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TEXT: II Corinthians 2:11
SUBJECT: Precious Remedies #9
Let's continue our study of "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices". The author is Thomas Brooks, a Puritan who live from 1608 to 1680. Its goal is to expose the tricks Satan uses to make us sin.
Thus far, we've looked at eight of his craftiest devices; tonight, we take up a ninth. What is it? To quote Thomas Brooks,
"Satan draws the soul to sin by working them to be frequent in comparing themselves and their ways with those who are known to be worse than themselves".
That's a bit hard to follow. The key word, though, is "compare". The devil makes us feel good about ourselves by comparing us to people who are much worse than we are. And this good feeling keeps us from watching against sin, praying against it, and putting it to death by grace.
The best-known example is the Pharisee of Luke 18. He came into the temple one day and prayed: "I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector..." His prayer was full of adoration and thanksgiving, but did you notice what it didn't have? It had no confession and no repentance. And why should it? Compared to crooks and lechers, he was a good man!
The temptation to compare yourself favorably to others is not the Pharisee's alone. Good men have done it, too. Peter was one of them. Warned that he and the others would quit the Lord, he swore, "Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be!" Peter was a keen observer of mankind. Over the years, he had found many defects in the faith of John, the courage of James, the toughness of Andrew, and so on. He had found every fault; it seems...but his own. That single omission caused him to "deny the Lord who bought him".
I needn't go back to the Bible to make myself clear, do I? You've felt the same thing yourself. So have I. The sequence is unchanged: Comparing myself to others leads to self-confidence which leads to neglect which leads to sin.
One of Satan's oldest and most effective "devices". If your "ignorant of it", you'll be sorry. God expose it to us, for Christ's sake. Amen.
What do we do about it? How do we avoid the snare that has caught so many before us?
With the blessing of God, Thomas Brooks is quite helpful. I've re-worded him a bit, and rearranged things, too. But this is the gist of what he says.
Remember, you don't judge yourself and others by the same standard.
Self-examination is always colored by self-love. What does love do with sins? It "covers a multitude of [them]". Including your own. This means your opinion of yourself is always biased in your favor. Your good traits will be emphasized, the bad ones minimized. As for your "blind spots?" They won't be seen. That's why they're "blind spots", after all. People who say, "I'm harder on myself than I am on others" are either lying or self-deluded.
Your opinion of other people is also colored by things in yourself--ignorance, prejudice, envy, contempt, and so on. When Mary anointed the Lord for his burial, the disciples inferred she had no respect for money and no regard for the poor. Were they right? Or had they misjudged her? Would Judas have been so hard on himself? Would he have studied his spending habits as carefully as he did hers?
Let me illustrate. Do you ever argue with your wife? If so, tell me: Is the "burden of proof" the same for her as it is for you? How much evidence does she need to be right? Less than you? The same as you? A little tiny bit more than you? If you're like me, she needs ten times the evidence to be right! For me, a feeling is enough. But for her? She'd better have fingerprints, photographs, and five eye-witnesses!
Everyone is biased in his own favor. Excuses that sound phony in others, sound pretty good if they're mine! Sins that are horrid in you are, well...not that bad in me!
The problem with comparing yourself to others is that one of the candidates is also the judge. It's no wonder he wins every time! When Satan tells you "You're better than others", answer him, "I agree, but...`Every way of a man is right in his own eyes...'"
Self-comparisons are like Soviet elections: rigged from the beginning, and therefore, worthless.
A second "remedy" is this "Comparing yourself to others is itself a great sin".
It is a direct violation of Philippians 2:3: "Let each esteem others better than himself". If you look at your husband and say "I may not be perfect, but I'm sure better than he is", you are transgressing the Law of God. And that's sin: "Transgression of the Law".
Holy men didn't do that. Paul, for example, said, "We dare not class ourselves with those who compare themselves..." And not only that, Paul wouldn't allow others to do it either. When some wanted to be his disciples, he shot back: "Who is Paul?" He would not compare himself to Peter, Apollos, or anyone else. Was it the fear of not measuring up that prevented the comparison? I doubt it, for Paul was a much greater man than they. Had he set his accomplishments alongside theirs, he would have looked mighty good. But he didn't. Neither should we.
If you read the Bible, you'll find only one kind of person comparing himself to others: the Pharisee. "Stand back, I am holier than thou". "I thank You that I am not as other men are". "You were altogether born in sin and will you teach us?"
The Pharisee is very selective in his comparisons. He chose the areas of piety in which he did well, and overlooked those in which he was lacking. The man in the Temple thanked God for "tithing all that I possess". In all his giving, though, you notice he says nothing about the sacrifice God wants most: "a broken and contrite heart". If he had, he would have justified the weeping Publican and beaten his own breast.
When Satan tells you, "You're better than most others", tell him: "If I agree with you, I become worse than all others". For no sin is more abhorrent to God and more contrary to His Word than pride.
A third "remedy" is to
"Remember that comparing yourself to others is practical atheism".
Some believers mature more quickly and thoroughly than others. This is taught in the Bible and is a fact of daily experience.
How do we account for this? I Corinthians 4:7 explains: "Who made you to differ one from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you received them, why do you boast as if you did not receive them?"
The reason some grow faster than others--become holier and wiser and more useful--is because God made them to "differ" from the rest of us. It is nothing in the recipient that makes him special; it is something in the Giver.
But what about human effort? Surely, your study contributes to your knowledge? Of course it does. But Who gave you the power and the time and the background to study? It is God! No one "labored more" than Paul; no one "suffered more for Christ's sake" than he. But he took no credit for his achievements; "Yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me".
When you compare yourself to others, you rob God of His glory! And that's neither wise nor safe. King Herod did that--and a worm ate him!
An earlier king knew better. He was a man of deep piety and multiple gifts and great power and worldwide fame. Where did they come from? He knew:
"Who am I, O LORD GOD, and what is my house that You have brought me hitherto?"
The King is David. His example was written for "our learning".
The next time Satan tells you how much you have compared to others, ask him, "Where did I get them?" This will shatter the pride he's looking for, and replace it with the thing he hates most: Gratitude!
The last "remedy" is also the most important. It is
"If you must compare yourself to others, compare yourself to Jesus Christ".
Isaac Watts was an outstanding man. He was holy, gifted, successful, and famous. But he wasn't proud. You know why? Because he "Surveyed the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died". When he did, he must "Pour contempt on All my pride".
Satan will use characters in the Bible to inflate your ego. You're a much better wife than Delilah, for example. You're easier to get along with than Nabal. You're humbler than Pharaoh. Maybe you're braver than Peter, even.
But there is one Person he never brings up: Jesus Christ. There is no way of comparing your life to His and coming away proud. Of all the good things we must say about Him, one thing stands out: His submission to God. "I do always those things which please Him" He said.
The "things" that please the Father include saliva in the face, the charge of blasphemy, a crown of thorns, and a death--bloody, obscene, and public!
This is the comparison we're told to make. Count Zinzendorf was a good man, much used in the Kingdom of God. But when he thought about what Christ had done for him, he wrote,
"What have I done for Thee?"
The devil can't answer this one. When he tells you how much better you are than others, remind him, "Ah, yes, but God wants me `Conformed to the image of His Son'".
His example is meant to humble us. But not to discourage. For God has willed our conformity to the Lord Jesus. And what He will, He accomplishes. So, become a "co-worker with God". Follow after holiness now; one day, you'll have it in full.
"We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is".
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