Puzzling Pictures 8: The View From Below

Well, did you manage to guess what I was doing? (See yesterday’s “Puzzling Pictures: The View From Above.”) It’s easy enough to work it out, if you’ve ever lived in an old terrace house with a bay window. Yes, I was up a ladder, cleaning out the troughing.

Viewed from below, everything looked all right. The paintwork was still presentable - just the streaks and stains you’d expect, nothing that wouldn’t wipe away with a damp rag. However, it’s always worth taking a closer look. I got the ladder out of the cellar and carried it round the block and put it up. I climbed until I was head and shoulders above the troughing, and I looked down.

Everything was not all right. All the way along the wooden troughing was a thick layer of dark and disgusting sludge. The weather was dry, but this detritus was still soggy, holding moisture against the surface of the wood. Left like that, it would eventually seep down below the surface, no matter how well the wood had been treated with preservative. In the fullness of time, the troughing would rot and be ruined.

I set about cleaning it out. A trowel? No, wrong angle. A brush? No, not stiff enough. A wooden spoon? No, not enough clearance to get it under the overhang. In the end, I had to work my way all along the main section and round the side with a long-handled teaspoon. It took me quite a while. Then, pour in water at one end, swill it down to the drainpipe, and leave it to dry.

Since then, I’ve given it a good coat of wood preservative, and I’m waiting for another dry spell to add a coat of sealant on top. And then the job will be done.

On Wednesday I was in Manchester, talking to a middle-aged man about the gospel. He’d approached me with a number of perfectly reasonable questions, which I was happy to answer, as best I could. He acknowledged that the creation spoke of a Creator, and said that he had been trying to find God for himself, for many years. I explained the way of salvation again, and suggested that he began by acknowledging before God that he was a sinner. He’d readily agreed that he was by no means perfect, but… 

The more I pressed him to admit his guilt before God, the more defensive he became. The serious faults which he had already admitted became minor issues, hardly worth mentioning, and he was better than many other people that he knew, and God welcomed anyone who was a seeker after truth anyway, didn’t He, and why would he want to repent when it wasn’t really his fault, and..?

At this point I’m spoiled for choice when it comes to texts concerning the true nature of the unregenerate human heart. Let me ask you, instead: what would you have said to him? What texts would you have shared with him, had you been there?

And how is that man like my troughing? It’s obvious, and I know you’re ahead of me, but I’ll say it anyway. When we consider our spiritual condition, the view from below - from our point of view - suggests that we’re not really all that bad: a moderate amount of moral reformation, and the job’s a good one, we’re right with God! Alas, the view from above, with divine insight into the human heart, tells a very different story. 

Isaiah 64.6: We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Jeremiah 17.9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

And today, there is no longer any real need to repent? Just have faith, just have faith?

Matthew 9.13: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. 

Luke 13.3: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

I’ll leave you with one last photograph, and a question for anyone who happens to come across this blog who does not know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord: what is the state of your own heart today - seen, not from below, but from above? No don't tell me: take it, as the old hymn has it, to the Lord in prayer.