Woe is Me, I Am a Man Undone

Our youngest son called us recently at about four or so in the afternoon. When I took the phone the first thing he said was, “Happy Anniversary.” I was in silent shock for a few seconds before I replied, “Woe is me, I am a man undone,” or something similar. I heard laughter on the line. That day was our fifty-third wedding anniversary and I had forgotten all about it. The first time that had happened in our entire married life. Later, Pat confessed that she didn’t remember either until she turned on the computer and saw the date for the day, then she waited me out. Cruel.

By mutual consent, we both soft-pedal our anniversary and birthdays and don’t give cards and gifts every time but normally celebrate with dinner out. Of course we always wish each other a happy day, except for this one. I’m not sure why I used a paraphrase of Isaiah except it seemed to fit the occasion. Pat got a kick out of my embarrassment, especially since we both have learned to play games about remembering (generally forgetting) a variety of things throughout the day. Pat and I were reading the book of Luke recently and came upon a “Woe is me” lesson.

There is an interesting Scripture in the book of Luke where Jesus told some fishermen to cast their nets in a certain place. The catch was so large that the boats were ready to sink. On shore, Simon Peter, one of the fishermen fell on his knees at the feet of Jesus and exclaimed, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8)! One would think that Peter’s joy with the catch would be such that he would thank Him profusely, invite Him to a fish fry, lead a chorus of “for He’s a jolly good fellow,” or something besides, “I am a sinful man.” Doesn’t seem to fit the occasion.

In the book of Genesis, part of Abraham’s pleading with God to spare the righteous including his relatives in Sodom and Gomorrah included, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes…” (Gen. 18:27). This phrase comes in the middle of his pleading with God during which “dust and ashes” doesn’t seem to fit the context much like Simon Peter’s statement in Luke. Similarly in Job chapter 42 when Job answers God expressing the greatness of God and His mighty power he states, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (v. 6). This is similar to Abraham’s statement.

And lastly, we have the commissioning of Isaiah by God to be his prophet. In a vision, Isaiah describes a glorious scene of majestic grandeur with seraphs calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). When the temple started shaking and smoke filled the place, Isaiah uttered his humble response, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined” (Isaiah 6:5)! Isaiah probably was struck with fear at the prospect of possibly dying immediately after seeing God, but without a doubt being in the presence of God produced an overwhelming experience of unworthiness.

In a fairly recent book titled “Follow Me,” David Platt presents his views of what it really means to follow Jesus. He caused no small measure of controversy by stating that the familiar formula for becoming a Christian was not only unbiblical, but had the possible effect of creating a false belief of being a Christian. He claims that the “sinners prayer,” so common in churches everywhere is nothing but a shallow pretense of “being saved” without the reality of a spiritually changed life. Some caution, though, is prudent.

As was stated in one of our house church meetings, we do not know the heart of any individual who recites the “sinners prayer” and appropriately cannot make a judgment on their relationship to God. And while that is absolutely true, the Bible is clear that the fruits of a changed life will become visible. This is important. Many question the reality of conversions when, in fact, there is no apparent change. The idea of “cheap grace,” “easy believism,” and other observations can be valid charges. It’s hardly convincing of conversion when there is little or no difference between “Christians,” and non-Christians.

That brings me to the point of this elongated explanation. When someone comes into the presence of the Lord, as in the examples cited, lives should be changed forever. I believe that anyone whom the Spirit draws to God, and responds, will be so overwhelmed that their natural response will be to see themselves as God sees them. Repentance then is down to the depths of their being. Real and permanent. Then the self-identifying line can be written, “such a worm as I” (“At the Cross” by Isaac Watts). Such is the essence of the born-again release from self-idolization and being truly sorry for opposing God, since everything before was nothing but unknown rebellion and sin. Old things are passed away and all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17). Praise God.




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