Tim Keller with more on Change and Grace—Why we are blind to our Deepest Inadequacies

Posted by Kendall Harmon

So how can we be shaken out of our lethargy and awakened to our need to grow? Here are some principles that I have gleaned from Newton’s letters over the years.

1. Know that your worst character flaws are the ones you can see the least.
By definition the sins to which you are most blind, that you make the most excuses for, and that you usually minimize—are the ones that most have you in their grip. As we said before, one way we hide our blemishes is that we look at places that our natural temperament resembles spiritual fruit. For example, a natural aptitude for control and self-discipline can be read as ‘faithfulness’, and a natural desire for personal approval could look like ‘gentleness’ or ‘love.’ Or we mistake a bubbly, sanguine temperament for joy, and a laid-back, phlegmatic temperament for peace. We give ourselves spiritual credit for these things, when actually we aren’t growing spiritually at all. The lack of other fruit shows that real supernatural character change is not happening.

2. Remember that you can’t learn about your biggest flaws just be being told—you must be shown.
There are two ways we come to see our sins and flaws more clearly. One way is that we are shown them by troubles and trials in life. Suffering is ‘God’s gymnasium’—it reveals our spiritual weaknesses just as a workout reveals physical weaknesses.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Posted July 15, 2013 at 5:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Terry Tee wrote:

Suffering is ‘God’s gymnasium’—it reveals our spiritual weaknesses just as a workout reveals physical weaknesses.  
I so detest this kind of faux-spirituality.  So, if someone under suffering collapses or gives in to despair for a time or questions God’s existence, it is THEIR fault?  That is what this teaching would lead towards.  Yes, when we meet suffering, we should cling to the cross, and remember that Christ knew suffering inside out, and we find a consolation in that.  But still - if suffering overwhelms, who would judge the sufferer?

July 15, 7:37 am | [comment link]
2. Sarah1 wrote:

I’m not certain that Tim is talking about the “weaknesses” of despair or questioning.  I think those are surface anyway, in many ways.

To use a personal example, in the cauldron of learning to be a K9 SAR handler and reading my dog, it was quite brutal.  I well remember being out on a hot day plowing through a big field with my dog in front of me—and utterly failing at reading him and his signs.  I was so new and knew that I didn’t know that I didn’t know . . . and the “suffering” entailed in training [and there’s more suffering in learning K9 SAR than one might thing—it’s an active and vigorous exercise that takes place in all sorts of weather and terrain conditions and with few amenities, so to speak, not to mention while experiencing sometimes dire circumstances and contexts] revealed [yet again] my terrible impatience and drive, which hurts other people, not simply myself.

That was a searing lesson that was further explored during that time in my life [and will, of course, continue, since my impatience and drive isn’t going to go away any time soon.]  And in that sense, suffering was indeed God’s gymnasium and it revealed and pounded home further some very troubling aspects of my character.

July 15, 10:43 am | [comment link]
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