Recently I read the creation narratives in Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-25. I’ve read them lots of times, but something special emerged this time. That’s one of the things that is so wonderful about God’s Word—it prompts lots of “Wow! I’ve never seen that before” reactions!
I have a pretty strong aesthetic side. I love stunning sunsets, birds at our bird feeder, fragrant gardens, the smell of freshly cut grass, a rising harvest moon, the crashing waves of the sea, a burbling brook cascading over the rocks through the forest, and the warmth of the sun on my face. I love the massive power of a lion’s roar, and get a kick out of watching the busy squirrels in my backyard risk their lives by jumping from tree to tree on flimsy branches 30 feet off the ground. And who doesn’t thrill at the colors of fall, which put to shame my lame attempts to match clothes early in the morning! And, best of all, my wife Martie still excites and entices me. I easily identify with God’s statement when He observed, “It is not good for the man to be alone!” (Genesis 2:18). Imagine how Adam must have felt when he woke up to see Eve standing there. He was no longer alone in many wonderful ways.
What impacted my heart when I read the creation story was the reality that all of this spectacular provision of God is a gift from Him to me. It is free, profoundly yet beautifully simple, satisfying, always fresh, always new, and intriguingly diverse. It stimulates my emotions, triggers my curiosity, and does something good way down deep inside. I agree with God when He said that it was “good.” It’s really good!
And what grabbed my head was the thought that compared to what man creates, God’s awe-inspiring creation is far more worthy and compelling. We create things that intrigue for the moment but rarely, if ever, satisfy in the long run. Our best stuff becomes outdated and quickly loses its capacity to thrill and excite. Where do you think the phrase “been there, done that” comes from? Not from God’s creation, that’s for sure!
The stuff that usually attracts my attention and triggers my consumer instinct is headed for the dumpster only to be buried in a garbage mountain dotted with stink pipes to vent the toxic gasses of its demise. Even the car that I love is headed for the giant metal crusher to be recycled into another nifty car that is destined for the same fate. High-tech toys are soon low-tech relics of the past. Which, when I think about it, makes me feel a lot like the proverbial donkey chasing the carrot.
So, bravo for God, who once more outstrips all the best efforts of any competitor and provides something to take me beyond my tiny, usually disappointing world. And to think that He made us with the capacity to appreciate and enjoy all that He has made! How dull it would be if He had made this greatest show on earth and not wired us with the equipment to be enraptured by it all.
The next time you see the sky ablaze with a spectacular sunset or marvel at the stars and the depth of the universe on a cloudless night, don’t just say, “What a wonderful sight!” Find your heart rejoicing: “What an awesome God!”
Take time to smell the roses. Or, to be more specific, to worship and glorify God for the really good stuff He has given us! When you do, you’ll never stop being amazed at how marvelous our God really is!
- Think of how you feel about something you cherish that is manmade. Do you tend to worship it? When was the last time you worshiped God by cherishing His creation?
- Take some time today to observe some of the good aspects of God’s creation. Make a mental list of those things and express your appreciation to God for the way His creation satisfies you. Be specific!
- Read Paul’s advice to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17. What things has God richly provided for your enjoyment?
When the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him —Genesis 15:12
Do I trust at all in the flesh? Or have I learned to go beyond all confidence in myself and other people of God? Do I trust in books and prayers or other joys in my life? Or have I placed my confidence in God Himself, not in His blessings? “I am Almighty God . . .”— El-Shaddai, the All-Powerful God (Genesis 17:1). The reason we are all being disciplined is that we will know God is real. As soon as God becomes real to us, people pale by comparison, becoming shadows of reality. Nothing that other saints do or say can ever upset the one who is built on God.
In the fourth year of Solomon‘s rule over Israel he built the temple of Jehovah. The temple was ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high. The porch before the large room of the temple was thirty feet wide and fifteen feet deep. Solomon made windows for the temple with casings, broad on the inside and narrow on the outside.
The temple was built with stone which had been made ready at the quarry; neither hammer nor chisel nor any iron tool was heard while the temple was building. Against the wall of the temple on the outside Solomon built wings, both around the larger room and the inner room, and made side-chambers around the temple.
