When I hear about public church leaders failing, I find that my own pride or doubts show up.
I wonder how it is possible that they could betray Christ, their family, those in the church they led. Or I begin to doubt my trust in Christ. I mentally tick off how what I believe and do is better and I feel superior and safe. Or I see how close I have come to disaster and feel hypocritical because of my own struggles.
Recently, I re-engaged John Bunyan’s, Grace to the Chief of Sinners, and found a summary of that 17th-century classic.
In the summary, I found two lists that I have made my own. Bunyan’s insights still hold up and encourage me to trust Jesus and his promises and also to keep an eye on my faith. I revised the lists to make them mine, something I can easily say is true for me today.
I find, to this day, seven evil things in my heart that I hate:
- I easily fall into unbelief.
- I can suddenly forget the love and mercy that Christ has shown me.
- I lean toward the works of the law.
- I wander and am often cold in prayer.
- I forget to watch and expect the things I pray for.
- I complain because I want more, but I often abuse what I already have.
- I can do none of the things that God commands me, and the desires of my flesh assert themselves, “When I would do good, evil is present with me.”
I continually see and feel these things. They afflict and oppress me. Yet God’s wisdom uses even the things that distress me for my good.
They make me hate the part of me that is rebellious against God—my “flesh.”
They keep me from trusting my motives.
They convince me that I can never trust my own righteousness because it is never enough.
They show me the necessity of running quickly to Jesus.
They require me to pray constantly.
They show me that I have to watch myself and keep alert.
And they force me to look to God, through Christ, to help me and carry me through life.
I find the honesty from Bunyan clear, authentic, and encouraging. His focus on Jesus’ work and love helps me. I resonate with Bunyan’s word about trusting my own righteousness.
The original said that when Bunyan saw the evil remaining in his heart he realized “the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.” That helped me because I can slide into thinking of righteousness as a thing. It becomes something that is subtly separate from Christ.
The truth is, as I believe in Jesus, His righteousness, never mine, is my best hope for real change in my life and for daily enjoyment of God.