The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

A throne for Self

with 2 comments

James Henley Thornwell somewhere speaks of the desire to serve the living God with all one’s heart and soul and strength, and then speaks the chilling words: “. . . but self is a powerful idol.”  I recall hearing Pastor Ted Donnelly preaching on justification, and speaking of self-righteousness and self-congratulation, and the horror of finding – even in the very outward act of exalting Christ – a little voice whispering in the minister’s own mind, “Didn’t you do that well?”

I was first and most powerfully struck by this when reading a biography of the Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, called To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (Judson Press).  At one point (382-3), the biographer is seeking to describe a seminal moment in the ministry of Judson, a time of extreme trial (many grievous deaths in his family).  It was his father’s death that brought poignant memories to the missionary of the “glowing ambitions” his pastor father had had for him.  Anderson writes that,

Reliving these memories, Adoniram began to realise that no matter how he had rebelled, his father had succeeded in instilling in him, consciously or unconsciously, a goal of earthly ambition, an intense determination to surpass his fellows.

Judson began to search his heart, and discerned that his fundamental desire in being and doing what he had sought to be and do was not “genuine humility and self-abnegation but ambition . . . [to be] . . . first in his own eyes and the eyes of men.”  Courtney continues thus:

He had always known that his forwardness, self-pride and desire to stand out were serious flaws in his nature.  Now he began to suspect that they were more than flaws.  They made his entire missionary career up to now a kind of monstrous hypocrisy, a method of securing prominence and praise without admitting it to himself.  He had deluded himself.  But he had not deluded God.  Perhaps here was the intention in all these deaths: to teach him true humility. . . . No wonder it took death itself, by wholesale, to teach him better.  For Adoniram’s mission, God had approval; for Adoniram and his self-love, a harsh lesson.

How truly awful to have the pall of such a conclusion hanging over the scene of one’s ministerial labours: “a kind of monstrous hypocrisy, a method of securing prominence and praise without admitting it to himself.”  Such pride and self-elevation is an act of wicked folly on the part of any child of God, but how much more so for one whose very existence calls him to decrease, that Christ might increase?

Few of us need to be taught earthly ambition by our parents; we inherit it from our first parents.  The idol-factory of the heart has a great forge in which is constantly being hammered into shape a fearful throne for that most insistent god, Self.  How often do we need to pause and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?  What is my true goal?”  Behind the facade of righteous endeavour, of generous effort, do we hide a drive to excel not for the glory of Christ, but for our own reputation?  Are we driven by love to self, or love to God?  How much, how often, we need to examine our hearts, to search our souls, remembering always that “self is a powerful idol” and that God may approve the work but condemn the motive.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 3 October 2008 at 09:49

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. How much, how often, we need to examine our hearts, to search our souls, remembering always that “self is a powerful idol” and that God may approve the work but condemn the motive.

    Amen Jeremy. I’ve been meditating about self examination and how often we don’t make it a practice, especially when confession is suppose to be a daily practice and something that ought to be done when we come upon the throne of Grace in our prayers.

    One of the Scriptures I’ve pondered over is Psalm 139, when David asks:

    Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

    See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

    How many of us do ask the Lord to search our hearts and test us?! How many of us have such a courage to seek out our hidden sins and slay it? Dying to self is one of the greatest spiritual challenges… and the devil knows it!
    As Paul states, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

    Jade

    Saturday 4 October 2008 at 20:42

  2. Jade, thanks for sharing

    Mark

    Sunday 5 October 2008 at 08:22


By all means, consider chipping in . . .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: