I have a confession to make: I am a dirty rotten scoundrel!
It is true!
Depravity is defined as the state of being corrupt morally or being evil. I am the chief of sinners as St. Paul said about himself too!
This semester I took Dr. Jody Owen’s Spiritual Formation class. In this class, we had to develop a Rule of Life throughout the semester. This week we had a paper due on this Rule of Life and how we did with it. We had several questions to answer about it and such.
It is this Rule of Life that I did not keep and failed at horribly that helped lead me to a deeper realization of my own brokenness and sin.
Today in Spiritual Formation we discussed what sin is. People often think of sin as one of two things: external rules and regulations we break or internal condition of our hearts that lead to the outpouring of those external things.
I find that the second way, the internal one, is the more accurate view of sin. Sin is not some system of rule and regulation breaking! Sin is a condition of the heart. Our hearts are so steeped in depravity and wickedness.
My heart is full of depravity! I realize this more and more every day! I am arrogant, harsh, lustful, mean, rude, disrespectiful, and unChristian in the demeanor in which I criticize. The list could go on and on and on.
All of this flows from my heart that has not been fully redeemed. I am in great need of grace and redemption!
I have this dual-reality: I am stuck with who I am at this moment and with this ideal version of myself I’d really like to be! And it is the grace in between those two realities that helps me to grow.
Failing to keep my Rule of Life has really shown me what a scoundrel I am and has helped me see introspectively about myself. Here in the recent weeks I have been self-critical and I think that lies in the fact that I failed to keep my Rule of Life. I have realized the depths of my own depravity. How arrogant I can be. How critical and judgmental I can be in my zealous ways. How rude and crude I can be. I believe the Lord is revealing to me how I need to be plugged into Him and how I need to be disciplined with my Rule of Life.
I love what David Crowder sings in the song Wholly Yours, “The harder I try the more clearly can I feel the depths of our fall and the weight of it all.” I think Mr. Crowder is onto something. The harder we try to be close to the Lord by doing something like a Rule of Life the more clearly we see the depths of our depravity. Taylor Brown sang about mercy this morning in chapel, and I think that is something that I need so much. I fail and get it wrong a lot more than I do getting it right. So I have learned a lot from failing to keep this!
I have learned to be self-critical and realize my own depravity. And I think that is the beauty of community. The folks around us show us that yeah we are stuck in this depravity and this is who we are at this moment, but there is the person we want to be, the ideal version of ourselves that we desire to be in Christ. And that in between those lays forgiveness and grace. Forgiveness from those around me for my faults and shortcomings and forgiveness for myself from God.
It is so very very very very very (are you getting how important?) that we realize grace is soooooooooo much more than just forgiveness of our sins. Grace is about forgiveness, but it is also about the power to heal our wicked hearts of the disease of sin and to transform our lives! It is the power to heal and transform!
It is cheap grace that allows only the forgiveness. Brother Dietrich Bonhoeffer had wonderful words concerning cheap grace. He said, “Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
I have many, many areas of my life that need growth and refinement! Growth and spiritual maturity are non-stop! The Lord has shown me things about myself recently that I do not like and that need His refining. And often these are revealed to me, to us, through the context of our faith communities. Hence the importance and vital nature of belonging to a community!
So I hope to continue to do the Rule of Life I have set up after this class and become intentional about it. Saint Isaac the Syrian said, “The ladder of the Kingdom is within you, hidden in your soul. Plunge deeply within yourself, away from sin, and there you will find steps by which you will be able to ascend.” I believe this to be true. And to find this ladder is my desire. St. Anskar said, “Were I worthy of such a favour from my God, I would ask that He would grant me this one miracle, that by His grace He would make of me a good man.” That is all I ask of the Lord!
My desire in life is to be formed in the image of Christ, to go through Deification, and be clothed in the Divine (II Peter 1:4). I seek to cultivate that relationship with the Lord and failing to do this Rule of Life this semester has helped me to realize a lot about myself and ways I need grace and growth. The thing to realize is that ALL GROWTH COMES FROM GRACE! That must be a deep-rooted conviction of all of us. It is in between who we are and who we are meant to be that grace is found! And with that grace comes the forgiveness of sins, the healing of our depraved hearts, the transformation of who we are, and hope. It is hope that we can be OPTIMISTICALLY broken while longing to be whole and complete as we await the Day that we will be. But until then we must be intentional in our growth, working with God to refine and mold us in His image via the spiritual disciplines.
I think what sums up my passion and desire better than anything is a song lyric from William Fitzsimmons’ song “Passion Play”, which says, “I just want to be not what I am today. I just want to be better than what my friends might say. I just want a small part in Your passion play.” To that I say a hearty amen.
So my friends, I am depraved. I am a scoundrel! I am broken! I am asking that those who know me or even if you do not that you forgive me for my shortcomings and for the disease in my heart that leads me to do things that I do. And to be patient with me as I will be with you.
And for those close enough to me to help me realize this grace in between who I am and who I want to be I thank you especially my precious wife who sees more of the ugly, diseased side of me more than anyone else, but yet somehow continues to pour that grace and love into my life loving me in my in-between. I am forever grateful for your love and grace, my love.
And above all I ask the Lord Jesus Christ to continue to show me the richness of His mercy, love, and grace as He refines me and molds me. I pray Lord You will conform me to Your image and allow me to partake in Your divine energies as I seek You. Amen.
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” -St. Francis of Assisi