"'I have known a good old man,' says Bernard, 'who, when he heard of any one that had committed some notorious offense, was wont to say within himself, He fell today, so may I tomorrow.' Now, the reason why humble souls keep up in themselves a holy fear of falling, is because that is the very best way to preserve them in their upward path. 'Happy is the man that feareth always; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief." (Brooks)
"How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity" (Prov 28:14)
"Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1Cor 10:12).
One of the most important lessons that God's children must learn while in the school of Christ is that of self-distrust.
We are all prone by nature to think quite highly of ourselves and of our abilities. We are ever apt to regard ourselves as more clever than the next fellow, more courageous than others, more loyal that the 'fickle masses'. In the kingdom into which we are all born by nature, perhaps there may be good reason at times to think this way concerning ourselves. However, in the kingdom of God and of Christ this way of thinking has no place. Upon entry into this kingdom we all find ourselves on exactly the same footing with no one having any advantage over another. Why is this?
The main reason can be summed up as follows: Being well versed since childhood in the principles of the world's kingdoms, we fancy ourselves more than adequate for whatever awaits us in the kingdom of Christ. We assume that whatever works in one kingdom must also work in the other. We couldn't be more wrong. The principles upon which this heavenly kingdom operates are in diametric opposition to the principles upon which this evil world system is founded. As such they are completely foreign to all of us by nature. Simply consider a few of the principles upon which Christ's kingdom operates and you will see what is the obvious truth.
The way to advance up is to go down. The way to be strong is to admit you are weak. The way to become wise is to learn that you are foolish. The way to possess righteousness is to admit that you haven't any. The way to become good is by learning that you are evil. The way to become great is by stooping to serve.
Now this is all foolishness to the natural man. It flies in the face of everything he has been taught and has learned by his own experiences. And all too often, it is foolishness to those who claim to have entered the kingdom of Christ. These principles that we have imbibed from the world around us have so often become a part and parcel of us that they have woven themselves into the very fabric of our lives. Sadly, it is the failure of so many to ever learn this that proves to be their eternal demise.
The history of the children of Israel in the wilderness validates this assertion. Paul the Apostle draws upon their story in the tenth chapter of 1Corinthians as an object lesson to all believers on this subject. Trial upon trial befell them in their journeys. Unfortunately, each successive test only proved that they were totally unprepared for what they would encounter.
There is an incident recorded in the book of Deuteronomy which illustrates their basic problem. The Lord God had just given them the Ten Commandments from Sinai. Having seen the fire and the lightning, having heard the thunder and the noise of trumpets, having gazed at the thick darkness their hearts were filled with terror. They then spoke to Moses and told him that he should approach God on their behalf, as they were fearful of being consumed. Listen to how the story is related by Moses:
"'Go near and hear all that the Lord our God says; then speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear it and do it'. And the Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, 'I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their sons forever!'" (Deut 5:27-29).
These poor creatures vainly imagined that it would be a simple matter to follow the commands of God. They supposed it an easy thing to serve the great Jehovah and that they were quite capable of doing so. Alas, the history of Israel shows how abysmally short they came of fulfilling the words that came out of their own mouths. Before Moses had even come back down from Sinai, they were worshipping a golden calf created by their own hands! Their problem - they did not know themselves and their own weakness.
The New Testament also provides us with another example of such a tendency. His name is Simon Peter. On the eve of His betrayal at the hands of Judas, the Lord Jesus told His disciples that all of them would desert him before the night was out. Peter, ever the stalwart one, the one who had clawed out a successful fishing operation through his own determination and strength of will rashly asserted:
"'Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.' Jesus said to him, 'Truly, I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times.' Peter said to Him, 'Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny you.'" (Matt 26:33-35).
History and the Scriptures show us how the stalwart Peter crumbled before a little maidservant. His problem- the same as the Israelites, he did not know himself and his weakness and frailty.
The point to be gleaned from all this is quite simple. Never overestimate yourself or your supposed abilities and strengths. You might have been the picture of stability and confidence when you were dead in your sins and transgressions. You may have been able to solve any puzzle that the human mind could conceive of. None of that will avail you when it comes to the kingdom of Christ. You are as weak and helpless and foolish as anyone else when left to your own devices. The sooner you learn this the better off you will be. The Israelites never learned this and were subsequently destroyed; Peter learned it and became an apostle and a great servant of Christ Jesus. Which do you prefer?
Learn to distrust yourself and rely completely on the keeping power of Jesus Christ. The way to true peace and true safety consists in learning how frail and helpless we all are when left to ourselves. Think not that it is the better part of valor to grit your teeth and feign strength and might. Cast yourself as a weak mortal upon the Rock of your salvation looking to Him to deliver and to support you. Kneel before your King admitting to Him how foolish and easily prone to deception you are. He will fill you with a wisdom and discernment that all of your enemies will stagger before. Have you gotten a victory over a particular sin in your life? Rest not in that, but give thanks to Him who has delivered you and redouble your efforts not to succumb clinging even more closely to Him.
Remember, you carry around within you a powder keg that one little spark of temptation can set ablaze. It is called the flesh, the old man. Wherever you go, whatever you do, it is always within you. When you least suspect it, it will stir itself and awake to cause you grief and consternation should you grow careless and overconfident. Take nothing for granted but be ever vigilant, ever self-distrustful. Remember, many who had greater privileges than you have fallen. Consider Samson. David, and Solomon just to name a few. In this way your path to heaven will be a safer one. It is a faithful saying:
He who is most distrustful of himself is most trustful of Christ and he who is most trustful of Christ will be kept and that for eternity.
Cling to Jesus. Look away to Him who sits enthroned in the heavens. He will never fail you.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Copyright © 1999 Sovereign Grace Bible Church
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