Archive for the ‘The Sinful Heart’ Category

The Sinful Heart 100

April 15, 2014

Man would be intolerable to himself, and look out every way for help, if it was not for his pride. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

If God would make it possible for man to see himself, his heart, and his behavior and yet have it be seen in another person, man would be intolerable to himself. What men hate about others, they tolerate and excuse about themselves. What annoys men in others; they think is humorous in themselves. If men could see their own sinful hearts in another and not know it was theirs, they would judge the other very harshly. If men could read the thoughts of another, even though the thoughts would be exactly as his or her own, they would blast the other person as vile and wicked.

Men justify themselves and their own sinful thoughts and hearts to themselves, yet when those things are in others they blast away. A proud and self-centered heart will find ways to excuse itself because it knows its own motives and deceives itself into thinking that its own motives are good, yet for others they see the bare act and will condemn the act quickly and with strength. It is so easy for proud man to condemn others for the very same thing that he does with many excuses and self-justifications.

If men were not so proud and would honestly look at their own lives and hearts, they would seek others and the Lord for help. If they were not so proud and blinded by that pride they would be intolerable to themselves. The more one comes to know something of the glory of God the more one sees the motives and intents of his of her own heart. Before the light begins to shine, proud man is almost perfect in his own self-justifying reason. As the light shines brighter, man begins to have a lesser view of self. The brighter the light shines in the heart, the more a man begins to loathe himself at times. But the proud heart is blinded by its pride and so it never sees the truth about itself. When one sees through the lenses of self-love and self-esteem, one does not see all the wickedness and vileness that resides in the heart.

We see an illustration of this in the story of David when the prophet Nathan confronted him with a parable or a story. David was livid at the thought that a rich man would take a poor man’s only lamb in order to feed his guest with. However, David had committed a far greater sin in taking the wife of another man. David was blinded to his own sin, most likely by a series of self-justifications suited to a proud heart full of self-love. When his sin was pointed out to him and the Lord opened his eyes to it, he was stricken in heart.

What we must notice about our own hearts is that we are far more wicked and blind than we can imagine. We should seek the Lord to show us the truth of our own hearts, but we must not be surprised if we begin to get sick of ourselves. The blackness and depravity of the heart is not taken away when a person makes a moral change, but instead a moral change can instead blind a person to the heart by what it thinks is the beauty of its own morality. It is also true that the true believer has far more depravity in his or her heart than s/he can imagine. This will drive the person to wonder how a person that has so much sin in the heart can be a Christian in truth. But people are saved by grace alone based on the righteousness of Christ alone and not how much sin they have left in their hearts. It is the grace of God that He begins to show a person the extent of the depravity of the heart and does so more and more as the person matures in the faith. As the grace of God shows us our sin, the grace of God also shows us the glory of Christ and His free gift of righteousness that comes by grace alone.

It is important for the unbeliever to grow in knowledge of his or her sinful nature and of the depravity of the heart. This is true so that the unbeliever will be driven off of self and hope in self to see that the only real hope is in Christ. It is also important for the true believer to grow in knowledge of his or her sinful nature and the remaining depravity of his or her heart. This is so that the believer will grow in humility and contrition before God and grow in the understanding of the extent of his inability and the extent of his need for grace. Until believers grow in their sense and understanding of their own depravity and inability, they will not see the extent of their need of grace each moment and the need to walk by grace alone. Pride blinds and God opposes the proud. How we need grace.

The Sinful Heart 99

March 4, 2014

It is a sore trial to the soul, which knows anything of itself, to come close up to God; He is light and
truth, all love and purity, the soul dark, selfish, and polluted with sin. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts
on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

It is entering deeply into the experience of the soul to write words like Adam wrote above. Oh how the deceitful heart wants to think that it wants God when in fact it is fleeing from Him. How hard it is for the soul to come to a deep awareness of how much it wants to flee from God and not see how selfish and wicked it really is. The soul may complain to God about how cold it is and how far God seems to be from it, but the real issue may be that the soul does not want to be close to God because it will have to give up all to have Him. The closer one gets to God the closer one is to the light and the closer one is to the light the more the dark, selfish, polluted soul is seen.

