“Rend your heart, and not your garments.” — Joel 2:13
Garment-rending and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations—for such things are pleasing to the flesh—but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: but they are ultimately delusive, for in the article of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.
Heart-rending is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.
The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.
— C.H. Spurgeon, from Morning And Evening
“My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” — Isaiah 46:10
There is one grand idea running through the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation; and this one grand idea runs through every part of the sacred page, and, like a golden band, unites the whole together. What is this one grand thought? God has many thoughts as well as we, for he tells us that “the thoughts of his heart stand to all generations.” But we read also in the same verse of “the counsel of the Lord, which standeth for ever;” and elsewhere of his “working all things after the counsel of his own will” (Psalm 33:11; Eph. 1:11).
Thus in the mind of God, as well as in the mode of his subsistence, there is unity and variety. There is his one thought, and his many thoughts; for though his thoughts are many, his counsel is but one; and this counsel is the exaltation and glorification of his dear Son…
The word of God is a perfect mystery to us, and we see no beauty or harmony in the various books of either the Old Testament or the New until we see the mind of God in it, gather up God’s thoughts, and especially that grand thought which binds the whole together: the exaltation of his dear Son to his own right hand as the promised reward of his sufferings and death, and the glorious result of his resurrection and ascension up to the courts of bliss.
— From J.C. Philpot’s Through Baca’s Vale
From the very beginning, the enemies of truth launched an effort to infiltrate and confuse the people of God by mangling the truth and by blending lies with Christian doctrine… That was the case in the Corinthian church, where false teachers brought with them a quasi-Christian syncretism of gospel truth, Jewish legalism, and pagan mysticism. They were eager to blend the people of God with the pagan worshipers, and the truth of Scripture with the lies of Satan.
Undiscerning believers who partner in a common spiritual cause with unbiblical forms of Christianity or other false religions open the door wide to satanic corruption. The appearance of unity, no matter how enticing, is not worth sacrificing the clarity of the gospel. Furthermore, embracing those heretical systems falsely reassures their followers that all is well between them and God, when actually they are headed for eternal damnation. Partnering in a spiritual enterprise with unbelievers helps Satan muddy the doctrinal waters, and it cripples our ability to preach the need for repentance. Scripture is clear about how we are to respond when the very foundations of the Christian faith are under attack: our duty is to contend, not compromise.
– John MacArthur, The Cost of Compromise
“The children of God should differ from the sons of men. The more perverse others are, the more careful we should be to keep ourselves blameless and harmless. The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others and direct their way to Christ and holiness, even as the lighthouse warns mariners to avoid rocks and directs their course into the harbour. Let us try thus to shine.” — Matthew Henry
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? — James 4:4-5
Friendship with the world means forfeiture of fellowship with God. You can have it one way or the other, but you can’t have it both. God will brook no rival in our hearts. In James 4:4, James says that worldliness is really spiritual adultery if you try to be married to Christ and then be joined to another at the same time. Worldliness is spiritual adultery, and the good life and true wisdom cannot be experienced by those who are worldly and selfish.
James 4:5 gives us a summation of the teaching of Scripture, from the beginning to the end. God’s Spirit indwells us and wants total occupation. He doesn’t want some of you; He wants all of you. I don’t mean that collectively; I mean that individually. He doesn’t want some of you individually; He wants all of you individually. His Spirit will brook no rival. This is seen from the very beginning of God’s salvation, back in Genesis 3:15 when God pronounces His curse against Satan and then brings His judgment to Eve. He blesses her in the midst of the warning judgments by saying, “I will put enmity between you and the serpent, between your seed and his seed.” In other words, I will put enmity between you and the enemy of your soul.
And so God has established an enmity against the world and against worldliness in His peoples’ hearts. And He will brook no rival because He wants all of you, individually. He wants the totality of your love and loyalty and service. And James simply states categorically that friendship with the world is hostility to God, and that if we want to make ourselves to be friends of the world, then we will be enemies of God. It’s one way or the other. And my friends, living in a culture which is prosperous, in which we play a significant role, can work on our hearts over time to make us desire the wrong source of satisfaction. It’s the great, great challenge that we face here. Who do you love? What do you love? Where is your satisfaction? What’s the chief purpose of your life? The honest answers, the quiet answers in your own home and in your own heart to those questions will tell you much about what you need.
If the answer is not God through Jesus Christ, to the question of, “Whom do you love? What do you want? What’s your great satisfaction?” then the only hope is not to look within, because the answers are not found within; they’re found without, they’re found with God in Christ. May God grant us all to look to Him and to walk with Him.
— Excerpt from “Worldliness in the Church” sermon by J. Ligon Duncan
In a musical instrument there are some keys that must be touched in order to evoke its fullest melodies; God is a wonderful organist who knows just what heart-chord to strike.
In the Black Forest of Germany, a baron built a castle with two lofty towers. From one tower to the other he stretched several wires, which in calm weather were motionless and silent. When the wind began to blow, the wires began to play like an Eolian harp in the window. As the wind rose into a fierce gale, the old baron sat in his castle and heard his mighty hurricane-harp playing grandly over the battlements.
So while the weather is calm and the skies clear, a great many of the emotions of a Christian’s heart are silent. As soon as the wind of adversity smites the chords, the heart begins to play; and when God sends a hurricane of terrible trial, you will hear strains of submission and faith, and even of sublime confidence and holy exultation which could never have been heard in the calm hours of prosperity.
Oh, brethren, let the winds smite us, if they only make the spices flow; let us not shrink from the deepest trial, if at midnight we can only sing praises to God.
— From God’s Light on Dark Clouds by Theodore Cuyler, 1882
Are you afraid that preaching the gospel will not win souls? Are you despondent as to success in God’s way? Is this why you pine for clever oratory? Is this why you must have music, and architecture, and flowers and millinery? After all, is it by might and power, and not by the Spirit of God? It is even so in the opinion of many.
Brethren beloved, there are many things which I might allow to other worshippers which I have denied myself in conducting the worship of this congregation. I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life!