Some years ago the head of the department of radiology of a great medical center complained of indigestion. One of his associates on the staff urged him to have a series of X-rays. This he did.
At that time all patients went through the clinic by number, not name. The following day the series of films was on his desk with a large number of others taken the previous day.
When the radiologist looked at his own films (not knowing to whom they belonged), he immediately said, “Inoperable carcinoma (cancer) of the stomach.” And it was.
In the spiritual world man lives in a state of ignorance, self-deception, or God-given humility. Not until he sees himself in the light of God’s perspective is he in a position to yield himself.
All of us are tempted to compare ourselves with others, especially those in whom we see glaring faults. Paul makes this foolish attitude very clear: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12).
God has given us one perfect Example, and before him we see ourselves for what we really are.
One of the curses within Christendom is that we inordinately compliment each other, instead of giving glory to God. For one motive or another we build up each other, forgetting the One who should be the center of our adulation. Only of Christ can it be said: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21).
Christian courtesy demands credit where it is due, but on a number of occasions we have read or heard words of praise which should be given no man. What are man’s accomplishments compared with the perfect interposition of Christ for our sins? “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Only as we see ourselves in comparison with the One of whom it is said, “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” are we ready to say from the heart: “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
It takes some of us a long time to realize God’s omniscience. We think we can hide from the One who knows our words before we utter them, our thoughts before we ever think them. “Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart,” says the Psalmist (44:21). In Jeremiah God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:9, 10).
Because of self-deception so many of us are weak Christians. Because of spiritual illiteracy we fail to grow in the things of the Spirit. That which we need to do with humble hearts is pray with the Psalmist. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked wav in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23, 24).
We experience a revelation of self when the X-ray of the Holy Spirit—the Holy Scriptures—discloses our true nature, for they search out and convict: “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12, 13).
“A discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”! What a disclosure and how hard to take—and how good for our souls!
All of us fully “manifest in his sight”! Humiliating, but necessary for spiritual diagnosis and acceptance of God’s cure.
“Him with whom we have to do”! Once man comes to acknowledge that it is God with whom he has to do—that it is God who redeems, and also God who judges—he is ready to cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Then it is that David’s words to Solomon take on significance for us: “For the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever” (1 Chron. 28:9b).
The effect of such searching of heart—of permitting the clear rays of God’s Word to probe and convict—is to sense the need of God’s mercy. Like the trembling criminal before the judge who on being assured that he would “receive justice” cried out, “What I need is not justice, but mercy,” we too come to realize there is nothing we can do except rest in that which Christ has done for us.
Overwhelmed by the enormity of our sins and their offense against a holy God, we receive for the first time some inkling of the meaning of the Cross.
Out of such a confession and the wonder of God’s redeeming love in Christ, there comes a peace unspeakable, an assurance that all is well, not because we are good but because our Saviour and his divine sacrifice are all-sufficient.
The Apostle Paul describes this change in the seventh and eighth chapters of his letter to the Roman Christians. On the one hand he cries out, “O wretched man that I am!”—only to lead on to the completeness of God’s love in Christ, from which nothing—and he means Nothing—can separate us.
We live in a world of turmoil and flux. Our own personal problems are many, but once we have passed through that period of self-recognition and have accepted God’s terms of surrender and salvation, the uncertainties disappear and we begin to understand the meaning of “peace which passeth understanding.”
Once we admit the “inoperable cancer” of sin and accept the divine remedy, we have passed from death to life, from darkness to light; the “sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart” becomes a reality, for we have God’s promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Why write all of this? Because we try to deceive ourselves and others. But we cannot deceive God, and the sooner we take a look at ourselves by means of God’s diagnostic unit—the Word of God—the sooner we will be led to capitulate, to acknowledge ourselves as lost sinners and trust in his redeeming grace.
Such an experience, activated by faith, brings healing and peace of mind and soul—and a heart of worship, praise, and obedience to the Great Physician.
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