Even after the soul is regenerated the soul still has far too much pride and self-love or it to simply die to self with ease day after day. The soul is in a battle with itself, sin, and the devil. The regenerate soul loves God, but it still has that horrid self-love that it hates and yet is so easy to obey and follow. While God is pure and holy Truth, the soul is still uncomfortable the closer it gets to the light. While God is perfect love, the soul is not and in the light of the perfect and holy love of God the soul sees how little love it has and how deformed it is with such a great amount of non-love.

The holiness of God is His beauty and He shines forth in a blazing holiness, but the soul which is so polluted with sin does not always see the beauty of God’s holiness and shrinks from it. This is something like the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. The sight was fearful to them and they shrank back. The soul that has some taste like that in it knows the tearing sense in it as it wants to be closer to God and yet it shrinks back at the same time. The soul knows that the true theory is that the souls should long for God and seek for God with all of its heart and mind, but the sinfulness of the soul is a reality as well and it keeps the soul from seeking God as it should. The Lord brings to the mind of the soul that the pure in heart will see God, but this can also cause the seeking soul some anguish. How, it wonders, can I who am so polluted and vile ever have a pure heart? But the Lord in His great kindness teaches the soul in the inner man that it does not have to have a perfect heart in its own strength, but it must have more of Christ and its seeking Him must become more and more pure.

The Lord uses the soul’s sight of self as a way of showing the soul its sin and then through the anguish of that soul granting it a deeper repentance and a deeper love. This is something that can be thought of as cyclical in the sense that God shines light into the soul, the soul sees its darkness and vileness, and then the soul despises itself and cries out for grace to deliver it from itself. This is the time when the soul is seeking the Lord with some intensity and that is when it is seeking the Lord to be delivered from self. It is the soul seeking the holiness and love of God and finding that far more worthy, delightful, and beautiful than the hideous sin of self. Yet the soul is not perfect in its practice and so the Lord begins the cycle again.

Thus it can be seen that we are to seek the Lord with all of our being and those who love the Lord will seek Him, but at the same time the souls that seek the Lord will flee from His presence at times when they are overwhelmed by the light He is pleased to shine into their souls. Sensitive souls will even wonder if they are converted at times like that when they see so much darkness and vileness in their own hearts, but the Lord in His persevering grace will work in them so that they are granted repentance and will begin to seek Him again.

The Sinful Heart 98

March 3, 2014

It is much easier to join one’s self to a sect than to God…The soul is naturally frightened, and shrinks from the thought of living only upon God and to God.    (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

A sect may offer much for the natural self of man. It is easy to respond in a positive way to those we think like us and will comfort the self when it is bothered in some way. On the other hand, God is determined to do what is good for the soul and that will require much suffering of self and even death to self. A sect will accept a person if they follow certain rules which the self can usually do fairly easily, but God will only accept a person if that person denies self, takes up the cross, and follows Him. This is why there may be more people in sects and people will fill the mega-churches and the buildings where error is taught. A sect is easily joined and easily impressed, but God alone can change the heart to where it can enter at the narrow gate and follow the narrow road. A sect can be joined with little commitment, but to be joined to God requires the submission of the whole soul.

The soul does indeed shrink from the thought of living solely upon God and solely to God. It not only shrinks from that, but it utterly hates the idea unless it is born from above. It is hard for a proud heart to even think of totally living upon God and to God much less actually step out and try to do it, but doing it is far harder than thinking about it as well. The soul is faced with many conflicts within and without day after day and it forces it beyond what it can do in the natural man. The natural man can try to be religious and it can try to rely upon God for all things, but the natural man cannot rely upon God for grace in all things. The natural man will find that he will always be excusing himself for trusting in himself, but the true believer finds that the battle must continue. This is a fight for holy thoughts and holy desires. This is a fight and a battle to the death over self and pride.

