"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Self-Awareness Is Crucial in Moving the Love of God from Simply Knowing to Experientially Feeling

It's amazing to watch how we all fight so hard to prove we aren't spotty in character, wrong in choices, or out of sorts in behavior. The basic premise upon which we build our lives is that we are good and deserving, and we're going to prove to others that we're even better than they think. The king to which we all bow in our natural state is self-promotion. Life becomes all about fighting hard to get others to acknowledge how valuable and good we already know ourselves to be; deserving of everything anyone can give us.

However, when the Spirit of God first begins His work of conversion in us, He moves us to bondage and fear (Romans 8:15). We fear failure. We fear discovery. We fear exposure. We fear rejection by people. We fear life. We fear rejection by God. We fear death. Life becomes a form of bondage where we fight to control peoples' perceptions and our environment to prevent discovery of who we really are. Ironic, is it not, that what many call 'dysfunctional living' may actually be the Spirit of God moving a person toward Jesus?  If you find it difficult to see how the Spirit works during pre-conversion  to lead us to a deeper awareness of our sinfulness, I invite you to listen to this brilliant sermon by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones on Romans 8:15.

My son tells me that he glances at my posts and if they are long, he doesn't read them. I laughed when he told me this, but I recognize the truth behind his statement. In this Twitter age, people don't like long platforms of truth. So, I am going to give you a stunner of truth in the next three paragraphs and hope you read it and stew on it for a few days!

The entire purpose of the Spirit's work within us is to bring to us the self-awareness that there is no greater sinner than I.  Self-awareness is defined as the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. Why should the Spirit of God aim to bring us to the place of wrestling Paul for the title "worst of sinners."? When I refuse to blame other people or my environment for my faults in character and failures in life, then I can begin to feel the gospel of God's grace and love for sinners.

Where my sin is great, God's grace is greater (Romans 5:20) . Where there is remarkable ungodliness, God's eternal and unconditional love for me is even more remarkable (Ephesians 3:14-21). "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst." (I Timothy 1:15). Churches seem to lose sight of this transforming power because church people are constantly looking to 'blame others' for sin, to promote inauthentic leaders that manipulate and control environments to prevent disclosure of any imperfections, and to point the proverbial finger at the world as 'the source of all sin.' No wonder God's love is only something we sing about, but not something that sinks in. In order to experience the unconditional love of God we've got to come to self-awareness of our own failures, and the beauty of defining our personhood by the love and grace of God in the midst of our failures.

So, when's the last time you've taken inventory of your life, spoken of your failures to a friend, and then celebrated the love and grace of God in the midst of them?  If you have no concept of how this can be done, then the Spirit may be still in His pre-conversion work in your life which leads to fear and bondage. Open your heart to His unconditional love and cry, "Poppa, I've failed." And hear Him say, "It's okay, my child.  I'm in love with failures."

22 comments:

Christiane said...

I love this: " . . when's the last time you've taken inventory of your life, spoken of your failures to a friend, and then celebrated the love and grace of God in the midst of them? "

There is so much of Christ's ability to heal troubled people in your post, WADE. Turning away from pride and towards humility before the Lord . . . that painful journey of healing is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit, yes

in my Church is said, this:
" "I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God."
http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/the-16-most-important-quotes-from-pope-francis-interview-5278188389269504

Aussie John said...

Wade,

That is the very best New Years reading for every one of us.

Steve said...

Wade - I follow your blog regularly and appreciate your love for God, His Word, and especially your pastor's heart which brings both of those things together for your church and others to consider and take in ... Thank you and I trust that 2015 is another year in which God will continue to use you, your church, and your blog to enrich and expand His Kingdom!

