Humbled, But Not Discouraged

How can we discover our own sins and failures and not be discouraged?

Especially when we realize that no matter how much we actually see, there’s far more than we’re aware of.  John Newton has good advice for us:

“You have one hard lesson to learn, that is, the evil of your own heart: you know something of it, but it is needful that you should know more; for the more we know of ourselves, the more we shall prize and love Jesus and His salvation.  I hope what you find in yourself by daily experience will humble you, but not discourage you…”

It is important that we know ourselves.  By examining our hearts with the Holy Spirit’s help we can discover sinful cravings and expectations that trip us up and lead us into temptation and sin.  But God doesn’t intend that our self-discoveries dishearten us.  Instead, as John Newton says, they should lead us to “prize and love Jesus and His salvation.”  The worse our sin appears, the greater our Savior is seen to be.

Newton says that we find the evil of our own hearts “by daily experience.”  It is when God brings the “heat” of trials, small and large, that the grumbling, discontentment, lust, anger and other sins of our hearts rise to the surface.   Newton says these daily discoveries of sin should make us humble.  Humble to know what we’re capable of.  Humble to realize how much we need God’s help.  Humble to make us gentle and patient with others.

Why should we not be discouraged?  Newton elaborates:

“But let not all you feel discourage you; for if our Physician is almighty, our disease cannot be desperate; and if He casts none out that come to Him, why should you fear?  Our sins are many, but His mercies are more: our sins are great, but His righteousness is greater: we are weak, but He is power.”

Our sins are many, but they are finite.  Jesus Christ is infinite.  Infinitely merciful, infinitely powerful to change us.  Completely faithful.  His infinitely powerful blood paid for every last sin and purchased our entire sanctification.  Yes, we are weak and feeble, but Jesus is supremely powerful.  And he is able to finish what he began in us.

So, be humbled by your sins but not discouraged.  And look to your infinitely powerful Savior to forgive you, cleanse you, and empower you to overcome.

  • Bob Mundorff

    Hey Mark,
    This has been one of the most helpful truths to grasp in my Christian life. That being said, I think I'm having trouble reconciling two parts of this truth with a couple Scriptures and was hoping you might help.
    1.) How do we seek to delve deeper into the depths of our sinfulness, while simultaneously obeying Romans 6:11 and that attitude which all of Romans 6 seeks to instill in the Christian (consider yourselves dead to sin…)?
    2.) The longer I am a Christian, the more sensitive I am becoming to remaining sin in my flesh, and the more I hate it. But should we Christians still classify "our hearts" as evil in light of fulfilled prophesies like Ezekiel 11:19-20, in which God replaced our old heart with a new one.

    I love what Newton says here and the truths in this post, and I am certainly not seeking to argue, but am only seeking to understand better. Thanks Mark!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Hey Bob,

      Great questions! And I always know you're not trying to argue but just asking sincere questions. Here's my attempt at answers: Ro 6 says we should CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin; that means that we need to remember and walk out who the Bible says we are in Christ. In other words, when tempted, though we feel like sinning, we should stop and say Wait a minute, I'm a new creation, I'm to respond as if I were dead to sin and sin couldn't tempt me. We're to CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin, but obviously the bible says that we can still be tempted by Satan and our own cravings. So I believe it would be that we should have the attitude of being dead to sin.

      I agree that we shouldn't "classify our hearts as evil" since according to Ez 36.26 God gives us new hearts. Actually Newton doesn't say our hearts are evil, only that there is evil in our hearts. So we have new hearts or new natures at the core of our being, but our old nature remains in some degree, tho it has been crucified w Christ. Our new nature is the dominant nature now but the old one still seeks to exert itself, which is why we are to seek to put sin to death.

      This battle is what Paul describes in Romans 7.

      Hope these thoughts are helpful Bob. I'd be happy to talk further ant time if you'd like…

      • Bob Mundorff

        Thank you Mark. That does help. I'm looking forward to talking more about this.

        Just a quick thought about the word "CONSIDER", that I have misunderstood in the past and thought it may be helpful to elaborate on here in case anyone else is reading this. "CONSIDER" doesn't mean "PRETEND", right? When reading that verse, I can tend to substitute "pretend" in my mind and read it like it's telling me to do some kind of mind over matter, positive thinking thing. But CONSIDER here is based on the REALITY of who we actually are in Jesus now, isn't it? When fighting sin, it's hard to have faith in make believe.

        Isn't it so encouraging to know that since we've been born again we are a new creation and actually can walk in newness of life!

  • Rachel McConnell

    thanks for those quotes. they were particularly helpful for me today.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Glad they were helpful Rachel!

  • Elaine

    Love this post, Mark! Thanks for the encouragement!

    Bob brings up two great questions and I can't wait to read your answers. When I was thinking this through, a memory from my nursing days came back. When I cared for children with heart defects, I cared for a few children who had to have heart transplants because of the severity of their heart disease. Once these children had new hearts they could still have health challenges because of the fraility of their bodies. So I've always looked at it as yes, I have a new heart but it is still in this body of flesh with all its sin. I haven't thought through all the implications but this illustration helps me understand the miracle of the new heart. Thanks for the encouragement! BTW, I've posted this on our FB page and lots of people are loving it!

    • Bob Mundorff

      Elaine,
      What an awesome illustration! That was helpul for me. Even though we have new hearts, our unredeemed bodies still carry with them all of their old sinful appetites. For now at least, but not for long!
      Thanks!
      Bob

  • Petra Hefner

    "Our sins are many, but they are finite. Jesus Christ is infinite. Infinitely merciful, infinitely powerful to change us. Completely faithful. " Very encouraging post, thank you!

  • Caroline

    Thank you sooo much for the post… Many a times the daily trials can disappoint me. I need to pray the moment i step out of my house as I see my sin more clearly the moment I take the public transport:(. I am grumbling and complaining and have many bad thoughts. But to remember that my sin in finite and Christ is infinte. To know He will complete the good work He has begun in me.

    Thanks Again :)

  • Caroline

    my sin *is finite

  • Devorah

    Thank you for this post! It was so timely for me!