The thought of living totally upon God is devastating to the proud man and to the self-reliant. The thought of having to receive all by grace is more than the proud and self-reliant can handle. No, they think, they can do this themselves. But reality will set in sooner or later if they really and truly try to rest in grace alone for all things. Admittedly this is a foreign thought among professing Christians in the modern and self-sufficient world, but God does not desire for us to live for self because that is to the glory of self which is to be like the devil. The believer is to receive all from God on the basis of grace so that the glory of God will shine forth from Himself and then to Himself before Himself, the angelic realm, and the human beings who see.

It is also impossible for the fleshly man or woman to think of always living to the glory and honor of God rather than for self. The Great Commandment teaches us that all we do is to be done out of love for God. We are even commanded that whether we eat, drink, or whatever we do we are to do all to the glory of God. This appears so daunting and overwhelming, not to mention undesirable, that it is thought that surely God cannot mean that. So we think we are to do the best we can. But the commands of God should teach us what we ought to do and not what we can do in our own strength. The commands of God teach us to live by grace rather than to live by the strength of self. The command to do all for God teaches us that we must live totally upon His grace in order to do all for His glory, which is again so hard for proud and self-sufficient people to consider.

The proud and self-sufficient heart has a totally different conception of Christianity than does the Bible which teaches dependence upon God, humility, and brokenness. The proud heart will be religious as long as it can gain honor and have people watch the religiosity of it, but true Christianity teaches that we can only believe if we seek the honor God rather than the honor for self. The proud and self-sufficient heart wants people to look upon it as self-reliant, as strong, as moral, and as determined and tenacious. But the humble heart wants people to see its weakness so that whatever it does the glory will be God’s. The self-sufficient heart is really religious based on the fleshly nature, but the humble heart seeks Christ by grace and also for more grace. The soul is frightened at the thought of living only upon God and to God because it wants to trust self and do what self wants which is easy on self in reality. The cross calls us all to death to self that we may live in dependence on God and unto God.

The Sinful Heart 97

March 3, 2014

We confess our emptiness to God in very strong terms; and when we have done praying, are apt to depend altogether upon ourselves… It is a vain and impious thought to imagine that I can do any thing by my own strength. Dependence on God, in every single act of thinking and willing, is both my duty and security.     (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

The soul that has an eye on its own motives and desires will notice that the above statements are right on the money. The soul will cry out to God in prayer and confess how vile it is, how empty it is, and then how utterly impossible it is for it to do one right thing. However, it will rise from prayer and looking to itself it will then set out to do the tasks it sets before itself and in its own strength. It is far easier to recognize the sinfulness and helplessness of the soul in theory than it is in practice, but the problem is that we can also recognize it in prayer to some degree and yet the prayers also seem to be nothing but theory.

It is much harder to live by grace than it is to think about what it means to live by grace. The soul can see and think about the theories of these things and agree that these things are true and good, but actually doing them is quite a different thing. The soul can also strive to live by grace in its own strength and even think that it is living by grace in its own strength, but that is also a terrible deception. Grace can only be received by faith alone and that faith cannot be in the strength or wisdom of self to receive grace or to walk by grace. It is a fundamental and a huge mistake to trust in self to walk in grace.

Each person must learn to look at his or her own heart as they live and not just as they pray. A person can say many things and say them well in what that person may think of as prayer, but the professed prayer may not be the real prayer of the heart and even to a lesser degree reveal the real state of the heart. It is easy to do a good deed in order to make ourselves feel good about ourselves and to do it before men to gain honor for it. It is easy to do a good deed because we know it is the proper thing to do, and it is also easy to do a good deed because we know that we should do it for the sake of God. But it is impossible for the flesh of man to receive grace from God and then to do an act out of love for God. This is what happens when we depend on self to do an act or to depend on grace.

It is a very impious thought to depend on my own strength to do any one thing, but it is far worse to depend on my own strength and live the whole day that way. Even worse, it is a terrible thing to have lived an outwardly good life during the day and then feel satisfied that I have pleased God with the day. The duty of man, though far beyond his own strength, is utter dependence on God in every single act of thinking and willing. This is to say that to depend on God is to depend on grace alone. How this very thought sticks a dagger in the pride of human beings as it shows them that they must have grace to even think a good thought and that every true thought that is good is from grace alone. There is no room for pride because a good thought comes to the mind of the human being, but instead there is room for adoring the grace of God.

