Paradoxes

by Mike Ratliff

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24 ESV)

All genuine Christians have one thing in common—they are imperfect people who, no matter how much they desire to be Christlike, will struggle with the paradox of being new creations slowly becoming conformed to the image of their Saviour while being mired in a body of death that wants to be ruled by their old sin nature. How often do we cry out to God to release us from this prison? What good can it do for us to struggle so with the demands of the flesh?

“O Changeless God,
Under the conviction of thy Spirit I learn that
the more I do, the worse I am,
the more I know, the less I know,
the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,
the more I love, the more there is to love.
O wretched man that I am!”

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:25 ESV)

It is only through Jesus Christ our Lord that we are delivered from death and walking according to the flesh. This happens as we die to self, take up our crosses and follow Him. It is our death in Him that brings us true life and victory. It must be this way because no matter how “good” we appear to be to other people or ourselves, the best we can do is as filthy rags to God.

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6 KJV)

Therefore, God allows us to struggle with our flesh and pride while giving us no fulfillment in any of it. This causes us to see ourselves for the pathetic, helpless creatures we truly are. For it is in our recognition of the truth about ourselves and our confession of it to God from a penitent heart that God can do real work there.

“O Lord,
I have a wild heart,
And cannot stand before thee;
I am like a bird before a man.
How little I love thy truth and ways!
I neglect prayer,
by thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,
by knowing thou hast saved my soul.”

Hypocrisy seems to be our natural state. We Christians seem to want others to see us as godly people as they observe our religiosity. How shallow! How empty and useless is that? I suppose we will never totally escape our hypocrisy, but we can make huge gains on minimizing it as our hearts become more and more tender towards God and His ways thereby cultivating humility there. Why is this vital? Pride grows and thrives in a hard, rocky heart. It cannot grow in a tender heart that is subject to Christ’s Lordship in all things.

“Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be an evangelical hypocrite,
who sins more safely because grace abounds,
who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood cleanseth them,
who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell, for his is saved,
who loves evangelical preaching, churches, Christians, but lives
unholily.”

Sometimes our walk before our Lord seems to fly on autopilot. We go through the motions. We will be sitting in church then suddenly we seem to wake up and wonder what the preacher has been saying for the last 30 minutes because we have been planning the rest of our day or week or month. O Lord forgive us!

“My mind is a bucket without a bottom,
with no spiritual understanding,
no desire for the Lord’s Day,
ever learning but never reaching the truth,
always at the gospel-well but never holding water.
My conscience is without conviction or contrition,
With nothing to repent of.
My will is without power of decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.
My memory has no retention,
so I forget easily the lessons learned,
and thy truths seep away.”

This dreadful condition is the symptom of our hearts becoming less and less tender towards God while becoming more and more self-focused. How do we turn the tide? How can we draw ourselves from the muck of the slough of despond?

“Give me a broken heart that yet carries home the water of grace.”

We must humbly come to God in repentance knowing full well that we are only where our new nature desires when we are yoked up with our Lord as He helps us carry our crosses as we follow Him. The more we do this, the more tender our hearts will become, hence the more humble we will be. Oh yes Lord, give us a broken heart that yet carries home the water of grace!

Soli Deo Gloria

Prayer verses are from “Paradoxes” a prayer in The Valley of Vision – A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.

10 thoughts on “Paradoxes

  1. Hi Mike,
    Man is unable to humble himself. God humbles a man, God knows exactly what is dear to a person and will remove it to humble one of His own. He know exactly what to do to keep us humble. A Godly repentance produce 7 things in a person. Only the Father can change a man’s heart for His purpose and not our own. And it is always to His Glory and never our own.

    Ps 39 7″And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
    My hope is in you.
    8Deliver me from all my transgressions.
    Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
    9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
    for it is you who have done it.
    10 Remove your stroke from me;
    I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
    11When you discipline a man
    with rebukes for sin,
    you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
    surely all mankind is a mere breath!
    Selah

    2 Cor 9As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

    10For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing,what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13Thereforewe are comforted.

    Ez36 24I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

    Ps 115 1Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
    for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
    2Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
    3Our God is in the heavens;
    he does all that he pleases.

    Have a Blessed Day.

    David

  2. Many paradoxes. Here’s one I know you will enjoy, Mike.

    Phil.2:12b – 13 – …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

    We will get the perfect interpretation one day when we know even as we are known.

  3. Beautiful post – very thought provoking and challenging.
    Pride is often our first impulse – put myself in the best light possible, justify my actions, defend them… but it all leads away from God.

    I find it amazing to consider Christ’s example: prayer, subjection to His father, washing His disciples feet, allowing Himself to be beaten and spat upon. How far we have drifted.

    But the Lord specializes in forming and shaping lives, and He is our hope.

  4. Mike, Wonderful article, and so true of all of us. Some days seem to be good, other days not so good with our walk. It makes our hearts ache if we think we are not pleasing our Heavenly Father. We are so thankful He is sovereign and that He holds us. We sure don’t deserve it. BTW, the picture at the top and layout you have is really nice! Glad your back safe and sound.

  5. very good post Mike….the more I walk with Jesus, the more He humbles me. Oh wretched man…I can relate.

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