In the last few weeks, I have been earnestly seeking to understand how I can serve God while being the most wretched of sinners. I’m not going to vie with Paul for the position of “foremost,” but my heart is no better than anyone else’s.
I can project the image of being a good, little servant of God. I learned to “front” from a young age. As a Jew, actions dictate whether your name is written in the book of life and how you will be judged. Being outwardly pious gets you good standing in the Jewish community and honor before men. I remember standing in the same row as my father on the women’s side of the synagogue, close to the partition, to make sure that he saw me with my prayer book in my hand. If social hour occurred during service instead of davening, I may not be able to see my friends later on. I’m sure my parents were not trying to instill in me this mentality, but that’s what happened. I understood you need to do and be seen doing to get what you want, be it a sleepover or an inscription in the book of life.
I have struggled with many a sin in my heart. Perhaps the first words of Yeshua that cut me to the heart were those of Matthew 5:22 and 28. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. … But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It was then that I realized there was no consolation in the fact that I didn’t act on my impulses. I had them, God saw them and nothing I could do would remove them. My heart was stained with the stench of sin and there was nothing I could do to change that. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Sin is a part of my DNA. I can do nothing to get rid of my sin. Only Yeshua can do that.
Yet, even as I know I am saved, I still strive to seek the things of God. This leads to the most insidious type of sin because its birthplace is the belief that you are doing right. It’s a fine line to walk – the line between fake-it-til-you-make-it salvation and being renewed daily in His Holy Presence. They are not the same thing, but sometimes we convince ourselves they are.
It is the most hideous thing I have ever uncovered in my heart. So revolting was it, that I wanted to eject myself from my own presence. Pride is so disgusting and abhorrent because it twists itself around everything you do. It’s easy to get puffed up when you’re following all the rules. Yeah, that’s right, I’m getting pretty good at this Christian lifestyle. I can’t even remember the last time I lied or watched an unedifying television show or listened to secular music. I felt the Holy Spirit when I was singing the other day, so that must mean I’m doing good, right?
NO! EMPHATICALLY NOT RIGHT! And pride rears its ugly head. In Ecclesiastes 7:16, Solomon says, “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” In Romans 12:3, Paul says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” In 1 Corinthians 4:7, he says more emphatically, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
So, where does that leave this wretched sinner? In the love of the Father, the grace of Yeshua and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). It leaves me humble, grateful and willing to be filled. I have nothing without Him. The minute I forget that, pride gains a foothold.
As my sister said, “The devil wasn’t cast out of heaven for adultery. He was cast out because of pride (Ezekiel 28:15-17). ” This inclination comes to us naturally and yet I wish it wasn’t there.
I leave you with the hope that drives me on, the culmination of Yeshua’s work on the cross, nothing less than the redemption of all things. There will be a day when all things will be made whole, new and pure. In that day, pride will no longer have a place in my heart. Until that day, I work to fix my eyes on Yeshua, the fulfillment of all my hopes.
“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” – 1 Peter 3:13