The soul that sees itself as utterly dependent upon God for its entire amount of true willing must look to grace for strength for all that it does. Jesus told His disciples that apart from Him they could not do one thing (good or spiritual). He told them that in the middle of His teaching on the vine. Christ is the vine, true believers are the branches, and so any fruit that comes from the branch in actuality comes from the vine. It is impossible for the soul to learn from its flesh that it must be completely and utterly dependent on God for every single act of thinking and willing, so it must learn this from the inner teaching of Christ. The mind can see the command to live by grace alone in all that it does, but it cannot learn the practice of this apart from the inner teaching of Christ.

Not only is this the duty of the believer, but it is the security of the believer as well. The believer that lives by grace that it receives from Christ is a secure believer. This is not a believer that falls into sin and stumbles around in unbelief, but instead this is the believer that has learned the secret of living upon a true manna and a true spring of living water. This is the believer that is truly living by Christ alone and grace alone. This is the believer that is led to springs of living water and feeds on the green grass. Living for Christ is for more secure than living for self.

The Sinful Heart 96

February 12, 2014

I can no more root out the evil qualities of my soul by any volition, resolution, or efforts of my own, than I can think the stone out of my body. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

It is hard, and for the unregenerate (whether professing Christ or not) it is impossible, to overcome self at any point. It is only possible for the self to be overcome by the work of the Spirit in the soul. He alone has the power to work His fruit in the soul and He can do that even when the self or the flesh opposes Him. It is popular in both secular society and Christendom to think of human beings as having flaws and with the proper information, pills, and self-effort to be able to change self and virtually anything we want. However, that is simply an illusion once one looks at the situation with Light. When people see a flaw (something they don’t like) in the mirror and they think that they can cure it with enough makeup, a plastic surgeon, diet, or perhaps exercise. The external self can be changed in many ways, but now people think that the same methods can be used to change who they are.

The only way for self to be changed is for self to die. Paul spoke like this in Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (2:20). Jesus spoke of this many times and in many ways, but especially when He taught that we must deny self and take up the cross to follow Him. It is not that Christianity teaches us that we must root out evil qualities of the soul by ourselves, but that we must die to self and bow to Christ and that the life of Christ in His people will root out those things by virtue of new life coming in and a continual dying to the old.

Instead of thinking of evil qualities in the soul, we must think of the soul as a nature of self and pride. The nature of the soul itself is evil rather than just having certain things about it that are evil. The soul, by nature sinful self, can have quality A that is bad but the only way the sinful self can change quality A is by another act of sinful self. A sinful self cannot just make a choice or an act to change itself, though it can change things it does by other sinful choices and acts. This is why people must be made new creatures in Christ. Sinners don’t just need some behavior modifications, they need new hearts. Sinners don’t just need some new morality, they need new hearts. Sinners don’t just need to be away from bad company, because their own heart is bad company and they must have new hearts to have good company.

People tend to think of diseases or various problems as beyond their thinking processes, so they resort to surgery. But the very nature of the soul is beyond both the thinking processes and of surgery. The soul is in the hands of God who alone can overcome the sinful nature and all that influences that sinful nature. The soul does not just need a little touching up here and there; it needs to be made brand new. It needs to be taken from what it is and made into something different. It needs to be taken from being evil by nature, dying to that nature of self-centeredness, and having a nature that can and does respond to the Holy Spirit who is good.

The believer, however, will often think that s/he can become better by reading or following a program of some sort. But the believer must realize that apart from Christ we can do nothing good (John 15). This is to say that it is not just a matter of choice or effort on the part of the believer, but anything good that the believer can do must come from Christ. Analogically speaking, as hard as it is for a believer to get rid of a kidney stone by simply thinking about it or making a resolution to have it gone, it is far harder (impossible) for a believe simply to become better by thinking about it and making a resolution about it. It is by grace alone that a believer can become holier and more like Christ, it cannot be done by the believer doing it of self.