The entrance to the lower side-chambers was on the south side of the temple. Winding stairs led to the second floor, and from the second to the third. Solomon built the wings against the sides of the temple, each seven and a half feet high; and they were joined to the temple with timbers of cedar.
He covered the walls of the temple on the inside with boards of cedar from the floor of the temple to the rafters: and he covered the floor of the temple with boards of cypress.
He also made a room thirty feet square in the back part of the temple with boards of cedar reaching from the floor to the rafters. He built it as an inner room, even as the most holy place. The temple, that is the large room in front of the inner room, was sixty feet long. And there was cedar inside the temple with carving in the form of gourds and open flowers. All was cedar, no stone was seen. Solomon prepared the inner room as a place for the ark.
In the inner room Solomon made two winged bulls of olive wood. The height of each was fifteen feet. Each of their wings measured seven and a half feet across, fifteen feet from the end of one wing to the end of the other. He set these up in the inner room of the temple; and their wings were stretched out so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the temple; and he covered them with gold.
Then Solomon gathered in Jerusalem the leaders of Israel to bring up the ark of Jehovah out of Zion, the City of David, at the time of the autumn festival in September. When all the leaders of Israel had come, the priests took up the ark and the tent of meeting and all the sacred vessels that were in the tent. So the priests brought in the ark of Jehovah to its place in the inner room of the temple under the wings of the winged bulls. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb. And when the priests came out from the inner room, the cloud filled the temple of Jehovah, so that the priests could not stand and perform their service on account of the cloud, for the glory of Jehovah filled his temple.
Then Solomon said:
“Jehovah has set the sun in the heavens,
But has said that he will dwell in thick darkness.
So I have built thee a temple as a lofty dwelling,
A place for thee to abide in forever.”
As Solomon stood before the altar of Jehovah in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, he spread out his hands toward heaven and said, “O Jehovah, the God of Israel, there is no God like thee in heaven above or on earth beneath, who keepest thy solemn agreement and showest kindness to thy servants who serve thee whole-heartedly, who hast kept with thy servant David my father the promise that thou didst make to him.
“But will God actually dwell on earth? Indeed heaven and the highest heaven cannot hold thee; how much less this temple that I have built!”
“Thou desirest truth in the inward parts.” Psa 51:6
There is a remarkable foreshadowing of the insight of Christ Jesus in these words. They ring with that depth which is so clear a note of Jesus’ moral teaching. We have been inclined to think of the Old Testament as dealing with the outward sphere of action; we have been inclined to say that it was Jesus who first ran down the act into the heart. But we must not separate the Old and New by any hard and fast distinctions such as these. They intermingle, both in creed and character. If Abraham saw Christ‘s day and was glad, David saw Christ’s day and was sad. He recognized God’s passionate insistence that a man should be thoroughly sincere.
It is worth noting, too, that when David recognized this, he had a broken heart. David had sinned, and David was repentant; and a repentant man sees deeply. There are some hours in life when we are blind; hours when we see nothing and forget everything; and all our past, and all our honor and duty and God, and heaven and hell, fade and are blotted out. But when repentance comes, we see again. We see what we have done and what we are. We touch a sinfulness far deeper than our act. And that was David’s case. On ordinary days he might have been content with ordinary sacrifices; but in an hour like this it was “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,” and “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts.”
This, then, is God’s insistence on sincerity, and it is always a hard thing to be sincere. Life is so full of little insincerity’s that it is often the man who is seriously struggling to be true who feels most keenly how untrue he is. It is always a hard thing to be sincere. But there are times when it is harder than at other times. And it is especially hard today.
One reason it is so hard to be sincere is the fierce struggle for existence. There is a fierceness in modern competition that makes it very hard for a man to be a man. There are so many interests involved, so many whirling wheels within the wheels, that to be true to self is difficult. Men are not free as the shepherd on the hills is free. Men are combined and interlocked in the great mechanism of modern life until at last, to say what a man thinks and to be what a man is, is one of the quiet heroisms of honesty. Thank God, there are such heroisms!–as worthy of honor as any deed upon the battlefield. But when to be sincere spells heroism, we must not wonder if insincerity is common. Few men are heroes. For one soul that has a passion for sincerity, there are a hundred that have an overriding passion for success. And this, and the great gulf between Monday’s warfare and Sunday’s worship, and the compliance’s and the accommodations and the silences, have tinged our city life with insincerity.
