Today, as a read in highly favorable review of Kevin DeYoung’s latest book in World Magazine, I was reminded of my past. While today I delighted in this review, it had not always been this way. In the past, even in my Christian past, jealousy and resentment would have tormented me and, sadly, even seduced me. “Why couldn’t that review have been about my book,” I would have fretted.
Jealousy had been an ugly deceiving companion. Even as a Christian, I had delighted in showing other Christians how little they knew – a dark form of one-ups-man-ship. Nevertheless, I had convinced myself that I was being a good Christian, exposing their over-confidence. Actually, I was merely parading my own sin, and deep within, I knew it. I felt alienated and filthy, but it required years for the ugliness of my sin to come into focus.
Meanwhile, this canker and the resulting feelings of alienation caused me to hate church. As I gradually came to perceive the sin and its ugliness, it had already progressed to stage four. I repeatedly struggled against it, but it had metastasized throughout mind and heart. It had become stronger than my ability to cope with it and left me feeling like a complete hypocrite, totally unworthy of serving of Savior. Shame tied me up into a psychological strait-jacket. I lived in the shadows lest anyone would see me.
How can I now admit this to you? Well, I’ve learned many important truths along the way that now sustain me. For one thing, we are all helpless sinners who need the Savior. Our righteousness is like filthy rags. However, He has made us stand by freely granting us the gift of His own righteousness. If He accepts me, I can begin to accept myself with all of my failings and to be transparent about them, even boasting in them (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
However, His grace did not stop there. So often, I had prayed that He would make me like Him without seeing any results, even after years. But I found that growth is like a seedling that would suddenly, even imperceptibly, make its appearance long after I had tired of looking for it.
I now delight in the spiritual triumphs of others and enjoy church. How did this happen? It is a mystery to me, explainable only by grace. Do I still have those thoughts? Indeed, but now I am convinced that there is something greater than my own successes and glory – the glory of God and His work! Seeking His glory now trumps any other considerations, and I thank God for this glorious and liberating gift.
What do we do when we see that we are still controlled by sin? Trust that He is in the process of liberating us! It is His will to do so:
- To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”