You Have Limits, You Really Do Pt. 2
Author: Paul Tripp
Three Inescapable Limits
So let’s take that big laundry list of limits from the last post, plus all the ones I didn’t name, and bring them down to something a little easier to recall. Every human being is essentially subject to three foundational limits. We are limited in wisdom, in power, and in righteousness. It doesn’t take a great deal of humility to agree with this statement, does it? Think of it this way. What would it mean if, in any one of these areas, you weren’t limited, but unlimited … infinite? You really would be the fourth person of the Trinity!
Knowledge and acceptance of these three limits is essential to productive living in this fallen world. What a testimony to our foolish pride that we have any trouble accepting them!
You Have Limited Wisdom
There is so much you and I don’t know. There are so many mysteries of the universe that are not yet opened to us. There’s so much we haven’t figured out and don’t yet understand. There's so much we think we understand that will be corrected in the future. Our personal field of research and experience is so small.
Almost every day we’re bombarded with thoughts, philosophies, perspectives, opinions, viewpoints, explanations, and analyses. Yet we can never make enough time to sift through all we’re hearing and experiencing in order to boil it down to what it actually means to distill knowledge into wisdom. Although we never really stop thinking, because of our limited wisdom our moments of greatest insight are frail, tiny, and imperfect. Paul speaks to our finite understanding when he says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Paul is saying that if God were capable of being foolish, his most foolish moment would be infinitely wiser than your moment of greatest, deepest, fullest insight!
God’s understanding has no limits because he has no limits, and he perfectly understands himself. As soon as we acknowledge that our understanding is less than perfect and complete, we acknowledge its smaller than his to a degree that can’t be measured. Our finiteness is infinitely smaller than his infinity. However much larger than zero our wisdom may be, for all practical purposes its still nothing when stacked up against his.
In what ways is your understanding limited? In practical terms, its limited by your experience, your God-given gifts and abilities, the places where you have and haven't lived, the people who've mentored and influenced you, and much more. We all simply need to admit that we probably don’t know as much as we think we know, whether we’re talking about facts or the wisdom to apply them. And we all need to commit ourselves; to not only to seeking to know more, but to work to deepen and correct our understanding of the things we think we know. We should all be aware and afraid of the pride of knowledge. None of us should give way to the smug assurance of arrival. We should all be living as students, desiring to be truly wise. And we would all benefit from the commitment to listen more, study more, question more, learn more, and speak less.
But there’s another factor we need to humbly accept. Our wisdom is limited by something far more significant than a lack of intellectual capacity. If our mental hard drives were ten times larger and faster, or fifty times, or a thousand times, we wouldn’t be ten or fifty or a thousand times wiser. Why? Because being made in the image of God, we’re not merely intellectual beings, as if we were some kind of flesh-based computer. We’re moral beings as well, and our moral capacity has been corrupted by sin. Where our intellect merely limits our wisdom, our sinfulness warps and degrades what small wisdom we may actually possess.
No matter how much we know, no matter how wise we are, sin can reduce us all to fools; it’s one of sin’s most destructive fruits. What is a fool? A fool is one who sees the world upside down and inside out. A fool looks at what is right and sees wrong, and at what’s wrong and sees right. A fool looks at what’s good and sees bad, and at what’s bad and sees good. A fool looks at what’s true and thinks it’s false, and looks at what's false and thinks it’s true. A fool looks at wisdom and sees foolishness, and looks at foolishness and sees wisdom. Sin does this to us all. We think our way is better than God’s way, that our rules are better than God’s rules, and that what we desire is better than what God has promised. Somehow, in some way, we all do it. We all step over God’s boundaries. We all take our lives into our own hands. We’ve all had to taste the bitter fruit of our own foolishness. Perhaps the bad fruit is debt, or a damaged relationship, or ill health, or spiritual immaturity, problems that are essentially the result of our foolishness.
When you accept the limits of your wisdom, however, you immediately do two things. First, because you can no longer assume you’re as wise as you need to be, you seek true wisdom in the only place it can be found. Here’s where Christianity makes one of its most audacious claims. We believe that wisdom isn’t first a philosophy or theology. No, we believe that wisdom is a person and his name is Jesus! (See Colossians 2:1–5). When I come to Christ, I’m brought into relationship with the ultimate source of insight, wisdom, understanding and truth. His wisdom is without comparison and without limits! Ultimately, you don’t get wisdom by experience and research; you get wisdom by relationship.
But there’s a second thing you’ll do as you acknowledge your limited wisdom. Humbly admitting that sin makes you a fool, you’ll seek rescue and protection. And you’ll accept that what you need to be protected from is yourself! You’ll seek the rescue of the ministry of the body of Christ, the rescue of sound worship and faithful biblical preaching, the rescue of good Christian literature, and the rescue of daily personal Bible study and prayer. You’ll not live as if you’ve arrived. Your embrace of your daily need for wisdom will open your heart. It will change the way you live.
Posted on September 2, 2011