The Pressure of Public Opinion
I think, too, it is harder to be sincere because of the increasing pressure of public opinion. It seems there never was a time when the thought of so many was so quickly voiced and registered. For centuries the people had no voice. They lived and loved and had their griefs and died. But what their thought might be on the great themes mattered no more to their rulers than the thought of brutes. Then came the awakening of knowledge, the dawn of power, the rising of the people like a giant, the vote, the newspaper; until today the thought of the people has been caught and voiced, and public opinion is a dominant power. It is an untold blessing. But the voice of the people is not always the voice of God, and in the tremendous pressure of general opinion, it is harder for a man to be himself. It is a difficult thing to be an individual. I am so apt to be all warped and pressed out of the mental form that God has given me until my life becomes play acting and all the world a stage, and I don’t have the courage to think, and I don’t have the heart to feel, and I don’t have the heroism to be myself. And losing my individuality, I cease to be sincere.
A Time of Transition
But perhaps the deepest cause of insincerity is that we are living in a time of transition. All times to some extent are that. There is never an age, however dull and dead, but the old like a river is watering its plains, and the new like a spring leaps up into the light. But there are some times when the transition is very sharp and clear, and we are living in such a time as that today. Old things are passing away. Old faiths are in the crucible again. Old truths have got to be recast and readjusted. There is not a doctrine, whether of heart or Bible, but earnest minds are trying to reset it in the growing knowledge of these latter days. In one pew a father and a son are sitting; and though the father may never dream of it, there is the space of centuries between the two. For the father, with all the loyalty of his heart, still clings to the great message of the past; and to the son the strain is to reconcile that message of his childhood with the wider horizon that he cannot yield.
That is the pain of a transition time. There can be little question that for many the only antidote for that pain is insincerity. It is impossible, it is utterly wrong, to cast away the past. It has meant too much to us and been too much to us for that. It is impossible, it is utterly wrong, to flout the new. It is the air we breathe. So springs the temptation to be insincere, to join in the worship that was formed and fashioned when faith was an enthusiasm, to sing the hymns that were the music of unclouded souls though the enthusiasm of our faith is gone and there are more clouds than sunshine in the sky.
Insincerity Robs a Man of His Dignity
Insincerity takes all dignity out of life, and makes this world a very low place. We think we can be insincere, and men will be tricked and never find it out. O brethren, God Almighty has His own awful ways of writing a man’s insincerity upon the heavens and engraving it as with a pen of iron on the world. All reverence is impossible, all purity is stained, and all innocence rebukes me when I am insincere. If I am false and double, I cannot hear the laughter of my children but what it sends a pang of pain into my heart. Better be excitable, better be inconsistent, better be dead than insincere. Peter was excitable, brimful of inconsistencies; yet if ever a sincere heart beat, it was the heart of Peter–and Jesus was Christ to Peter and heaven was heaven. But Judas, I don’t know what his other sins were, was insincere till he came to feel the very sincerity of Jesus was like an insult; and, insincere, he went to his own place.
Insincerity Distorts the Character
Insincerity carries yet another curse. I hardly think that there is any sin that mars and distorts the character like this one. That master theologian Augustine gave us a phrase that has become historic. He spoke of splendid sins. And perhaps there are some sins that in some lights, though not the light of God, have certain elements of splendor in them. But all the insight and all the love of Augustine could never find an element of splendor in the man or woman who had ceased to be sincere. There is no sin that so eats the manhood out of us as insincerity. There is no sin that so robs character of its quiet and restfulness and strength, and leaves it restless, shifty, self-assertive, loud. The nation has often wondered at the sweet equanimity of our revered Queen. And it was Bright who said the Queen was the most truthful being he had ever met. It is the insincere man who exaggerates. It is the insincere who flatters. It is the insincere who plays the coward in the crisis. When I have won something of the sincerity of Christ, I shall know something of His strength and peace.
Insincerity Destroys Our Influence
Surely no sin saps and undermines our influence as insincerity. Perhaps you think you have no influence. You feel yourself a very uninfluential person. Come! humblest woman reading this, it is not so! Most of us think far too much of our abilities and far too little of our influence. We are so interwoven in the web of life that we are making and molding each other every day. In ways mysterious, out of the depths of this mysterious self, we touch and turn each other. And perhaps the men who influence us most are the men who never tried to influence us at all.
Now the one bolt that falls out of the blue to shatter this unconscious influence of character is insincerity. I may be ignorant, and men may not despise me. I may be poor and still command respect. But ignorant or learned, rich or poor, once let men feel that I am insincere and all my influence for good, all my influence for God, is gone. It’s a sad hour when a son sees through his father. Sad for the father, twice sad for the son. And even if a minister have the eloquence of Paul, if his people distrust him, there will be no changed hearts. It is God’s curse on insincerity. It is the separating, isolating power of that heart-sin. There is no more heart-lonely creature in the world than the man or woman who has grown insincere. And to be heart-lonely forever, that is hell.
The Path to a Renewed Sincerity
First we must win a deeper reverence for ourselves. We must believe in individual possibilities. We must remember there are no nobodies with God. If I am only a leaf tossed by the wind, if I am only a flake carried on the stream, if I am only a light that flashes and is gone, if it will be all the same a hundred years hence, it matters little whether I am sincere or not. I must not mock myself with any self-importance. But if I am a man called into being by an everlasting God, nurtured and bosomed in an eternal love, gifted with faculties that only eternity can ripen, and filled with a ceaseless craving for the truth, to be untrue to self is self-destruction. Therefore, when I am tempted to be insincere, I fall back first upon Bible doctrine. I see my weakness there. I see my fall. But I see there such hopes for me, such possibilities for me, that to be me–myself–becomes a new ambition. And to be myself is to be sincere.
Then we must gain a profound faith in God. There is no choice about it. We simply must. I defy any man to be consciously insincere who lives under these eyes that are a flame of fire. It is because God is distant, hidden in the clouds that are around His throne, that we dare be one man within, another man without. The old religious sculptors, says a writer, who came to their tasks with prayer and meditation on unearthly beauty, would never suffer any imperfect workmanship even though placed where man could never see it. And when one questioned them why the concealed parts of statues removed from human sight should be so exquisitely made, they answered that the eyes of the gods were there. “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, my way is hid from the Lord, and my goings are passed over from my God?” It is a speech like Jacob’s that makes insincerity so easy. It is the practice of God’s presence which makes it hard.
And we must gain a closer fellowship with Christ. Of all the helps whereby I struggle onwards toward sincerity, there is none like daily fellowship with Him. If it ennobles me to live with noble souls, and makes me purer to have a pure woman for my friend, how will it shame me into a new sincerity to live with the sincerest heart that ever beat! There are some men with whom I could not gossip. There are some men in whose presence slander dies. There is one Man whose very company kills insincerity, and that is Christ. When I am near to Him, and He to me, I am proportionately true. When I have lost Him, banished Him, driven Him from His center and His throne, like a strong tide my insincerity creeps up again.
There is a sad lack of sincerity today, but let us not be blinded to the fact that sincerity is not the only virtue. I am not necessarily good, I am not necessarily right, I am not necessarily saved, because I am sincere. There is a call for new sincerity in every heart, yet that sincerity is but a stepping-stone. I may sincerely believe the earth is flat, and yet for all my sincerity the earth is round. I may sincerely consider my friend to be a hero, and yet in spite of that my friend may be a scamp. I may sincerely be convinced Christ never arose, yet Christ did arise and is at the right hand of God today. Sincerity without humility is the obstinacy out of which fools are made. The truly sincere man is always humble, feels like a child amid God’s infinite mysteries and cries in his heart, “Light, light, more light”; till God in His own way leads him there. And the light is light indeed, and the light indeed is love. And neither height nor depth, nor life nor death, nor any other creature, shall, separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.