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Sinners All

True learners are humble sinners.

True Learning (5) 

Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way. Psalm 25.8, 9

Nothing to give, everything to gain
Learning should be a humbling experience. We won’t learn Jesus, or how to live for Him in His way, until we set aside every vaunted view of ourselves, admit our ignorance and need, and apply ourselves as diligent students to growing in Him.

Put simply, we will not experience true learning until we humble ourselves before the Lord. That means embracing our calling, committing our selves to the work of making disciples, and waiting on Him for the grace we need.

Of course, we can learn Bible verses, doctrines, even the content of whole books of the Scriptures – and have a good time doing so – without humbling ourselves before the Lord. But we will not really learn the truth or begin to live it in the way He has chosen for us, until we engage the learning process in an attitude of humility.

The humble person is the one who knows he knows nothing, deserves nothing, and has nothing to offer, but seeks everything the Lord promises to help him in his way. When we come to the Lord with humble hearts, we set aside all our preconceived notions and interests, and we hold out our hands meekly for whatever He may wish to give us. But most of all, the humble person is the one who admits that he falls short of God’s expectations, and always has room to grow in making His glory known (Rom. 3.23; Hab. 2.14).

Our need
The humble person, in other words, recognizes that he is a sinner, daily in need of the mercy and grace of the Lord to cleanse him from all unrighteousness and renew him in the Spirit and way of the Lord. True disciples cultivate the virtue of humility because they know assuredly that they are sinners in need of grace.

We don’t hear much talk about sin in the churches these days, and this is a contributing factor to why our efforts in the work of being and making disciples are bearing so little fruit. Only when God’s people admit their sin will they turn to the Lord for the cleansing and renewing help only He can provide. And only then, when they have faced up to and set aside their old selves, will they be in a position to put on Jesus and learn Him as they should (Eph. 4.17-24).

We won’t get beyond our sins into the life of full discipleship and disciple-making until we acknowledge and repent of our sins and chart a new course for our lives (Rom. 12.21). But what is sin, and how does it find its way into our lives?

Sin
We may think of sin in two ways. First, as The Westminster Catechism has it, sin “is any want of conformity to or transgression of the Law of God.” This nicely summarizes the apostle James’ teaching in James 2, which itself is an echo of the Lord Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5.15-17). Sin is breaking the Law of God or failing to fulfill what it requires.

We sin against God when we violate His Law, whether in our hearts and minds or by works of commission or omission. Given the sad neglect of the Law of God in most churches today, it’s not hard to imagine that sensitivity to sin is growing rather faint among the followers of Christ. The Law was given, at least in part, to enable us to know sin (Rom. 3.20). Until we humble ourselves before the Law of God, we’ll have a hard time dealing with our sin.

Sin is also whatever we do that is not done in faith and obedience to the Lord (Rom. 14.23). If there are any activities in your life, any thoughts, conversations, or other ways of spending your time and strength, that you are not undertaking as an act of obedience to God, as a follower of Jesus Christ, trusting in the Lord and leaning on His Word, then there is a very good possibility that this, whatever it is, might be sin. Sin enters our lives when we aren’t paying attention; sometimes, though, we willingly give ourselves to sin, for the law of sin continues to be a powerful force within us.

But if we truly want to learn what God has to teach us, we shall have to humble ourselves before Him, confessing and repenting of all our sins, whatever they may be.

What I’m saying is nothing more nor less than what the apostle John said: The followers of Jesus know the commandments of God, delight in the Law of God, and walk the path of His commandments, because this is the path that Jesus walked (1 Jn. 2.1-6). If we think we do not need the Law of God, that hubris will keep us from growing in love for God and our neighbors (cf. Matt. 22.34-40), and will render us incapable of following Jesus in the as-you-are-goings of our daily lives.

If we would be true learners, we must be humble before our God, meditating day and night on His Law and commandments (Ps. 1), so that He might show us our sin and guide us with the lamp of His Word into every next step of our lives (Ps. 119.105).

The Law of God is the touchstone for all true learning, because the Law of God – the core curriculum of God’s indwelling Spirit (Ezek. 36.26, 27) – both shows us our sin and illuminates the path of true discipleship. Ignore or neglect the Law of God, and you will never learn to love as God intends (Matt. 24.12), and you will never truly learn Jesus, Who fulfilled all God’s Law.

For reflection
1.  Meditate on Psalm 1. How would you describe your relationship to the Law of God at this time?

2.  We are not under the Law so that we might be saved. But we are under the Law as we work out our salvation. Meditate on Ephesians 2.8-10. What works “before ordained” do you suppose Paul has in mind in verse 10 (cf. Rom. 3.31)? Can you give some examples of how the Law of God shows us the path of good works?

3.  Jesus said that His followers would be “set free” – liberated – as they follow Him and learn the truth that is in Him (Jn. 8.32). How does James describe the Law of God in James 2.8-12? Explain.

Next steps – Transformation: How might you adjust your reading in Scripture to incorporate regular review and meditation on the Law of God?

T. M. Moore

Know, Love, Serve

The great thing about following Jesus is the more we learn of Him, the more we love Him; and the more we love Him, the more we will serve Him in every aspect of our lives. This is the argument of our book, Know, Love, Serve. A free copy is waiting for you by clicking here.

Are you a Gospel sponge? You can be, and wouldn’t that clean a few things up nicely? Check out this month’s Personal Mission Field Workshop by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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