“Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.” Luke 22:24
We see in this passage how firmly pride and love of preeminence can stick to the hearts of Christian men. The strife was one which had been rebuked by our Lord on a former occasion. The Lord’s Supper which the disciples had just been receiving, and the circumstances under which they were assembled–made the strife particularly inappropriate.
And yet at this very season, the last quiet time they could spend with their Master before His death, this little flock begins to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest!
Such is the heart of man–ever weak, ever prideful, ever ready, even at its best times, to turn aside to what is evil!
The sin before us is a very old one. Ambition, self-esteem, and self-conceit–lie deep at the bottom of all men’s hearts, and often in the hearts where they are least suspected! Thousands imagine that they are humble, who cannot bear to see an equal more honored and favored than themselves. Few indeed can be found who rejoice heartily in another’s promotion over themselves.
If we make any profession of serving Christ, then let us live on our guard against this great evil. The harm that it has done to the Church of Christ, is far beyond calculation. Let us learn to take pleasure in the prosperity of others, and to be content with the lowest place for ourselves. The rule given to the Philippians should be often before our eyes, “In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” The example of John the Baptist is a bright instance of the spirit at which we should aim. He said of our Lord, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! Psalm 106:1
What happens to our souls when we are not thankful? We get a glimpse of this in Psalm 106. The Psalm begins by calling the people of God to praise and thanksgiving. The following 12 verses continue by reminding them of God’s great and merciful works. How He showed His power and set them free from the slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea to get them to safety, and covered their enemies with water. As they remember God’s goodness toward them, we see thanksgiving flowing from grateful hearts as they recognize the Lord and His mighty works. Then, a few verses later, we find a drastic change as they soon forgot His works and did not seek His counsel.
As they were in the wilderness, forgetful of God’s goodness, they began to lust for the pots of meat they had in Egypt and began to test God in the desert. They started to demand meat, as if the Lord had failed to give them something they deserved. It is at this point we find this in verse 15: “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” (NKJV)
The Lord had granted them their fleshly desires, which was meat in the form of quail, but the meat did not satisfy them. Instead, it made them sick. The more they ate, the more empty it left them, for the Lord had sent it with a wasting disease. Ingratitude works much the same way. When we think that we need something more than what God has already given us or has promised to provide, when we get it, we tend to find that our longings had deceived us. The reason for this is because we should be feasting upon God, through His word, in remembrance of all He has done on our behalf. When we forget God, and ingratitude begins to set in, it doesn’t matter what we receive; we will still want more and be spiritually sick. If God and His great mercy are not enough to fill our hearts with thanksgiving, nothing will.
Gratitude flows freely from a heart that is full of God, mindful
of His great works, and aware of His grace to such unworthy and sinful
creatures. The sinner, who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and has been
filled by the justifying work of Christ, can find themselves in any harsh
situation that this life has to offer and still have hearts that rejoice and are
full. On the contrary, the person who forgets God’s great works toward them and
begins to think they deserve more can be in the most pleasant of all earthy
positions and still live with lean souls.
The same gospel that saves us from our wretched condition is the same Gospel that will fill our souls with joy for all eternity. We are never to forget how great His love is for us that we should be called sons and daughters of God. To live our lives without this truth at the center will bring leanness to our souls that will never be satisfied with anything this world has to offer.
This Thanksgiving, if your heart has been forgetful of God’s
great love and mercy toward you, or if you find yourself unsatisfied with what
the Lord had done for you, it is time to seek His face and remember His
goodness. Do not let one more day go by without spending time in His word and
calling out to Him in prayer. The most beautiful holiday meals will not cure
the leanness of soul which accompanies ingratitude toward God, but if you have
remembered your God and your heart is full of Him, then any lack you experience
this holiday will not be able to empty the joy and gratitude which fills your
soul. Godliness with contentment is great gain.
May all our hearts burst forth with gratitude toward our great
God this holiday season!
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. – Psalm 100
How is it possible for any of us to live without a heart full of gratitude when everything short of hell is mercy? If we are not facing the the wrath of everlasting punishment at this moment, we are not getting what we deserve. That is true for every Christian and non-Christian alive right now.
We have a tendency to look at the way things are and assume that is the way it should be. We look at the life of an average person and think we deserve that at least. That misleading assumption is spewed forth by the father of lies and exists for the soul purpose of making our hearts cold toward the Lord of Mercy.
Our ingratitude, alone, is sin enough to condemn us for all eternity, yet here we sit, surrounded by so many pleasures of life and taking them for granted. To help us keep things in perspective, here are a few things that are better than what we deserve.
