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What Stands in the Way

Having joined the Protestant Reformed denomination shortly before marriage, I have often wished I had received the wealth of sound instruction which some of you possibly take for granted. From infancy on you are surrounded by the Word of God in all its truth and riches, in church, home, and school. Think of the thorough, steady and progressive instruction you are privileged to receive in catechism, all the way from the age of five or six through Pre-Confession and sometimes even after that. From Sunday to Sunday you hear the faithful preaching of the gospel by men thoroughly trained in our own seminary; the whole counsel of God not only, but also the Heidelberg Catechism, that beautiful synopsis of the great doctrines of Holy Scripture. From Kindergarten through 12th grade you receive a truly Christian education, God-glorifying “instruction in all aspects of God’s creation in the light of the revelation of Holy Scripture.” You are raised by God-fearing parents who promise to instruct and bring you up in “the doctrine which is contained in the Old and New Testament and in the articles of the Christian faith, to the utmost of their power.”

Certainly, with the Word – the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ – so clearly set before us from the cradle to the grave, we as Protestant Reformed people ought to live truly sanctified lives; we ought to abound in the love of Christ; we ought to be as burning and shining lights in the midst of this dark and perverse world which knows Him not.

But is this really true of us? Or are you a little troubled, as I am, when you take an honest look at how we live?

What would happen if the King of the Church should suddenly pay us a visit? Do you think he would say, “Well done, you faithful servants” because we are faithful in doctrine; diligent and busy maintaining our own schools and seminary; busily engaged in mission and church extension work, if in our daily walk we are not witnesses through our love, consecration and obedience to Christ? Aren’t you sometimes haunted by thoughts such as expressed in the words of the poem “If Jesus Came to Your House?”

…if the Saviour spent a day or two with you,

would you go right on doing the things you always do?

would you go right on saying the things you always say?

would life for you continue as it does from day to day?

would you…let Him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed?

would you take Jesus with you everywhere you’d plan to go?

or would you, maybe, change your plans for just a day or so?

 

Don’t you wonder whether we would go right on thinking, speaking, acting as we always do if the Lord were right there beside us as He was with the disciples? How much television would we watch, how much beer and liquor would we drink, how much rock and roll music would we listen to? Would we continue our involvement in sports, whether actively or passively, the same as usual? Would we conduct ourselves as we always do on the job, in school, in the home, on a date? Would we spend our money in the same way; our leisure time?

“It causes me to tremble,” doesn’t it you? What possible excuse could we come up with for doing our own thing, for pursuing our own little kingdom instead of diligently seeking the Kingdom of Heaven?

We could try to blame prosperity, I suppose, the affluence of this day and age, and without a doubt this is an evil influence on our spiritual health and well-being. Or how about blaming our emphasis on doctrine? Who could deny that among Calvinists in general, and in our denomination in particular, there had always been a great deal of emphasis on doctrine and the defense against heresy and that we could use more stress on living a life of love to Christ and our neighbor? Or possibly we could blame the fact that we have always been so close to the gospel that we have become blind, or at least very nearsighted to it; that we no longer see the unspeakable wonder of it.

And yet, there is something more involved when we fail to joyfully serve the Lord with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Something more basic stands in the say, obscuring our view of that blessed Redeemer who loved us with an everlasting love. Is it a love for the pleasures and treasures of this world; is it personal ambition, a desire for recognition and admiration; is it the pursuit of material gain and “security”; is it an inordinate love of sports; is it a secret sin we can’t bear to forsake? What stands in the way?

It could all be summed pretty well in one little word: SELF.

Jesus Himself tells us that when He says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” It is only as we learn to get that SELF out of the way that we can truly see and love Christ and our neighbor. Until then we are nothing; we are as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.

God’s ultimate purpose for His own is to prepare them to spend eternity in glory with Him; but “without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). God will have His way with us: if the Word and Spirit are not enough for us to forget ourselves and to seek Him in His fellowship with undivided heart, then He will deal with us in another way. Then He will chastise us; He will afflict us and He may even do so again and again until our every earthly prop is shot out from under us and we lie prostrate in the dust, in the depth of sorrow and despair; all of our earthly schemes of joy shattered, our pride broken. But it is at this point when all seems darkness and we cry out: “Lord, be merciful to me; I can’t handle it: There dwells in my SELF no good thing – no strength, no wisdom, no goodness,” that we open our eyes and find ourselves no longer in the dust but upon the Rock. Then, as we begin to perceive His glorious face, we say, “Now mine eyes seeth Thee, wherefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes.” And we learn to say with Spurgeon: “Thou didst die for me, and shall I not live for Thee? Hold Thou me by Thy free Spirit, and pour down upon me more love to Thee.”

Beloved fellow-Christians, has there ever been a people of God on the face of this earth more blessed with “the excellency of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” than we? Then let us strive to deny ourselves and show in our daily lives that we count all things but loss for the joy of serving the Lord of our life, Who saved us from the abyss of hell: eternity under the wrath of God.