By other men’s sins, a holy man is put in mind of the badness of his own heart. Bernard makes mention of an old man, who, when he saw any man sin, lamented and wept for him. Being asked why he grieved so, for other men’s sins, answered, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”
The falls of others puts a holy man in mind of the roots of sinfulness which are in himself. Other men’s actual sins are as so many looking-glasses, through which a holy man comes to see the manifold seeds of sin which are in his own heart, and such a sight as this cannot but humble him.
A holy heart knows that the best way to keep himself pure from other men’s sins, is to mourn for other men’s sins. He who makes conscience of weeping over other men’s sins will rarely be defiled with other men’s sins.
A holy heart looks upon other men’s sins as their bonds and chains, and this makes him mourn. Ah, how can tears but trickle down a Christian’s cheeks, when he sees multitudes fast bound with the cords of their iniquity, trooping to Hell? Who can look upon a lost sinner as a bound prisoner to the prince of darkness and not bemoan him?
If holy people thus mourn for the wickedness of others, then certainly those who take pleasure in the wickedness of others, who laugh and joy, who can make a sport of other men’s sins are rather monsters than men! There are none so nearly allied to Satan as these, nor any so resemble Satan as much as these! (The devil always joys most—when sinners sin most!) To applaud them, and take pleasure in those who take pleasure in sin, is the highest degree of ungodliness!
The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy at this time of year. Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart. Now there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is a time to be immovable, there is also a time to be moved. There are events that should stir our hearts and move us to childlike wonder, and the birth of Jesus is one of those things. Especially when we consider it in light of the curse and the resulting pain of childbirth.
Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise. We despise what is good, and we love that which will hurt us; we are prone to our own destruction. What is worse, is that we are continually heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished. The thought of such things should cause us to tremble.
If this was where the story ended, there would be no hope for any of us, but as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to provide a seed who would be the remedy for our sin (Gen 3:15). What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, He also pronounced a curse upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion. One aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow (Gen. 3:16). Why would God do such a thing after such an incredible promise? Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder of the curse and the seriousness of sin. The same applies when we experience the pain in our work (Gen. 3:17). It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is. It is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.
As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have spent time pondering that night and have thought of the cold ground upon which she lay, without comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His people from their sins.
Christ, God incarnate, had entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His great love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, went willingly to the slaughter, never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, we are healed.
If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation. Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.
The sexual revolution has so altered the worldview of many, that we now often treat fertility as a disease. It devastates lives, there are prescriptions to keep its symptoms at bay, and there are surgical procedures to cure it altogether.
To our culture, it seems that fertility has its most devastating effects on women. Men only suffer from its effects tangentially through the pain it inflicts on women. Men can more easily side-step virtue and walk away if the manifestation of the disease becomes too much to bear, but women do not have that luxury.
For women, fertility has ruined careers, helps hold the glass ceiling in place, and, before the technology was invented to end its tyrannical reign, it even kept women from fulfilling their purpose in life by forcing them to neglect their careers and devote time to nurturing their families. Thankfully, to the secular mind, science has overcome this atrocity. If the unthinkable happens, we can now have the life-ruining cancer removed at any neighborhood Planned Parenthood.
Sexual pleasure has become the god of our culture to which all other gods must bow. One of its contenders is reproduction itself. We must separate the pleasure of sex from reproduction and fertility, or there can be no sexual freedom. “My body, my choice” is the battle cry of a generation who, whether they realize it or not, are rebelling against their natural design. Nature, not the patriarchy, is what our culture hates most.
Let us not be naive; this treatment of sex and fertility is the end of a long line of pathologies that have plagued society for centuries. Absent fathers, the breakdown of the family unit, divorce, and pornography; all of these often stem from the same root. That root is the desire to have sexual pleasure without constraint. It is impossible to lay the ax to the root of the sexual revolution without also laying the ax to the root of these as well. This shared foundation is why many people are, rightfully, often charged with hypocrisy when they stand against abortion but have no problem with the casual sex culture.
This desire to have sexual pleasure without constraint has culture suppressing the truth of not only biblical revelation, but also science. In order to be able to justify the extermination of the child, we must classify the child in the womb as either not a human in its natural course of existence or not alive. It is impossible to deny either scientifically, yet, on the altar of sexual autonomy, logic and truth must be sacrificed.
