Tag Archives: Bible

Knowing God without being religious.

Religion does not satisfy the longing of the soul because it does not answer the basic questions of the innermost being. Religious people all over the world are entangled in rituals and ceremonies to get a good report from a god whom they really don’t know. They know God is for real but they do not know Him personally. A lot of people trust their imaginations, while many are satisfied with the myths and legends handed down to them traditionally. In such cases you do not have any historical records or evidences to back you up. 

But for a Christian it is entirely different. His faith is based on the written Word of God, the Bible. The Bible is not a collection of mythological stories. It has been a proven historical document. It gives us a clear understanding of who God is and how we can relate to Him. It tells us that we can fathom God’s person not more than what He desires to reveal to us. So we read thus in the letter to Colossians:

 “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”‭‭.    (Colossians‬ ‭1:15-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬ 

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Starting Right

The Bible says that God created us in His image, with the ability to think, relate and choose. He wants us to have unhindered relationship and constant communion with Him.

Broken Relationship

But sin has separated us from God. We try in vain to please God through our charity, piety and religious rituals. The Bible says that no one is made right with God through his/her own efforts. God’s justice is far beyond our reach, so no one can satisfy it and justify himself before God. Hence, God in His love offers a way for us to reconcile with Him through the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus who paid the price for our sins. Thus God has made Jesus the only Saviour of His creation.

Reconciliation

All those who believe what Jesus has accomplished through His death on the cross and accept Him as their Saviour, Lord and God will be reconciled with God. God will forgive their sins and accept them as His children. This is called regeneration or a new birth. Jesus will live in them and remain with them for ever. This is the assurance of the Bible. One who has made such a decision is a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that no one is born as a Christian, but has to be born again.

New Life

The Christian life, according to the Bible, is a new life. As we continue to yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, our attitudes, thoughts, words and actions will be renewed by the Spirit of God. God our heavenly Father loves to commune with us and reveal His plans for us. This is understood by regular study of God’s Word, prayer and fellowship with other Christians.

Get back on the track

In the eighteenth year of his reign, after he had purified the land and the Temple, Josiah appointed Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of Jerusalem, and Joah son of Joahaz, the royal historian, to repair the Temple of the Lord his God….

While they were bringing out the money collected at the Lord’s Temple, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that was written by Moses. (2Chr.34:1-18 NLB)

The Christian communities around the world have slipped into a kind of sluggishness. Many have lost the joy of their salvation, struggling to cope up with the world. Several have succumbed to the temptation of following the crowd. The demarcation between them and the world has faded away. The Church has been compromising on the teachings of the Word of God to satisfy those who are trying to satisfy their own flesh. There is more of mammon worship than worship of the true God. (But, glory be to God, there is a remnant spread all over the world, that still honor God and follow His Word.)

There is only one way to experience the joy of the Lord-get back into the fellowship. That is why there is a constant call from God to His wayward children to return to Him. Some of the ancient rulers reinforced this in their kingdom. One of such was king Josiah of Judah. He ascended the throne as an eight year old lad but he desired to follow the Lord like his forefather David. So he destroyed everything in his life and the life of the nation that was an abomination to the Lord.

Get rid of whatever is detesting to the Lord

It is not a literal instruction to the Church today. This does not mean that you go around destroying others’ property, attack religious places or cause inconvenience to others. We need to understand the principle. How do we decide? Go to His Word. As you read and meditate the Spirit will convince you of things in your own life that need to be thrown out or destroyed. Just obey. There is nothing more pleasing to God than to see His children obey Him, because obedience comes out of trust. Josiah did just that. A cleansing is required before the joy of the Lord can reclaim our lives.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. (1Cor.3:16-17 NIV)

Repair and Restore the Temple

The temple of God represents the worship of God. The worship of God has been interrupted, lost its meaning or perhaps stopped in your life. This needs immediate attention, repair and restoration. When the worship of the Lord is restored the glory of the Lord will continue to descend up on the temple in such a way that others would see it.

Seek the Law of the Lord

The restoration of worship will naturally lead to the rediscovery of God’s book of Law, the Bible. The high priest discovered the book of the Law and introduced it to the  king and officials. That revolutionized the lives of the people. Though it did not last for long before the king died and people slipped back into sin, the principle for restoration and spiritual growth remains the same.

