#438 - God or Self--Which | Fasting | Jesus

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Sermon #438 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1 GOD OR SELF—WHICH? NO. 438 A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, MARCH 9, 1862, BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON. “Speak unto all the people of the land and to the priests, saying, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did you at all fast unto Me, even to Me? And when you did eat and when you did drink, did not you eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves.” Zechari
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  Sermon #438 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1   Volume 8   www.spurgeongems.org   1   GOD OR SELF—WHICH? NO. 438 A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, MARCH 9, 1862, BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON. “Speak unto all the people of the land and to the priests, saying, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did you at all fast unto Me, even to Me? And when you did eat and when you did drink, did not you eat for  yourselves and drink for yourselves.” Zechariah 7:5, 6. AFTER the Jewish people had been thoroughly cured of their idolatrous tendencies by their seventy years of captiv-ity, they fell into another evil—they became superstitiously regardful of ceremonies but they lost the life and spirit of devotion and neglected the weightier matters of the Law.Phariseeism, in the spirit of it, had commenced, in the time of Zechariah. Great attention was paid to the formalitiesand externals of worship, but the vitality of godliness was unknown. The mint, the anise, the cummin of religion—thesewere all strictly tithed. But truth, mercy, charity, justice, were trod under foot. They multiplied ceremonies to them-selves, apart from God’s Word. They had fasts which Moses never commanded, and feasts of which the tabernacle in thewilderness knew nothing.They had ordained for themselves a certain fast for the burning of the temple by the Chaldees, and a question whichseemed to them very important had arisen, as to whether this fast should be observed now that the temple was rebuilt.The Jews in Persia sent an honorable deputation to Jerusalem upon this important matter. They received no direct an-swer, for it was nothing to the Lord their God whether they fasted or not, since He had not commanded it, and could notaccept their will-worship at their hands.Learn this, then, with regard to all religious ceremonies whatever. If they are not expressly commanded of God, it isa small matter how men keep them. In fact, it were vastly better if they left them alone. Some time ago in convocation,the very wonderful question was discussed as to whether a child’s father and mother might be its godfather and god-mother. Is there not a prior question? Does the Lord ordain such offices in His Word? And again, has He anywherecommanded infants to be sprinkled?What matters it how the deed is done if the Lord has not ordained it in Holy Scripture? To the Law and to the testi-mony. If you find it not there, though you keep every rubric of your Church, you have not done it unto God, for He hasnot required it at your hands. “In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” I wouldthat all our Churches were willing to search for the foundation of all their ceremonies in Scripture. This is the way topromote true Christian unity. Not to hide our views but to speak plainly. Not to settle down upon our old rituals, but toexamine them and see whether they are of God or not, for let us be sure of this—if we do anything which is not accordingto God’s Word, in whatever spirit we may do it, or however well we may perform it—it is not a service that God canaccept of us.However, though these deputies obtained no answer upon that point, since it was not material whether they did fastor not, yet they had some information upon a much more vital matter. They were informed by the questions asked of them, that all religion must have God for its object, or else it was nothing before Him. The question was solemnly askedof them and upon its answer all depended—“When you fasted did you fast unto Me? Or when you feasted on your solemnfeast days did you not eat to yourselves and drink to yourselves?”I shall try, this morning, to work out this great Scriptural Truth, first showing that in our religious worship our do-ing it unto God is the main thin g. Secondly, that in the world our service to God must be done for His own sake, or else it isnothin g. And, thirdly, we shall use our text as a test of our condition before God, asking ourselves solemnly whether we    God or Self—Which? Sermon #438www.spurgeongems.org   Volume 8   22 have lived unto God, or whether we have been all this while living to ourselves, eating to ourselves, and drinking to our-selves. I. First of all, then, WITH