The Abominations in My Heart and the Wisdom of God

I read the following quote from John Bunyan in my devotion today from Treasury of Daily Prayer (Concordia Publishing House).  What a wonderful reflection for this Lenten season of repentance!

"I find to this day seven abominations in my heart: (1) An inclination to unbelief.  (2) Suddenly forgetting the love and mercy that Christ shows us.  (3) A leaning to the works of the Law.  (4) Wanderings and coldness in the Law. (5) Forgetting to watch for that which I have prayed for. (6) A tendency to murmur because I have no more, and yet a willingness to abuse what I have.  (7) I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust themselves upon me so that “When I would do good, evil is present with me.”  These things I continually see and feel and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God orders them for my good.  (1) They make me abhor myself.  (2) They keep me from trusting my heart.  (3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.  (4) They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus.  (5) They press me to pray to God.  (6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.  (7) And they provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me and carry through this world.  Amen."  (Grace Abounding, Conclusion 6-7).

How unsettling and condemning, refreshing and edifying these words are in comparison to much of the self-help psychobabble pep talks that pass as Christian literature today!  As he examines himself in the mirror of God’s holy Law, Bunyan sounds much more like St. Paul (Romans 7) than many of the authors you will find today on the shelves of Christian bookstores.  Rather than list seven habits to develop that will bring you your best life now, Bunyan recognizes seven sins that are at work in his heart on a constant basis, which leads him to consider seven ways in which the wisdom of God orders them for his good.

Bunyan’s honest assessment of the condition of his own heart resonates within me, someone who publicly confesses each week to be “a poor, miserable sinner,” but who all too often acts as if (and secretly thinks) I am getting alone quite well in my sanctified Christian walk—certainly much better than many others.  So convicted, I am driven back to Christ and His cross, the Lamb of God who was crucified for the forgiveness of sinners.  Bunyan reminds me that it is the penitent publican rather than the proud Pharisee who goes home justified (Luke 18:10-14). 

God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

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