“Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” (Proverbs 20:11, ESV)
Yesterday, in my devotions, I spent a moment meditating on this verse. It was both sobering and enlightening. We all like to believe our own hype, don't we? -- that we are better than we really are. In particular, we cherish the hope that our deeds don't tell the truth about us. We excuse our sins as momentary lapses that do not really represent our true character. Our politicians shamelessly lie, but they are not liars. What's the word they like to use? -- they misspoke, or mis-recollected. In a similar fashion, perhaps you constantly lose your temper with your kids but tell yourself, "I am not an angry person!" Oh, no, the real me is not that way! Angry people are more angry more often. That was just a blip. Nothing more. Or, perhaps you stay up too late binge watching some Netflix show, knowing full well weariness will make tomorrow unproductive at work. But, again, you assure yourself that you are really not lazy and undisciplined. Or, say we have a penchant for sweetening our cappuccinos with slander, reluctantly taking strange-joy eviscerating somebody else’s character. Again, we tell ourselves, that doesn’t make me a gossip or a talebearer who cannot really be trusted. "No, I needed to share that titbit. It was "purely for prayer!"" Or, perhaps you are the kind of person who always has to have the last word in every discussion, you interrupt people constantly, and do not like being corrected. "Who does? Isn't everyone that way?" you tell yourself, "But that doesn't mean I am a prideful, pompous, buffoon like Nabal!" "Far from it! It's just so hard waiting for someone to finish a sentence I know is wrong. I interrupt to save us both the time. It's really an act of love, do you see? And when I get angry at my spouse because they don't meet this or that particular need, it's not because I am a selfish brute who has to have it all my own way. No, it's their fault. They are the selfish ones who should be thinking less of themselves and more of me. How dare they leave me waiting? Unsatisfied. And my seething bitterness? That is a reflection of them, not me. I am a good husband or a good wife, I deserve so much better! This is all getting rather uncomfortable, isn't it?
Solomon in his wisdom turns the tables on such thinking here. He seems to suggest the true fault lies much closer to home. As Pogo famously said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!" Our deeds reveal the real you and the real me -- not the fullness of our depravity, mind you, but the overflowing, distilled essence of it.
Let’s think about some of the implications of this truth for us this morning:
- Watch your ways, God does! “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.” (Proverbs 5:21, ESV) . Think about your words and your deeds this week. Let all your conversations and interactions flash before your mind’s eye. What do they say about you? Mercifully, we have forgotten most of them. But what about the ones you can remember? Who are you, really?
- Talk to God about these things. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13, ESV). Do not hide the grubby reality. Come clean. We live in an age that likes to soften blame and remove responsibility. So we speak of people who are dependent upon alcohol, or they have the disease of alcoholism. God prefers to call them “Drunkards.” Such an assessment is certainly more blunt and more brutal, but it is also a kinder one as well, letting both the blame and the responsibility fall where it should, squarely on the sinner's shoulders. There is no excusing the inexcusable. Confession must be made and promptly. So use Bible words when you go to God. Words like, lustful, adulterous, immoral, unclean, sluggard, malicious gossip, tale-bearer, haughty, fool, ungrateful, covetous, idolater, disobedient, sinner. Do not downplay, blameshift, or excuse the weight of these words. This is the truth and it really will set you free to come to Christ.
- By faith lay these things on the back of Jesus. He really did take your place, become your representative, and assume your identity before God. As surely as you can now say by faith, “Father, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” On the cross, Jesus Christ could say in like manner, “Father it is no longer I who die, but Neil Stewart (Insert your name here) dies within me. I die in union with him as him! His debts are mine to pay. His death is mine to die. His curse is mine to receive! I shall receive His damnation lovingly.”