Do Nothing Through Strife

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. – Philippians 2:3

Let nothing be done through strife‭. With a spirit of contention. This command forbids us to do anything, or attempt anything, as ‭the mere result of strife‭. This is not the principle from which we are to act, or by which we are to be governed. We are to form no plan, and aim at no object, which is to be secured in this way. The command prohibits all attempts to secure anything over others by mere physical strength, or by superiority of intellect or numbers, or as the result of dark schemes and plans formed by rivalry, or by the indulgence of angry passions, or with the spirit of ambition. We are not to attempt to do anything ‭merely‭ by outstripping others, or by showing that we have more talent, courage, or zeal. What we do is to be by principle, and with a desire to maintain the truth, and to glorify God. And yet how often is this rule violated! How often do Christian denominations attempt to outstrip each other, and to see which shall be the greatest! How often do ministers preach with no better aim! How often do we attempt to outdo others in dress, and in the splendor of furniture and equipage! How often, even in plans of benevolence, and in the cause of virtue and religion, is the secret aim to ‭outdo others‭. This is all wrong. There is no holiness in such efforts. Never once did the Redeemer act from such a motive, and never once should this motive be allowed to influence us.

– Albert Barnes, 1798-1870, Barnes Notes

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The Arm of the flesh

 “Without me, you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

Until we are utterly empty of self, we are not ready to be filled by God; until we are conscious of our own weakness, we are not fit platforms for the display of the divine omnipotence. Until the arm of flesh is paralysed, and death is written upon the whole natural man, we are not ready to be endowed with the divine life and energy.

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892

Published in: on October 22, 2017 at 12:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Place of Humiliation

If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. —Mark 9:22

After every time of exaltation, we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they really are, where it is neither beautiful, poetic, nor thrilling. The height of the mountaintop is measured by the dismal drudgery of the valley, but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the place of humiliation that we find our true worth to God— that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at some heroic level of intensity, simply because of the natural selfishness of our own hearts. But God wants us to be at the drab everyday level, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him. Peter thought it would be a wonderful thing for them to remain on the mountain, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the mountain and into the valley, where the true meaning of the vision was explained (see Mark 9:5-6, Mark 9:14-23).

“If you can do anything….” It takes the valley of humiliation to remove the skepticism from us. Look back at your own experience and you will find that until you learned who Jesus really was, you were a skillful skeptic about His power. When you were on the mountaintop you could believe anything, but what about when you were faced with the facts of the valley? You may be able to give a testimony regarding your sanctification, but what about the thing that is a humiliation to you right now? The last time you were on the mountain with God, you saw that all the power in heaven and on earth belonged to Jesus— will you be skeptical now, simply because you are in the valley of humiliation?

– Oswald Chambers, 1874-1917, My Utmost for His Highest (October 2)

Character

Character is the product of daily, hourly actions, words and thoughts:
daily forgiveness,
daily unselfishness,
daily kindnesses,
daily sympathies,
daily charities,
daily sacrifices for the good of others,
daily struggles against temptation,
daily submissiveness under trial.
It is these, like the blending of colors in a picture–which constitute a person’s character.

– John MacDuff, 1818-1895

Others May – You Cannot

 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

If God has called you to be really like Christ in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility and put on you such demands of obedience, that He will not allow you to follow other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Others can brag on themselves, and their work, on their success, on their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

The Lord will let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hid away in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His glory, which can be produced only in the shade.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making money, but it is likely God will keep you poor because he wants you to have something far better than gold and that is a helpless dependence on Him; that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day – out of an unseen treasury.

God will let others be great, but He will keep you small. He will let others do a great work for Him and get credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work you have done, and this will make your reward ten times greater when He comes.

The Holy Spirit will put strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do what He pleases with His own, and He will not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealing with you. He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and let other people say and do many things that you cannot do or say.

Settle it forever, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that others are not dealt with.

Now, when you are so possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this particular, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven.

– G. D. Watson, 1845-1924

The true recipe for a miserable existence

The first law of true religion is submission to God’s will. Where it does not exist, there is no piety–and just as truly there is no tranquility of soul.

What a hideous sight to see a human creature in full rebellion against God’s providence . . .
repining at His allotments;
fighting against His dispensations;
and cursing His judgments!

The true recipe for miserable existence is this: Quarrel with Providence!

When God means to make us happy, He teaches us submission–a resignation of everything into His hands, and an acknowledgment that whatever He does is wisest and best.

O how sweetly even afflictions fall, when there is such a temper to receive them! “Shall we accept good from God–and not trouble?” Job 2:10. Such a disposition tends to tranquility of soul; and even amidst chastisement, there is internal quiet.

