A Devotion for 17 December 2020 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The worldly society professes to disdain anything of a negative sense and to admit only those things of a positive value. Of course, that is nonsense. There is a difference in hoping for a positive outcome and in believing that such is inevitable. There are at least as many negatives in the Holy Bible as there are positives. I bring to the bar for your perusal the Ten Commandments – eight out of ten bear a negative connotation. Sinful man requires RESTRAINT from evil more than commendation for doing good. But through the virtue of LOVE, we can turn the negative to a positive in cases involving behavior. An example: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2
For the man or woman who has not been renewed in the mind by abandonment of the old self-will, or, as some like to erroneously call the same, Free Will, and assumed upon their hearts and minds the Will of God instead, all things negative in the eyes of God are more appealing for man is drawn to sin in his wicked imagination.
It is high time that we recognize that the whole of the world is a bundle of negatives wrapped in shiny and glittering paper. The appearance may appeal, but the substance is deadly. You may recall a devotion I wrote many years ago about the “Bird and the Pendant.” Once, before a visit overseas, a beautiful pendant belonging to my wife fell, unnoticed, from her coat as she was crossing our lawn to the car. After taking my wife to the airport and returning home, I was surprised to see a dead bird in the center of the lawn. It seemed strange that a bird could be so easily trapped on an open lawn. I intended to remove the bird whose head was badly chewed as if by a cat, but forgot. Two days later, as I was preparing to cut the lawn, I saw the bird again and lifted its little body. Beneath was the pendant my wife had lost. Suddenly, the picture became clear to me. The bird was attracted by the shiny gems and pearly of the pendant. It lit on the lawn and fed its infatuation with an object that could offer no benefit at all to the bird. A cat crept upon the distracted bird and murdered it. So it is with the weapons Satan uses to destroy the man that God created and placed in the Garden at Eden. We are drawn to unwholesome temptations and are thereby destroyed.
I am sure we all recall the numerous “I AM’s” of God uttered in reference to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is all that is Holy, all that is perfect, all that is righteous, all that is worthy, etc. But our Lord uttered “I am Not!” in a certain setting that contrasted His Holy Righteousness from the character the world promotes. Those who are of this world will perish with the fervent heat which will destroy it. Only those who own his estate beyond the Gates of Splendor will be spared the devastation that is forthcoming upon the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” John 8:23-24 There ar many things Jesus is not, but the greater importance is in the things that He IS! He is not vain and sinful – He is pure and righteous. He is the All-in-All for the Elect, and He is the Judge of all who have rejected His imputed righteousness purchased at Calvary for us. He is NOT of this world of mortal failures and sin; He is of the His Father in Heaven and without sin or blemish.
Not so with many who consider themselves to be, in their own right, righteous. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I AM NOT as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” Luke 18:11. We can never gain salvation by any merit of our own claim but only by the imputed righteousness of Christ who paid the penalty for our sins. The very moment we begin to feel ourselves worthy is the very moment that we are totally UNWORTHY. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23, and, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 What man can say, “I am good,” when NONE are so? We may all say, “I am not good,” but by the grace of God, I am justified and made worthy through the imputed righteousness of Christ.
John the Baptist was the greatest of all prophets for he was forerunner to our Lord. But read what our Lord says followed by the words of John: “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (words of Jesus in Matthew 11:11) John was great among men in the eyes of the Lord, but very small in comparison to those of the Kingdom of Heaven. So John says, “I am not worthy.” In Matthew 3:11b. If John is not worthy, how can we consider ourselves worthy?
The repentant Centurion was an honest man of no little power or prestige who declared, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof,” Matthew 8:8. Have you made that confession and faced the reality of your need for a Savior?
“And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I AM NOT ALONE, but I and the Father that sent me.” John 8:16 & “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and YET I AM NOT ALONE, because the Father is with me.” John 16:32 The “I AM NOT’s” of Jesus carry a far stronger message than those of mortal man. Even the devoted Christian may often feel that he is all alone and abandoned by even God; but God is ever present with the Elect just as He was with the two men on the Road to Emmaus – but unnoticed by them.
The words of Shakespeare are almost biblical in meaning: “To thine own self be true and it shall follow as the night the day that thou canst not be false to any man.” act 1, scene 3, HAMLET. Being true is the heart condition of the believer. Do not attempt to be something you are not by putting on airs of importance or boasting as the Pharisee did before the Temple. The one whom the world considers least among brethren may be the greatest in the Eye of God:
“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-23
The counsels of God are so very simple, yet so very much disregarded and misconstrued by the world and its adherents and, unfortunately, too many in the churches. If you will read God’s Word to you as you did a letter from your sweetheart in bygone days, you cannot help but get the meaning for, in both cases, it is love that motivates and sustains.