In his short online devotional titled “Vertical Change“, Paul Tripp brought up some very provoking thoughts that drew my attention to the seriousness of vertical sin, not just horizontal.
What does that mean, vertical sin? To use his words, “Every act of human wickedness committed against another human being starts with the breaking of intimate, vertical relationship with God. Every horizontal sin forgets his presence; every sin quests for his throne; every sin replaces the Creator with some created idol.”
Our sins against one another go beyond offending our brother; they offend our Creator. And because every sin of ours is first a vertical sin against God, no matter how grievous the implications of it are horizontally, then it must be true that personal change can only take place vertically with God before horizontally with others.
Tripp followed up with a series of questions, which got my wheels turning, bringing up thoughts on how I view myself, my sin, and my God.
I know that I have been saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. There is no doubt in my mind about that. But from day to day, I still typically see myself as a “good person” who doesn’t need that saving grace every minute of every day. With that in mind, enter disturbing question number one:
Q #1: “Where did you ignore the presence of God in your life this week?”
That question really got me thinking…and that’s when I realized how arrogant I was! I couldn’t think of any major faults in the last few days! I’m generally thoughtful and kind…I hadn’t gossiped…I wasn’t plotting a murder… As far as I was concerned, “I’m a good girl, I am!” as Eliza Doolittle would say.
Q #2: “What would happen to your words and actions if you lived with a moment-by-moment awareness of God’s presence?”
Ouch! There went the goody-two-shoes attitude. I wouldn’t be pretending I was self-sufficient if I remembered God’s all-sufficient grace. I wouldn’t pride myself on being courteous and civil to those hard-to-like people if I saw the ugliness of my sin laid bare before the righteous throne of a Holy God.
Q #3: “Why would you treat people and possessions differently if you submitted to Christ’s lordship?”
This question implies a recognition of Christ’s ownership over me, and a proper, humble view of myself. When I have yielded my rights to the Sovereign Lord, when the only thing I own is the knowledge that He owns all things, when my vertical relationship is aligned, then will I view people as better than myself, treat them with the love that has been shown me, and consider my possessions as an undeserved gift.
Q #4: “What idols have been more desirable than Christ in the past month?”
Aside from the fact that who can remember what took place last week, much less last month, this is a difficult question. I find it interesting that he doesn’t ask what idols have we spent more time with than we have with Christ, but simply what has been more desirable. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in a “spiritual rut”. I’m doing all the right things every day, (spending time in the Word, offering up a few sentences in prayer, etc.) but just because I’ve spent time with Christ doesn’t mean my heart was fully devoted to Him, or that I found my time with Him more desirable than say with a good book, or than watching an old Cary Grant movie. Gulp.
Q #5: “How has God been patient and faithful to you in the past? Where have you experienced personal transformation in the last few years?”
The goal of this post was not to take you on a Tripp guilt trip. To cause you to consider your actions and heart motives? Yes. To point you to Scripture and invigorate a desire to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel? Definitely. And that’s why this is the best question to end this reverie with, because it reminds us of God’s grace that covers any and all of our previous–and future!–failures.
How has God been patient and faithful to you in the past? Where have you experienced personal transformation in the last few years? Think about that, and then praise God for His grace evident in your life!