“For false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.” (Psalm 27:12)
I’m reading a wonderful book of daily meditations on Psalm 27 called A Shelter in the Time of Storm by Paul David Tripp. Today’s reading focused on the above verse, capturing well the degree to which sin has so corrupted the world around us and within us that we can actually exhale violence. We have fallen so far from God’s original intention for the world, for our relationships, for our selves, that our very breath betrays us.
Paul Tripp writes,
Sin isn’t about human beings being basically okay and just needing a little tweaking in order to be what they were meant to be and do what they were meant to do. No, the damage of sin reaches to every area of our personhood, deeply altering what we think and what we desire.
Everything we think and everything we desire is tainted by this thing called sin. The divine verdict that Scripture repeats again and again is not that we are good people who sometimes do bad things but that we are spiritually and physically dead people who need resurrection. God is not interested in making better people but new people (2 Cor. 5:17).
When I forget this, or when the church forgets this, I cheapen grace. I remember a time during my seminary days when I resisted the doctrine of original sin – that we are all born into sin and every facet of our being is corrupted by it. Because my greatest concern was offending other people, I relegated original sin to social justice issues and worldly systems of oppression. Sin, I then concluded, was a force to be reckoned with out there, and the church was the means God intended to use to fight it.
Any good lie always contains an element of truth. The bible teaches that the enemy disguises himself as a “angel of light” and his servants as “angels of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). I was blind to it at the time, but without the knowledge and humble acceptance that my heart is deceitfully wicked (Jer. 17:9) and my breathe is laced with violence I marched on, battling the sin that is out there while ignorant of the sin that was in me. And since I was blind to the sin in me, I could not and would not preach or teach on the sin residing in the heart’s of everyone God entrusted to my care. That, in my “angel of light” thinking, would be offensive. But this sort of thinking is akin to being under the care of a doctor who will address all the symptoms of one’s cancer without ever attacking and eradicating the cancer itself for fear of offending the patient by telling him or her there is something inside of you destroying you. Tripp says this about sin…
Its effect is so pervasive and so comprehensive that it influences everything we do and everything we say. It causes us to think, desire, choose, say, and do things that are the polar opposite of the way we were created to function. So, we don’t actually love our neighbor. No, we’re jealous of him, or we see him as an obstacle in the way of what we want, or we treat him as an adversary, or we ignore him altogether. And we don’t love God with our whole hearts. No, we put creation in his place. We’d rather have the temporary pleasure of physical things than the eternal satisfactions that can be found only in him. Sin causes us to place ourselves at the center of our universe. Sin causes us to be obsessed with what we feel, what we want, and what we think we need.
My thinking changed when I desired to be more concerned over offending God than I am offending people. When I minimize the totalitarian way in which sin effects not only the world around me but the world within me I offend God because I ignore his word which declares this truth regarding my condition and I minimize the glorious, trans-formative power and need for grace.
I cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of God’s grace without first reckoning with the stench of my own breath. I cannot appreciate the power of God’s grace without acknowledging the depravity of my own thoughts, feelings, desires, words and deeds.
Tripp concludes today’s meditation this way…
In light of the fact that sin brings all of us to the point that we exhale violence in some form at some time, it’s amazing how much peace and cooperation exist in our relationships. What’s the explanation for this apparent contradiction? It can be said in one word: grace. There’s not a day where you and yours are not protected by the most powerful, protective, and beneficial force in the universe – the grace of God. Every situation, every location, and relationship you’re in every day is made livable and tolerable by his grace. In the majesty of his love, God causes his grace to restrain us, just as he causes the sun and the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust.
There are times while in prayer that I shudder as I imagine what my life and this world would look like should God withdraw his hand of grace. The chaos and pain and degree of wickedness that would result from such a withdrawal would eclipse anything we have witnessed thus far or could imagine. The flood waters of sin would destroy the earth as they did in Noah’s day.
Seeing sin for what it truly is helps me to see grace for what it truly is. Sometimes I frustrate God’s grace in my life because I rely on my own understanding and make decisions based on the world’s logic and cultural dictates rather than his wisdom. I can usually catch myself in those moments by asking the question, “Who am I trying to most please or not offend? God or somebody else? Myself?”
Take time today to consider the ravages of sin on us all, and how it distorts every thought and deed we have. When you do this, I pray your thoughts and words will be turned to praise the One in whom grace abounds, giving you a deeper appreciation for God’s power to hold all things together in Christ, including yourself.