It is true that this is very hard for proud self to hear and for the proud professor to hear, but to those who have fought against self in many ways for a long time, it is wonderful to hear. It is not by my efforts or works, but it is by grace alone that will do this in me. This is simply music to the ears of those who have battled sin for so long and have recognized how empty and helpless they really are. Christ alone saves sinners from the guilt of sin, but it is also true that Christ alone can save sinners from the power of sin and of sin itself. Grace, grace, glorious grace.

The Sinful Heart 95

February 11, 2014

I fear nothing so much, and there is nothing I have so much reason to fear, as myself.   (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

People will usually fear most anything but themselves, and we might add that people fear God because they are afraid that He will do something that will hurt self. But if we really think the situation through with Scripture as our guide, when we follow our own hearts we are following a fool. When we will only believe what our brains can reveal to us, we are following a very limited and fallen understanding. When we make ourselves the standard of good or bad depending on how it influences our worldly well-being, we are simply being the standard of good rather than bowing in submission to the living God. We have every reason in the world to fear that our very self will blind us to the truth, lead us into sin, deceive us about our spiritual state, and eventually lead us into everlasting torment.

Part of the reason that we don’t fear self is because we don’t think of ourselves as evil and as having evil propensities and evil qualities. We don’t think of ourselves (if unconverted) as being children of the devil. We don’t see those things because we are blinded by self-love and pride and in that we make self as the standard. We think that if it does not harm us, there is no harm and it is good. But if something does harm our thoughts about self or self in any way even to the point of just causing us discomfort, we think of that as bad.

Mark 7:20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

If we viewed ourselves in light of the Scriptures, for example, the text just above, we would see things in a totally different way and see ourselves as being more dangerous to our own souls than anyone else. If other people had the power to have evil thoughts that would damn us, we would fear them. If other people had the power to have slander, pride, and foolishness come from them and damn us we would fear them. But all of those things and more come from our own heart and each one adds to our damnation (if unconverted) and we don’t fear ourselves. It is an amazing blindness that settles in over the eyes and hearts of those ruled by pride and self.

Human depravity is not recognized for what it really is. It is not just that people do things that are sin, but people are sinners. This is to say that their very nature is sinful and all that they do is sinful. As from a polluted spring flows polluted water, so from the very polluted core (polluted heart) of man flows sin. All the thoughts of a person and all the desires of the person flow from the polluted spring of the heart. All the intents and motives of a person flow from the polluted spring of the heart. All the actions and deeds of a human being are really the results of what flows from the polluted spring of the heart. Each human being should look upon self as very, very dangerous to the truth and to an eternally well-being. All that an unregenerate person does defiles the person as s/he stands before God and adds kindling to the fire of eternal wrath, which is treasuring up wrath. That is something to fear.

But should a regenerate person fear self? Yes, the regenerate person has a lot to fear as well. We are to love God with all of our being, but the flesh has not been completely done away with and so people will love the flesh and the world too much. The regenerate person has to battle the flesh, pride, the devil, and the world. But the devil uses the self to wage his war with. The world is after the fleshly self as well. It is the self that studies so much with its eye on receiving the honor of men. It is the self that will pray in such a way as to get men to amen the prayer and gain honor for being good at prayer or even as a prayer warrior. It is the self that stands in so many pulpits Sunday after Sunday and craves the applause and honor of men rather than the glory of God. It is the self that will listen to sermons wanting to get the ears tickled. It is self that will go to conference after conference and desire to be known for that. It is the self that will attend many Bible studies and want to be known for that. The self is our most dangerous enemy and yet it is free to move around and even attack while people are not aware of its awful wounds.

The Sinful Heart 94

February 8, 2014

Perhaps many who think themselves high in Christ’s school, have not yet begun with his A, B, C. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

This thought of Adam (just above) does not appear much on a first reading, but after some meditation one can see that it is really quite profound. It has fingers that being to reach into areas upon some reflection that give insight into modern versions of Christianity in our world. Could it be that people have made some profession of Christ years ago and have been following Christ in their own way and in their own minds for years and yet they have never truly started following Christ at all? Could it be that there are many pastors and professors in colleges and seminaries who know great amounts of information about Christ and the history of Christianity and yet they do not know Christ in reality? Could it be that there are many of those who write about Christianity and of the doctrines of Christianity with great learning and skill and yet they don’t know Christ Himself?

