Psalm 36:1-2 An oracle is within my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For in his own eyes he flatters himself
too much to detect or hate his sin.
A difference in translation between the NIV and the Japanese really jumped out at me just now. Where the NIV starts with “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked,” the Japanese says, “Sin speaks in the heart of the wicked.” That’s a very interesting twist, and has real truth to it. That said, it is the rest of the passage that speaks most to me, because it describes my past condition so accurately. It points up two things that are essential for living the full life of holiness and righteousness that God has planned for us: fear of God and humility. Sadly, both of those are in short supply in the world at large. They are also closely intertwined. Without a fear of God, a recognition that He is our Creator and everything good comes from Him, without exception, (James 1:17) we quickly devolve into a totally self-centered world view that makes our own pleasure and satisfaction the ultimate good. Reading Ecclesiastes will tell you the emptiness of that! Such a world view is the outgrowth of hubris, a pride that says we don’t need God, and that we are the final arbiter of everything. We describe such a person as a sociopath, but all of us have that tendency within us. True mental health requires an awareness that we have value and abilities, but we aren’t the be-all and end-all of everything. A sociopath has lost that awareness. To the degree we hang onto that awareness, there is hope for us.
As I am frequently reminded, I have loved God from childhood, but for a long period I didn’t really fear Him. I knew that He was watching everything I did, but that didn’t keep me from doing things I knew full well weren’t pleasing to Him. I descended into that special stupidity of those with a high IQ, thinking that I had all the right answers – which is how I just described a sociopath! It is no exaggeration to say that I could have become a monster. However, God, in His incredible mercy and grace, tapped me on the shoulder one night and, when I turned, He had a mirror for me to see my own soul. I literally fell to my knees and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” I don’t want to think of what my course could have been had He not done that. Now, I still struggle with pride at times, but I have a genuine desire to recognize my own sins so that I may repent of them. As a pastor I desire the same thing for others, but I’ve got to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment. (John 16:8-11) I am to speak the truth in love, not drawing back from confrontation when it is called for, but not trying to do the Holy Spirit’s work for Him. My massive repentance was triggered by someone’s personal testimony, but they didn’t know me personally at all and certainly weren’t “aiming for” me. I am to pray for people and trust God with them, so that He may do for them what He alone knows is necessary for their salvation.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for how I see Your grace playing out in the lives of those around me. May we all submit fully to you in full humility, so that You may do Your perfect will in and through us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!