According to God’s estimation of things (which, by the way, is always spot on in everything He takes the time to comment on in His revelation to us) the sinful human race is without strength when it comes to spiritual matters. If you are wondering where such a comment originates, it is from Ephesians 2:1. All those in the human race are, “dead in our transgressions and sins.” On a scale of ability – the dead do not do well. That is because they are – well – they are dead. They have no ability – except to stink things up after a short while.
Because we are dead in our sins – we are without strength prior to the working of the grace of God. We don’t even have the strength to respond to anything spiritual unless God draws and enables it. But things don’t stop there. Even after salvation – we are unable to deliver ourselves from sin – or enable our own spiritual growth. The testimony of God is that the only way we are able is through Christ. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) When you state this verse in the negative you get this, “I can do nothing through me who strengthens me.” Sin entered the human race because we believed the lie that we were better at determining good and evil for ourselves rather than turning to God and His wisdom about such matters. We also have the problem of thinking, “We can handle it,” when it comes to living our lives as God desires. The truth – we can’t handle it unless God’s grace is active in our lives.
Some may balk at all this talk of weakness in our lives. They may even take to referring to how we can do all kinds of things every day. But what we are referring to is not the strength to get up and start our day – the strength to eat breakfast and walk or drive to work – and to work throughout the day. We refer to being able to live in a way that pleases and honors God. Since the fall we have been unable to live so as to glorify God. That should be abundantly obvious to anyone who takes a good look at the world around them. To the wise it is super-abundantly apparent when they look at their heart within themselves.
Speaking of the heart, Jeremiah prophesied in 17:9 that the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. The question from God was then this, “Who can understand it?” The answer is that no one can fully plumb the depths of his or her own sinfulness and selfishness. We have an astounding ability to deceive ourselves by either defining sin downward – or – by comparing ourselves among ourselves rather than to the Lord to whom we are accountable. This alone requires strength and ability we do not have on our own. Add to this the fact that we become bound in our sin – often being enslaved by and to our own lusts and desires – and we have a combination that truly leaves us without moral or spiritual strength.
What is fascinating is the way that we are also deceived when we think we DO have high morals – or biblical standards to which we adhere. I have not only met people like this – I’ve met them in the reflection of mirrors before which I’ve stood. Here is the rub on those with high standards. They come with high views of self as well. The Pharisees had the highest biblical morals of their day – and yet this did not lead to either a humility or mercy on their part. They were neither humble (Lord, I thank You that I am not like other men) nor were they merciful (dragging the woman before Jesus demanding that she be stoned for her adultery – still wonder where the guy was from that situation). Since the fall of man into sin – we cannot even handle success without ruining ourselves with pride, arrogance, and merciless attitudes about others around us.
Hopefully all of these examples are helping you embrace your place humbly before God – calling out for mercy, grace, and strength to live to the glory of God. This is the good place we find ourselves if we believe the testimony of God about mankind. The truly amazing thing is that when we freely admit to our spiritual and moral bankruptcy we find ourselves in a very good place. Jesus stated this in the first beatitude in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The word “poor” means someone who does not even have a penny to his name. He is “beggarly poor” and has nothing. He is in a position of absolute need. That, dear saints, is our position before God. We are needy in an infinite measure. What is wonderful is that God, who knows our every weakness, knows this as well. He has made provision for us in Christ Jesus. Once we confess and own our weakness – He states that the kingdom of God is at our disposal as we seek to live for the glory of God.
Knowing weakness is not exactly fun. It goes against our flesh to admit this – but it is the first step in knowing God’s strength. May God gives us an accurate view of ourselves in our sin so that out of that devastating position – we can know His grace and mercy – and – His gracious strength for all we need.