The thought which Adam sets out here should move people to much thought and reflection. After all, we live in such a shallow age and time that it certainly appears that it would be very easy in our day to be deceived. The Scriptures speak of how many are deceived by their own hearts, the deceptive nature of sin, and of the devil who is the deceiver. Is it really beyond the realm of possibilities that what is the popular perception of Christianity in our day is simply wrong? Could it be that God has hardened the hearts of many for years and years and the thinking of many has slid off the path a little at a time? Is it so hard to believe that in light of what happened to the nation of Israel?

The nation of Israel was led astray by prophet and priest time after time. The religious leaders deceived the people by saying that what was good was bad and that what was bad was good. This happened throughout the history of Israel and it was in full swing during the time of Jesus as well. The Sadducees and the Pharisees were very religious and committed to the teachings of those who came before them, but the sad thing is that they were no longer following the true God. Sure enough the Pharisees were conservative and followed stringent rules, but they had departed from loving God and truly following God as He had commanded. These men no longer looked to God in utter dependence upon Him for all things, but instead they were given to their history, their academics, and their morality for their religion. This is to say that they had a religion of self that depended on them rather than God. For some reason that began to think that they had to do things for God rather than depend on Him for all.

In many ways the churches have been looking to academics to understand the things of God rather than depending on God. While this can be a nuanced view, it may be better to leave things in plain language. When the academics are truly following God, academics can be a helpful thing. But when it is not following God, scholarship is taken over by worldly methods of study and a non-spiritual way of understanding Scripture. When anything like this happens, the churches start to follow men rather than God. When men are following men, they are not following Christ and as such are perhaps not even starting at the A,B, and C of Christianity despite great knowledge.

The Pharisees were also very moral, at least in terms of the outward parts. They kept the commandments in their own view, but they did not love God and so they did not keep the commandments in reality at all. Instead, they kept the commandments out of love for self rather than a love for God and so all their obedience was for the great I-dol of self rather than for God. Likewise, those who are very moral or religious in an outward sense may think of themselves as very mature Christians, but the reality of it may be that they have not even started following Christ.

It may be the case that there are many people who know their Bibles and read their Bibles often and yet they are not truly following Christ. Instead of following Christ, they are simply trusting in their knowledge of the Bible, reading the Bible, and of an external religion. Still others can trust in their prayers, their preaching, and all forms of external obedience to religious things. But those things cannot be trusted in and so instead of those things being evidence of people following Christ, those things can be things that need to be repented of. How can a preacher repent of his preaching? Instead of preaching to gain honor and the honor of men he must preach Christ crucified. How can a person repent of his praying and his Bible reading? Instead of praying and reading for self and as a way of trusting in self, that person must repent and read the words of Christ out of love for Christ so that the person may truly glorify Christ. That person should repent of religious activity called pray and cry out to God in utter helplessness for God to teach that person to pray from the heart and with true love. It could be that the vast majority of what is thought of as Christianity is that which has not even started being Christian and is not from Christ at all.

The Sinful Heart 93

December 24, 2013

If you would know what your root is, consider how your virtues are in exercise towards God. Our abhor the imputation of ingratitude; the meaning is, you would not have the world think that you are ungrateful; for, perhaps, you have not one spark of gratitude to your great Benefactor, your God and Father. You would not be false to the marriage-bed; but where is your fidelity to Jesus, the Lord and Husband of every Christian? And as to the point of justice, a most sacred virtue, and very high in your esteem, why must every creature have its due from you, and not God? And why do you think so little of what is his due? You honor the command of a man like yourself; but why are so many of God’s commands slighted? (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

The very provocative thought by Adam above should open our hearts to us. While we may not want to think of ourselves in such an unkind (in appearance) and truthful light, the light that shines is true. Perhaps the very essence of the point above is that proud man thinks of all things in reference to himself rather than God. Man hates it when he does something for others and they won’t even say “thank you” or some other nicety, but the God of all mercies pours out kindnesses and mercy moment by moment and the same man who hates the ingratitude of others is quite ungrateful to God. If man is judged as he has judged others, then man will stand before the bar of true justice quite stripped of all righteousness. Oh how men will rail against others as being ungrateful, but how they will not look to their own hearts and realize just how ungrateful they are to God.

