Thursdays With Spurgeon—Not Carried Away

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Not Carried Away

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     [The Holy Spirit] does not aim at any originality. … The Spirit takes of the things of Christ and of nothing else. Do not let us strain at anything new. The Holy Spirit could deal with anything in heaven above or in the earth beneath—the story of the ages past, the story of the ages to come, the inward secrets of the earth, the evolution of all things, if there is an evolution. He could do it all! Like the Master, He could handle any topic He chose, but He confines Himself to the things of Christ and therein finds unutterable liberty and boundless freedom. …  

     When, therefore, anybody whispers in my ear that there has been revealed to him this or that, which I do not find in the teaching of Christ and His apostles, I tell him that we must be taught by the Holy Spirit. … If we do not remember this, we may be carried away by quirks, as many have been.

From Honey In My Mouth

How many arguments have devastated people, how many friendships have been lost, how many churches have split because of a clinging to doctrines which aren’t found in the Bible?! How this must break our Father’s heart! 

Quite simply put: we argue and take sides over things on which the Word of God makes no distinction. Oh, foolish pride! 

The Holy Spirit never reveals a unique or private or exclusive word to anyone. He only makes clear what has already been revealed in the Word of God. Does that mean we cannot have an opinion on something? Of course not!

But love for Christ and for His Bride means that my opinions must never become my doctrines. 

Holy Spirit, help me to listen to Your voice alone as You illuminate what has already been inspired. Jesus, may Your love for the Church be my love for the Church. Root out this accursed pride in my heart that makes me fight for my opinions. Father, may You be glorified in Your Church as we are unified around Your revealed truth.

Humility Is A Daily Choice

…As long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success. … But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall… (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16). 

Success makes me more vulnerable to pride. Success can distract from the very One who gave me success. I am in danger of losing God’s blessings in the very moment I am enjoying God’s blessings. 

Humility has to be an ongoing choice. That choice becomes harder as the successes become bigger or more frequent. But choosing pride in “my accomplishments” will undo all the previous successes. 

The only way to keep these blessings is two words: IF ONLY. If only I will continue to remain humble before God and obedient to Him. 

Uzziah, sadly, didn’t make that choice. His pride in God’s success led to his downfall. 

His son Jotham learned this lesson. Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God (27:6). 

I like the KJV of this verse that says, “Jotham grew powerful because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” 

Jotham was keenly aware that everything he did was seen by God. He was determined that everything he did would be pleasing in God’s sight. The word “before” in verse 6 means “in front” of or even “before the face.” Jotham didn’t live as though he might face God at the end of his life, but as though he was facing God at every moment of his life. 

Notice two phrases in this sentence—grew powerful and walked steadfastly. They are directly tied to each other: Jotham became powerful only because he was determined to live righteously and humbly in God’s sight. The more powerful he became, the more he increased his commitment to live humbly before God’s face. 

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, BUT unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord (v. 2). 

Jotham humbly prepared his ways before the Lord, and when God made him powerful Jotham re-committed to stay humble. Great choice! 

I’ll say it again: The only way to keep God’s blessings on my initial humble choice is to continue to choose humility at every moment of success. 

Only One Thing Limits Prayer

“…the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built! Yet, Lord by God, give attention to Your servant’s prayer…” (2 Chronicles 6:18, 19). 

It’s amazing to think that the Limitless God of the Universe condescends to listen to frail human prayers! 

The key is my humility to approach God. Not as one afraid to approach, but as one who is humbly confident that He wants me to come to Him (see Matthew 6:8). 

Solomon repeatedly asked God to “hear” and respond (vv. 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 30, 33, 35, 39). And God says, “I have heard you and I will continue to hear and respond” (7:12, 14)! 

Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain be bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

If God wants to hear from me, why do I try to handle things on my own?! 

My prayers are only limited by my pride that keeps me from coming to God in prayer.

A Hideous Strength

“…Come, let us face each other in battle” (2 Kings 14:8). 

