HT: Oliver Hersey
This Sunday is Pentecost (or Shavuot if you prefer the Hebrew):50 days after the Israelites left Egypt, Moses received the torah or Law from God on Mount Sinai. This was a momentous occasion, which God encouraged his people to celebrate in the years to come. Mankind now had a framework and order in regards to how he/she could relate to the Almighty. Centuries later God’s son Jesus Christ is crucified on passover and then 50 days afterwards Jesus’ disciples are worshiping on Mount Zion in the temple when they received the ultimate mediator and gift–the Holy Spirit… and so on the day of Pentecost we should always be celebrating that God’s Spirit desires to reside within us to guide, transform, and restore us.
The following quote hit me hard. I’ve had an experience of gospel grace, but pride remains. It needs to die.
Per Jonathan Edwards, Thoughts on the Revival (1742)
Spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christianity. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. It is the main source of all the mischief the devil introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.
Spiritual pride tends to speak of other persons’ sins with bitterness or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt. But pure Christian humility tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity. Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself. He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies. But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. He is apt to esteem others better than himself.
Some who have pride mixed in with a heightened awareness of God’s glory and intense experiences of spiritual joy are apt to rebuke other Christians around them for being so cold and lifeless. But the humble, in their joys, are also wounded with a sense of their own vileness. When they have high visions of God’s glory, they also see their own sinfulness. And though they speak to others earnestly, it is in confession of their own sins. And if they exhort other Christians, they do so in a charitable manner. Pure Christian humility disposes a person to take notice of everything that is good in others and to make the best of it and to diminish their failings.
The following comes from Brennan Manning’s Reflections for Ragamuffins (p. 4). It spoke to me and I hope it does to you as well.
Several years ago, Edward Farrell, a priest from Detroit, went on a two-week summer vacation to Ireland to visit relatives. His one living uncle was about to celebrate his eightieth birthday. On the great day, Ed and his uncle got up early. It was before dawn. They took a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney and stopped to watch the sunrise. They stood side by side for a full twenty minutes and then resumed walking. Ed glanced at his uncle and saw that his face had broken into a broad smile. Ed said, “Uncle Seamus you look very happy.” “I am.” Ed asked, “How come?” And his uncle replied, “The Father of Jesus is very fond of me.”
If the question were put to you, “Do you honestly believe that God likes you?” – not loves you because theologically he must – how would you answer? God loves by necessity of his nature; without the eternal, interior generation of love, he would cease to be God. But if you could answer, “The Father is very fond of me,” there would come a relaxedness, a serenity, and a compassionate attitude toward yourself that is a reflection of God’s own tenderness. In Isaiah 49:15, God says: “Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you” (JB).
“The object of these pages is simple, clear, holy. It is to arouse attention to the blessed truth, that Christ pervades all Scripture. Christ pervades all Scripture, as salt all waters of the sea, as light the brightest day, as fragrance the garden of choice flowers.
To see this is my prime delight. To testify it is my happiest duty. Devoted loyalty to Him who is the first and last, the sum and substance of all Scripture, impels me. Earnest zeal for the undying souls of men constrains me. I know, and am intensely persuaded, that all peace, all joy, all salvation, are in Jesus. My eyes are widely open to the fact that men are blessed, and are blessings, just in proportion as they live, ever gazing on Christ, ever listening to His voice.”
Henry Law, Preface to the Gospel in Genesis
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. . . . You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:1-2, 17
The problem: Coveting
What might we covet about another man? His job, money, looks, brains, wife and kids, car, house, opportunities, influence, position, education, musical talent, promotions at work, sense of humor, friendships, etc. Our hearts are ungrateful, blaming, resentful, insecure, sulky, grasping, plotting, unhappy, defeated with selfishness. The Israelites murmured and complained their way right out of usefulness to God. And Paul says their story is a warning to us (1 Cor 10). At the bottom of it all, the human heart is unhappy with God, even angry. Our hearts are born in attack-mode toward God.
The antidote: Love from God
Romans 13:9-10 says the Ten Commandments boil down to this: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” for love fulfills the law. The generosity of heart called “love” frees us from craving what God has given to another man. Love frees us to rejoice with that guy. Love calms us into contentment with the life God has assigned us. We even go beyond contentment. We become generous. “The righteous give without sparing” (Proverbs 21:26). “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35, JB). How do we get into that happy place? “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). We can’t explain it, but we know it’s true: In giving, we receive. God is able to supply us with such inner fullness that we have something to give to all around.
Throughout that Psalm, David tells us that there is only one place we can go where our frantic hearts can experience the rest it so desperately needs, and that place is God alone. This morning, a friend of mine named Don Brothers sent me the following hymn that so wonderfully describes this place of rest.
The following hymn was written by Gerhard Tersteegen, 18th century German reformed pastor.
Allured into the desert, with God alone, apart,
There spirit meeteth spirit, there speaketh heart to heart.
Far, far on that untrodden shore, God’s secret place I find,
Alone I pass the golden door, the dearest left behind.
There God and I–none other; oh far from men to be!
Nay, midst the crowd and tumult, still, Lord, alone with Thee.
Still folded close upon Thy breast, in field, and mart, and street,
Untroubled in that perfect rest, that isolation sweet.
O God, Thou art far other than men have dreamed and taught,
Unspoken in all language, unpictured in all thought.
Thou God art God–he only learns what that great Name must be,
Whose raptured heart within him burns, because he walks with Thee.
Stilled by that wondrous Presence, that tenderest embrace,
The years of longing over, do we behold Thy Face;
We seek no more than Thou hast given, we ask no vision fair,
Thy precious Blood has opened Heaven, and we have found Thee there.
O weary souls, draw near Him; to you I can but bring
One drop of that great ocean, one blossom of that spring;
Sealed with His kiss, my lips are dumb, my soul with awe is still;
Let him that is athirst but come, and freely drink his fill.
HT: Chris Kritsas
The amount which you understand the gospel is measured by your ability to be joyful in all circumstances. If you grasp what a treasure the presence and acceptance of God are, then even when life goes really wrong you will have a joy that sustains you, because you’ll recognize the value of what you have in Him. When life punches you in the face, you’ll say, ‘But I still have the love and acceptance of God, a treasure I don’t deserve.’ And the joy you find in that treasure can make you rejoice even when you have a bloody nose. You have a joy that death and deprivation cannot touch.
— J. D. Greear
Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary
(Nashville, Tn.: B & H Publishing, 2011), 81
Psalm 62:2 says, “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
If you are anything like me, and you are (because you are human), you do not fully believe that He only is your rock and salvation. We all smuggle something else into the equation. For example, I may say that He only is my rock and salvation, but really it’s He + me being a good dad. Or, it could be He + being able to pay my bills (+ knowing the future… + having a husband/wife… + having your dream job, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc). We are master smugglers. We smuggle in anything and everything into the He only equation, and thereby rob ourselves of experiencing the only great treasure – God Himself. So, if you recognize you are a smuggler, pray like David did in Ps. 61:2, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Repent of your additions and ask God to give you a heart that treasures Christ alone.