Rid your life of every sin. Don’t try to define your actions or justify them. The simple formula is to keep away from whatever that raises a doubt or question in your mind. Read the Bible, meditate on it. Follow the Law of the Lord. And when you fall, gather yourself up and get back on the track as early as possible.

Servant of God

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. (Acts 16:13-15)

The title “servant of God” means different things to different people. It’s meaning varies from religion to religion. In the first century Church it assumed great significance and it was used to refer to those who were specifically appointed by God for His mission on earth. Unlike today’s servants, they went where God wanted them to go and did what God wanted them to do, instead of going wherever they want and doing whatever they feel like and claiming that they did it under the Spirit’s guidance. Today, servants of God are after power, position and wealth. They don’t behave like servants anymore. They take up titles like “Apostle”, “Patriarch”, “Arch Bishop” and so on, to show that they have a superior role in the service of God. They impress up on people that success in the service of God is measured by the size of the crowd he can pull.

Fruitfulness is better spelled “faithfulness”

The fruitfulness of a servant’s ministry is not measured in quantitative terms. Rather, it is a direct reflection of his faithfulness to God. On his second tour Paul wanted to go and preach in Asia. But it is recorded that God stopped him from going ahead with that plan. Instead, they were directed to the region of Macedonia. Only a servant who is aligned to the will of his Master can discern the promptings and signals of the Master. It looks like Lydia and family were the only people who responded to the Gospel in Philippi. But the reaction from the people of the city was about to open greater avenues for the furtherance of the Gospel in God’s sovereign plan. A servant need not worry about the results as long as he is following the Master’s instructions faithfully.

Effectiveness is evidenced by God’s intervention

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. (Acts 16:16-18)

Paul and Silas were greeted by someone who was the least expected to do so, a demon possessed slave girl who was a professional fortune-teller for her masters. A servant of God discerns the powers of wickedness waging war against the kingdom of his Master. His victory over such forces was established and endorsed by his Master’s death on the cross.  Here, Paul did not entertain free publicity from the enemy, rather, he puts an end to it in the name of Jesus.

The Gospel is the Good News not because it is endorced by the most powerful people in the world. It is the Good News not because it has the backing of celebrities. It is the Good News because it is God’s eternal Word that has the power to save. God does intervene in the ministry of His servant who is faithfully going about the task assigned to him. This heavenly intervention cuts through the barriers and establishes victory, bringing transformation in the lives of people.

Peril of serving God my way

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.

And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. (2Sam.6:1-7)

Following the crowd or obeying God

It was the unchangeable law of God that the Ark of God’s Presence must be carried by the Levites on their shoulders (1Chr.15:15) until it was installed in the Jerusalem Temple. Before (Solomon’s) Temple was dedicated the Ark rested in the Tent or the Tabernacle wherever it was set up. But the transport of it was the sole responsibility of the consecrated (set apart) servants of God, the Levites.

When the Philistines conquered Israel, they carried away the Ark thinking it was Israel’s idol, like the ones they were worshipping. They thought having their ‘god’ in custody would give them power over their enemy. Israelites too had slipped spiritually to the level of equating the ‘box’ to the Almighty God. They were drifting away following the pagan nations around. They asked God for a king to rule them because they wanted to be like the other nations. They were forgetting the command that they should not follow the ways of the other peoples. Now they saw how the Philistines carried the Ark around in style, mounted on a cart, instead of being carried by people. They tried the same when they wanted to bring it back. Neither David nor the Levites cared to follow the instructions God had handed down to them as Law.They thought it OK to serve God their way.

Good intentions or God’s intentions

The Ark and the people were doing fine until the oxen stumbled and the cart shook. Uzzah reached out and held the box that it shouldn’t fall. But God was angry at that and smote him. Why?

First of all, God of the Bible, unlike many other gods, doesn’t require humans to protect Him, His possession, or His prestige. He can take care of Himself. Secondly, if someone wants to serve Him or His purposes, it has to be done His way. Good intentions are not sufficient but a total obedience. He is specific about the end as well as the means to the end.