Is it possible to use birth control in a way that does not lead to the conclusion described above? Yes, but we are reaching the bottom of the slippery slope that exists in a world where we hold the shackles of our created nature in contempt, and the technological abilities to side-step those realities coexist. Birth control will only ever be properly used within the confines of marriage in a world that understands that we have been created by a good God who knows what is best for us. A world where we understand that moral restraint is a path to human flourishing. What our society calls constraints, are God-given structures to show us the path to sexual fulfillment.
This post may raise more questions than it answers, but hopefully by framing it this way, it will help us pause and think through the state of our culture a little more deeply. Until we fall in line with the word of God, we will continue to rebel against our Creator’s good intentions for our lives. In our revolt, we curse our blessings and pursue our demise, but praise God, since we have all fallen short, for those who place their faith in Jesus, he will forgive their sins. He will wash them, and they will be whiter than snow. From that point, he will begin to conform us to his image where we will glorify him and enjoy him forever.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! -Psalm 127:3-5
It is that time again. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and many have already frantically begun to prepare for Christmas. The sales are plentiful, the shoppers are swarming, and the decorations and music add warmth everywhere you visit. The preparation has begun, but none of it can compare to the preparation that took place for that first Christmas. Take a moment to imagine what it would have been like to live during a time when they didn’t know the name of the coming Savior.
In preparing for Christmas, our hearts will be helped by meditating on what it must have been like for those of the household of Israel who had been waiting for the Messiah. It all started immediately after the fall when God told Eve that there would be a seed that would have His heel bruised by the serpent, but that same heel would ultimately crush the serpent’s head. Already, God had promised a remedy for the spiritual death they had brought upon themselves and all subsequent generations. The promised child would also be a remedy for the physical death that was working in their bodies at that very moment.
As time went on, God’s people were taught many things about the future one who was going to redeem them from the wages of sin. To name a few, they were told that He was going to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and He would speak in parables (Ps. 78:2-4). Along with that, He would be hated without reason (Ps. 35:19), He would be spat upon and stuck (Is. 50:6), and He would be pierced (Zech. 12:10). He would do it all to save His people by being a substitute for them in order to make atonement for their sins (Is. 53:5). Then in the darkest hour, He would walk victoriously out of the grave (Ps 16:10, Ps 49:15).
The prophecies progressively revealed details regarding the coming Messiah, and although His children did not fully understand them, they gave them hope, but having the promise of a Messiah who was to redeem you from the grip of sin is not the same comfort as having that redemption finished and being able to call upon his name. Those among the Hebrews who truly believed must have continually longed to know His name. Jacob wrestled with Him in His pre-incarnate form, yet when Jacob asked Him His name He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name? (Gen. 32:29),”and the mystery continued. Later, Samson’s father, Manoah, spoke with Him, and though he did not fully understand at the moment with whom he was speaking, he also asked Him His name, and the response was “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful (Judges 13:18). All of these events were shrouded in mystery, for the name was not to be revealed until the fullness of time.
They lived with such wonder, hope, and speculation for thousands of years, including an approximately 400-year period following the prophet Malachi where God seemed to be silent. That all ended, however, the day an angel of the Lord appeared to young Mary and said, “You will conceive and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” His name would be Jesus, and He would save His people from their sins! The wait was over. Sinful humanity was to be redeemed, and the one who was to do it was going to be named Jesus!
Oh, how we have sung His name for thousands of years. How long we have known the only name under heaven by which man can be saved. How long it has filled our hearts with joy. We have not only known His name and His teachings, which are an endless supply of light and life, but we have also known Him personally because He is still with us today and will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.
He bore our sorrows and carried our grief. He took upon Himself our sins, thus putting an end to the condemnation that the law demanded, and He imputes to us His righteousness, making us co-heirs in the inheritance that He so rightly deserves, and we most certainly do not. None of the rapturous joys that fill the believer’s heart would be the same, had it not been for His birth in that lowly stable when God himself took on flesh.
It is easy to be swept away by all the trappings of the season, but the believer must not lose the infinite worth of Christ in all the paltry tin of secular add-ons. As you prepare your home this season, be sure preparation is made to spend time with your Savior through meditation on His word and prayer, for no heart is as full as the heart that is filled with Christ.
“O, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever!” -1 Chronicles 16:34
The annual Thanksgiving Day in America, has grown to be a national festival. It is a day of rejoicing. It summons all the people to gratitude. It is fitting that a people who have received untold blessings, should set apart one day on which all should recall their mercies, think of God as the Giver of all and express their grateful feelings in words of praise.
