I love the words of Christ and His apostles who lay out the way of perfection for all followers to aspire to. I love the Puritan writers who hold up the standard of holiness and righteousness like few today. I want the word and I want it full strength without adulteration. Give me Jesus and don’t water it down.
Now, that said, what about the sad reality that all Christians sense when reading or hearing a soul piercing sermon that exposes their many faults and inadequacies? We are called to follow a way that is far above our ability and if we contrast what needs be done, to what we actually do, we can fall into discouragement.
Then let this following scripture become the healing salve for your wounds.
This heartening scripture, tucked away in the third chapter of Philippians the 12th verse, where God’s valiant servant gives succor to our fears—
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Here Paul explains that Christ has called and possessed each one of us for His wonderful purposes but while He is using us He condescends to our weaknesses.
Not that we have already obtained all that will be apprehended, but still we are loved, accepted and used in spite of our deficiencies.
There is great comfort in this and to me it is an ingredient that must be included in any preacher or brother that I will sit under or allow to influence me.
The Pharisees applied the word without this humility and made the easy way of the Spirit a heavy load which brought control and condemnation to the hearers.
This same spirit has been present in all of Christendom past and present.
I look for Paul’s humble spirit in anyone I read, and if it isn’t there, I realize I have detected legalism and will not return to that table for food.
Here is an example of Phil. 3:12 that ends a sermon written by John Newton who was preaching strongly on our need for a full surrender to the Lord; it expresses my above thoughts perfectly.
“I hope I may say that I desire to be thus entirely given up to the Lord; I am sure I must say that what I have written is far from being my actual experience. Alas! I might be condemned out of my own mouth were the Lord strict to mark what is amiss. But oh the comfort! We are not under the law but under grace.”
Now here is another example at the end of another sermon –
“I have touched upon a topic of great importance to myself. I am one among many who have suffered greatly for lack of paying more attention to my need of this prayer. Oh that I could be wiser hereafter, and always act and speak as knowing that I am always upon a field of battle, and beset by legions!”
I consider this candid expression of humility among the most necessary ingredients of preaching and witnessing, and if you are the victim of discouragement or despondency in your Christian walk, you may find comfort in this, and I cannot exaggerate the importance of this issue.
The above picture DOES NOT illustrate "The narrow way".
Photo by Daniel Bayer