The Mysteries of Christmas

The Birth of Jesus Christ

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” (Mat.1:18-23)

There are some myths and mysteries about Christmas. In today’s self-centered and individualistic culture Christmas has lost its meaning. Some people call it “holiday season” because it doesn’t hold anything more than just a couple of free days for having fun. For some others it is a time of family reunion-the only time of the year when they spend time together. For a lot of people in the east Christmas is the birth anniversary of the founder of the Christian religion.

Christmas is not the beginning of Christ

Many have misunderstood Christmas to be the beginning of Jesus Christ like other spiritual gurus or religious founders. But the Bible makes it very clear that Jesus was there before Christmas. He was there right from the beginning, in fact, He is the beginning. He is referred to as “Alpha” and the “WORD”.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Rev.22:13)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)

Jesus told those who rejected His claims,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” ( John 8:58 )

He was “Immanuel”, which means “God with us”  or “God in human form”, as we read in Matthew 1:23. He existed before everything else because He is the Creator.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16)

Christmas is not just another event in history

So many things happen at random in the world. Children are born and some grow to be great personalities and people of influence. No one knew about their greatness before they existed. All of them die and are no more. The greatest of them may leave behind traces of memories for a couple of generations. But about 700 years before His coming into the world the Prophet of God announced that Jesus would come as a human baby. There were about 300 prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus in the Jewish Scriptures.

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’) (Isaiah 7:14)

Those who followed Jesus realized that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies.

Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” (John 1:45)

Jesus confirmed this when He said:

If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. (John 5:46)

Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…. Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled”…. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. (Luke 24:27,44,46)

Christmas will be complete at the return of Christ

The birth of Jesus Christ was announced as “Good news of great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10). It is good news that it points the way to forgiveness, to freedom, to lasting joy and peace, to eternal life, and to heaven-all available free of cost and effort. However, it is a package deal. You start enjoying these here and now, prevail through all the storms and struggles caused by the world corrupt by sin, and safely reach your eternal destination at the return of Christ. Christmas thus should remind us that we a re sojourners here and we await our transport at the trumpet call of the archangel. Then we shall be with our Saviour for ever, beyond the spell of corruption and sin, beyond the reach of tears and sorrow, beyond the powers of wickedness and evil. It will be then prove to have been Good News of Great Joy for ALL peoples, across nationalities, tongues and cultures, those who embraced it.

The Long Forgotten Ministry

The ministry of the Church is of a prophetic nature, in the sense that, it is carrying on the role of the prophets of old, of Jesus Himself and of the Apostles.

God communicates through His creation. In the early days God chose someone to be His prophet, to be His mouthpiece, to speak to people. God would speak to him something and he was to repeat it verbatim. Through the prophets He gave people rules to follow. Through them He announced what He would do in the days to come and warned people about impending judgment for disobedience. The prophets also fulfilled the office of the priests in the early days.

Today, there isn’t much of the foretelling aspect of it, because whatever God wanted people to know regarding their eternal salvation during their temporal life on earth has been put together in the form of a book – the Bible. So, it is just a matter of forth-telling, proclaiming it as it is written. Prophets of old said, “Thus says the LORD“, while we say, “Thus says God’s Word”.

All believers have a part in the Church’s mission today. We have a prophetic/priestly ministry to fulfill (1Pet.2:5, 9-10). Prophetic ministry encompasses all that the Church is commanded to do in the areas of its worship, nurture and evangelism. The Church should focus on all the three. Prophets should encourage the practice of God’s Word and rebuke the negligence of it. We must allow the Word of God to guide us in every area of our lives. 2Tim.3:16 says,

Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.“(CEV)

Jeremiah’s life was typical. In Jer.28 we read the contrast between a true prophet of God and a false prophet.

Saying What God says!

The prophets’ job has never been a comfortable one. He was the most unwelcome person among his people. He proclaimed the most unpleasant message and people considered him as a stumbling block or obstacle on their way. He brought messages of rebuke and judgment.

