Thursday, December 27, 2007

Powlison on the vortex of self-introspection

Quote from The Shepherd's Scrapbook on Powlison's address to Sovereign Grace Ministries on "excessive introspection." ::: UPDATE - Also, JT at Between Two Worlds featured a guest article by Powlison on "New Year's Resolutions" which is just awesome! Enjoy both of these!!

- "of trying to find the root-of-the-root-of-the-root of every sin in one’s heart without moving beyond this.

Powlison began by restating the potential problem: an overemphasis on the cravings of the heart (idols and lusts) rather than on identifying the sin and moving on to simple obedience. The danger is “getting caught into a vortex of self-introspection.” Instead, analysis should be the doorway to obedience, repentance, and joy.

“Self-analysis leads to paralysis.” The goal of biblical self-knowledge is to push us outside ourselves into prayer and action (love, forgive, etc). Contemporary counseling emphasizes the idea that our actions are determined by the way others have hurt us in the past. Endless introspection — or “idol hunts” — are just as dangerous as the secular “hurt hunts.”

We know that the heart is filled with a deep darkness. In the corporate world there is a glass ceiling. We look up and see there is more without the ability to reach it. In the human heart there is a glass floor. We can see a darkness that goes deep, but without Scripture there is no way of discovering the depths. Hebrews 4:12-13 is the true MRI of the heart. But nowhere in Scripture does this understanding of the heart lead to an endless self-analysis. So the problem is a danger towards “excessive introspection.” An idol hunt in the heart is not the end goal. I know, Powlison said humbly, that at my death there will remain sin that has not been completely removed. I will die as a sinner in need of further purification/glorification.

Scripture helps us to see evil in relationship to our rebellion towards God Himself. Every sin is related to a turning away from God and turning inward to ourselves. In our sinful nature we have a centripetal force (pulling us back into ourselves) rather than a centrifugal force (pushing us outside ourselves). Biblical self-knowledge points us outside of ourselves and away from the “excessive introspection.”

“An accurate description of my sin is the doorway to God’s revelation of who He is.” This was incredibly helpful. Every sin leads us to understand God. If I seek to control things and become overwhelmed or nervous this shows a lack in my understanding of God’s sovereignty. If I struggle with idolatry, it shows a failure to see God’s preciousness. Powlison demonstrated this in two primary texts.

1 Timothy 6:9-16 and Jeremiah 17:1-14

So how do we avoid this “excessive introspection?” Starting from a biblically informed self-knowledge, we take those sins, “drown them” in God’s glory, and then act. This paradigm is shown in 1 Timothy 6.

9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time — he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Biblically informed knowledge leads us to acknowledge the idol of money (v. 10: “love of money”). This idolatry is drowned in the glory of God (cf. vv. 15-16 “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen”). This picture of God’s glory leads to action (vv. 11-12: “flee these things, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life”). The sinful temptation to “love money” is drowned by the glory of God! The affections set on money are now affections turned to the beauty of God’s majesty. Biblical self-knowledge leads us to drown our sins in the glory of God and this leads towards God-centered action. Be a man of God not a man of money.

The “love of money” here can be replaced with the love for any sinful lust. The love of entertainment, pleasures, excitement, food, good health, status, power, self-agenda, self-righteousness or a love of other’s affirmation, approval, love and worship.

Sin points us away from ourselves. As M’Cheyne reminds us, for every one look at our own sin, we ought to take 10 looks at the Cross!

In other words, let introspection lead into the depths of God. See Jeremiah 17:1-14. The heart is desperately wicked (v. 9), but specific sins are recognizable (vv. 1-6). Jeremiah rests in the majestic God for the change (vv. 7-8, 14). This is a picture of a faith that is not excessively introspective and one that leads to a joyous faith."

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