April 8, 2013

By grace alone…

This week’s topic concerns a crushed spirit. When it happens, I want a cure that releases me, or at least hope that it will get better, yet in some cases, prevention might be the answer. That is, if the crushing happens because I have sinned, then far better to avoid it than to deal with it after the fact. In this, prevention is better than a cure.
A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:14–15)

While the verses in Proverbs are often unrelated to each other, verse 15 could be a clue for how to avoid that unbearable crushing that comes when I am convicted of sin and overwhelmed by my own foolish behavior. Rather than ignore it and become hardened to it, God wants me to seek His word and be wise.

Avoiding sin is obvious. Don’t touch the fire and you will not be burned. Avoid a crushed spirit by never offending my conscience. Work hard to be true to the light that God has given me and follow Him with all my heart. Is it that easy?

Spurgeon says that nothing comes so sharply in a time of sorrow, pain, and brokenness as that sense of sin committed. In doing what I know is wrong, I often cry, “Why did I do this? Why didn’t I do that?” Obviously life is going to hand me sorrow anyway and I cannot expect to never feel depressed. However, if guilt is added to those sorrows, I will be overwhelmed. It’s simple; obey God and not be further crushed. Just don’t sin in the first place.

To keep from sin, I must have and maintain a clear view of the gospel. In my current studies, I’ve learned that a muddied gospel leads to a muddied life. If God is defined other than what He has revealed Himself to be, or if Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are not understood in the way they have been revealed, or if the life, death and resurrection of Christ is diminished or mixed up in any way, then I cannot live a victorious life. I need to see who I am, but without a clear understanding of who God is and what He has done, sin will get the best of me and crush my spirit. History proves it, the history of Christianity and my own history.

While the gospel and questions about it can be complicated, it is also simple. I am a guilty sinner yet Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He died for the ungodly, for me. My standing before God is not nor will ever be in myself or in my own attainments, but rests entirely in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because that is true, I can avoid a crushed spirit by living near to God. As Spurgeon illustrates, the sheep that gets bitten by the wolf is the one who wanders away from the shepherd. I might be nipped by the words of a preacher (Spurgeon calls himself the Good Shepherd’s dog), but if I stay near Jesus, that nip will be only a warning, for the wolf cannot touch me. If I pull away from holy living and close communion with my Lord and Savior, I will sin and eventually experience a crushed spirit.

Because God promises to use ALL things for my good (Romans 8:28-29), I must add this. Whenever I feel the crushing weight of my own foolish disobedience, eventually I also feel a greater desire to obey and stay close to God, remembering that Jesus died for me and now lives for me. That crushing also humbles my heart and reminds me that I’m no hot shot; I cannot save myself. This rich and abundant life is not mine because I’ve earned or deserved it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6–11)

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