Examining the Heart 89

Reckon not duties by high expressions, but by low frames, and the beholdings of Christ. Tremble at duties and gifts. It was the saying of a great saying, “He was more afraid of his duties than of his sins”; they often made him proud, the other always made him humble. Treasure up manifestations of Christ’s love; they make the heart low for Christ, too high for sin. Despise not the lowest, meanest evidence of grace; God may put you to make use of the lowest as you think; even that may be worth a thousand worlds to thee (I John 3:14). Thomas Willcox

This is a very important experimental teaching that those who have some awareness of the state of their hearts will find as meat and drink to a hungry soul. We must examine our hearts and develop an awareness of how pride rises in our hearts or what truly humbles us. We have to learn to take notice and study the things our hearts respond to and what truly strengthens them in the spiritual realm versus what makes them think that they are doing well. This is a very, very important thing to do. If it is so vital for people to get various examinations each year and others on a more regular basis, how much more vital is it to examine our hearts?

A person can perform a duty and feel really great about it and yet that duty could be nothing but sin and more sin because it was not done out of love for God. It can also be true that a duty can be done out of a desire for the feeling one has for doing it, which is clearly nothing but self-love in the fleshly sense. A duty that is truly done will humble the person as a duty that is truly done comes from grace and the person will see how utterly helpless s/he really is apart from grace and what a depraved person s/he is to have the risings of pride in the heart over doing a duty that could only be done properly when strengthened by grace.

The study of Scripture can do nothing but puff a person up if not done out of true humility and love. I Corinthians 8:1 is so instructive, yet devastatingly powerful to the soul, when it tells us that “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” A person can be the smartest person in the world concerning the things of Scripture, but the arrogance will kill all spiritual knowledge. A person can be the best and highest in the context of academics and know nothing of spiritual things. A duty that is properly done will be done out of a beholding something of Christ and will be done out of a sense of deep impoverishment of soul, though that too may vary depending on how the Lord is working in the soul.

It is almost beyond belief (if not actually beyond belief) for most modern professing Christians today to even consider the fact that they should be more afraid of their duties than their sins. Humility is far more important than external obedience because only the humble soul will do duties from the strength of grace. The sins of the saints (all true believers) are usually not the more obvious sins that the world drinks in like water, but instead those things have to do with their intents, motives, and desires. If they are watching over their hearts, they will feel dead to spiritual things and alive to the world. While they mourn over their sin they do see God’s hand in working humility and lowliness in them. But when duties are the focus, even what should be spiritual things become things that people are proud of and those things become wicked acts. Even the duties of believers become wicked acts when done out of a sense of pride or strength of self.

The heart is not as easily examined as is commonly thought. A non-spiritual person cannot really examine the heart for spiritual things as that person is in darkness and cannot see what is going on in the spiritual kingdom. Only the spiritual person can examine his or her own heart and note the beginnings or growth of spiritual things. Only the Spirit can show us spiritual things and only the Spirit can open our eyes to see spiritual truths. It is a great spiritual truth that people are blind to that our sins can be of greater use to us if they humble us than our very spiritual duties do when the come from or lead to pride. Spiritual pride is an abomination to God while He loves the humble, contrite, and those who tremble at His Word. How the examination of the heart is so useful as it shows us our sins which He can use to humble us, but also show us our great pride in doing our duties. That seems so backwards to the natural man whether that person is religious or not, yet to the eye that the Spirit has given light to it is seen as a profound truth. We must be about examining our hearts by the Spirit that we may become lower and lower in our own eyes and can do out duties out of love for Christ rather than pride.

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