and he expects us to turn and face our sin and sin no more. So let us do this! Blessings to you all!!