But it is not intended that the other three hundred and sixty four days shall be empty of thanksgiving, because one is named as an especial day of rejoicing. We cannot crowd into any one day—all the thanks of a year. Indeed, on no one day can we be grateful for another day. No one person can give thanks for a whole company of people. So no one day can give thanks for any but itself. All the days should be thanksgiving days. Any that is not, lacks something, and stands as imperfect days in the calendar. We are told that we may count that day lost in which we do no kindness to anyone. In like manner may be set down as a lost day that one in which no songs of gratitude rises from our hearts and lips to God.
Anybody can be thankful on one day of the year. At least it ought to be possible for even the most gloomy and pessimistic person to rouse up to grateful feeling, on the high tide of an annual Thanksgiving day. No doubt it is something to pipe even one little song in a whole year of discontent and complaining—the kind of living with which some people fill their years. God must be pleased to have some people grateful even for a few moments in a long period of time, and to hear them sing even once in a year. But that is not the way He would have us live. The ideal life is one that is always thankful, not only for a little moment on a particularly fine day. “Praise is lovely,” that is, beautiful—beautiful to God. The life which pleases Him is the one which always rejoices.
Nowhere in the Bible can we find either ingratitude or joylessness commanded or commended. All ungrateful feelings and dispositions are condemned. A great deal is said in disapproval of murmuring, discontent, worrying, and all forms of ingratitude. Again and again we are taught that joy is the keynote of a true life. It is not enough to rejoice when the sun shines, when all things are going well with us, when we are in the midst of prosperity; we are to rejoice as well when clouds hide the blue sky, when our circumstances seem to be adverse, or when we are passing through sufferings.
In one of the Psalms, the writer says: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” He had learned to sing in the hours of pain—as well as in the times of gladness. That is the way the Christian should live—nothing should hush his song or choke the voice of thanksgiving and praise.
The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it.
Likewise, one who has been full of miserable discontents, utterly lacking in gratitude, gets a new Divine impulse, and one day is really grateful for a few moments. The impulse comes again, and again he let his life flow toward gratitude. Persisting in the disposition, his heart returns again and again to its gladness, until by and by it has been lured altogether away from the old beaten paths of discontent, discouragement, and unhappiness, and runs always in the ways of thanksgiving.
If we find that we have been leaving thanksgiving out of our lives, if we have been allowing ourselves to grumble instead of praise, if we have indulged in unhappiness instead of in gladness—we should instantly set about the breaking of a new path, a thanksgiving path. It will not be easy at first, for gloomy dispositions when long indulged persist in staying in our lives. But they can be conquered, and we should not pause in our effort until we have trained ourselves entirely away from everything that is cheerless and ungrateful, into the ways of joy and song.
There are many encouragements to a life of thanksgiving. For one thing, it makes life much happier. The person who indulges in fretting and complaining—is missing much that is loveliest, both in character and in experience. The tendency of such a life is toward gloom and depression, and these qualities in the heart soon show themselves on the face and in the manner. Light is the emblem of a beautiful life—but ingratitude is darkness rather than light. If we would be happy—we must train ourselves to be grateful. Ingratitude makes life dreary for us.
Another reason for cultivating the thanksgiving spirit, is because of its influence on others. Nobody loves a sullen person. We are exhorted to think of “whatever things are lovely,” and cheerlessness is not lovely. If we would have people like us, if we would attract them to us and have good influence over them—we must cultivate happiness in all our expressions. There are many people who have formed the habit of unhappiness. They may be good and honest—but they have not learned the lesson of gladness. And they are not helpful people. They are not diffusers of joy.
We are as responsible for our faces—as we are for our dispositions. If we go about with gloom on our countenances, we will cast shadows over others and make life harder for them. No one can be a real blessing to others, until he has mastered his gloom and has attained the thanksgiving face. No one can be of very much help to others, if he carries discontent and anxiety on his countenance. We owe it to our friends, therefore, as well as to ourselves, to form the habit of thanksgiving.
There are those who have learned this lesson so well, that wherever they go they make happiness. Their lives are blessings.
It ought not to be hard to train one’s self to be grateful. There would seem to be reason enough in every life, for continual thanksgiving. True, there are days when things may seem to go wrong—but it is only in the seeming. There is not doubt that all our circumstances bring blessings, which we may have if we will. The hardest experience of any day, enfolds in it, a gift from God—if only we receive it in faith and love. We think of the sunny days as being good days, and we call unpleasant weather bad. But if we understood it, we would know that God sends to the earth just as rich blessings in His clouds—as He does in His sunshine. The clouds bring rain, and after the rain all nature appears clothed in fresh beauty. A simple, childlike faith sees God in everything, and is ready always to give cheerful thanks, even when the reason for the thanksgiving may not be apparent.
