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Morning, December 18         

 

"Rend your heart, and not your garments."

-Joel 2:13

 

Garment-rending and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations-for such things are pleasing to the flesh-but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: but they are ultimately delusive, for in the article of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

 

Heart-rending is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

 

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour's voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.[1]

 

Evening, December 18

 

"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds."

-Proverbs 27:23

 

Every wise merchant will occasionally hold a stock-taking, when he will cast up his accounts, examine what he has on hand, and ascertain decisively whether his trade is prosperous or declining. Every man who is wise in the kingdom of heaven, will cry, "Search me, O God, and try me"; and he will frequently set apart special seasons for self-examination, to discover whether things are right between God and his soul. The God whom we worship is a great heart-searcher; and of old his servants knew him as "the Lord which searcheth the heart and trieth the reins of the children of men." Let me stir you up in his name to make diligent search and solemn trial of your state, lest you come short of the promised rest. That which every wise man does, that which God himself does with us all, I exhort you to do with yourself this evening. Let the oldest saint look well to the fundamentals of his piety, for grey heads may cover black hearts: and let not the young professor despise the word of warning, for the greenness of youth may be joined to the rottenness of hypocrisy. Every now and then a cedar falls into our midst. The enemy still continues to sow tares among the wheat. It is not my aim to introduce doubts and fears into your mind; nay, verily, but I shall hope the rather that the rough wind of self-examination may help to drive them away. It is not security, but carnal security, which we would kill; not confidence, but fleshly confidence, which we would overthrow; not peace, but false peace, which we would destroy. By the precious blood of Christ, which was not shed to make you a hypocrite, but that sincere souls might show forth his praise, I beseech you, search and look, lest at the last it be said of you, "Mene, Mene, Tekel: thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."[2]

 

December 18th

The test of loyalty

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God. Romans 8:28.

It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberties with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, and that is to our Lord. Suddenly God breaks up a particular set of circumstances, and the realization comes that we have been disloyal to Him by not recognizing that He had organized them. We never saw what He was after, and that particular thing will never be repeated all the days of our life. The test of loyalty always comes just there. If we learn to worship God in the trying circumstances, He will alter them in two seconds when He chooses.

Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the thing that we ‘stick at' to-day. We will be loyal to work, to service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ. Many Christians are intensely impatient of talking about loyalty to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more emphatically by Christian workers than by the world. God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers.

The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us-‘I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on Mine.' God wants to use us as He used His own Son.[3]

 

December 18

Cleanse thou me from secret faults

      Ps. 19:12

The world needs men who are free from secret faults. Most men are free from gross, public faults.

Selected[4]

 

December 18

" Desire for Attention and Recognition "

Two pictures are placed before our eyes. The first is Jesus wearing the crown of disgrace. Voluntarily He chose to be the most despised and unworthy One among men. People hid their faces from Him, and "we esteemed Him not". Jesus! He is the One who deserves all honour in heaven and on earth, but He sacrificed Himself out of love for us and let Himself be disgraced.

In the other picture are we men, more or less wearing sparkling crowns of our own desire for attention and respect. We are much addicted to this desire. No matter what the price is we want to be the centre of attention. We make every effort to attain this goal and all other goals become secondary. The flagrant contrast between these two pictures shows us clearly how serious this sin is. It shows that our desire for attention flatly contradicts our divine calling to be remade in the image of Jesus.

The roots of this sin lie in Adam's fall. Through the fall everything lost its proper relationship. No longer are we primarily interested in being respected by God, being at one with Him in love. Instead we have a strong drive, often a passionate yearning, to be respected and esteemed by people. If we sense that people whom we respect and whose opinion is important to us, do not respect us, we become sad, depressed, unhappy and touchy.

But that is not all. In our desire for recognition we often seek to get into the limelight and pretend to be something we are not, or to have abilities we do not possess. So we become untruthful and, without realizing it, hypocritical. We think we are serving God, but in reality we are doing everything for our own honour, so that others will respect us, and thus we sin against the most sacred things. Then the "Woe" that Jesus said to the Pharisees also applies to us. "They do all their deeds to be seen by men . . . they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places" Mat_23:5-7

These hypocrites, to whom Jesus said "Woe", are threatened by Jesus' greatest judgement in eternity. That is why we cannot tolerate the desire for recognition and attention any longer. And this desire gives rise to so many other sins.

We hurt others, we are unloving and place them in the shadow, so that we can appear in a favourable light. Especially in our times, when it will cost us increasingly more and more dishonour, ridicule and disgrace to belong to Jesus and follow Him, our desire for recognition can be our downfall and can even cause us to deny Jesus. Yes, if this addiction to receiving honour from people is so strong in us, Jesus must lament over us-as He did over the Pharisees who did not accept Him, "How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" Joh_5:44. So this sin of desire for recognition which is usually anchored in our personalities, separates us from Jesus and the divine life. That is why we have to get rid of it no matter what the price may be. What can help us?

First of all, we have to let the Spirit of God show us again and again how despicable our desire for recognition is, and then make a definite renunciation: "Lord, I do not want to be anything; I do not want to be respected." And then we will find that there is power in this resolute renunciation. Jesus accepts it. He, the Son of God, surrendered Himself to being despised and rejected by all. Now He can help us. What is His is ours. He has gained this humility, this desire to be nothing. Then we will receive the greatest gift. We will be respected by God. The Father said that He was well-pleased with His Son when He went down into the River Jordan and let others think that He was a sinner, not worthy of respect. This "going down" brought Jesus special love from the Father and gave Him the greatest joy.

Jesus forsook his glory and chose disgrace so that we could be redeemed from our desire for recognition and be changed into His image for humility.  His lowliness, even to the point of dying like a "criminal" on the cross, is a sure guarantee of His aid for all of us who want to be free from our desire for attention.



[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). Morning and evening: Daily readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster.

[2] Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). Morning and evening: Daily readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster.

[3] Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.

[4] Hardman, S. G., & Moody, D. L. (1997). Thoughts for the quiet hour. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing.