Familiarity breeds contempt.
That’s an old adage which has been handed down from generation to generation. It also is a truism. Sometimes we experience this in relation to our work: we just get sick and tired of the same old thing. If we eat the same food all the time, it nauseates us. This accounts for our changing world.
It is a sad fact that this same attitude sometimes drives members of the church to cry out for the “new,” the different; they grow contemptuous with that with which they are the most familiar. These kind of people go to church and leave the house of God muttering, “It’s the same old stuff.” In this attitude one of two things happens, they either become active in changing the old into something new, or they repudiate the Word of God altogether.
Such a one is at the bottom of the spiritual ladder. He is on the last rung before jumping off.
The other extreme is the child of God who is fervent in faith. He stands at the top of the spiritual ladder; the love of God pulsates through his heart. He is filled with holy awe as he contemplates the wonder of the revelation of God. He is thrilled with the knowledge of the Word of God. His life becomes an expression of gratitude to God for His tender mercy.
In between these two extremes is a third position. It is labeled lethargy. Such a one is spiritually lazy; often times he just drifts along with the people of God, not really knowing why it is so. The danger of this spiritual condition is that such a person is slipping down the spiritual ladder. He is headed in the direction of contempt.
I would like to consider this spiritual condition with you. The purpose is not to berate or to bemoan the fact that we often find ourselves in this spiritual lethargy. Such an approach would only hasten the process of decline. Rather, let’s try to diagnose the ailment, consider the cure, and with the help of God realize that if we find ourselves slipping to the bottom of the spiritual ladder, we direct our attention to the top and seek the fervency of faith.
The first step in the cure of any disease is to recognize that we are sick. To achieve this end, we must spend a moment in trying to understand the symptoms of the disease called lethargy. This disease is peculiar to children of God. The world of unbelievers cannot contact it for they are spiritually dead. In no sense of the word can we say that the reprobate have a spiritualdisease, they are spiritually dead. Their hearts are hardened against God and they hate all that God says and does.
The child of God however, possesses a new heart. Being regenerated by the Spirit, he receives a heart of flesh. God fills this heart with His love and by the impulse of heart-beats filled with the love of God the child of God exercises faith. The love of God affects his mind and will by influencing it, governing it, and directing it back to God. In this love of God, the child of God rejoices in the Word of God, loves his spiritual brethren, seeks unity in the bond of truth.
Lethargy is a disease of the heart. It suffers an arrest, its spiritual muscles become stiff, it ceases to beat with warmth and vigor. Consequently the child of God’s entire religious outlook is affected. He loses the “first love.” His religious life becomes a mere formality, his prayer life seems cold and God seems far away. The communion of the saints loses its appeal, the Word of God seems irrelevant.
What causes this disease?
Applying the analogy of the physical heart, we can adduce three causes.
First, the heart may suffer an attack due to lack of oxygen. Oxygen is nutrition for the heart; it keeps the tissues and muscles alive and functioning. A lack of it brings heart damage and eventual death. Similarly, our spiritual heart needs nutrition. We need the only oxygen which God in love provides, viz, the preaching of the Word and sacraments. God communicates His love to us through the means of grace. If we grow indifferent to these means and neglect them, we will surely suffer an attack of lethargy. The same thing holds true if we try to find a different “diet.” God has provided one food which is all sufficient. If we grow dissatisfied with that food and eat at the table of unbelieving philosophy or science and find that more delectable than the Word of God, we will surely suffer a heart attack. We will soon discover that the truths of the Word are easily disposable. Our hearts will weaken and not beat with the love of God and love for His Word; rather we will try to tear it apart, spend our time finding “errors” and changing His message entirely. The inevitable result will be lethargy and then contempt.
The second cause for this spiritual disease is that a foreign material is introduced into our spiritual blood stream. In the case of our physical heart, this is caused by thrombosis; a blood clot will bring an attack. It is no different spiritually. Christ expressed it this way, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart, be also.” If we place greater value on the perishable things of life, e.g. our material possessions, our place of honor among men, our seeking after pleasures, the inevitable end will also be lethargy toward God and His Word and this leads to contempt.
