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TEXT: I Corinthians 11:31
SUBJECT: Follow the Lamb #5: Be Honest with Yourself
A few weeks ago we began to study Horatius Bonar's little book, Follow the Lamb. It was written about 150 years ago to help young believers grow in grace. Of the many classic books we've looked at over the years, this may be the most basic of them all. And that's good. For, just as a reader never outgrows the alphabet, so we never outgrow the elementary things of God. Paul said, As you have received the Lord Jesus, so walk in Him. What you believed, felt and did the day you were converted, are the same things you ought to believe, feel and do today.
After introducing the topic, we've examined three things disciples of Christ need to do-in their early walk with the Lord-and later, as well. They are
--Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus
--Keep the conscience clean
--Hold fast that which you have received
I won't say any more about these things for now, but move on to the next chapter in the little book.
The duty is easy to state, understand, and ask of others, but it's not so easy to do yourself. If you want to please the Lord and become more mature in your faith, you've got to.
Deal honestly with yourself.
What does it mean to be dishonest with yourself? Bonar says,
We deal with a slack hand in things pertaining to our own sins, and let things go unreproved and uncondemned in ourselves which we are sharp enough to discover and rebuke in others.
The word we're looking for is partial. It's using a double-standard. What I condemn in others, I approve of in myself. Or, what looks really bad in you looks, well not so bad in me.
As I see it, the dishonesty takes two forms. First, we have pure hypocrisy. You and I commit the same sins, but you're bad and I'm good. Your lying is a hateful thing, but mine is fully justified, or, under the circumstances, excusable. This is what Paul condemns in Romans 2:1,
Therefore, you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
Some of the Pharisees were guilty of this. They turned up their noses at the publicans who cheated others out of their money, while they themselves, devoured widows' houses.
The other kind of dishonesty is a bit more subtle--and a lot more common. You might call it unjust weights and unjust measures. What if a butcher has an unjust scale? He sells you a pound of beef that only weighs twelve ounces! The man's a crook.
And we're crooks when the sins of other people weigh more than our own! Of course we're all sinners, but don't confuse little sins-like pride-with the big ones like lust!
It's true that not all sins are equally bad, but it's kind of funny, isn't it, that the worst ones are always committed by someone else!
This, it seems to me, is the number one cause of unhappy marriages. I'm not getting along with my wife-and it's always her fault. Of course, if you asked her what's wrong, she'd say it's all my fault! Everything would be wonderful if only she repented; if only he became a new creature in Christ!
Few things will hinder your walk with the Lord more than dishonesty! And nothing will make it better than honesty. Be as hard on your own failings as you are on the failings of others! And, weigh sins in the balance of God's Word. The sins we all find so respectable may not be! Are pride, self-righteousness, and an unwillingness to forgive, really better than the sins you find so hideous in other people?
If you want to Follow the Lamb, deal honestly with yourself.
We all agree with this in theory. But doing it is another matter! To help us, Bonar offers five examples:
Deal honestly with every part of your daily life; in regard to duty, or trial, or sacrifice, or self-denial, or forbearance with others.
I can't quite distinguish every one of his examples from the others, but his big idea is clear enough. Holiness is something like muscles in that it's not equally developed all over. A long-distance runner has huge legs, but his arms are skinny. In the same way, you may be really good at doing your duty, but not so good at bearing with other people. Bonar says you need to be honest about your weak points-and not deny them because you're good at other things.
Are you honest about your duties? Your duties are the commands of God-all of them-and not just the ones you like. I know you don't keep them all-no one does. But, when you don't, are you honest about it? Or, do you pretend it isn't you duty? Or, if it is, that it's okay to ignore it because you're good at other things?
Are you honest about your trials? Trials are the unpleasant things God brings into your life. He wants you to accept them with grace and humility and wisdom. But we don't always do that, do we? We lash out at the people who do us wrong or get mad at the circumstances that are against us. Again, we all do these things, but are we honest about them? Do we admit that losing our temper at the end of a hard day's work is wrong? Do we confess that being sleepy doesn't excuse rude words?
Are you honest about your forbearance? To forbear with others is to overlook their weak points and put up with their sins. I know there's a place for rebuking sins, but how can you read the Gospels and still think it's your calling in life to nitpick your husband or wife or kids or friends (if you have any)?
Deal honestly with your whole life-and not just your better parts. We all have weaknesses and bad habits. Instead of pretending we don't-or being so vague about what they are that even we don't know what they are in particular-confess them to the Lord-and to yourself!
THE FOLLY AND DANGER
All sins are bad, but some are just plain stupid! Being crooked with yourself is one of the dumbest!
Strange that in spiritual things we should try to cheat ourselves as well as others. Yet so it is! False dealing with ourselves is very pernicious, and is destructive of both peace and progress. And, remember, dishonest dealing with ourselves is also dishonesty with God.
What would you think of a ventriloquist who was so good at throwing his voice (without moving his lips) that he began thinking his dummy was alive? You'd think him a fool-at least-and maybe a lunatic. He knows good and well that the dummy can't speak for himself, but he's putting words in its mouth.
But what of the man who is so good at covering up his sins that he really thinks he's not guilty of them? I pity him. No one is more foolish than he is. Or in more danger.
Tricking yourself is neither safe nor right. And tricking God is not possible.
Hell and destruction are before the eyes of the LORD. How much more the hearts of the children of men?
If the Lord can see into the grave-and even lower than the grave-why do you suppose He can't see what you're up to? Even if nobody else can?
But, setting this aside, most of your sins are obvious to the people who know you well. Maybe they're too gracious to point them out to you, but they know they are. And if you're wife knows-or your kids, or even people who barely know you, how stupid it is to deal crookedly with yourself! No less God!
Being honest with yourself is not a lot of fun. Especially if you haven't been for a long time. A man who's embezzled for a day has far less to make up for than the one who's been at it for twenty years. But however long you've cheated yourself, the cure is the same:
Be honest and upright before God and your own conscience, and apply the blood of sprinkling.
Confess your crookedness to the Lord and ask Him to forgive you, for Christ's sake. The first part is the hardest, but it shouldn't be, because He knows already. We reveal secrets to other people, even to ourselves, at times, but not to God. He knows all about your sin and everything you've covered it up with!
Once you've come clean with Him, remember who died for you and what His death does for sinners.
The blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
Not some of it, but all of it-including the kind you've long pretended isn't there and called something else.
ONE LAST THING
I should say one last thing here. Bonar doesn't include it in the chapter, but I wish he had. Part of being honest with yourself is confessing that your sins have been forgiven.
While most Christians are more eager to believe in pardon than they are in their sins, some are the other way around. They know their sins, they brood over them, they confess them to the Lord, but they don't believe they're forgiven. So they go through life haunted by guilt and unable to serve the Lord from the heart.
To them, the Bible teaches one thing: They're guilty! The Bible does teach that, of course, but it's not the only thing the Bible teaches! It also teaches that they're forgiven. By grace, through faith, in Christ. And not by the works of feeling sorry enough, shedding enough tears, or making strong enough promises to never do it again.
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