Vol. 9, No. 2
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"No one is perfect," the saying goes, and that saying is true. James reminded us of this when he wrote, "For we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2). However, there is a world of difference between those who stumble, realize it, seek forgiveness and try to do better, and those who are oblivious to it. One of Satan's greatest tools is that of self-deception, where one no longer reviews the matters of one's heart. When the Hebrew writer warned of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13), it applies as much to refusing to honestly examine oneself, as it does to lying, stealing, immorality or any other "obvious" sin that one may see in another.
It is amazing the lengths to which one will go to justify oneself, when the heart gets hardened by sin and honesty with oneself is abandoned. An action that is condemned in others is quite alright when practiced by oneself. Some of the wildest reasons for forsaking the assembly are offered, that surely if that person heard someone else say, would be immediately rejected. The motives one offers for not being involved in the work of service, which sound so logical to oneself in the context of the church, are obviously rejected as unfit to be offered to one's employer. The logic behind selfish behavior, which makes one unconscious of how inappropriate it is when done by oneself, is disdained when heard from others. It is all too common to practice things in one's own life that is readily seen and condemned in others when practiced by them.
If such behavior is pointed out to such a one, where one is faced with the reality of his or her own discrepancies, it is easy to attack the other for their failings, or to appeal to God's grace. Phrases such as, "I'm glad I'm going to be judged by God and his grace, not you," are often hurled back. No doubt some have arrogantly attacked people gripped with sin, but some have been arrogantly attacked when love was their true motive of heart for others. This is how sin seeks to keep itself entrenched in people's lives.
It's true, we all need God's grace, and all want to be judged by him mercifully. Without grace, no one would be acceptable before God. And yet, grace isn't a covering for sin, but its cure. "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). Paul goes on to say, "What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:15-18).
This takes us back to a willingness to be honest with ourselves, truly, genuinely, completely. Without honesty of the heart, we allow sin to take root and harden us, deceiving us to who we are, what our motives are, and what we ultimately do. Paul tells us, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Corinthians 13:5). More honest soul-searching will lead us closer to God's will, his grace and mercy, his life. To harden our hearts and stop up our ears as to who we really are will only disappoint in the end. "By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" (1 John 2:5-6).