I may have shared this with you in the past (but I'm not certain); so I share this as it fits so well with this post. John Fischer has written a wonderful book entitled "12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me)" (2000). In this book he deals specifically with our need to understand our own sinfulness, thus avoiding the Pharisee's tendency to see sin in others but not in self. In 'Step 7 - We embrace the belief that we are, and always will be, experts at sinning' John shares 'the recovering Pharisee's creed' -- "When I speak of sin, I will no longer talk of it as something in my distant past. When I speak of forgiveness, I will not speak of it as something I received years ago when I became a Christian. I will speak of the sin and forgiveness I experienced today--that I am experiencing right now--that enable me to be human and real and truthful with who I am and who I am becoming. And when conversation turns to the talk of sinners, I will realize that the conversation is really about me. I will always know that I am the worst of sinners. I put Jesus on the cross; my sin nailed him there. And if I ever catch myself thinking that there exists, somewhere in the world, a worse sinner than I, regardless of the gravity of the crime, it is at that point that I have stepped over the pharisaical line and am speaking of something of which I know nothing. When it comes to sin, I can only speak of myself with absolute certainty, and in regard to myself and sin, I am certain of this: that I am an expert in both my sin and my forgiveness. One brings me sorrow; the other brings me great joy. The remarkable thing is not that I sin, but that, in spite of my sin, I am capable of having fellowship with God and being used by him for his purpose in the world."

Long quote, but it (as well as the book) has been such a good read and challenge in my own life. I often wonder how things might be different if I/we engaged our church interactions, as well as engagement with our neighbors and world, with this humble posture rather than what is often perceived as arrogant judgement, etc.

Would recommend this book to any Christian, and your blog as well. Would love it if the opportunity ever arose to meet and converse over a cup of coffee, or a meal ... Or even in a phone call. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the input you have had in my life via the internet! Blessings in 2015! Hebrews 10:19-25.

Sincerely,
Steve

Wade Burleson said...

Steve,

Really good stuff. Thanks so much for sharing. If you are ever in the city, give me a call and I'll buy your lunch!

Bob Cleveland said...

If I said that a friend had given me a round-the-world trip to, and tickets for, every major opera house in the world, what would that tell you about me (besides the fact that it'd mean I had generous and wealthy friend)?

Some might guess that I liked Opera. Or that I enjoyed travel, But the truth is, I dislike both.

I wouldn't go.

But ... if I asked what that told you about the giver, I think anybody'd guess that HE likes Opera.

Same deal with salvation. It doesn't tell you anything about me except that God gave it to me (and I repented, believed, trusted, accepted).

Victorious said...

Wade, sorry for being such a pest about this, but....

How is self-awareness and taking an inventory not "introspection?"

You said God wants us to take our eyes off ourselves and onto Him.

http://www.wadeburleson.org/search?q=+Introspection

I surely believe/know I'm a sinner. But the particulars are revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. That's different from your suggestion that we take an inventory which to me equates with introspection; i.e. focusing on "self" rather than on Him.

Wade Burleson said...

Victorious,

You are not a pest. Self-awareness that I'm a sinner requires little introspection, especially when I never draw my identity from my sin. In other words, what I'm advocating is the loss of all self-righteousness, as well as a total focus on His grace and love. He LOVES sinners.

In other words, Victorious, I need no introspection to see my sin, for I already know myself to be the chief of sinners, and I'm confident in His love for me and grace to me.

Wade Burleson said...

One other thing, Victorious. If you read my post carefully, you'll see that the overwhelming feeling of sinfulness, fear, rejection, and unworthiness is PRE-conversion. You come to Christ and the gospel brings forgiveness, confidence, acceptance, worthiness, and all the other graces of His love in Christ. :)

Anonymous said...

Okay. I see the rotten person I am. How do I snap out of this feeling of depression over it? It seem that I can't be joyful of God's love even when I ask for help in prayer.

Victorious said...

... I need no introspection to see my sin, for I already know myself to be the chief of sinners...

Here's where I think my disconnect might be. I don't see or perceive myself as the "chief of sinners." I was, the "chief" but now I see myself as washed, sanctified, justified, and righteous because of Him. That's my identify now.

I may have a mental block with this concept, but I'll get it eventually. I have faith!

Thank you so much for your patience in explaining it (over and over) for me. I can't promise I won't need clarification again in the future, but know that I'm trying my best. :)

Wade Burleson said...

Victorious,

When Paul said "chief of sinners" he was already washed, sanctified, justified, and righteous because of Him. We are saying the same thing except that maybe I have little problem calling myself a 'failure' and the "chief of sinners' NOW, and yet I rest in the love and grace of God for sinners - and it takes no introspection on my part to admit both things. :)

My low view of myself in terms of 'spiritual perfection' and my high view of God in terms of 'eternal grace and love' keep me from judging and condemning others who aren't like me! :)

Victorious said...