A man or woman can be very true to the marriage-bed and yet be a serial adulterer in the heart, but even more that person can be a monster of spiritual adultery against Christ even more. The Scriptures depict the nation of Israel as whores and prostitutes (see Hosea) because of their unfaithfulness to Him and the New Testament tells the Church that Christ is Her Husband. How men and women will be faithful to the outer commandments while their hearts are full of adultery. If coveting is theft in the heart and coveting a woman is the same as adultery, so coveting is also a sign of how unfaithful the heart is to Christ. Yet in the modern day the external things of obedience can be practiced without a thought given to the heart which is the seat of true Christianity.

The third point by Adam is that men want other men to treat them justly and they are incensed when even a little is not given to them. Men will also think it is important to treat other men with perfect justice, yet when it comes to God that is basically ignored. It is just to bow to God with the whole heart, mind, soul and strength and anything less is to treat God unjustly. It is true that man cannot do this in his own strength, yet he should at least seek this. It is also true that God does not give grace to perfect man in this life, yet it is true justice for man to seek to love God with all of his being.

It is so interesting how the hearts of men are so idolatrous in thinking more highly of themselves and others than of God. What man will be appalled to do or for others to do to other men they have no compunction to do it against God. Oh how blind men are to their own hearts and the things of God. It is so easy for men to be satisfied with the externals of religion as the Pharisees were. They are satisfied with outward morality and an outward religion, but true Christianity is of an inward holiness and an inward love for God. The proud and wicked hearts of men settle for so little and that is so sinful, yet true Christianity is of the life of God in the soul of man and it is far, far better than all the things men can come up with. But the proud hearts of men will simply refuse to see that.

The Sinful Heart 92

December 11, 2013

“God be merciful to me a sinner,” said the publican. If I was to hear you wishing to be the man, I should hope well of your case; if you say you are, it is a hundred to one you are mistaken. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

The statement by Adam is a powerful statement concerning the self-deception of man. The heart is more deceitful than all else, and we say that we know that it is true, but we don’t really accept that in the depths of the heart. We can be proud over the fact that we are unlike the Pharisee, though the Pharisee was proud over the fact that he was unlike the publican. Our hearts are so deceptive that it can hide the fact that we are proud of our humility which makes it turn out that we are not so humble after all and as such we are simply full of pride.

The human heart is born in sin and never leaves its first love of self and sin unless God breaks that heart and gives it new life in regeneration and life by Christ. Oh how our wicked hearts (that we give lip-service to) will say the words that we are sinners and we must have mercy, but how many really think of self as a horrible sinner and in great need of mercy? How many are proud of themselves in reality and are proud that they can see themselves as sinners, though perhaps not really that bad of a sinner?

It is so easy to read a verse of Scripture and not our heads to the truth of it and repeat a few words and go on in a comfortable assurance that we fit the description of the verse. But unless God opens our eyes to it we don’t understand the verse, but even more, unless God teaches us these things in the inner man we are clueless as to what the verse really teaches. As Adam notes, those who really think that they are like the publican are most likely deceived. Those who see themselves as possessing wicked hearts and knowing that they would like to be like the publican in reality are those who are more like the publican than those who think they are like the publican.

The knowledge of the depths of sin should grow throughout our lives, but this also means that we should grow in our sight of our need of mercy throughout our lives. There is not a moment where we can rest and think that we have arrived, but instead we should always know that we are in need of more mercy each day. It may be the case that we are not more sinful the older we get, but it is the case that we see more sin as we get older. That should drive us to humility and brokenness to cry out in utter helplessness to God for mercy.

