Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: complacency

Knowing our own wretchedness

I am quite well aware that I am an imperfect person. Such awareness means that I am a truly humble Christian, doesn’t it?

Or am I mistaking complacency for humility? Perhaps I should come right out and call it lukewarmness. That is what God called it when He told me what He thought of me almost 45 years ago. I opened the Bible at random and my eyes fell on Revelation 3:16: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” He was telling me that I left an awful taste in His mouth and He just had to get that taste out of His mouth.

Has God ever spoken severe, disapproving words to you? If so, it was not His intention for you to go off and start a pity party. Those were words of mercy, calling you to repentance. We cannot become a child of God if we think we are doing pretty good without Him. The severity of God in revealing the depth of our corruption is the most effective way of leading us to repentance so that we can experience His goodness and mercy.

When Isaiah saw God, he didn’t just bemoan his imperfections; he said: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). That confession moved God to cleanse his lips and then send him out to speak powerful words on God’s behalf. It is always the case that when we are most aware of our own depravity, we are just a step away from experiencing the greatness of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

The apostle Paul was acutely aware of his weaknesses. He confessed to being the chief of sinners; he said “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Yet he also said: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I like the way Blaise Pascal put it: “Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because He shows us both God and our own wretchedness.”

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What is wrong with this picture?

We send missionaries all over the world from our North American congregations. We rejoice when reports come back of the faith taking root in countries where the prevailing belief is animism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam.

Then we go into Tim Horton’s and the person behind the counter is a recent immigrant from one of those countries and we complain about her accent. What is wrong with this picture?

I’ll venture a guess or two. First, in our minds we have separated mission work from normal Christian life. People from (almost) every country in the world are showing up virtually on our doorstep and it doesn’t click that here is a mission field right in front of us. You have to leave home and cross an ocean to do mission work, don’t you?

Secondly, we too easily assume that people around us aren’t interested in the gospel. If they were they would come to church wouldn’t they? Let’s be really honest here: who is it that isn’t interested? Is it them or us?

Thirdly, we like living in our little bubble where nothing much happens to disturb our accustomed cycle of work, leisure and church activities. It’s hard for us to conceive of how it would be if some of these people entered into our circle. They’re not like us, everything would change if too many of them became part of our congreagation.

Here we are then. Christianity has fallen into disrepute in our land; only ten to fifteen percent of the population attend a church, and many of those churches are more based on tradition or intellectualism than on the Bible. And we are helpless to do anything about it.

Or are we? If we are born-again believers, readers of the Bible, led of the Holy Spirit, don’t we have the tools to reach out to people around us? Perhaps we are just too unaccustomed to using those tools.

Let’s take an interest in other people, get to know them, ask questions about their lives, their aspirations, what is important to them. Then tell them in a simple way about the things that are most important to us. And I don’t mean our material possessions or the accomplishments of our children. Share the things that are of eternal value. Many people will never have heard such things before.

 

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