Based on Amaziah’s request and Jehoash’s unusual parable-based response, it appears that this is the chronology of what happened:

  • Amaziah requests that Jehoash give him one of his daughters in marriage
  • Jehoash refuses
  • Amaziah attacks and defeats Edom 
  • Amaziah, feeling very proud of himself, then repeats his request to Jehoash, who again refuses
  • Amaziah begins to muster his troops to attack Jehoash and Israel
  • Jehoash defeats in Amaziah battle

Jehoash correctly diagnosed Amaziah: “You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home” (v. 10). 

Pride makes us think we are better than we are. Pride leads us to believe that we are owed something more. Pride comes before a fall. 

Amaziah’s pride had an expensive price tag:

  • he lost the battle
  • the walls around Jerusalem were torn down
  • the temple at Jerusalem was plundered
  • he was assassinated by his own military leaders

Pride is a hideous strength because it is a deceptive and short-lived strength.

C.S. Lewis described pride so well: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. … Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride. … Pride is ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on the self.” —C.S. Lewis 

Oh my! We must pray: “Holy Spirit, help me guard my heart against this propensity to pride. Yes, a victory can lead to pride and a false sense of strength, but it is a hideously deceptive strength. Please remind me that: 

  • victory makes me susceptible to pride 
  • pride makes me think I’m better (stronger, more impressive, more spiritual) than I really am 
  • this hideously deceptive vice makes me forget to remain dependent on God 
  • the dependence on myself makes me vulnerable to attack and defeat.” 

Don’t let Pride be your undoing, as it was for Amaziah. 

9 Quotes From “A Spiritual Clinic”

J. Oswald Sanders gives Christians just the check-up we need in his hard-hitting and highly practical book A Spiritual Clinic. You can read my full book review by clicking here. 

“The greater our weakness, the greater glory will be God’s as we work in His power.” 

“We are busier than God intends us to be if we are too busy to take time for relaxation.” 

“It is characteristic of the earthly mind that it always covets the service of others: it desires to avoid toil and drudgery. This is one of the factors which makes wealth so desirable—it can secure the service of others. The mind of Christ manifested itself in His words: ‘I am among you as He that serves’ (Luke 22:27). ‘The Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister’ (Matthew 20:28). It was His delight to be servant of all.” 

“How are we to obtain the mind of Christ? … Is not the secret hinted at in the exhortation, ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’? It is the work of Another. Is not the supreme work of the Holy Spirit to reproduce in the yielded believer the inner disposition of Christ? What is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but the mind of Christ? As we willingly consent to the crucifixion of the earthly mind and purposefully yield to the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, He will perform the miracle. Our minds will be transformed in ever-increasing degree by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” 

“Nothing so tends to inflate a man with a sense of his own importance as the possession of great gifts of intellect and the enjoyment of special and unusual experiences. And there is nothing which more surely disqualifies from spiritual usefulness than spiritual pride.” 

“It will be recalled that the favored three disciples were not permitted to encamp on the Mount of Transfiguration. They must exchange the vision glorious for the convulsions of a demon-possessed boy. So must Paul descend into the valley if he is to be God’s messenger to a distraught humanity. He must learn that the mountain is only as high as the valley is deep. The higher he ascends in spiritual experience, the more deeply must he be identified with his crucified Lord.” 

“Even God’s honored servants cannot break His physical laws with impunity, nor are they immune from the onslaught of despondency. … We must seek physical and spiritual renewal if we are not to be put to flight by our enemy. If we shift our center from God to self, even for a period, we lay ourselves open to this malady of the spirit.” 

“Discouragement over the apparent failure of our best efforts, if not met with the shield of faith, will react disastrously on our spirits and degenerate into self-pity and despair.” 

“We seldom give God time to deal with us radically and deeply. Even when we experience conviction of failure and sin, we do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so strongly that we are brought to hate the sin. We lightly assent to our sinfulness without seriously and permanently dealing with it. We act as though new results would take the place of heart repentance and renunciation. [see Hosea 6:4] 

The Danger Of Great Gifts

I recently posted this

“We are more vulnerable to an attack (and a temporary defeat) after a victory than after a defeat. Why is that? Because victory tends to make us self-satisfied, but defeat tends to make us God-dependent.”

