It seems more and more evident that this is my struggle. My Achilles. Lewis referred to it simply as “the great sin” which makes it all the more depressing to recognize as the pattern deviously woven into my own heart and stretching its tentacles into nearly every area of my everyday life. It has been pegged as the root of all sin. Or as Lewis called it, “the complete anti-God state of mind”. It was the fall of an angel, the rise of a rebellion, and the reason the devil’s dark dominion will never be seen sympathetically as a victim. It is the core of the rotten, skeletal remains of my sinful nature still clinging to my new nature waging that familiar war that is the lot of every believer this side of glory. It is the machine by which every heart produces its idols, and the mirror by which every man becomes enraptured with himself. Its deception most often remains undetected, and it hides its ugly head behind more respectable sins making it all the more dangerous an enemy. It is my arch-nemesis, and its name is I.
There are two heads to this hideous monster that most often lurk behind my faults and weakest moments. Whenever sin is evident in my life I can usually trace it back to one or both of these two thoughts:
1. I am better.
2. I deserve better.
This first line of thinking Lewis exposed for its competitive nature. What a struggle it is to not allow my eyes to wander to the guy sitting next to me, to size him up, and back to myself for comparison. I am adept at choosing a subject that will make myself look better in any or all possible way(s) I can think of. And if it seems I am inferior in a certain criteria, I comfort myself with the consolation that at least I am not as arrogant as him or that his superiority in one area does not allow him to be as balanced as myself. I can easily see where he is weak, and commend myself for having fewer faults and an overall better sense of greatness. This comparing goes on until I am blinded to any and all weaknesses of my own, until I arrive at the embarrassing and deplorable state of not being self-aware.
But the reason this thought is the root of all sin is that I unfortunately make no distinctions in its use. I am better than everyone. And, although I hate to admit it, I often believe that I am even better than God. For, as my pastor has pointed out to me, every time I sin I am going against God’s nature and commands, and I might as well say it out loud, “I know better than you, God.” And to claim to know better than God is no different than seeing myself as better by nature. It really is a stupid thing to say, and it sounds worse when I’ve actually said it. But the moment I admit that it’s what I’ve actually said I begin to approach the throne of God as I should. Certainly not on the basis of what I’ve done, but rather embarrassed of it and pleading for His mercy. Only by His blood.
The second thought that often lies behind my faults and failures is the belief that I deserve better. It is the logical extension of the first mistake in thinking myself better by nature. Any sinful response to circumstances that I don’t like comes spewing out of my mouth and attitude simply because I believe that I deserve better circumstances. I deserve to be treated more fairly. I deserve to be shown more respect. I deserve to be praised more highly and more often. I deserve to have any easier morning. I deserve to have more obedient children. I deserve to have a more thoughtful spouse. I deserve to have the right of way on the road. I deserve to be given more grace in my faults. I deserve the best seat in the house. I deserve for others to bend over backwards for my sake and pleasure.
And of course I believe that I deserve better because I am better.
Now I’ve arrived at the point of correction, for truth will set me free. The reality is that I’m not and I don’t. This cannot be seen without God’s revelation. When He reveals Himself and I truly see Him, could I ever believe that I am better and deserve better? I see in an instant that the old adage is true, it’s not about me.
The more I look at Christ the easier I forget myself, the more I treasure Him and desire Him. It’s as if I realize afresh that everything should be for His glory. I knew that all along. I’ve heard that truth since I was a little guy in Sunday School, but apparently I was already busily constructing my own self-worth by comparison to my friends. It is unfortunately all too natural for me to make life all about myself, I’ve spent a lifetime ingraining the habit. Only the habitual washing of the Word of God will reveal the filth of pride, cleanse my mind and fix my gaze on the Author and Perfecter of my faith.
I must decrease, He must increase.