An Inadvertent Sin

Well informed Christians are aware that there are such things as sins of ignorance.  We sin constantly in thought, word and deed.  Often on reflection we are aware of our sin and repent of it and confess it to the Lord.  But we also do, say or think things that at the time we do not recognize as sin.

One of the most nauseating characteristics of modern society is the cult of celebrities.  People whose private lives are anything but clean and moral are given much publicity and become feted as celebrities.  This is one of the symptoms of the sickness of our civilization.  But we can come very close to making celebrities in Christian circles.  Of course these are usually godly folk.  They are people whom God has used, and so we tend to admire them.  If they have been used to build a large church, or have held successful missions, or have been used greatly in missionary work, then we want to hear what they have to say.  People flock to hear them, especially if the speaker has traveled a long way!  And so they become a celebrity.  This is so easy to do.  But we need to remember what God has said in Isaiah 42:8: “I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory I will not give to another” (NKJV).  The word ‘glory’ basically means ‘weight, heaviness, or honour’, the precise meaning depending upon the context.  Paul alludes to this primary meaning when he writes of “an eternal weight of glory” in 2 Corinthians 4:17.  The relevant meanings here would include power, reputation, superiority, dignity, authority, nobility, splendor, praiseworthiness, esteem or veneration.

An example of this tendency is in connection with revivals.  When you think of, say, the Welsh revival of 1904-5, whose name comes to your mind?  Evan Roberts, perhaps, although many other men were used at that time.  When you think of the Hebrides revival of the 1940s, whose name comes to mind?  Duncan Campbell.  Of course he would have been the first to acknowledge that the blessing that came was all of God.  Yet we do tend to regard him as a celebrity.  But he was just an instrument that God used.  I bought a book of his revival sermons that he preached in the Hebrides, and I was surprised to find that they were quite ordinary.  Many men today could preach as well or better.  This underlines the fact that the blessing came from God not man.  If we unwittingly give the glory to man, if we attribute the blessing to a certain man, we are robbing God of his glory.

In 2 Chronicles 20 we read of a great peril that faced king Jehoshaphat.  His country was invaded by the Moabites and the Ammonites and he was very much afraid.  he prayed to God.  God inspired Jahaziel, the prophet, to proclaim an encouraging word.  The people sought God and the Lord brought about a miraculous victory.  But after that you do not find the people praising Jehoshaphat.  You do not find them saying, “What a great king we have.  What a great victory he gave us.”  Nor do you find them saying, “Have you heard Jehaziel?  He has a wonderful ministry  You ought to hear him some time.”  No, they gave the glory to God and praised Him.

From time to time God demonstrates his sovereign power by using people who in the world’s eyes are nobodies.  He delights to use the weak and frail to accomplish his purposes.  In the seventeenth century God took up a tinker, a travelling mender of pots and pans with no significant education.  He was greatly used by God.  he wrote over thirty books including one of the world’s best sellers, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  The godly and learned theologian, John Owen is reported to have said that he would gladly give up all his learning if he could preach like that tinker, John Bunyan.  In the nineteenth century the Lord took up a country boy, named Charlie Spurgeon, and made him into a renowned preacher whose sermons are still read today.

Some time ago I came across a little rhyme.  I would like to know its origin.  It concerns the amazing victory of Gideon and his three hundred over the vast host of the Midianlites.  When the Holy Spirit came upon Gideon (Judges 6:34) apparently the Hebrew can be rendered “the Spirit clothed himself with Gideon”, hence this rhyme:  “But Gideon was nothing, was nothing in the fray, but just a suit of working clothes the Spirit wore that day.”

Exactly!  We must give the glory to God.  Some years ago I heard a Welsh preacher speak of the 1904-5 revival   He referred to a man used in that awakening.  This man had preached in a certain town and the Lord had blessed. He got on the late train to go home.  Along the platform came the paper boy with the late edition of the local paper.  This man opened the window and purchased a copy.  It reported the blessing on his mission.  He sat back in the seat and glowed, saying to himself, “Now it is not only Evan Roberts; I have been used also.”  Years later, he tearfully confessed, “At that moment, something left me.”  And he was never used in that way again.

The inadvertent sin is attributing blessing to man, or taking the glory ourselves.  Let us give the glory to God alone.  For he alone is worthy.  He alone can give spiritual blessing.


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