The same is true with our God-given gifts. In his book on spiritual warfare, William Gurnall identifies great giftings in an individual’s life as a vulnerable place for an attack:

“Great gifts lift a saint up a little higher in the eyes of men, but they also tempt him to pride. Do not envy those with great gifts; instead, pity and pray for them. It is hard for them to escape the error of supposing that God’s grace in them is their own doing. … 

“Had God given you gifts merely for your own pleasure or edification, the sin of pride would not be quite so bad. But when you use your gifts to lift yourself up, you tear down the Body of Christ. Your gifts are necessary to the health of the whole Body, but they must be administered properly.” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor (emphasis mine)

The Destructive Power Of Self-Sufficiency

…Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her (1 Samuel 28:7). 

How sad for King Saul! But this is the inevitable path for one who was put into his leadership position by God and then completely turned his back on God. 

God did so much over so many years to try to get Saul to turn back to Him, but Saul persisted in his self-sufficiency. As Paul wrote in Galatians, “A man reaps what he sows.” Militarily, Saul had one shining moment: delivering the people of Jabesh Gilead. The closing words of 1 Samuel show us the valiant man from Jabesh conducting a covert nighttime mission to remove the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Philistines, and then giving them a proper burial. Just imagine how many more valiant men may have been around if Saul had continually obeyed God! 

Now, nearing the end of his life, Saul is at his wits’ end: God is not answering him by any means he tries. As a result, this final chapter of Saul’s leadership is characterized by words like:

  • afraid
  • terror filled his heart 
  • great distress 
  • filled with fear 
  • his strength was gone

Until King Saul ultimately takes his own life.

The consequences of Saul’s sinful self-sufficiency impacted more than just him. A leader’s sins have devastating effects on his followers. Throughout Saul’s reign as king we see the army fearful, hesitant, ill-equipped, slinking away, confused, set up for failure, and ultimately defeated. Saul could never get out of his own way, taking Israel down with him.

A mark of a godless leader is sinful self-sufficiency.

How sad for Saul and Israel. Especially because Saul’s demise was totally avoidable if he only would have repented of his pride and turned wholeheartedly to God.

This is a sober reminder for all leaders: if God has put you in a place of leadership, you will experience success. Don’t let that success fool you, as it did with Saul, into thinking you created that success. This is the first step toward the downward slide that ultimately destroyed Saul, and it will be your undoing as well. 

This is part 49 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

11 Quotes On The Gospel Of Mark

Alongside my daily Bible study time in the Gospels of the New Testament, I have been reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels. You can check out my review of this book by clicking here. 

These are a few of the quotes I especially appreciated from Ryle’s comments on the Gospel of Mark. 

“We should always read the Old Testament with the desire to find something in it about Jesus Christ.” [cf John 5:39] 

“It will always be found that when prayers are few, grace, strength, peace, and hope are small. We shall do well to watch our habits of prayer with a holy watchfulness. Here is the pulse of our Christianity. Here is the true test of our state before God. Here true religion begins in the soul, when it does begin. Here it decays and goes backward, when a man backslides from God. Let us walk in the steps of our blessed Master in this respect as well as in every other. Like Him, let us be diligent in our private devotion. Let us know what it is to ‘depart into solitary places and pray.’” 

“What extravagant importance is attached to trifles by those who are mere formalists in religion!” 

“Christ’s service does not exempt His servants from storms.” 

“The assaults of persecution from without have never done half so much harm to the church as the rise of false doctrines within. False prophets and false teachers within the camp have done far more mischief in Christendom than all the bloody persecutions of the emperors of Rome. The sword of the foe has never done such damage to the cause of truth as the tongue and the pen.” 

“Incredible is the bondage in which men live to the opinion of the world! Let us all pray daily for faith and courage to confess Christ before men. … In spite of laughter, mockery, and hard words, let us boldly avow that we serve Christ.” 