Adam’s point, however, shows how our hearts are so ready to read something and think we have attained to it. But it also shows us how much we need to grow in these things in our experience of fellowship with God by grace. If we can say the words (God be merciful to me a sinner) and it not be a deeper cry of the heart now than it was in the past, we are not growing in our knowledge of God and of grace. Not only do those words (God be merciful to me a sinner) point to the heart of a sinner who needs to be converted, they also point to the hearts of those who need to grow in grace. If we are not growing in a deeper knowledge of God, we will not grow in a deeper knowledge of our own sin. If we are not growing in a deeper knowledge of our own sin, we will not grow in knowledge of our desperate need of mercy and grace.

In the light and airy day that we live in, people are told to have a higher self-esteem and to love themselves so that they can be useful to God. But God is not looking for people like that, He is looking for broken and humble people. The broken and humble people seek for grace and mercy which glorify His name, while the others seek Him for things that benefit them and glorify them. How few appear to really have been taught as the truth is in Jesus that they are sinners in need of a true mercy.

The Sinful Heart 91

December 2, 2013

We are often more ashamed than grieved and humbled for our sins. Our own consciousness of them, and of God’s being privy to them, does not pain us near so much as it would to have them known to others. See, therefore, whether what you call our penitence is not more pride than any thing else…Not one is a thousand forms his plan of life, and pursues it steadily, from principle and regard to the will of God; if we did, there would hardly be an unhappy man in the world. (Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion)

“The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

It is so hard to get it beyond the mere awareness of it that men live in the sight of God and that He knows all of their desires, intents, motives, and thoughts. The old phrase, Coram Deo, teaches us that we live in the presence (or face) of God each moment. It is so easy to come to the knowledge of that reality, but it is far harder (even impossible for the natural man) to actually have all things guided by that reality. We are more ashamed of ourselves in failing to live up to our own standards than we have shame before a holy God. We have more shame of our sin being seen by others than of knowing that it is against God and in His presence. But despite our shame for our sin to ourselves and before others, why are we so immune to have shame before God?

The question in the previous paragraph should teach us the nature of our own hearts. We live by sight rather than by faith. We live by what our eyes see and what our five senses can sense more than we live in the presence of the thrice holy God who for all eternity will retain His anger for our sin if we don’t have Christ. For believers, their sin is in the presence of the One they claim to love with all of their being and of the One they say they prefer over all things. When a person lives in such a way that that s/he has more shame to self or before others rather than before God for sin, this is a demonstration of a fleshly heart. One of the things that a Christian must do is to live before God because Christ is the life of the heart of the believer.

It is important to think of faith as something more than just intellectually believing certain things, but instead to think of faith as the spiritual sight of the soul. A soul with faith is a soul with spiritual understanding or spiritual sight, which should show how the soul with faith lives a certain way because that soul lives in the presence of a seen (eyes of faith) God. The soul that has more shame for sin in the presence of other humans rather than God is a person that demonstrates a lack of true faith.

A person of faith, that is, one who lives before God should form all plans and all aspects of life from regard to the will of God. While it may be thought of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6) as something we repeat, it is in fact something we are to be transformed into as we pray. If we truly pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, then we will seek His will in all we do on earth. His will is what should guide us in what we do rather than the fleshly heart and desires that we can cover over with pious sounding words. It is to the degree that we have faith that we will live in His presence and seek to do His will in all things. It is to the degree that our hearts are set on the self and flesh that we will live to do our own will in all things. But of course our deceptive hearts will seek to do our own will with pious and spiritual sounding excuses.

For the soul that loves God with all of its being (at least longing to do so), it will want to please God by doing the will and pleasure of God in all it does. This is a soul that wants to be delivered from the hands of a fool (self) and of fools (humans focused on earthly things) and to do and long for the will of God to be done. How can we claim to love God with all of our being if we are not seeking to live out of love for Him? How can we claim to live out of love for Him if we don’t want to do His will rather than our own? How can we claim to love Him if we don’t want to know what His will is, yet if we know His will how can we not seek it? Living in the presence of God to please Him is at the very heart of Christianity. After all, Christ died to deliver His people from sin and what is sin but not living for the glory of God. Christ came to do the will of the Father and for those He dwells in (all Christians in truth) He will work in them to love and do the will of the Father as well. This is something of what it means to live in the presence of God.