Loss of Loved Ones
Conflict at work
Catching a cold
Loss of a Presidential election
A long line at the grocery store
Being on hold with the internet company for 20 minutes
An online delivery being delayed
Going to work tired
Someone saying something upsetting on social media
A sermon being a little dry
The worship leader singing a song we do not like
It is amazing how much time we can spend complaining about the items at the bottom of the list, especially in light of the items at the top of the list. Yet, the entire list is mercy compared to hell.
For those who reject Christ, everything on this list will soon come to an end. When the mercy ends, the list above will seem like heaven compared to what they will be facing for all eternity. They will go from mercy to justice.
For those who come to Jesus in faith, all of this will soon come to an end for them as well. Christian, your pain and frustrations are only temporary. You will soon enter into the presence of the king where there will be no more tears or sorrow. You will go from mercy to mercy. Hold on for just a little longer.
No matter what we are facing, we have every reason to rejoice in the Lord at this moment. Meditate on this truth, and let it flood your heart with gratitude, especially as we move into the Thanksgiving holiday. He is a good and gracious King.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. – Philippians 4:4
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. – Genesis 22-13
As Isaac watched the knife which was lifted by his father be plunged into the ram that had been caught in the thicket, what could have been going through his mind? As he watched as the altar was set ablaze to finish the burnt offering, the thought of his replacement must have astonished him.
Only moments earlier, Issac had been bound and laying on the altar. Not only him but the future existence of the children of God. As he watched his replacement, he watched for us all as God shows him that there is one who will come to bear our scorn.
The ram clearly being a shadow of Christ who was to come, finds us tied upon the altar of the wrath of God. We were bound in the sense that we loved our sin and wanted to continue in it. As it is with all those who are under the law, the dagger of God’s justice was raised above us, waiting until His sovereign and unstoppable hand plunged it down.
Yet while we were still sinners, fighting against His authority and grace, He began to untie us. Our hearts of stone He began to soften as we lay in defiance of Him. With the hammer of His word, He then destroyed the bonds of false philosophies and empty arguments which held us captive, and He continued His work until we, being freed, crawled off the altar. As we stood in astonishment, God Himself, in Christ, crawled upon the altar, freely, without bonds. He lay there perfectly still, as God the Father plunged the dagger of His justice upon His only Son.
By faith, the children of God look on in amazement as we claim the merits of His blood. We are entirely undone by the fact that all of this has been done for us. Had God left us upon the altar to strike us with His justice, He would have been perfect in His holiness and impeccable in His goodness, but He did not do it. He sent a substitute. Not because we were worthy, but because He loves us as the Father loves the Son; eternally without beginning and without end.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. – James 5:13
Humility, faith, repentance, heavenly-mindedness, and self-denial are the heart-quieting graces, and prayer is the heart-quieting duty. He that has not learned to pray, will not learn to be content. There must be a good striving with God in prayer, or there will be a striving against discontent. Are you afflicted? Pray (James 5:13). Do you meet with crosses? Pray. Does your estate decay, your family die, or is the body consumed by pain and sickness? Pray. The best way to be content in every state is to pray in every state. We study this hard lesson best upon our knees.
Prayer furthers contentment:
1. By giving vent to the mind under trouble. Full vessels are app to burst! Prayer is the best vent. We can go to God and pour out our hearts before him, and a heart ready to break is now greatly relieved. Hannah prayed, and wasn’t sad anymore (1 Samuel 1:18).
2. By obtaining grace and strength from God that enables contentment. He that stills the sea when it rages can also still the soul in all its passions and discontent. The calming of an inward storm is a thing that is in every way as marvelous as Christ calming the storm (Matthew 8:24-27). Paul was content ‘through Christ who strengthen him!’ This was a supernatural quietness of his mind.
If you desire to be content in every condition, then go to God often and beg for it from him. Say, ‘Lord, I am beside myself, and have a discontented heart that is ready upon every cross to fret against you. This is my burden: I cannot get the victory over my passion, I cannot bring myself to a calm, submissive frame. Blessed God, do help me through the power of your grace to have a contented mind in me! Oh, do but pray thus, and in due time God will give you what you pray for!
Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Ever-living One! I died — but see, I am alive forevermore! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead). – Revelation 1:17-18
If death is in our cup, that cup has been put into our hands at the time fixed by unerring wisdom and infinite love! When it is affirmed that Jesus holds “the key of death,” it is plainly implied that none can pass out of this present world without His appointment. And, more generally, that He is lord of the living not less than of the dead, and has a thorough control over everything that can in any way affect the lives of men. An absolute power over death, necessarily presupposes a corresponding power over life and its affairs. And it is by the exercise of His providence in sustaining life that He fulfills His purpose as to the time and mode of their departure hence.
