The Vexation of Vanity: A Word from Richard Sibbes about New Year’s Resolutions

new years.jpegVexation always follows vanity,
when vanity is not apprehended to be where it is.
— Richard Sibbes —

In his treatise The Soul’s Conflict with Itself, Richard Sibbes, notes many causes of despair. Among them is vainglory, the pursuit of passions which are intended to elevate the soul with earthly things.

On the first day of the year, when New Year’s Resolutions abound—our own family wrote down goals for 2020 this morning—Sibbes words are a good tonic to prevent ascribing too much hope to our earthly abilities and how they might achieve “glory” for ourselves in 2020.

On this first day of the year, I am glad I read Sibbes’ words and I share them with other glory-seekers. He states that one “positive cause” of soul conflict comes from . . .

When men lay up their comfort too much on outward things, which, being subject to much inconstancy and change, breed disquiet. Vexation always follows vanity, when vanity is not apprehended to be where it is. In that measure we are cast down in the disappointing of our hopes, as we were too much lifted up in expectation of good from them. Whence proceed these complaints:

    • Such a friend hath failed me;
    • I never thought to have fallen into this condition;
    • I had settled my joy in this child, in this friend, &c.

But this is to build our comfort upon things that have no firm foundation, to build castles in the air, Continue reading

Ten Looks at Christ: A New Year’s Meditation on Isaiah 61:1–3

Ten Looks at Christ: A New Year’s Meditation on Isaiah 61:1–3

Robert Murray McCheyne said famously and wisely: “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Jesus.” On this last day of 2017, we spent our Sunday considering the person and work of Christ from Isaiah 61:1–3.

This sermon wraps up a three-part series on Isaiah 59–61 and encourages us to look to Christ as we enter the new year. Indeed, whether we are coming off a great 2017 or a horrible 2017, we need to remember the gospel as we enter 2018. And today’s sermon aimed to help us do that.

You can listen to the sermon here or read the sermon notes. Discussion questions and additional resources can be found below. May Christ grow large in your eyes and your hear in 2018. Continue reading

Ten Looks at Christ

heidi-sandstrom-311667As 2017 finishes and we look ahead to 2018, let us not fall into the trap of only looking at ourselves. How easily and yet how discouraging (or self-exalting) it can be to only look at our achievements in 2017 or our plans in 2018, and to do so while missing Christ, his work, and his plans.

Instead, as we finish one year and go into the next, let us look to Christ first and most. Let us give thanks for all he has given us and pray for grace to walk in the plans he has for us. And from this settled place of rest in him, let us evaluate 2017 and plan for 2018.

On this note, Robert Murray McCheyne’s wise counsel stands, some 177 years after it was written.

Learn much of your own heart; and when you have learned all you can, remember you have seen but a few yards into a pit that is unfathomable. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9). Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in his almighty arms. Cry after divine knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding. Seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasure, according to the word in Prov. 2:4. See that verse 10 be fulfilled in you. “Let wisdom enter into your hearts, and knowledge be pleasant to your soul; so you will be delivered from the snares mentioned in the following verses. Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him. Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh. (Letter to Mr. George Shaw, Belfast, 16 Sept 1840).

In 2018 let us look to Christ. And from a steady gaze upon him, may we consider ourselves.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds