Saturday, September 03, 2005

Necessary Thorns

There is so much I don't know, and it is good to know that I don't know. I am blessed because God has given me an appetite for His truth. I am blessed because He has given me an academic mind that is able to take in a great deal of information and recall it quickly. Yet there is also something of a curse behind it. Knowledge puffs up. Knowledge is good, but it does not necessarily lead to wisdom. Often it leads to some sort of self-exaltation and arrogance. I am thankful for the humbling moments in my life when I just have to throw up my hands and say, "Wow. I really have no clue." I am thankful for the humbling moments when I am shamed in my ignorance before someone else.

It is a struggle, too, because my flesh really wants to know the answer and wants to be great. It wickedly puffs you up a little bit more to know that you have an answer not just for yourself but others. You are ratcheting your name up into self-made, flesh-loving, man-pleasing glory. The world loves this kind of thing, but it is ugly. Yet, there is something freeing in admitting I am clueless on so many things. I am glad for it, and I am glad God has been pleased to graciously show me that I am clueless. God, may I never think that I know it all!

See, I am prone to make everything into something about me and a way to exalt myself. There are so many powerful passions within me that like to turn every situation, especially situations that are Christian in nature, into opportunities to display myself as something great before others. They are ugly passions, man-pleasing, haughty, self-exalting, idolatrous desires. They lead to jealousy, envy, strife, bitterness, coldness, hardness. To think that I would be bitter toward a brother for something good the Lord is doing if it cuts in on my own glory! How perverse! Calvin was right in saying that the mind of man is an idol-producing factory. I am so prone to making an idol of myself. I am naturally, or shall I say... fleshly, inclined toward these things. When I am in Bible study, I am quick to speak and slow to listen. When I am helping a hurting soul, I am quick to give advice but slow to be an attentive and calming ear for them. When I am in worship, my flesh is looking forward to rubbing elbows with others to display my knowledge and alleged wisdom so that I may walk away greater in my own mind.

It is not just that I have these passions. Sometimes I look back and see them rearing their ugly head through my words, thought, and actions. They manifest themselves in many ways: perfectionism, arrogance, false humility, envy, and all manner of falsehood. To think that I claim the Great Name of God and can even follow through on these desires, like a pack of wild animals running within, is abominable to say the least. Yet I thank God for them -or more rightly, I thank God for displaying them to me. They are necessary thorns in my flesh, and I am thankful for them. Without them pressing into me and causing pain I can only imagine how much more unrestrained, puffed up, and wicked I would be.

This is something I have written about before. It is all about taking the good gifts you have been given and perverting them into avenues for making your own name great rather than making the name of Christ great. In some ways I wish the shame of my sin in this regard would leave me, but in other ways it is good to be pinched with these thorns. There is a lot to think about.

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