Like my last column, this information comes from a sermon by Herb Larsen, Jr. of Canada. Having grown up the son of a preacher, and having founded two churches and held many positions in them, Herb still realized he didn’t really know Yeshua (Jesus). A family tragedy sent him to his knees and to his Bible, pleading daily with God for a true spiritual connection. During this time, he felt the Holy Spirit directing him to a simple question he could use to determine where he stood in his spiritual walk. That question is: “Can I think of anyone to whom I can honestly say I feel spiritually superior?” It is only when you can answer that question “no” that your heart is ready to receive the grace of God and to walk into the Kingdom of Heaven.
We must realize that we are not able to honestly assess our own character. Jeremiah 17:9 states that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it.” Herb translates the verse this way: Your heart is a pathological liar, not only to others but to yourself. In addition to that, it is desperately wicked and sinful in nature, and the scary part is you don’t even know it.
The Bible gives examples of people who think they are spiritually superior. One notable example is the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-17, who thought they were in need of nothing. The truth is that God found them so disgusting that he wanted to spew (vomit) them out of his mouth. They didn’t even know they had a problem, yet they were extremely repulsive to God.
Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18:10-14 about a Pharisee and a publican going to pray. The Pharisee was thanking God that he was not a sinner like other men, while the publican bowed down and begged for mercy for being a sinner. The Pharisee essentially answered the question yes, and the publican no. Jesus was clear that it was the publican who went away justified.
Scripture tells us in Ezekiel 36:31 that after you get a new heart (see verses 25-30), you will loathe yourself for your iniquities and abominations. This is role modeled by Paul in Romans 7:24 (“oh wretched man that I am”), King David in Psalm 38 (burdened by his sins), and Job in Job 42:5-6 (“I abhor myself”).
Paul also regularly put himself to the test of if there was anyone to whom he felt spiritually superior. Regarding the apostles, in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he says he is the “least of the apostles”. Regarding the other church members, in Ephesians 3:8 he calls himself the “least of all saints”. When comparing himself to sinners, in 1 Timothy 1:15 he calls himself the chief of sinners. Remember that this is a man who had a direct supernatural encounter with God on the road to Damascus, a man who founded many churches, wrote much of the New Testament, and who had great influence in his life. Yet he saw himself as the sinner that he was. We need to follow his example in this regard.
Similarly, the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-4 are related to this idea of acknowledging your true state. Paraphrasing, it says, “Blessed are those who recognize their spiritual poverty, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that experience the sorrow of repentance, for they shall be comforted.”
Essentially the point is this: When we truly walk next to Yeshua, we have a sense of ourselves as compared to the example he set for us. As a result, we become so aware of our own filthiness that we can’t possibly see beyond our own sin to sit in judgment of each other. When we reach that point in our spiritual walk, we will then be ready for God’s grace to be poured upon us.