REGARD TO OUR RELIGIOUS WORSHIP. You know, Brethren, there are variousmodes in which the Christian Church attempts to worship God. And we are not about, this morning, to discuss the ac-ceptableness of these different methods—whether it shall be by book or extemporary—whether it shall be with sound of music or with the joyous voices of men and women. Whether the ceremony shall be pompous or simple—whether it shall be under the consecrated dome, or in an ordinary chamber.These are matters of secondary importance, for they concern only the carcass, while we have now to deal with thesoul of worship. We are apt to fall into a mistake and value the services of Sunday for something which God does not re-gard. For instance, in the singing of God’s praises it is well to have melody that we may sing with our understanding aswell as with our spirit. But after all, if any man shall be satisfied because his voice has been in tune and time, in singingthe words of the Psalm, and if he shall think that therefore he has praised God, alas, how mistaken he is!Or in the prayer. If we shall think that a certain fluency, an apparent reverence and propriety of expression are theonly necessary things, and if we forget that we are worshipping God, alas, what is our prayer? We might as well have been dumb. And if in preaching our hearers shall regard merely the orthodoxy of the doctrine, or the eloquence, or thefitness of the style, alas, they have not worshipped God, because in all this they forget the question “Have you heard  asunto God? Have you sung  as unto God? Did you  pray as unto God?”For if not, though the sermon is orthodox and eloquent, though the singing is as the voice of many waters, thoughthe prayer goes up to Heaven and seems to be unexceptionable in expression, yet the worship is only vain and worthless,lacking holiness unto the Lord  , since it is not done as unto God and is not really an offering unto Him. Take that as theguide, this morning, and I think I may speak home to your consciences.How many who frequent the House of Prayer, worship God carelessly ? They sing, but with no more heart than if they were singing in their own houses some common ditty. The prayer is offered and often that is the dullest part of theservice, and their eyes are gazing about here and there. Or if the eyes of the head are shut, the eyes of their hearts are openenough, looking not, however, to God, but to vanity. And when the sermon is delivered they care but little for its pre-cious message, or if they lend some attention, yet what a weariness it is!You see in some congregations nodding heads and eyes that are given to slumber. They think there is nothing par-ticular in hearing the Gospel. They listen to the entreaty of God’s ambassador as to a thrice told tale but that is all. Wereit an oration upon politics, they night be a great deal more enthusiastic than they are, and if it were anything whichtouched their personal estates, they would be forward to catch every word. But as it is only about their souls , only about eternity , only about God  , it does not mean much!Now, think—do you really think that your thus coming up to God’s House is acceptable in His sight? If you comethus, you have not come to Him. You have not come to worship Him . How can He take this at your hands? What wouldyou think if a courtier, who should pretend to be doing honor to his monarch, should be nodding before the throne,sleeping in the audience chamber? What would you think if some person should have the audience of a king, and whilethe petition is yet in his hands, should be gazing about with a vacant stare, or turning his back upon the throne?Surely this were insult, instead of homage, and well might the gates of the palace be barred forever against thewretch whose conduct should be thus infamous. Let us take care that we are not satisfied with merely sitting in our pewsand maintaining an apparently decorous behavior in God’s House, for— “God abhors the sacrifice,Where not the heart is found.”   A larger number of our attendants miss the mark in another way. They are not altogether careless, but still theirworship is not done as unto God, for they are content with the service itself. Provided they have sung—have somewhat joined in the prayer—and to some degree enjoyed the service, they are content, although no dew from Heaven rests upontheir hearts. They look merely to man and no further, and if the minister should be in a low frame of mind—and whatmortal can help that at times?—these persons, never having learned to seek God in His sanctuary, say that it was nomeans of Divine Grace to their souls.  Sermon #438   God or Self—Which?Volume 8www.spurgeongems.org 33 The pitcher was empty and as they had not learned to draw directly from the well, they went home thirsty. Theylooked to the man and never thought of his Master  . It is no marvel that the opportunity has been a lost one to them.Blessed are they who come up to God’s House to use the means, but not to rest in them—but rather desiring to find theGod of the means in the means! Oh, how glorious it is when the song carries me up to Heaven’s courts! How blessed whenthe prayer is offered, if my soul can breathe its desire into the ear of Christ and have fellowship with Him. Oh, it is blessedto be in God’s House when the Lord Himself is in our midst!What if the preacher should miscarry?—if all the while I am lifting up my heart to God, desiring that His Truthshould be blessed to me, I shall profit under him. He may be clownish, but he will not be so to me. His expressions may beout of order, but they will reach my heart. And even if  his heart should not be affected, yet mine will be if I am havingdealings with God and not with man.Oh, how many of you come here to hear the man , to gratify your curiosity, to regale your ears, to find matter forconversation—but not to behold the beauty of the Lord, nor to enquire in His Temple. Well, we are glad to see you any-how, for we hope that being in the way, God will meet with you. But I would have you savingly converted, and then youwill come here to hear God’s Word, to talk to God, to speak to God. Is it not true that some of you do not use the Day of Rest and the House of Prayer for their real purpose, which is that man may meet with God?There was a man who professed great love to his friend and therefore he would spend a day in his company. Herapped at the door and the servant said the master was not at home. “It does not matter,” he said, “I will wait inside andtake my ease. I shall do quite as well though the master is not at home if you will bring me abundance to eat and drink.”So he entered and took a chair and made himself very comfortable and feasted to his heart’s content. And he went home boasting that he had enjoyed the visit.Then his companions asked him—“Was the master there?” “Oh no, he was not there.” “But I thought you went tosee him ?” He had pretended a great desire to have converse with his friend but evidently he was lying, for if he had goneto see the master and the master had not been at home, he would have said—“Well, I will call another day but I havemissed my errand this time.”So there are some who go up to the House of God. They think they go there to worship the Lord  . They have no en- joyment of His Presence, they have no communion with His Son, they have no indwelling of His Spirit but they enjoy theday for all that, which shows they did not go to worship God at all. When we put the question to them—“Did you at allfast unto the Lord” their answer must be—“No, verily, we only sought self. We did not seek the Master’s Presence.”But there are others and these are not a few, who think they worship God acceptably when they merely do so as amatter of custom . It is a lamentable fact that in many of the suburban parts of this great city, where new villas are risingup, thousands of the people never attend any place of worship—Iwill not say because, being in the country, they are withdrawn from the wholesome restraints of society, but because, atany rate they do not feel its constraints.They can spend the morning in bed, or the afternoon in the garden, too glad that they are not under the sorrowful burden of going to a place of worship. But with some of you it is the reverse. You are in such a position that you wouldhardly be counted respectable if you did not frequent a Church or Chapel—and so you go. The Sunday morning veryproperly sees you arrayed in your best garments and you enter the House of God with the multitude. But if you go thereonly as a matter of custom, do not think that God accepts your worship, for you rather obey your neighbors than yourGod.Have you ever heard of the traveler, who, when he was in Protestant England, was accounted a devout follower of the Reformers? Sometime, when his course of journey led him to Rome, and as often as there was the mass, he might beobserved among the crowd, bowing as they bowed, a thorough Papist. Soon he made a journey to Mecca that he mightsee the world and there, among the Mohammedan, he was as reverent as any—quite willing to receive the dogma of theProphet.Some who heard of it said, “What is this? How can you act so?” And he said, “Oh, when I am in Rome, I do as Romedoes. And when I am at London, I do as London does. And when I am at Mecca I do as Mecca may do. It is all the same tome,” and straightway all who knew him despised him. We have some such in England. They happen to live near Christian    God or Self—Which? Sermon #438www.spurgeongems.org   Volume 8   44 people and they do the same as they do. Oh, my dear Hearers, I fear many of you would have been idolaters if that had been the custom of the country, and if so, what is the value of your worship?No doubt, also, there is a small sprinkling of people attending all places of worship who come as a matter