Sobering Thoughts 16

Mat 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Isaiah 58:1 “Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression And to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. 3 ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. 4 “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. 5 “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD?

Notice how far these people went in the ways of religion. Their religion, at least in appearance, seems to have gone beyond just the mere externals. Their religion appeared to be focused on God in many ways and to have been a way of seeking Him in some form of truth. Their religion was based (in many regards) on the ways that God had commanded. They were Israelites and were of the house of Jacob. If we read the things of Isaiah 58 in our day about a local church we would think that these people were a group of true believers.

God commanded Isaiah to raise his voice like a trumpet and declare to His people (the Israelites) their transgressions and their sins. Yet, what were the things that they were doing? They were seeking Him day by day and they even delighted to know His ways. They were a nation that had been involved in righteous things and they had not forsaken the ordinance of God. They prayed to Him for just decisions and they delighted in the nearness of God. They fasted and they humbled themselves. But again, if we found a local church where the people were doing these things we would think that we had found a true group of people truly seeking the living God with all of their hearts. We would think that we had found a group of true believers who had hearts for God.

Regardless of how far they went in their religious practices, however, their hearts were not right before God and they were not converted people. It is possible for people to seek God every day, but if they are not seeking Him from a new heart and a heart that loves Him they are seeking Him for selfish reasons and as such they are not seeking God for Himself. This is a point that must be made and people must come to see. Seeking God for selfish reasons or reasons that are self-centered (even if for religious reasons) is idolatry. It boils down to seeking God for a greater purpose and is the worship of self and loving self with all of our hearts rather than God.

These people sought God daily and they delighted to know His ways. People can have a delight in religious things that is not a delight in God Himself. People can love the external things of religious morality and delight in those things without a true delight in God. In fact, religious morality apart from a true love for God is a wicked thing. It is living in a moral way and doing it for self rather than for God. It is not truly living to please God, but instead it is living in a way to the delight of moral self and is a form or self-righteousness. It is self-centered and as such it is pride and self being religious in the sight of God but not doing what it does for the glory of God and out of love for Him. Even morality can be a way for self to seek self in the name of religion and have it to be idolatry.

The heart of man is so deceitful and so wicked that it blinds men and it keeps them from seeing true holiness and the true Gospel. The heart of man is so wicked that it can and it does take the very things of God and uses them as a way to serve self and love self rather than seek the Lord in the ways that He intended. The proud heart of man will take preaching and evangelism and use them as ways to seek the glory and honor of self rather than the glory and honor of God. God saves sinners to the praise of the glory of His grace, yet proud preachers and proud evangelists do what they do using His name and yet do it to the praise and glory of self. This is vile and wicked and is the height of pride, yet these people think that they are close to God. How far men can go in the things of religion and yet be utterly lost in their deception.

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