Monday, July 29, 2013

Who Are You, Really?

There is a Greek aphorism, so significant, it was inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi and recorded in the Suda, an ancient encyclopedia of Greek knowledge, which translated to English reads "know thyself." It is said to have been a warning for any who would regard themselves too highly, especially those with accomplishment attributed to them. In Hamlet, the advice Polonius gave to his son Laertes before the younger was to depart is similar: "This above all, to thine ownself be true and it must follow as the night to day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Paul put it this way to the church at Corinth, take heed lest you fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

I've asked myself why is it so difficult to go to the cross each morning; why I am so inclined to self-justify, why I tend toward self-righteousness? I want to see myself as improving as being changed as being able to take steps of righteousness outside of God's grace. I know that this silly meme that we so easily fall into of "with God's help" is just vanity. Yet, at this point in my experience, I don't want to need Jesus to do it for me either. I feel that because I know better, I truly ought to do better (on my own!).

One of the most moving passages of scripture to me is where Jesus describes two prayers. "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke 18:10-13 KJV) This passage often moves me to tears but I'm not the the publican, I'm the Pharisee!

If I am honest, if I'm true to myself, if I know myself, I am at enmity with God. How am I different than the father of lies?
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14)

I feel the stinging rebuke of Jeremiah when he says:

The heart is deceitful above all things,And desperately wicked;Who can know it?
Do you really want to know the truth about me? No, trust me, you don't and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know the truth about you. The nature of sin is ugly, contemptible, vile, it has a putrid stench and has no mercy. Unconstrained, without the grace of God, there is no one you would fear more than me. I would betray you, I would beat you with single-minded hatred, I would scourge you, imprison and mock you, spit on you and hang you, ridicule you and watch you die without lifting a finger to help. If I did it to Jesus, why wouldn't I do it to you and more?

It's easier to self-justify than to witness the choice Jesus made in Gethsemane to become sin for me. My self-righteousness doesn't want him to do that; maybe for you but not for me! It's easier to see sin in someone else and to be critical than to watch Jesus be beaten as he accepts my guilt. It's easier to tout my knowledge of righteousness by faith than to see Jesus violently pinned to a cross because of my selfishness. I can lead a discussion and show others the merits of Calvary but I can't watch him bear my shame because by then, it breaks my heart.

Who am I that He considers me, that he would visit me?  For he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust. So as much as I object to going to the cross, once I have been there, Jesus' love trumps my sinful nature, my selfishness and his cross, his righteousness, covers me and it gives me peace. It is then that I know that even though I will arrogantly and foolishly try to assert my independence, he who began a good work in me will finish what he started. So, despite my sinful nature, I rejoice.  Because now, through the Holy Spirit, Christ in me, is the hope of glory.

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