of profit  ,which is detestable. We have heard of some country towns—I do not think it takes place much in London, for it does notpay—where people ask, “Which is the most respectable congregation in this town? We must take a seat there.” Nowwhat are they doing when they pretend to be worshipping God? Why, Sirs, if that is the reason why they go to a certainplace of worship, they are following their trade on the Lord’s day—and as far as the sin of it goes, they might as wellhave their shop open as shut—for they carry their shops on their backs to the place of worship.We suspect that some come among us for this reason. Christ had such followers. There were loaves and fishes to begiven away, and therefore they fell into raptures—“What a sweet Preacher! What a profitable ministry! We are so fedunder Him.” And they flocked in multitudes to listen to Him that they might afterwards eat and be filled.I remember one case of this kind that came under my own knowledge. Preaching about in the country, I had oftennoticed in a certain county, a man in a smock frock who was a regular follower. He seemed to be amazingly attentive tothe service, and thinking that he looked an extremely poor man, I one day gave him five shillings. When I preachedtwenty miles off he was there again, and I gave him some more help fancying that he was a tried child of God. When I waspreaching in another place in the same county, he was there again! The thought suddenly struck me whether that man didnot find something more attractive in the palms of my hands than in the words of my lips, so I gave him no more.The next time I saw him he put himself in my way but I avoided him. And then, at last being again in the samecounty, he came up and asked me to give him something. “No,” I said, “you will not have anything now. I see what youhave come for. You have only come pretending to delight in the Word and to be so profited by it, whereas it is profit youget out of me, not profit from the Gospel.” These people—there are such in all congregations—ought, at least, to bewell aware that their pretended worship of God is detestable in His sight.If you have had meat in your hands and a dog has followed you, you might feel pleased that the dog had taken agreat affection to your person. But as soon as the meat was gone, when he turned his tail, you discovered that it was anaffection for the meat  and not for you. Such are some who come to God’s House. They have an affection for what is given by the charity of the saints, but they have no love to the saints nor to the saints’ Master. The sooner such people mendtheir ways, the better. This cupboard love, this love of God for what they get out of Him, is despicable to honest men,and it must be an abomination in the sight of the Most High.Once more only upon this point. Beyond a doubt, some public worship is offered by those who attend our sanctuar-ies, in the idea that they are getting merit by it  . Well, Sir, and so you prayed because you thought to atone for sin by it?You sang to help yourself to Heaven? You heard a sermon to help yourself to be accepted before God? You have done itto yourself, and the Lord’s voice to you is—“Did you at all fast unto Me, even to Me? Did you not eat unto yourselvesand drink unto yourselves?”All religious worship done with a view that we may thereby be meritoriously saved, is really only a service renderedunto our own interests and not unto God. How can we expect the Eternal One to accept as an offering to Himself, what isreally an offering to our own selfishness? “But is not a man to do anything to save himself?” you ask. No, I answer—NO!NO! NO! He is to let Christ save him. By faith, he is to put himself in Christ’s hands, that Christ may save him. Then afterthat he may do as much as ever he can out of  gratitude  to his Savior.Why, Sirs, when your servile works are done to gain a righteousness, do you think you win the approbation of Heaven? What? Build a palace for God out of the mud of your own selfishness? Think that God can be bribed to bless you by deeds which you have done with self as a motive? God hates that which a man does with the idea that he can win theLord’s love. You must come to God as undeserving of anything at His hands. Take His love and His mercy freely, and then go and do good works, and pray, and sing, and preach if you can, but never with a view of getting good to your-selves—but only that you may glorify Him and at last may enter into His rest.I say, and with this I leave the point, that that Worship, and that worship only, which is for God and not for self inany sense, God accepts. And whether it is with a view to temporal profit, or from mere custom, or with a view to merit,that we attend to spiritual ordinances, rites, ceremonies, or what not—we have done nothing that God can receive—and we might as well have left the whole undone.
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