Gods grace sets people free to be honest
honest with Him
honest with ourselves
and honest with others. And the reason is simple: I no longer have to be afraid. Because of Jesus Christ I no longer have to lie, or blame, or deny, or hide. I can let God shine His light into the deepest recesses of my heart and show me the unvarnished truth about whats really there
without being afraid. Even when He points out things that are selfish, cruel, dishonest, fearful, proud or unforgiving, He doesnt leave me, or hate me or judge me. Instead He does the most amazing thing. He takes those vile motives and lays them on the shoulders of His beloved Son as though they had been His sins and then He punished Him instead of me. When I see what Hes done it leaves me feeling two profound emotions at the same time: bitterly sorry and so grateful I hardly know what to say.
Its all completely unfair and it makes no sense. Theres nothing in my human experience that explains why He would still love me. When I face those ugly things inside of me I am dismayed by them but He doesnt react like that. Seeing me for who I really am He just draws closer and asks me to trust that Hes doing a good work in me and will continue to perform it until I see Him face to face (Php 1:6). And the encounter itself leaves me different. I feel clean and light and stronger
and less afraid of being honest.
In this chapter of Romans Paul teaches us that every one of us is capable of genuine evil and that God wants us to see this factnot to be cruel or shame us, but so that we will desperately embrace His Son. If Im unwilling to look at the ugly root of sin in my own heart I will never really feel the need for a Savior. I may understand the cross, but I wont cling to the cross.
Lets listen to Paul: Romans 3:9-24
In verses 10-18 Paul quotes and paraphrases passages from the Psalms and Isaiah. Each vividly portrays a particular aspect of human sinfulness, and when they are placed side by side they reveal how the human heart appears from heaven.
(vs10-12) The statements in these three verses are drawn from Psalm 14. The psalm is a warning to all who think God does not exist and therefore assume they will not be punished for their wicked deeds. David says the exact opposite is the truth, not only does God exist, but He looks down from heaven to examine the spiritual condition of every human and His verdict is that we are all corrupt and no one does good. This means that there is no such thing as a pure motive in us. Even our best motives are compromised.
(v13) From Psalms 5 and 140 Paul draws together three powerful images concerning the evil of human speech. David asks God to guide him because he knows that those who watch him (his enemies?) will try to lead him astray. Nothing they say should be trusted. Their flattering words lure him to unrighteousness and spiritual death. In Psalm 140 David calls on God to deliver him from human corruption which he describes as flowing from the evil devised in their hearts.
(v14) Paul paraphrases a portion of Psalm 10:7 to reinforce the idea that the speech of ungodly people is filled with deceit and fraud. He focuses on what they say because their words reveal the true character of their hearts. Jesus said that the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart and then warned us that for this reason we will all account to God for our words (Mt 12:34-37). Those who speak deceit and fraud do so because they are essentially deceitful and fraudulent inside. This means the universality of human sin can be observed by noting how dishonest people are in what they say.
(vs15-17) These three verses are drawn from Isaiah 59:7, 8 in which the prophet tells Israel that God withheld His help from them because they had become cruel, selfish and deceitful. He went on to conclude that the sinfulness in Israel was so universal no one was qualified to be their mediator (Is 59:16-21). Thankfully he also said that in spite of this God decided to send the Messiah to redeem those who repent (Is 59:20). Paul quotes from this passage to support his contention that all humans are sinful. He wants us to reflect on the hopelessness found in Gods assessment of Israel: Not one person was free from corruption, no one, and Isaiah included himself in this group (Is 59:9-13), was righteous enough to stand before God to appeal to Him for mercy on behalf of His people. If that was the condition of Israel then, Paul would argue, it was surely no better during his time, or any other.
(v18) Pauls final quote is drawn from Psalm 36:1 which says, Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. In this psalm David explains that wickedness is not something people do accidentally, but rather is something they deliberately plan. Evil deeds are devised in the night hours while people lie in bed, and since God sees everything, humans will have no excuse when we stand before Him at the judgment. As the psalm moves on David turns his attention from those who devise evil to those who know the Lord, but in doing so he does not imply that these are without sin, but only that they have been given boundless grace (lit: lovingkindness, the mercy God gives to people because of the covenant He has made with them). In other words, the human race as David sees it is composed of evil people and people who enjoy the blessings of Gods mercy. This idea fits perfectly with what Paul is teaching. All humans are sinners, but grace is available.
The fear of God
By selecting the words, there is no fear of God before their eyes (Ps 36:1), Paul identifies the absence of the fear of God as a root of sin, so we should reflect for a moment on what this term means. It is much more than being frightened by His presence. Its a fear that arises in those who have faith. They believe God exists, that He is holy, that He knows everything they do & think and that He will bless those who obey Him and judge those who do not, so they direct their lives accordingly. Pleasing God is therefore the foundational reality of their lives.
By contrast, those who do not fear God dont really believe He exists, even if their lives have a veneer of religion. Or, if they do believe He exists, they reinterpret Him theologically until He is neither holy, nor expects them to be holy. Once moral accountability is gone, the fear of God is gone as well and a persons behavior is unleashed. So the fear of God as Paul uses it here is a term describing the transformation that takes place in a persons attitudes and behaviors when true faith is present. Paul wants us to see that the inward wickedness of the human race flows out of hearts that lack this faith.
Confession is not self-loathing, but an honest assessment of my own motivesnot making excuses, but looking straight at it and calling it what it is. I did it. I did it on purpose and the reason I did it was
And the power of this sin to control me is broken when I choose to respond in faith the next time that impulse appears.
This lesson needs to go deep into many of us. There are many Christians who wont answer a self-incriminating question honestly. We lie, deny, attack the person who asks the question. And its hard to believe that we are able to compartmentalize that successfully:
1) To lie, blame, etc. when dealing with others; never taking responsibility for doing anything wrong
2) But at the same time having deep, honest self-evaluation and confession in my conversations with God
The Christian Life (1 John 1:8-2:2)
Each of us has and does make evil choices. There are motives within us for which there is no excuse, and no one else to blame. And when we see this we finally see our desperate need for grace.
This is how we come to Christ in the first place, but its also how we walk with Him as believers. The Christian life is one of continual self-examination guided by the Holy Spirit and Gods Word, leading to frequent repentance and a continual celebration of His grace. Being honest with ourselves makes us:
1) Desperate for a Savior
2) Grateful for Gods mercy
3) Unafraid to face the truth about my own sin (Heb 4:12-16)
4) Quick to examine my heart and repent when dealing with others
5) Merciful when others fail because I recognize they struggle like I do (Mt 18:23-35)
1) Name a time when God showed you that the problem was in you when all along you had been blaming others.
2) Name an area where you need to walk in faith more deeply. How does that lack of faith make you vulnerable to sin?