A Brief Meditation for the Month

February 2023

The godly John Brown of Haddington in his little volume, ‘Devout Breathings of a Pious Soul,’ published in 1839, wrote, “If it be not Christ’s will, it is my sin.”

What superficial notions many professing Christians in this generation have of sin in contrast to that of John Brown. We are familiar enough with the words the Saviour taught us to use in prayer, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10, but do we really appreciate the seriousness of not doing according to the divine will? By nature, we like to do our own will and follow our own thinking rather than fulfilling God’s will. However, it becomes apparent that a spiritual change has taken place when a rebellious sinner desires to please God by endeavouring to do his will. When the spirit of Christ indwells anyone, it is the spirit of him who, in the depths of his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, cried to his Father, submitting his will to that of his Father—“not what I will, but what thou wilt,” Mark 14:36. While we could never imagine the Saviour doing anything other than what was pleasing to his Father, it is nevertheless important to remember that he submitted to his Father’s will in his holy humanity. It was the immediate response of Saul of Tarsus when the glorified Christ confronted him on his way to Damascus, and he became aware of whom he was dealing with, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Acts 9:6. The fact is that Saul’s language is the language of one who has undergone a supernatural heart change. This is the language of the one referred to as a “new creation” 2 Corinthians 5:17. It is the language of the new heart. Thus, it is indisputable that doing the will of God is the real test as to whether professed grace is genuine or fake. Loving, learning, willing, and doing the will of God as it is revealed in his word, the scriptures, testifies to a gracious saving change in any man or woman. The Lord Jesus made it abundantly clear to any who claimed a readiness to be his disciple and follow him that the first requirement was self-denial. Jesus said to his disciples and others assembled with them, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23. It is one thing to deny ourselves certain pleasures, or forgo certain luxuries, or sacrifice particular pursuits, but it is something entirely different to deny self, to say no to self. Our problem is that we are by nature in love with ourselves. We have a natural inclination to cater for self, pamper self, put self first, defend self, satisfy the desires of self, and idolize self. How few appear to understand that the greatest impediment to following the Saviour is the failure or refusal to deny self. How many decisions are taken by professing Christians that are solely motivated by self-interest? Whether or not the decision to be made, the step to be taken, or the action to be performed, is in accord with the will of God does not even enter the mind. So often, God’s will, or Christ’s interests, are not even secondary in the thinking; they are non-existent.

Dear reader, has it yet registered with you, as it obviously had with John Brown, that anything you or I believe, practise, think, intend, do, say, or decide, which is not one hundred per cent in accordance with God’s will, is sin. It is grace alone that will motivate and enable any of us to embrace Christ’s will and deny and forsake our own. If my will harmonizes with Christ’s, only then am I without guilt. Since, however, this will only be perfectly fulfilled when we are in a glorified state in heaven, denying self is presently not an option but our Saviour’s holy, and perhaps, on our part, painful, demand: but His will must be decisive.

G. G. Hutton.