“It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself.”[1]

In his essay, “Is Theology Poetry?”, C.S. Lewis declared, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.” The Apostle John writes that God came to us as “the true light, which gives light to everyone” and that “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (from John 1:4-9)” And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught of the importance of discerning vision: “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matt. 6:23b)” Through ever advancing telescopes and microscopes, we see things further from us, and smaller relative to us, than ever before; yet we understand our fundamental nature and needs less than ever. To see ourselves rightly we need God’s true light!

When we see God rightly (as we emphasized yesterday), by necessity we begin, as Calvin says, to “scrutinize” ourselves. Outside of God’s light we fail to see the true origins of sin, even if we recognize its consequences. American psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, wrote a book titled, “Whatever became of sin?” He argued that the traditional Christian understanding of sin had receded from public discussion. Sins became crimes, sicknesses, and “collective irresponsibility”. He urged preachers to remind a wayward nation of sin and its ugliness, for sin is “ a breaking away from God and from the rest of society, a partial alienation, or act of rebellion … a wilful, defiant or disloyal quality.”[2] We see the effects of our broken world and our broken relationship with God, but by not recognizing how sin sources from every human heart we stumble through darkness trying every switch but the one that actually works! 

Something to Understand:

Ultimately, every sin represents revolt against God; an expression of our desire for independence from God, as old as the very first sin. This is why David writes, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight (Ps 51:4). Seeing ourselves as we are isn’t pretty, but it is necessary. How will we desire a solution if we do not see our problem? This is why David, in the same psalm, is able to write, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (v7).”

P.S. Some scriptures to consider: Genesis 1:26; Romans 5:12; Rom. 8:7-8; Rom. 6:23.

[1] Jean Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1973), p37

[2] Karl Menninger, Whatever became of sin?, (Hawthorn Books, 1973), p19