However, because of their people-pleasing and pleasant messages false prophets thrived. Messages of prosperity and wealth who wouldn’t want to hear! So, they had entry into royal palaces and wealthy homes. They would speak in the name of the sovereign LORD things which the sovereign LORD has not spoken. They are neither true to themselves nor to the LORD. But, a true prophet of God has to speak on God’s behalf whether the message is what people would like to hear or not.

Jesus fulfilled the ministry of a prophet in its true sense though He was much more than a prophet. He spoke all what God wanted to speak to the people and only what God wanted. Jesus said,

I don’t speak on my own. I say only what the Father who sent me has told me to say.” (Jn.12:49 CEV)

Jesus was disliked by the Pharisees because He announced God’s displeasure on their hypocrisy.

We are called to be the prophets of God within our family, church and community. We need to use the Word to correct an erring brother, strengthen the weak, and build up the body of Christ. We need to build mutual accountability among ourselves where we can check each other for our own good. But often we fail to fulfill our responsibility as true prophets of God because we are afraid of the response of the audience and damaging our reputation.

I am thankful to God for the Godly people who have helped me watch myself through their eyes. John K. is one of the first among them. I still remember our meetings, when the first thing he would ask is “What did the LORD speak to you today?”

Saying it at any cost

The true prophet receives no accolades from the hearers. But, with their lying flattery the false prophets earn favours and honours. Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. At the end of the day he had only tears and agony for the reward. He was interrogated, threatened and attacked. His life was at risk (Jer.26:7-16). Yet he conveyed God’s message. It was not that Jeremiah did not desire his people’s deliverance and prosperity, but that was not what God told him to convey.

Jesus satisfied God’s law by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the entire human race. He conveyed God’s message of salvation to the people. But he had his share of agony and sorrow. He had a lowliest birth, poor man’s life and no place to stay. He went through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. He received a cross and a crown of thorns. Knowing all this ahead of time, He committed Himself to God and finished His mission. The result! God honoured Him with the name above every name, the name at which the entire creation will bow down and worship!

We need to help build the body of Christ by proclaiming the Word which is able to reprove, rebuke, teach, correct, encourage and edify. We are asked to share one another’s burdens (Gal.6:2) even if it is not the most pleasant thing to do. We may not be appreciated but we are becoming obedient. God will be glorified and His kingdom strengthened on earth.

Hating What God Hates

The LORD says: Don’t brag about your wisdom or strength or wealth. If you feel you must brag, then have enough sense to brag about worshiping me, the LORD. What I like best is showing kindness, justice, and mercy to everyone on earth.
Someday I will punish the nations of Egypt, Edom, Ammon, and Moab, and the tribes of the desert. The men of these nations are circumcised, but they don’t worship me. And it’s the same with you people of Judah. Your bodies are circumcised, but your hearts are unchanged. The LORD said: Listen to me, you people of Israel. Don’t follow the customs of those nations who become frightened when they see something strange happen in the sky.But you, Israel’s God, created all things, and you chose Israel to be your very own. Your name is the LORD All-Powerful. (Jer.9:23-26;10:1-2, 16)

This morning I went through the book of Jeremiah 9:23-10:16. The Lord is reminding His people through the prophet, in very strong terms, two key issues. These are two sins that God hates. First is ‘hypocrisy’ and the second ‘idolatry’. Several places in the Scripture we find instructions and warnings to keep away from these sins. Jesus often rebuked the religious folks for their hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is spirituality without Godliness or Christianity without Christlikeness. This promotes external religion instead of internal reformation. People wear their religion these days and its hollow. The qualities of our God, like justice, mercy, love and kindness, should be reflected through our lives. We must allow Christ to reshape us into His likeness.

Idolatry

Idolatry is not only bowing before and idol. Giving God’s place to anything else or anyone else too is idolatry. It is creation orientedness rather than Creator orientedness. We tend to give more thought and prominence to the creation of God than God Himself. We are quick to blame others for idolatry but ignore our own practice of it.

God wants us to hate these sins as He hates them.

