Getting older is not necessarily getting wiser, although I do think that if you persist in acquiring it (wisdom, not age!) then it does accumulate. For a Christian the accumulation of wisdom has a lot to do with taking account of your own sin nature. I am not talking about committing sin. That is pretty easy to identify, even for non-Christians. But recognizing that, confessing that you are a sinner, and accepting Christ’s punishment as atonement for your past, present and future sins is not the end of the story. “Man is born to sin as the sparks fly upward,” the Bible claims, and I for one admit it. After all, humility is a necessary part of wisdom as well.
Having a sin nature and doing something about it are two different things. My sin nature hasn’t magically disappeared just because I recognized that I had one and called upon the Lord to forgive me. I take it on faith that he has forgiven me, but He didn’t remove my sin nature when He did so. I’m stuck with that until the day I die. It is what causes all the internal anguish of my mind and heart and what interferes with my external relationships with others. It is an ongoing struggle. Some days are better than others; some days are worse. You have one too. It colours the way you interact with the world, just as mine does. If we are both having a bad day when we interact with each other, then the result is bad for both of us.
I’ve been having a lot of bad days lately, probably because I have been taking my sin nature for granted. “Baby, I was born this way,” is just shorthand for “I have a sin nature and I don’t intend to do anything about it.” Which is just plain dumb. An uncontrolled sin nature can do others a lot of damage, and mine has been out of control for some time. I put it down to success. I have been doing really well the last few years. Coming to Asia has been good for me both personally and professionally. I have had a lot of successes over here, and those successes have made me spiritually lazy, as if ‘the gods were smiling on me.’ Well, there aren’t “gods,” there is just one God, and He hasn’t been smiling at me at me in the last little while.
I know this because there is no peace in my heart. ‘Peace in the heart’ is what a Christian uses to determine whether or not they are on the right track. It can be hard to know what is the right decision at the time you are making it. But if you have peace in your heart afterwards, it can confirm or deny the validity of that choice. There are other factors, of course. We dwell in societies. Other people also have sin natures. It complicates the issue. That is why the occasional stretch of solitude is good for the soul. It allows you to sort out what part of the problem is yours.
Suppressing a lack of peace in your heart is easy enough. Alcohol does that for some people. Staying busy with work or social life is effective as well; telly, Facebook, anything will do. A person can put off examining what their heart is telling them for weeks, even years. David did after taking Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and then arranging to have him killed in battle, until he was confronted by Samuel and forced to face what he already knew was true. Samuel isn’t around to talk to these days, but then neither is anyone else. And despite being still very busy, I have had more time lately to assess my spiritual condition than I normally do, and I have come to the conclusion that a few apologies are in order. I could be mistaken; perhaps it is others that owe me an apology instead, but I would rather err on the side of the angels.
So in chronological order, first to my brother Wyn: my apologies for offending you during our last visit in Toronto. I am not completely sure what I did that you found so offensive, but clearly I offended. So I apologize for that. I would like to make it clear that it was my sin nature and my violation of Christ’s law of love that was at fault. His teachings are perfect; I’m the one who is screwing them up. I would also like to apologize to my sister whom I have also offended. Again I am not certain what my particular offense was, but I do know that my own sin nature had a part in it, and I am sorry for that. I hope that I can patch these things up. I only have one brother and sister each.
I would also like to apologize to my son Jon. Now in this case I know precisely what the fault is. I criticized him – publically – for being careless on his motorbike when his wife was about to go into labour. Sorry son, that was my sin nature talking, not your carelessness walking, or riding in this particular case. Anxiety on my part does not excuse my intemperance. Obviously I am concerned when you get hurt. But I do know how seriously you take your parental responsibilities and I know without asking that you were as careful as you possibly could be. I would really, really like it if you would get rid of the bike, because I am finding my anxiety over your safety hard to deal with. But yes, it is your decision to make, not mine.
Finally I want to apologize for taking a shot at my wife over her criticism of my driving. I guess I feel that I have been a poor example to my children with my own driving and I was being defensive. Honey, you deserve better for all that you have done over the years. I know that you are as anxious as I am over this issue, and it is your fear of seeing your family hurt that drives what you say. I do appreciate that the Lord has made it possible for you to be home while I am in Asia, and I am just going to have to do a better job of trusting that your judgment on the ground there is closer to the events that are happening than my judgment several thousands of miles away.
Having said all that, I am aware that I have probably offended some by doing this publically. Sorry about that, but I thought a public mea culpa would be good for my humility. Which in turn would be good for my spiritual growth. See how selfish this all is! But that is the thing about a sin nature. Even when I try to apologize I am going to screw it up, just as your sin nature is going to ensure that you misinterpret what I am saying. That is why we both need a Saviour, and why nothing anyone is ever going to do is going to “earn” our entrance into heaven.
Fortunately for both us, that entrance is already paid for in the only way it could be, by the sacrifice of God Himself. Many times people will then say “and all you have to do is accept it.” But that is simplistic nonsense. What you have to do is spend the rest of your life accepting it, and dealing with your sin nature that wants to control your life, instead of allowing God to guide. To use a metaphor that seems to be very much in view at present, it means that while you are the in the driver’s seat of your life, like any good driver you listen to your navigator. And you let God do the navigating.