Has the Redeemer the keys of death? Then this should mitigate the anxiety which often preys upon the mind when we look forward into the future, and contemplate the prospect of our own death. We should remember, that as the Redeemer alone has the keys of death. Nothing can happen to send us forth from the world before the time which He has appointed for our departure. Neither man nor devils can abridge the term of probation assigned to us by our gracious Master. Nor, until He is pleased to call us away, shall any power on earth or in Hell prevail against us. The Redeemer is possessed of absolute power over the course of our lives on earth and over the time and manner of our departure out of the world.
No accident, no hostile violence, no insidious snare, no dark conspiracy — can touch our life but by His command. And surely, when we reflect on the numerous dangers to which human life is exposed, the frailty of our frame, the diseases to which it is subject, our constant exposure to fatal accidents, the malice of open or concealed enemies, it must be consolatory to know, that the key of Death is in the Savior’s hands, and that, come what may, we cannot be forced out of the world, until He opens the door and bids us to come to Him.
More especially, when we are visited with disease, and threatened with a speedy termination of life, the Savior’s power over the keys of death should repress or assuage those violent anxieties as to the probability of death or of recovery, and those disquieting speculations as to the outcome of disease, and the mode of its treatment. For disease cannot kill, nor can medicine cure — without the appointment of Him who holds in His own hands the keys of life and of death! And if He has fixed the outcome of this disease, then why should we be anxious?
If the door of death is opening for our departure, it is because the tender Savior, whom we love and trust, is summoning us to be forever with Him!
Shall we, then, rebel against His appointment? Shall we doubt the love and wisdom of His determination? Or, as ignorant as we are of what is before us in this world, and of what really concerns our best interests, can we entertain the wish, that the power of determining the time of our death were wrested out of His hands and placed in our own?
True, we may have many ties that attach us to this world. We may be young, and, with the optimistic hope of youth, may cleave to life. We may be prosperous, and surrounded with many comforts. We may have a young and engaging family, whom we are loath to leave behind us to the cold charities of the world. We may have many dependents on our industry or bounty, who will bitterly lament our loss. But do we imagine that these considerations are not known to the Redeemer, or that He has not weighed them all? And if, notwithstanding, it is His will to summon us home, are we not prepared to yield up our faulty judgment to his unerring wisdom?
The duration of each man’s existence on earth is determined by the Redeemer. It belongs to Him to appoint a longer or shorter period to each, as He wills. And in doing so, we have reason to be satisfied, that He determines according to the dictates of His infallible wisdom, although the reasons of His procedure must necessarily be to us, for the present, inscrutable.
We cannot tell why one dies in infancy, another in childhood, a third in the prime of manly vigor, and a fourth reserved to the period of old age. But suffice it for us, that this happens not by chance, neither is it the result of caprice or carelessness, but flows from that unerring wisdom, whose counsels are formed on a view of all possible relations and consequences. The power of death being in the hands of the Redeemer, the duration of human life is, in every instance, determined by Him. And none, therefore, ought to entertain the thought, either that death is, in one case, unduly premature, or, in another, unduly delayed. None live, either for a longer or for a shorter period, than infinite wisdom has assigned to them. Reason teaches, that to His appointment we must submit, however unwilling, it being irresistible, and far beyond our control. So, as Christians, we should learn to acquiesce in it cheerfully, as the appointment of one who cannot err.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells. – Romans 7:18
The depravity of our fallen nature is, and will be, universally and always felt during our present earthly state. It insinuates into, and mixes with all our thoughts, and all our actions. It is inseparable from us, as the shadow from our bodies when the sun shines upon us.
The holiness of a Christian does not consist in a deliverance from our sin nature, but in being sensible of it, striving against it, and being humbled under it; and taking occasion from thence to admire our Savior, and rejoice in Him as our complete righteousness and sanctification.
The grace of God puts a great deal into the heart, but it takes nothing out. Nature and grace, flesh and spirit, will antagonize each other to the end of life. Therefore the life of a believer, while in the body, is a continual state of warfare.
The apostle felt a law in his members warring against the law of his mind. He would do good, but evil was present with him. He groaned, being burdened.
When we first set out, we hope to be spiritually rich–but the Lord’s purpose is to make us sensible of our extreme poverty. We wish to be something–but He is teaching us that we are nothing.
When indeed we are willing to be nothing, that He may be all in all, in us and for us–then I think we reach the very acme of holiness. Then, while we feel that we have no sufficiency of ourselves, we shall be enabled to do all things that occur in the line of duty, through Him strengthening us.