Reactions of a Fallen Leader

The day after the New Moon Festival, when David’s place was still empty, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t that son of Jesse come to eat with us? He wasn’t here yesterday, and he still isn’t here today!”Saul was furious with Jonathan and yelled, “You’re no son of mine, you traitor! I know you’ve chosen to be loyal to that son of Jesse. You should be ashamed of yourself! And your own mother should be ashamed that you were ever born. You’ll never be safe, and your kingdom will be in danger as long as that son of Jesse is alive. Turn him over to me now! He deserves to die!” (1Sam.20:27, 30 31)

Can someone fall from grace? Can someone who was chosen be rejected by God?

With regard to salvation the answer is “No”. But when it comes to serving God the answer is “Yes”. This we see in the lives of several leaders. Saul started well as the first king of Israel but turned out to be a failure in the sight of God. So he was rejected and someone else was appointed in that office. Towards the end of his tenure Saul demonstrated the traits of a fallen leader.

Insults associates in public

An efficient leader observes his associates closely and guides them properly. He keeps track of the moves they make and commends them for work well done and corrects them when they goof up. But, fallen leaders do this with wrong intentions- to prove them wrong and inefficient and to pin them down. Saul does the same with David. The youngest son of Jesse had a name but Saul is addressing him as “that son of Jesse”. It sounded sarcastic in the royal assembly. Perhaps, Saul had forgotten his roots and was pointing his finger at the lowly background of the shepherd boy.

Saul expressed his jealousy towards the upcoming leader and a servant of God’s choice. He tried to exert his authority and establish his supremacy which revealed his unwillingness to accept God’s authority.

Expects associates’ support even when he is wrong

Saul attacks his own son Jonathan for aligning with David instead of supporting him. Saul wanted to establish his dynasty in spite of God’s rejecting him and his family. Jonathan on the other hand risked his chance to the throne by supporting David. But he knew he should yield to God’s sovereignty.

Attempts to remove associates who are obstacles

Problems are opportunities for leaders. An efficient leader makes strategies to overcome obstacles. A Godly leader will look unto God for solutions. Associates are his strength.

But  a fallen leader will see a Godly associate as a threat and will try to eliminate him. Saul  saw David as an obstacle on his way. Instead of allowing God to settle things he tried to clear the way himself.

However, God is still the Kingmaker.

Man of God in Distress

As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me;
Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”
(Psa.41:4)

Distress and agony visits everyone and stays for longer with some. One’s knowledge and experience of God will come to his rescue at such times. For a Christian it is a part of his training for his future reigning in God’s glory. David was a man who went through this experience in spite of his being anointed as King of Israel to succeed Saul. His Psalms are mostly the reflections of his relationship with God.

The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles paint the backdrop of many of these Psalms. Psalm 41 reveals the agonizing prayer of the man of God. The context probably was the rebellion of his son Absalom and the betrayal of his trusted friend Ahithophel (2Sam.15:2-6; 16:23). David had been in mental agony as well as physical pain. The guilt of his being slack in fulfilling his duties was eating on him. In such distress he knew there was only one place to confide-the presence of the merciful God. If at all David has any confidence, it is in the character of his God.

Principle of receiving and showing mercy

David starts at the right point-the nature and character of God. He tells God his understanding about God’s nature. God shows mercy to them that are merciful towards the helpless. In other words, you give mercy and receive mercy. However, David is not relying on his virtues here. Instead, he is leaning simply on the mercy of God, admitting his unworthiness and sinfulness. He is pleading for spiritual healing before he can experience physical healing.

Principle of having and losing friends

A powerful man has a lot of friends. But they all desert him as he loses his power. Worldly friends are a commercial lot. They are there as long as opportunities for profit are there. Opportunistic relationships are not built on true love but on flattery and hypocrisy. Such friends turn enemies swapping sides for better benefits. They visit you in your sickness with malicious intentions, to demoralize you, to aggravate your condition and to spread gossip with the information they have gathered. As David narrates, it is a painful experience to go through. The only solace for a child of God is the presence of God, from where he she can draw strength.

It is natural to become bitter and revengeful. Eventually one becomes physically indisposed. David felt guilty that he had neglected his daily responsibilities, thus allowing his rebellious son to take undue advantage of the situation. So he prayed for spiritual and physical healing. He is duty bound to discipline his enemies for their rebellion against God’s anointed. However, the focus is on David’s humility in acknowledging his sinfulness and utter helplessness without God.