Indeed, we shall some day see that many of the richest and best blessings of our lives, have come to us through experiences and circumstances which to us seemed adverse, and from which we shrank. There is an old promise which says that to those who love God—all things work together for their good. All we have to make sure of—is that we keep ourselves in the love of God. If we do this, everything which comes to us will bring its enriching in some way, and out of the painful things—our lives we will gather the best blessings and the deepest joys.
We shall not have many miles at the most—of the rough, steep road. In a few years we shall have gone over it all, and shall have come out into a place where there shall be nothing to vex or disturb us. And such gladness waits for us, such blessing, that one hour there—will make us forget all the sorrow and pain and toil of the way!
“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” – Henry Ward Beecher
“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” – A.W. Tozer
“Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God in His goodness and faithfulness has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is a recognition that we are totally dependent upon Him; that all that we are and have comes from God.” – Jerry Bridges
“Ingratitude is the sepulcher of love.” -Unknown
“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord ” – John MacArthur
Gratitude to God makes even a temporal blessing a taste of heaven. -Unknown
“An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time and in His way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“When thou has truly thanked the Lord for every blessing sent. But little time will then remain for murmur or lament.” -Hannah More
“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” – Henry Ward
“Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” -Matthew Henry (when he was robbed)
Ingratitude is never comely. The life that is always thankful is winsome, ever a joy to all who know it. -J.R. Miller
God is in control and therefore in everything I can give thanks. -Kay Arthur
“The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life. -Robert Louis Stevenson
“See that you do not forget what you were before, lest you take for granted that grace and mercy you received from God and forget to express your gratitude each day.” -Martin Luther
To increase in happiness in Christ’s service, labor every year to be more thankful. -J.C Ryle
“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays the most or fasts the most, it is not he who lives the most, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.” – William Law
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. -Psalm 107:8-9
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
Godliness with contentment is great gain! – 1 Timothy 6:6
True godliness produces and strengthens contentment; and contentment is the calm sunshine of a man’s life. We do not mean sitting down in idleness, feeling at home in filth, or indulging in negligence; this would be a disgrace to any creature, especially a professing Christian! But contentment is connected with honest industry, general purity, and a concern for the honor of God.
True contentment springs from acknowledging and eyeing God’s providence, whose “tender mercies are over all His works.” It is a bowing to His will as the infinitely wise and invariably good; believing the promises He has given; expecting the provision He has made; and feeling satisfied to share in the common lot with His people.
Contented Christians prize spiritual blessings before temporal, and live sensible of their demerit and desert. They know that everything short of Hell is a favor and that the glories of Heaven will more than make amends for all the toils and privations of this world’s wilderness pilgrimage. They do not expect to find rest below, or a paradise in the desert of this world. They are persuaded, “that all things work together for good, to those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.”
Pride is slain, and humility flourishes; for pride is the parent of discontent, ingratitude, peevishness, rebellion against God, and many other evils. While humility produces contentment, patience, gratitude, submission to the will of God, and many other virtues.
The godly who are contented are rich for they have a good fortune! They have inward peace and satisfaction of mind which are better than gold! They are filled with gratitude and thankfulness to God which are better than a large estate! They have love to God and delight in Him which are preferable to a splendid mansion! They have a joyful anticipation of eternal glory, of being acknowledged as the sons of God, and fellow-heirs of Jesus which is to be esteemed above all the titles and honors of this perishing world!
They contentedly live in the enjoyment of what they now have realizing that their glorious portion is yet to come! Their aspirations are on the same level as their earthly condition hence, they are strangers to fretfulness, murmuring, and the constant vexations which most men experience. They prove that, “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.”
Reader, are you a godly person? Are you acquainted with God as your God, your Friend, your Father? Are you contented with your place, portion, and prospect in this perishing world! If so, you have a good fortune!
My nerves were shot. I could feel the stress coursing through my body, and I knew what was pulling the strings. All of the tension straining my soul was connected to the things of this world. I had been seeking my meaning in them, and their uncertain nature made everything I was standing upon precarious, which had caused me to collapse in fear. Though I did not know it at the time, those ties to the world needed to be severed, or I was going break.
