Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Altogether vanity

And when they heard these things, everybody in the synagogue was filled with rage, and they rose up and drove him out of the city, and they led him to the brow of the hill on which the city was built, to throw him off the cliff.
Luke 4:28-29

And when it was day, he departed and went to a deserted place, but the crowds looked for him, and they came to him, and they tried to keep him from leaving them.
Luke 4:42

"The sweet psalmist of Israel" once said, "Verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Ps. 39:5). This means that no man has anything to offer to God except his sin – and faith that God is indeed faithful to forgive our sins if we confess and forsake them (1Jn. 1:9).

When Jesus walked among us, he "knew what was in man" (Jn. 2:25); therefore, he was not moved by either their hatred of him or their love for him. The people of one city might want him to stay with them forever, while those of another city might want to kill him. If Jesus had given in to either of these two groups, he could not have accomplished his mission. If he had not made the effort to escape the hatred of mobs who wanted to kill him before the Father’s appointed time, he would have come short of fulfilling his mission. And if he had not made the effort to escape the love of disciples who wanted to save him from suffering, he would have also failed in his mission.

Both the love and the hatred of fallen man are worthless to God, and if Jesus had been moved by either of them, he would have failed to accomplish the will of God. The gospel calls for us to acknowledge that everything that fallen man feels and thinks is worthless to God. Paul said it this way, "In me, that is in my flesh [i.e., nature], there is no good thing." If we have been delivered from sin and darkness, it is only because God has done it, and if God has done it, then He did it by Himself because we can do nothing to help God save us. We don’t know what to do to get ourselves out of sin, and we wouldn’t have the power to do it, even if we did know what to do.

Jesus had a disciple who betrayed him, which was evil, with evil intent, and he had a disciple who wanted to keep him from going to the cross, which also was evil, but with good intent. He had disciples who forsook him, feeling malice, because of his doctrine, and he had disciples who clung to him, feeling love for him, even when Jesus wanted to be alone with the Father’s love. But whether they were disciples who forsook Jesus and hated him or disciples who smothered Jesus and loved him, all men were lost, and if Jesus had been moved by either group, we all would have been lost. Thank God that Jesus saw how utterly blind and desperately needy we all are!

If the people of Nazareth had gotten their way, Jesus would have died after his first sermon – and nobody else would have ever heard the good news Jesus preached. But had the people in Capernaum had their way, Jesus would have stayed with them and built up a successful ministry for himself in that city – and nobody else would have ever heard the good news Jesus preached. The result of human hatred and human love is always then same; it is all contrary to the Spirit of God.

God help us, and save us from ourselves! Regardless of intentions, the only result of anything man does on his own is always the same – confusion and death.


"He who does these things will never be moved."
David, in Psalm 15:5

Jesus suffered and died in hope of gaining influence in our lives. He wants to influence us so that he can save us from heartache and, in the end, from eternal death. He loves us and desires nothing but eternal happiness for us – and he knows how to make it happen! If we trust him, and co-operate with him, he will lead us to the happiness we all want, both for ourselves and others. The word "trust" means simply to yield to the sweet influence of Jesus! The happiest people on earth, and the safest, are the ones who are most yielded to the influence of the Spirit of Christ.

In ancient times in heaven, the cherub called Lucifer began to envy God’s influence over His creatures, and he began to lie about God in order to steal some of that influence for himself (Isa. 14:12-14), and it worked, even among many of the angels! Another way to say this is, Lucifer wanted to move others, to share in God’s holy influence over their choices and feelings; he wanted God’s creatures to think of him as they had always only thought of God. And that is still his purpose.


Whoever influences you has power to move you or to prevent you from moving. The goal of every child of God should be to grow in grace to the point of being "led by the Spirit"; that is, to move only when the Spirit leads one to move. And when the Spirit is not leading you to move, then obedience to God means to "be steadfast, unmoveable," and "established in grace" (1Cor. 15:58; Heb. 13:9).
To remain unmoved by the spirits of this age, in spite of all they say and do, to remain unmoved in our decisions, our thoughts, and our feelings, requires great spiritual strength, but then, that is exactly why Jesus died for us, to give us strength. Paul said it this way, "When we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:6;8).

Many people are moved by fear of death, but Jesus came "that through death he might . . . deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:14-15). We see this fearlessness in Paul when he was being warned of the suffering that lay ahead for him by believers who loved him. In Acts 20:22-24, Paul told a group of saints "I am going, bound in the spirit, unto Jerusalem not knowing the things that will befall me there, except that the holy Spirit bares witness [to me] in every city [through which I travel], that bonds and afflictions await me. But none of these things move me; neither do I count my life dear to myself."
Being Moved

King David was moved by Satan once (1Chron. 21:1), and the result was tragic for all of Israel (1Chron. 21:14). David was crushed with grief over the suffering he caused his beloved nation by allowing himself to be moved from perfect trust in God. Over 70,000 of his fellow Israelites died as a direct result of David’s error. The grieving king pleaded with God to let him suffer instead of the people, and God soon forgave him, and Israel’s suffering ended.

Of course, there is more to the story than that. The whole nation had provoked God and brought this terrible disaster on themselves (2Sam. 24:1), and God had sent Satan to move David so that He could chasten Israel for its disobedience. But the point is that it was only by the king being moved by Satan that the suffering came about. Both the king and the nation were chastened by God because the whole nation, including the king, was already doing something (we are not told what) that displeased God.

We hurt ourselves and everyone around us when we are moved. I know that by experience. But I also know that the Lord is for us, not against us, and that he is listening for our cry, as he was listening for David’s, when we find that we have been moved by some strange spirit away from communion with God. He is able and very willing to help us in those times. If you ever find that you have been fooled by the adversary and have moved from your heavenly Father’s peace, don’t even try to cover it up. Confess it and let Him heal you. Don’t be afraid of losing your status among the saints; they are all "helpless pilgrims, just like you", and they will understand, and will respect you even more for being a good example of what to do when we find that we have been moved.