After a little while — you will see Me! – John 16:17
Those sweet tender words, “After a little while,” have deep thoughts in them, like the still ocean at the twilight — thoughts too deep for our fathoming. They breathe some precious comfort to those believers whose burdens are heavy — either with care, or poverty, or sickness. Neither shall the mourner weep much longer, or God’s poor children carry the pains and hardships of poverty much longer. The daily toil to earn the daily bread, the oppressive care to keep the barrel from running low and the scanty “oil” from running out — will soon be over. Cheer up, my brother! “After a little while — you will see Me!” says your blessed Master, “for I am going to prepare a place for you!”
Oh the infinite sweep of that glorious change! A few years here in a poor dwelling, whose rent it is hard to pay — and then infinite ages in the palace of the King of kings! Here a scanty table and coarse clothing — and there a robe of resplendent light at the marriage-supper of the Lamb! Let this blissful thought put new courage into your soul, and fresh sunshine into your countenance!
I sometimes go into a sick room where the godly are suffering with no prospect of recovery. Perhaps the eyes of some of those chronic shut-ins may fall upon this article. My dear friends, put under your pillows these sweet words of Jesus, “After a little while — you will see Me!” It is only for a little while — that you are to serve your Master by patient submission to His holy will. That chronic suffering — will soon be over. That disease which no earthly physician can cure — will soon be cured by your Divine Physician, who by the touch of His messenger death, will cure you in an instant, and bring you into the perfect health of Heaven! You will exchange this weary bed of pain — for that crystal air in which none shall ever say, “I am sick;” neither shall there be any more pain.
Not only to the sick and to the poverty-stricken children of God, do these tender words of our Redeemer bring solace. Let these words bring a healing balm to hearts that are hurting under unkindness, or wounded by neglect, or aching under adversity, or bleeding under sharp sorrows. I offer them as a sedative to all sorrows — and a solace under all sharp afflictions. “After a little while — you will see Me!” The sight of Him shall wipe out all the memories of the darkest hours through which you made your way through this wilderness world — to mansions of glory!
“A few more struggles here, A few more conflicts more, A little while of toils and tears — Then we shall weep no more!”
May God help us all to be faithful — only for a little while — and then comes the unfading crown of glory!
Whosoever drinks of this water — shall thirst again! – John 4:13 There is no delusion more prevalent, or more difficult to remove from the minds of men — than the imagined power which this world possesses to confer solid good or substantial enjoyment on its devotees. Their life is one unceasing struggle for some object or attainment which lies at a distance from them. They are fighting their way to an exhausting prominence of wealth or of distinction — or running with eager desire after some station of imagined delight, or imagined rest — on this side of death.
And it is the part of Christian wisdom: to mark the contrast which exists between the activity of the pursuit in the ways of human ambition — and the utter vanity of its completion; to observe how, in the career of restless and aspiring man, he is ever experiencing that to be tasteless, on which, while beyond his reach — he had lavished his fondest and most devoted energies!
When we thus see that the life of man in the world is spent in vanity — and goes out in darkness — we may say of all the wayward children of humanity, “Surely man walks in a vain show, surely he vexes himself in vain!” Psalm 39:6
But these objections on that waste of strength and of exertion, which is provoked by the mere devotees of this world, are not applicable merely to the pursuits of general humanity — they frequently apply to the pursuits of professing Christians!
We all have a tendency to minimize our sinfulness. We look at the wrongs we have done, and we do everything we can to try and justify our actions. Doing this, however, fails to take full ownership of our sins. Many times, as Christians, we admit that we need forgiveness, but we still don’t like to admit the fact that our sins are utterly deplorable. We like to talk about sin and forgiveness, but we do not like to admit that we are truly sinners. Deep down we think, “surely we are not like many other people who are real sinners.” Thinking like this, however, makes us like the Pharisee, who scoffed at the tax collector–utterly in denial of the reality of his own sin.
Martin Luther once wrote a letter to Melanchthon entitled, Let Your Sins Be Strong where he addresses several different topics, including the tendency to downplay our sins. Luther says, “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”
We must stop trying to diminish the sin we have committed in order to maintain dignity. We must let them be strong, and look at them in all their wretchedness. We must see our sins as they mock God and refuse to obey Him in all His Holiness. Taking ownership of our sins is the only way we can bring what is ours to Him and say, “I need you to bear my punishment for these. There is nothing anyone can do to atone for these sins. Jesus, you are the only one.” His response to this request is, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” Thanks to the cross, there is no sin that is able to separate us from His love, for His sacrifice is fully sufficient.
Today, let us consider the words of Martin Luther: “Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.” Let us not try to justify our sins, for self-justification warrants nothing but death, but against Christ’s justifying blood, no sin can prevail.
My sins are mine I know them well They mock at God and damn to hell But by His blood, I am set free, He paid my debt at Calvary.