Wade,

Got it! (pretty sure)

We are failures and chiefs of sinners who are saved by grace, washed, sanctified, justified, and righteous because of Him!

That perspective enables us, like our High Priest does, to sympathize with the weaknesses of others. Heb. 4:15

If I see a "Bingo!", I'll know I FINALLY got it! Thank you again!

Christiane said...

The Church has many titles for Our Lord. But it is known among all of us who have suffered from broken lives and great sadness, this:

that when Christ confronts humanity in its deepest pain, He does so as 'The Great Physician' with a compassion that brings peace to our souls.

For this, we can be eternally grateful.





Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curious Thinker said...

I agree this is a very well written and wonderful post and I agree with every word. God Bless.

Rex Ray said...

Victorious,
You spoke the words I was thinking…if Christians are no ‘less sinners’ than the lost, then the wonderful ‘work’ that God did in us was worthless.

Wade,
Yes, Paul was saved when he said he was the “chief of sinners”, but was he referring to the time he protected the coats of those who murdered Stephen, put Christians in prison, or Jesus saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4 NLT)

Jesus saved me when I was ten. I’ve never had a beer or cigarette. My brother and I went to a ‘city’ school in the 8th grade where we printed. The teacher asked if we could do cursive writing. My brother said, “No; our mother doesn't allow us to curse.”

I know God doesn't like the proud, and once I decided to something stupid to help with that problem. The regret did not make me feel any better.

carl4grace said...

Wade,
My whole life I've struggled to "Move the Love of God from Simply Knowing to EXPERIENTIALLY feeling."

One can discern whether or not a person believes in the "PURE GRACE gospel." And you do!

Grateful for your blogs. Also the comments because they help clarify the intent of your posts.

I praise God that He loves failures!
Carl

Rex Ray said...

Carl,

Yes, God loves failures. He also loves: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT)

This gets involved with the debate if Jesus died for everyone or only those that believed in him.

Michael said...

Hi Wade...when you get some time will you give me the scripture support for your statement "The entire purpose of the Spirit's work within us is to bring to us the self-awareness that there is no greater sinner than I." Thanks so much....

Rex Ray said...

Michael,

I consider Wade a friend, but I doubt you will receive a reply.

In the first place there is no scripture support.

Second; it’s impossible for billions of people to be # 1. I mean someone would have to be # 2.

Third; Wade is not very strong in admitting he is wrong. Once my English major wife agreed that Wade wrote: “Jesus was a Southern Baptist.” The closest he came to saying he had messed up was: “Sometimes words don’t portray their true meaning.” :)

I believe the most regret people in hell will have is knowing Jesus died for them but they turned him down.

Otherwise they would blame God.

“..How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Mathew 23:37 NLT)

Wade Burleson said...

Michael and Rex Ray,

In Romans 8:14 Paul writes, "For you have not received a spirit of slavery (bondage) leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"

D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones posits that the spirit of bondage is the Holy Spirit. His first work is to cause us to 'fear God' - which is the beginning of wisdom. What do we fear about God? His holiness, His justice, His law, His wrath, etc...

However, this 'fear' is only the beginning of wisdom and not 'conversion.' It is the Spirit's job to convict us, as Paul says, of our 'bondage to the Law of God, and our slavery to sin." Then, remarkably, the Spirit brings us to conversion - the belief that Jesus died for the UNGODLY.

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst." (I Timothy 1:15)

Rex Ray points out that there can be only one 'chief' of sinners. That's not true in perception. As someone has said, "Reality is my perception." When a person perceives himself to be the greatest of all sinners, he is deeply appreciative of God's grace and love for sinners, most of all, God's grace and love for himself!

I perceive myself to be the greatest of sinners, but I don't beat myself up over my sin because where there is sin, there is God's grace, and where there is great sin, there is even greater grace.

So, I propose that the only way a sinner EVER changes is to focus on Jesus and His love for sinners, being aware that sin is ever present with him, as is God's love.

Blessings!

Wade

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ…we are no longer slaves to sin…we were set free from the power of sin…sin is no longer your master…” (Romans 6:6-14 NLT)

With this scripture in mind, how do Christians sin more than when they were lost?

Yes, Christians say “Get behind me Satin”, but we leave a forwarding address.