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Let you who think you are standing take heed, lest you fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12

Here in this little verse from I Corinthians is the real truth about the futility of human effort to save us. By all means, try to serve God, try to be perfect, try to obey Christ. But don't think for a minute that you have "arrived"; for that is exactly when you will lose all that you thought you had.

Paul said, "I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do: Forgetting those things which are behind, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)

The paradox goes even farther than this. Any time you think you have found the "key" to salvation in some new doctrine or experience, you are almost certainly being misled and are heading for failure. "You can't put God in a box." And so every attempt to package him up or to outsmart him through some loophole is going to end up costing you the very thing you were seeking in the first place.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)

Anyone who has ever seriously tried to be "humble" would have encountered the paradox. The harder you try to be humble, the less humble you feel. You get into this frustrating cycle, where humility always seems to be just beyond your reach.

The same is true of all that we receive from God. The more we learn, the more we realise just how finite our understanding is. There is no room for smug complacency about his grace. Although the measure of truth that God gives us may give us a confidence that is not fooled by the lies and bluffs of the insincere, there is always that nagging possibility that we could be wrong. There is always the need for self-examination, for more breaking, for more contrition before God.

In keeping with this same general spirit is the whole concept of revelation. In Old Testament times there were "prophets" that the people would go to when they wanted to know God's will. These were people who had learned to open their minds to the possibility of God saying anything - even the things that they didn't personally want to hear him say.

Even some of the false prophets appeared to have been able to do this; it is just that they would alter the revelation after receiving it, in order to make it conform with their own personal biases. But to learn God's will in the first place, all that the prophets did was to open their minds completely to hearing anything that God might want to say, and that included being open to hearing what all of their natural instincts did not want to hear.

God now offers this capability to any of us; but still there are very few who know how to take advantage of it. People everywhere argue that God told them such and such, that they know what God's will is, that they are being directed by God in what they are doing. But it doesn't take much to see that most of these same people are closed up as tight as a drum to what God would really like to tell them.

Really finding God's will for your life requires far more than clever use of words. It requires a broken and a contrite heart, an openness to hearing what you least want to hear, a willingness to repent of anything that is standing in the way of God's will for your life.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

There is no way that any effort or knowledge of our own can protect us from ourselves. For as soon as we think we have it all, we become deceived by it, and all that God would want to do through us becomes frustrated. What we need is an eternally humble heart, one that does not trust our own understanding -- not now, not ever -- but looks only to God for the answers.

"Lean not unto your own understanding; but in all your ways acknowledge God and he will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5

Unfortunately, the longer we do this and follow God humbly, the more we are able to con others into thinking that we are still following God when we have, in fact, stopped leaning on him and started taking credit for what we learned from him in the past.

This is the source of so much deception. Truth is mouthed by people who listened to God for a while, but then stopped trusting him and started leaning on their own understanding. They thought they had "arrived" and so they got lost. They thought they were standing, and so they fell. But, because they still understand a lot of spiritual truth, in their falling, they took others with them. Others found it hard to believe that so much truth could be coming from someone who had fallen away from utter dependence upon God.

But even those who follow such people must finally answer to God if they are following the person in preference to following the truth that the person is speaking.

Someone has said, "All it takes to get to heaven is sincerity; but it takes a lifetime to prove your sincerity." In other words, the path is riddled with pitfalls, which can take us away from totally hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and can make us think that what we learned through yesterday's faith, yesterday's humility, yesterday's sincerity is good enough for today.

There is no retirement plan on this side of the Pearly Gates. We must never stop learning, or we will be lost. We must seek God's protection from the deception of self righteousness. Let us be constantly open to correction. For the price of salvation is eternal vigilance in this area.

You who think you are standing today... take heed, lest you fall!

(See also Deception and Self-Righteousness.)

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