Not to Us

We seek to be the center of attention. We want to be acknowledged as experts in our fields. We want our deeds to count, to make a difference, and to be recognized, no, acclaimed, by all. This is our life’s goal. It’s true even in the churches.

The Psalmist, however, expressed a different viewpoint. One that’s even more pertinent in our day:

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,

for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

“Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

“Our God is in the heavens;

He does all that he pleases.”

Psalm 115:1-3 English Standard Version (ESV)

Both Calvin and Spurgeon spoke about these verses. Here’s an excerpt from Spurgeon’s sermon:

There are times when this is the only plea that God’s people can use. There are other occasions when we can plead with God to bless us for this reason or for that, but, sometimes, there come dark experiences when there seems to be no reason that can suggest itself to us why God should give us deliverance, or [bestow to] us a blessing except this one—that He would be pleased to do it in order to glorify His own name…

Self-seeking is the exact opposite of the spirit of a true Christian. He would rather strip himself and say, “Not unto me, but unto You, O Lord, be all honor and glory!” He seeks no crown to put upon his own head. Twice [Christ] refused to wear it. Even if the world would press it upon him, he says, “Not unto me; not unto me.” He does not wish for honor. He [is] done with self-seeking. His one great objective, now, is to glorify God— “Unto Your name give glory, for Your mercy, and for Your truth’s sake.”

…Brothers and Sisters, this is the spirit in which to live. Has God blessed us? Do we look back upon honorable and useful lives? Has our Sunday school class brought in souls for Christ? Have we been privileged to preach the Gospel and has the Lord given us converts? Then let us be sure to stick to the text — “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.”

…There are very few men who can bear success—none can do so unless great Grace is given to them! And if, after a little success, you begin to say, “There now, I am somebody. Did I not do that well? These poor old fogies do not know how to do it—I will teach them” — you will have to go [to the back of the line], Brother, you are not yet able to endure success! It is clear that you cannot stand praise.

But if, when God gives you blessing, you give Him every atom of the glory and clear yourself of everything like boasting, then the Lord will continue to bless you because it will be safe for Him to do so…

Yes, and when the time comes for us to die, this is the spirit in which to die, for it is the beginning of Heaven. What are they doing in Heaven? If we could look in there, what would we see? There are crowns there, laid up for those that fight the good fight and finish their course—but do you see what the victors are doing with their crowns? They will not wear them! No, not they—they cast them down at Christ’s feet, crying, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.”

Brother, Sister—living, dying—let this be your continual cry! If the Lord favors you, honors you, blesses you, always say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, be the glory.”

It’s hard not to be conformed to this world. Rather, seek to be a servant, a doulos, which is a lowly and humbling calling. The way up is down; yet, it is how our Lord lived among us. How much I long to be like Him where He is.

Sinclair Ferguson: Not unto Us, O Lord: Awakening & the Glory of God, Ligonier Ministries, Published on Mar 12, 2018

Schadenfreude

Have you ever laughed when someone trips up, makes a mistake, or some other calamity befalls them? That’s an example of Schadenfreude.

Wikipedia defines it as:

Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This word is taken from German and literally means ‘harm-joy.’ It is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune. It is also borrowed by some other languages.

But it’s not something we should practice towards those we call brothers and sisters.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Romans 12:15-16 English Standard Version (ESV)

We shouldn’t practice it toward those who do us wrong either.

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,

and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,

lest the Lord see it and be displeased,

and turn away his anger from him.

Proverbs 24:17-18 (ESV)

And not because we wish them harm, but because we’re commanded:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 (ESV)

and

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (ESV)

But if we do persist, we’re on a slippery slope. Soon, we may find ourselves siding with the Pharisees and looking down on the Tax Collectors in our midst:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

What does John Calvin think of the passage in Luke?

There are two faults at which Christ glances, and which he intended to condemn, — wicked confidence in ourselves, and the pride of despising brethren, the one of which springs out of the other. It is impossible that he who deceives himself with vain confidence should not lift himself up above his brethren. Nor is it wonderful that it should be so; for how should that man not despise his equals, who vaunts against God himself? Every man that is puffed up with self-confidence carries on open war with God, to whom we cannot be reconciled in any other way than by denial of ourselves; that is, by laying aside all confidence in our own virtue and righteousness, and relying on his mercy alone.

I urge you to read what else Calvin says about the passage.

It always seems to come down to: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” And it needs to start with me.

The Swallow's Nest Castle near Gaspra

The Swallow’s Nest Castle near Gaspra, Yalta municipality. Republic of Crimea, 4 April 2014, A. Savin, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported