Category Archives: Brokenness

Purge Us, O Lord–Give Us Humility

Addison Alexander was a professor at Princeton Seminary in the 1830s and was known for his high expectations, as well as his anger and impatience toward those who failed to meet them due to laziness or apathy. While he was known for his impatience, he was equally known for his genuine repentance. The Lord grew him in grace and longsuffering toward his students. Here’s one of the prayers that he wrote in his journal following a moment of frustration toward his students:

“Mercy and help, O Lord, my sovereign Lord! Thou who lovest little children, make me a little child. Make me humble, simple-hearted, tender, guileless, and confiding. Kill my selfish pride. Shiver my hard heart. Break my stubborn spirit. Make me love my kind by making me to love Thee. O soften me, my Saviour, by showing me thy own tender, bleeding, melting heart. Purge envy from my heart by causing me to live and work for thee. O that this foul fiend were wholly dispossessed! I bless thee for trials: may they do me good. Compel me to remember that I am not my own. Save me from being the object of envy or ill-will. Save me from the wickedness of trying to excite it. Lord, I would give the world for true humility. O, make me–make me humble!”[1]

While I am not a professor and have no students, I understand his deep need for humility. Everyday I am reminded of how prideful and self-promoting my flesh actually is–it’s ugly and pathetic, but serves to point me toward the Cross. Pride keeps me from acknowledging my sin and responding humbly before God, and worst of all, it keeps me from treasuring Christ rightly as the greatest Treasure. In my heart, there is a deep-seated desire to please self and to find satisfaction in the things of this world. This cannot remain this way!! If there is no other way to purge me of pride, then I trust that God will graciously beat it out of me through the providence of suffering. However, I pray for His grace to purge me of my pride in less painful ways, but most of all, I want to be humbled so that I might honor Christ. May our lifelong mission be the same as John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30).

[1] David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: Faith & Learning 1812-1868 (Volume 1) (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 204.

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Filed under Brokenness, Humility, Prayer, Sanctification

Old Habits Die Hard

1 Peter 4:1-6:

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.”

In the midst of suffering, we are often tempted to revert to our former way(s) of life. Yet, the saving work of God tenaciously refuses to leave us in such futility. He transforms every soul that He saves–even when the purification is best accomplished by the providential furnace of His persevering love (1 Peter 1:3-9). There has never been a more beautiful, though seemingly brutish, sort of love. The mysterious beauty of divine love is that suffering typically precedes the sweetness that it procures. This was the reality of Christ’s death for us in the pursuit of His Father’s glory; and much will be the same for us when we endeavor to follow in His footsteps. As we share in the sufferings of Christ, we incarnate His love as “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1). May we suffer and die well as we remember that He alone is our Life.

This past weekend, my pastor gave the following points of application when faced with the peer pressure of returning to former passions:

1. Remember WHOSE you are.

We belong to Jesus ,the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross….

2. Remember your motivation.

We live to honor Christ rather than self.

3. Ask God for help… Employ the means that He’s given.

The Word of God is our sword and the prayer of Faith is our shield of defense!

The Body of Christ are our fellow soldiers who provide support, accountability, and love.

4. For those who have fallen back into their former ways…

A. Remember what Christ has already done and that He has secured God’s love and forgiveness for you.  You’re accepted in Christ, not in and of yourself.

B. Confess your sin to God and fellow believers as you repent of it.

C. Get into God’s word and get God’s word into you.

D. Pursue open, honest transparency with others in spiritual community.

5. When others are struggling, come alongside them and offer: Humility, Hope, and Help.

Humility: You’re capable of sinning in the same way, if not worse, given the right opportunity.

Hope: God’s saving love has the power to change and restore even the worst of sinners.

Help: God’s people need one another to stir up and minister His sanctifying grace to one another in time of need.

 

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Filed under Biblical Counseling, Brokenness, Sanctification, Suffering

The Lord Humbles Those He Loves

A Broken Staff, A Broken Heart, and A Broken Man

Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish pastor of the early 19th century, was known eminently for his personal holiness. His lifestyle so clearly matched the message that he preached that his congregation was known to sometimes begin sobbing before he ever entered the pulpit. They deeply loved their pastor and were much affected by his gospel preaching since they knew that he greatly loved Christ, as well as them.  His love for Christ can be seen in this instruction he gave his congregation: “For every look at self, take ten looks [nay, a thousand looks] at Christ.”  His reputation for holiness and his influence was so widespread that he effected the spiritual revival of numerous individuals.  He was credited by other contemporaries as having “left an indelible influence upon Scotland.”

According to Andrew Bonar, a fellow pastor, M’Cheyne’s preaching was, in large measure, the primary means by which the Holy Spirit stirred up the grace of God in Scotland.  His renowned holiness seemed to be a catalyst used by the Holy Spirit to initiate the Great Scottish Revival and compel a number of other young men into ministry. Often after preaching, M’Cheyne would kneel privately as though he were taking the crown off of his head in order to humbly lay it at the feet of the King to whom it rightly belonged. Such a gesture demonstrated his pursuit of pride-crushing humility. At other times, the Lord had to humble him through hardship. M’Cheyne struggled much with poor health and eventually died at the age of 29, partly because of poor health and mostly due to unrelenting labor for the cause of Christ. While he may have ridden his body too hard, he made it to the finish line and was used by God to spur others on in running after the same Prize.

In his diary (March 20, 1832), he wrote the following entry regarding a measure of dark providence. While we do not know the exact circumstance, it seems to have been a great disappointment which the Lord used to humble and refine him. The measure of heart-break must have been significant. He had apparently put his trust in something other than the Lord, and like all things, it had proven inadequate for bearing the weight of such a burden. Nothing built “of man” can bear the burden that should only be laid upon the Lord.

March 20, 1832: “Leaning on a staff of my own devising, it betrayed me and broke under me. It was not Thy staff. Resolving to be a god Thou shewdest me that I was but a man.  But my own staff being broken, why may I not lay hold of Thine?” [1]

As Jonathan Edwards had observed in Charity and Its Fruits, “Longsuffering produces humility.”  So does heartache and disappointment. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Waiting patiently upon the Lord reveals a dependence upon His love and providence. It is never easy, but it is always good. The Lord broke the “staff of [M’Cheyne’s] own making” so that he might fully and finally lean on Christ. In doing so, He provided what M’Cheyne needed even though it wasn’t at first what he wanted. How sweet and gracious is the God we serve, that He is willing to crush our idols in order to strengthen and sustain us. Such pruning leads to bearing holiness, the sweet fruit ripened by hardship. Even behind His “frowning providence, there is a hidden smile.” Praise God that He doesn’t leave us as we are, leaning upon our own weak and crooked staff, when His is strong for holding and straight for guiding. We are truly blessed beyond anything that we could ask or imagine.

Lord, my heart is Yours… may You break my staff a thousand times, if that’s what it takes to make me lean on You. Thank you for loving me enough to break my heart in order to make it whole, and wholly Yours.

__________

[1] Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth).

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Filed under Brokenness, Robert Murray M'Cheyne, Tribbett