The confession of sin culminates in the acknowledgment of our condition. Due to our rebellion from God our Creator there is no health in us… we are miserable offenders. Brought lower still to our fallen, creaturely, and God-dependent state, the remedy of the gospel as declared in Christ Jesus is set forth! The minister then declares that through faith in Christ sins are forgiven: God pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel! The power to forgive sins is in the gospel.
“What is man?”, the palmist asks. In this life I doubt we come to the full answer. John Calvin pointed in the right direction when he wrote that in order to get an idea of ‘us’ we need to start with God. For the truth of the matter is – “it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves” [Psalm 100].
Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. – Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Book 1.1
If self-knowledge begins with God, then apart from God any view of ourselves is distorted. The high regard we hold ourselves in since the Fall not only muddies a right understanding but is at the core of what ails us as sinners.
I recently reread C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength. I picked it up again because the theme revolving around the N.I.C.E. reminded me of the still ongoing CDC involvement in the Covid 19 pandemic mandates. But I digress. What is relevant to this post is a small excerpt:
“There,” he said, “a very simple adjustment. Humans want crumbs removed; mice are anxious to remove them…”
“How huge we must seem to them,” said Jane.
This inconsequent remark had a very curious cause. Hugeness was what she was thinking of and for one moment it had seemed she was thinking of her own hugeness in comparison with the mice. But almost at once this identification collapsed. She was really thinking simply of hugeness. Or rather, she was not thinking of it. She was, in some strange fashion, experiencing it. Something intolerably big, something from Brobdingnag was pressing on her, was approaching, was almost in the room. She felt herself shrinking, suffocated, emptied of all power and virtue. She darted a glance at the Director which was really a cry for help, and that glance, in some inexplicable way, revealed him as being, like herself, a very small object. The whole room was a tiny place, a mouse’s hole, and it seemed to her to be tilted aslant — as though the insupportable mass and splendour of this formless hugeness, in approaching, had knocked it askew. She heard the Director’s voice.
“Quick,” he said gently, “you must leave me now. This is no place for us small ones, but I am inured. Go! – That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis. Chapter 8 The Pendragon
The presence of God was pressing upon Jane which necessitated a shrinking or humbling experience, a reorientation. Her inflated sense of self rapidly shrank to that of a mouse. She was uncomfortably thrown off balance as the Divine hugeness descended into that room. Jane, a sinner, was experiencing the beginning of self-knowledge which only comes when one encounters God. She was descending. John Calvin wrote:
… the inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. (Calvin, Book 1.1)
To come into the presence of our Creator shatters any illusion of creaturely independence and self-sufficiency. We are not our own and are undone before him. Apart from him we have no existence (Col 1:16-17). It is God who created us, as Genesis 1 teaches, and not we ourselves. The Christian life is one of being brought low to a restored (saved) position with God who is the only point of reference for all of creation.