“The Lord gave–and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

“He is the Lord–let Him do what is good in His eyes.” 1 Samuel 3:18 

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

– James W. Alexander, Consolation 1852

A Tale of Two Foxes

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

A fable relates that in the depth of a forest, there lived two foxes. One of them said to the other one day, in the politest of fox-language, “Let’s quarrel!”

“Very well,” said the other; “but how shall we go about it?”

They tried all sorts of ways—but in vain, for both would give way. At last, one fox brought two stones.

“There!” said he. “Now you say they are yours—and I’ll say they are mine—and we will quarrel and fight and scratch! Now I’ll begin.

“Those stones are mine!”

“All right!” answered the other fox, “you are welcome to them.”

“But we shall never quarrel at this rate,” replied the first.

“No, indeed, you old simpleton! Don’t you know, that it takes two to make a quarrel?”

So the foxes gave up trying to quarrel, and never played at this silly game again.

The fable has its lesson for other creatures, besides foxes. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,” Paul tells us, “we should live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18).”

A wise man says, “Every man takes care that his neighbors shall not cheat him—but a day comes when he begins to care—that he does not cheat his neighbors. Then all goes well.” So long as a man sees only the quarrelsome temper of his neighbor—he is not far toward holiness. But when he has learned to watch and to try to control his own temper, and to weep over his own infirmities—he is on the way to Christ-likeness, and will soon be conqueror over his own weakness!

Life is too short to spend even one day of it in bickering and strife! Love is too sacred to be forever lacerated and torn by the ugly briers of sharp temper! Surely we ought to learn to be loving and patient with others—since God has to show every day such infinite patience toward us! Is not the very essence of true love—the spirit that is not easily provoked, that bears all things? Can we not, then, train our life to sweeter gentleness? Can we not learn to be touched even a little roughly, without resenting it? Can we not bear little injuries, and apparent injustices, without flying into a rage? Can we not have in us something of the mind of Christ, which will enable us, like him, to endure all wrong and injury and give back no word or look of bitterness? The way over which we and our friend walk together, is too short to be spent in wrangling.

– J. R. Miller,  1840-1912

To be more hidden

“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman (Mary of Bethany) came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.” – Mark 14:3

“Jesus said,…She has done a good work for Me.” Mark 14:6

“She,” said Christ, “has worked a good work for Me,” which He never said of Martha, good as Martha was. He censured, a little, the elder sister for being cumbered with much serving. But Mary’s work He commended and decreed that it should be remembered as long as the world stands. Though she does not bear the name of a worker in the vulgar judgment, yet is she the queen in the kingdom of good works! Yet, I remind you, she did not say a word. There is such a thing as spoiling what you do by making so great a fuss, before you do it. Moreover, there is such a thing as talking so much afterwards of what we have done that it spoils it all. It seems as if we must let all the world know something about ourselves — whereas the joy and bliss of it all is not to let yourself be seen, but to let the oil go streaming upon the Master till He is anointed with perfume and we, ourselves, sink back into our natural insignificance. Silent acts of love have musical voices in the ears of Jesus! Sound no trumpet before you, or Jesus will take warning and be gone!

If we could all do more and talk less, it might be a blessing to ourselves and, perhaps, to others. Let us labor in our service for the Lord to be more and more hidden! As much as is the proud desire to catch the eye of man, let us endeavor to avoid it.

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892

Published in: on September 11, 2016 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Work for God’s eye

 

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

No grace shines more brightly in a Christian, than humility. Wherever SELF comes in–it mars the beauty of the work we are doing. Seek to do your work noiselessly. Do not try to draw attention to yourself–to make others know that you did some beautiful thing. Be content to pour your rich life into other wasted, weary lives–and see them blessed and made more holy–and then hide away and let Christ have the honor. Work for God’s eye–and even then, do not think much about reward. Seek to be a blessing–and never think of self-glory.

“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:4

J. R. Miller, 1840-1912

Published in: on July 24, 2016 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Salvation is all of God

The Bible simply tells us that salvation is altogether and entirely the work of God. It tells us that man in his sinful state is against God, he does not desire God and would never return to God. There would have been no church at all, nor would there have been salvation, if God had not begun to act. ‘He which hath begun a good work in you’ – it is all of God.

Of course it is not surprising that Paul, above everybody else, should teach this. He never forgot what he had been himself; he remembered himself a blasphemer, and a persecutor of the Christian Church, and he knew perfectly well that he would have continued in that state were it not that at midday, while he was traveling along the road to Damascus where he intended to persecute a body of Christian people, the Lord suddenly appeared to him. Paul never decided to become a Christian, he never thought about it, he did not initiate the work. It was God who did it in him, and Paul therefore always referred the work to Him.

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

– D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Joy and Peace