The third cause is that of increased pressure. We know that it is absolutely essential that the pressure in our circulatory system be maintained at the right level, an increase will also bring an “attack.” This we experience spiritually as well. Often times our calling as children of God brings us into opposition with the world. We realize that we cannot love God and love the world. When we encounter opposition, sometimes in the form of mockery, other times in the form of harassment and ostracism, our blood pressure rises. We become spiritually afraid and rebellious and in the midst of our battle weary life we begin to grow cold toward God. We ask, why must the battle be so long and intense. Sometimes we even say that it is futile. We question our Captain and His strategy and imagine that we could do better if only He would turn it over to us. When this pride presses upon our hearts, we grow indifferent to the cause of the church; sometimes we become bitter, and lethargy leads to contempt.
What then is the cure?
Since this disease is of a spiritual nature, the cure can and must come only from God who holds the hearts of His people in His own hand. Only too often we realize we cannot change the spiritual condition of ourselves or our brothers and sisters. The only cure for lethargy is a transfusion of the love of God into our hearts. This He gives by means of His Word and Spirit. The more our hearts are filled with the love of God the more fervent our faith becomes. When the love of God is in our hearts they pant after the living God.
This fervency of faith is expressed in three distinct ways.
First, we rejoice in the God of our salvation. When the heart of the child of God is infused with the love of God he personally rejoices in the wonder that God has saved him. He never wearies of crying out with praise to God acknowledging that salvation is His work from beginning to end. In the depth of humility He gladly accords to God the honor due to His name. Hence His life’s motto is: Soli Deo Gloria.
Secondly, a heart that beats with the love of God acknowledges by faith that the Word of God is indeed the Word of God and not man’s word concerning God. It is in this light that we must understand all present day attacks upon the Bible. Today, men protest to the high heavens how much they love God and how they understand properly the concept of the love of God while they militate against the Word of God. No one can truly say he loves God while taking the Word of God and trampling it into the dust and subjecting it to the bar of human reason and science. One who truly loves God will love the Word God has given us. It is childlike faith that is fervent faith. We bow before, no other authority than that of the Word of God. As we search the Scriptures, we come to a deeper understanding of the truth. We are grateful that we may join the church of all ages and confess the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty, man’s total depravity, of unconditional election, of a definite atonement by the blood of Jesus Christ, of grace that is powerful to save, and the sure destiny of all God’s elect in the blessedness of life everlasting. The fervency of faith does not try to undermine these truths; it rejoices in propagating them. One filled with the love of God does not try to separate himself from the heritage God has given to the church by the Spirit, rather He loves the reformed confessions and holds them heavenward as a banner under which all the children of God-who share like faith may gather.
This leads us to the third expression of this fervency, viz., a recognition that God has blessed us with these gifts for a purpose. We may not be satisfied that we and our children are recipients of this faith. The love of God in our hearts causes us to reach out to our spiritual brethren. If we truly love God, the fervency of faith will also cause us to love our brethren. There is no more intimate way to express our love to our neighbor than by communicating to him the Word of God. It is through this means that those who have not the love of God will find occasion to hate us by despising the Word we bring. We must expect to encounter them both outside the church and within the church. The fervency of faith must not be deterred by opposition, it must be quickened. In the love of God we cannot keep silence, we must needs speak. Through this means God gathers His church unto Himself.
This is why we are enthused about the Standard Bearer. Out of the fervency of faith, quickened by the love of God in our hearts, we find it a joy to be busy in writing, publishing, distributing, and reading this periodical.
In our generation, the Word of God is subtly attacked. This attack is not only coming our way from the unbelieving world, it is coming from what calls itself the church, even the reformed church. Are we going to sit back and let men undermine the Word of God? Are we going to sit back and let our spiritual brethren be deceived?
Not if we love God.
Not if we have the love of God in our hearts and have the gift of fervent faith.
When God’s name is taken in vain, and that is what is being done when the Word if called a myth and a lot of other things, we may not sit idly by, we must needs speak out. We must expose the lie. We must call our spiritual brethren to stand with us upon the only sure foundation, the Word of God.
This is a wonderful task. It takes a great deal of work, it takes time and patience, it requires a deep faith in God that He guide the word that is printed, directing it so that it may strike at the inmost heart of His people and bring the response of fervent faith. Even the mockers must be left without excuse.
May our God bless us as we work to this end, that His name be glorified in the salvation of His church.
May He cure us of our lethargy and by His love provide us with fervent faith.