It was then that I saw a man walking toward me. He was a smallish man with a stern face that made me question his intentions, but as he drew near, I saw kindness in his eyes that provided me with some relief. He looked at me, and he immediately saw my distress. The windows of my soul were open to him, and he could see that the treasure of my heart was man’s applause. He saw that earthly pleasures had my rapt attention and would not let me go.
He immediately showed me a picture of a man arrayed in full splendor. Never had I seen such an image. The portrait reached deep down into my soul. My lust grabbed a hold and refused to let go because I wanted to be that man. Then something happened. I saw that the man of splendor was disillusioned. He had everything for which I longed, but he was still unsatisfied. He cried, “Vanities of vanities. All is vanity.”
How could this be? The man in the picture had everything I knew would make me happy, and he was still unfulfilled. I felt myself take in a deep breath. Something that had been putting pressure on my chest broke free, and I felt my lungs begin to relax. With that, the small man was gone.
As I lay there pondering what had happened, I saw a man of great evil approach me, and he had, in his hands, all the treasures of the world. He, too, had everything that I desired and had been investing my life and soul to attain, but he was hideous. I could not tell if he reminded me more of Nero or Hitler. As I look upon the monster in front of me, a searing thought shot across my mind. “If the Lord of heaven and earth allows the greatest portion of the world’s treasure to be held by the vilest of men, his avowed enemies, then they must not be the greatest treasures man can possess.” If earthly riches were part of God’s greatest gifts, the wicked would have no part in them. As he was walking away, I noticed the tension running up and down the back of my neck start to relax, and the years of chronic pain in my head began to fade.
As I sat there beginning to wonder if I had been directing all my life pursuits toward the wrong things; another man came into view. This one was the exact opposite of the last man. He was godly. I saw 11 more standing at a distance behind him, and all of them wore the clothes of poverty. I saw them being mistreated. They had no desires for earthly power, riches, or fame. In fact, they had given up what they did have to possess something greater. As the man in front stood there looking at me, I saw joy in his eyes. He said, to me, “I count all things as dung compared to knowing Christ.” He smiled and walked away, and the others went with him.
I knew at that moment that these were the men used by God to lay the foundation of the Church. The Holy Spirit had used them to write down the very words of God for all subsequent generations, and the man in front had just called all that I was pursuing “dung.” At that moment, most of the strained nerves in my body that had been tethered to the false treasures began to snap, and, contrary to what I would have thought, as they snapped, they did not hurt. Instead, they loosened and began to regain their intended use. Feeling the life returning to my body, I stood to my feet, and then something even greater happened.
I saw a man approaching riding a white horse, and he was beautiful. I knew right away that he had sent the first three visitors. As I looked upon him, my joints felt loose, my muscles began to give way, and I went down to my knees. Everything about me began to come undone. His voice shook my soul with comfort, and he showed me his hands, his feet, and his side. Up until this point, I had been pursuing the world’s crown, and he showed me what that crown truly looked like by showing me the scars on his head.
He is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and he was despised and rejected by men. Foxes have dens, the birds of the air have nests, but he did not have a place to lay his head. If the treasures and esteem of this world were of eternal value, he would have had them. His beauty and worth emanated from his holiness, and the world’s riches had nothing to do with it. Compared to him, they were revolting and unnecessary.
At the sight of him, I felt something within me die. It was a former and perverse love for the things of the world. I knew in that moment that it was not wrong to possess them or use them; it was wrong to see them as valuable. The glorious cross of Jesus now stood between me and the world, and I could no longer love it, for the Pearl of Great Price overshadowed it. He then lifted me to stand in a strength not my own.
I had always known his scars provided the forgiveness of my sin, but I never realized how much they were calling me away from the things of the world. Seeing them, I felt everything within me begin to rest. My former pursuits are coming to an end. They are vain, and I now realize that my ambition for the things of the world made me my own tormentor. Through these visitors, Jesus poured contempt on the things of the world in comparison to him. He continues to lead me further out of the darkness into his marvelous light.
Now I am here to visit you. You, who have been striving after riches, power, fame, and sexual appeal. You, who are striving to increase them. You, who place your hope in keeping them. You, who fear to lose them. You, who find your delight in them. You, whose thoughts are continually upon them. You, whose conversation is always about them. Remember, they are unstable and cannot offer you the security and lasting pleasure you seek. Never forget that the Lord often allows his enemies to have the greatest portion of them. Keep in mind that his greatest servants rarely had any of the world’s goods, and they had everything in our Savior. Most importantly, look to Jesus and His cross to see how contemptuous they are compared to knowing him.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. – Proverbs 23:4
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. -1 Timothy 6:10
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