“It is a dreadful fact, whether we like to allow it or not, that pride is one of the commonest sins which beset human nature. We are all born Pharisees. We all naturally think far better of ourselves than we ought. We all naturally imagine that we deserve something better than we have. It is an old sin. It began in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they had not got everything that their merits deserved. It is a subtle sin. It rules and rains in many a heart without being detected, and can even wear the garb of humility. It is a most soul-ruining sin. It prevents repentance, keeps men back from Christ, checks brotherly love, and nips in the bud spiritual desires. Let us watch against it, and be on our guard. Of all garments, none is so graceful, none wears so well, and none is so rare as true humility.” 

“It is not so much the having money, as the trusting in it, which ruins the soul. Let us pray for contentment with such things as we have.” 

“Above all, let all who desire to walk in Christ’s steps labor to be useful to others. … Let them never forget that true greatness does not consist in being an admiral, or a general, a statesman, or an artist. It consists in devoting ourselves, body, and soul, and spirit to the blessed work of making our fellow man more holy and more happy. … Let us strive to leave the world better, holier, happier than it was when we were born.” 

“The dark ages of Christendom were times when the Bible was kept back from the people. The Protestant Reformation was mainly effected by translating and circulating the Bible. The churches which are most flourishing at this day are churches which honor the Bible. The nations which enjoy the most moral light are nations in which the Bible is most known. … The godliest families are Bible-reading families. The holiest men and women are Bible-reading people.” 

“Let us remember that for our sakes Jesus voluntarily endured the most painful, horrible, and disgraceful death. Surely the thought of this love should constrain us daily to live not unto ourselves but unto Christ.” 

You can read the quotes I shared from Ryle’s thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew by clicking here. 

19 Quotes From Other Authors In “Love Like That”

As Dr. Les Parrott presented the five ways Jesus showed His love to us, he supported his thoughts with some insightful quotes from other authors. Check out my full book review of Love Like That by clicking here.

“If you stop to be kind, you must swerve often from your path.” —Mary Webb 

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” —John R.W. Stott 

“Jesus was the Man for others.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

“Jesus was able to love because He loved right through the layer of mud.” —Helmut Thielicke 

“They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.” —John Flavel 

“Those who judge will never understand, and those who understand will never judge.” —Wilson Kanadi 

“Mercy gave the Prodigal Son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast.” —Max Lucado 

“Christ accepts us as we are, but when He accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” —Walter Trobisch 

“Jesus did not identify the person that with his sin, but rather saw in this sin something alien, something that really did not belong to him, something…from which He would free him and bring him back to his real self.” —Helmut Thielicke 

“While every other religion offers a way to earn approval, only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.” —Philip Yancey 

“Judgmentalism finds its identity in what is not. … Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scale.” —Byron Langenfeld 

“To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be.” —Fyodor Dostoevsky 

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” —Anne Lamott 

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” —Flannery O’Connor 

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” —John F. Kennedy 

“We often err not because we find it hard to perceive the truth (it is often right there, at the surface), but because it is easier and more pleasant to be guided by our feelings, especially if self-centered.” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn 

“A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.” —Mahatma Gandhi 

“Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply.” —Henri Nouwen 

Check out some of Dr. Parrott’s quotes from Love Like That which I shared here. 

Saturday In The Proverbs—Lifelong Learning (Proverbs 30)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

Surely I am more stupid than any man… (Proverbs 30:2).

That’s what he said, and then Agur records some incredibly wise words for us! I think Agur is a man who is continually learning, and realizing how little he knew before he learned something new. 

He’s learning things like…

…how vast, and powerful, and wise God is (vv. 3-6).

…how frail and dependent on God he is (vv. 7-9). 

…how disrespectful people undermine their own success and happiness (vv. 10-14, 17).

…how destructive greed is (vv. 15, 16).

…how wonderfully God has made things (vv. 18, 19).

…how sin deceives (vv. 20-23). 

…how observing even the littlest of things can teach big lessons ( vv. 24-28).

…how boastful proud people are (vv. 29-33). 

What lessons are you learning? 

When was the last time you learned something new? 

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