Sobering Thoughts 17

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?

These people had the appearances of true religion and the appearance of seeking God, but they fell far short. We should learn from them and search our own hearts to see if we are doing the same thing. It will do not good if we are very, very religious and yet our hearts are serving self rather than the living God. It will not matter on that day how hard we worked and the degree we used religion as a means of appearing to seek God when in fact we served ourselves and loved ourselves.

Notice something of their hearts in the language uses. They fasted and yet wondered why God did not see what they had done. They humbled themselves and yet wondered why God had not noticed. As the Pharisees in Matthew 6 prayed, gave alms, and fasted for the sake of religious pride and to be noticed, so these people served self as well. They did not do what they did to seek God in truth and love, but instead their hearts always wanted something from God for what they did. They did not use the things of God to seek God for Himself, but instead they used the things of God to seek God (in appearance) to get the things they wanted for self.

This should drive us to search our own hearts. Why do we pray and why do we fast? Why do we go to church and sing the songs and listen to preaching? Why are we moral? Why do we do the things of religion rather than not? We may have heard about the Pharisees and know they did them from wrong motives, but that does not mean that our motives are right. It is possible to be as hypocritical as the Pharisees and yet part of our hypocrisy and deception is to just try not to be like the Pharisees. Our hearts are deceptive and they will find ways to hide from the light, but we must seek the Lord to shine the light in our hearts and ask Him to expose the real truth of them.

The Israelites of that day fasted and they humbled themselves (they thought), but a true fast is far more than just not eating food. We must have grace to abstain from eating and have the Lord work in us that we may truly seek Him for Himself. Oh how easy it is to think that if we refrain from eating and pray for certain things that we are truly fasting and truly humbling ourselves. Our proud hearts will take the opportunity to deceive us if we are not careful and will bring up all the religious things we have been doing and compare self to others who do not do those things. But the Israelites fasted and yet they sought their own desires and did not treat their workers in a just manner. How could they seek God for just decisions when they did not treat others justly?

Humility is not something that can be obtained by the work of the flesh, yet that appears to be how they approached it. As long as the proud self is trying to humble itself it is nothing but proud self trying to earn something from God. That proud self that tries to humble itself will indeed obtain something it thinks of as humility and it will be so proud of its humility, yet surely it is clear that being proud of our humility is nothing but a great deception of our own proud hearts.

Beware how far we can go in the things of religion and yet have unchanged hearts. Beware of how far we can go in the things of religion and yet be just like the Pharisees though we are too proud to notice the resemblance. Beware of how far we can go in the things of religion and yet still be in the bondage of self and pride. Oh how awful it will be on that day to be found full of the religion of self rather than Christ Himself.

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