This is David & Susan Sifford's journal of what we pray is our sojourn of life (Hebrews 11:8-10) along the narrow way (Matt 7:14), even the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), submitting to the Bible as a light unto both (Psalms 119:105). It is our prayer that these documented moments in our earthly time benefit whom God might choose to edify, but ultimately that God glorifies Himself through them.

Category: idolatry

David’s Digest: The Carnal Life

James 4:13 – “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”

Where are our hearts truly? With God or the things of the world?

Luke 12:34 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Puritan Thomas Manton in his excellent work “A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition with Notes, on the Epistle of James” discusses the life of carnal persons and the things important to them.

How do we compare?

You can listen to all of verse 13 here:

 


or download it:
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The entire book is available here: https://ia800904.us.archive.org/2/items/apracticalcomme01mantgoog/apracticalcomme01mantgoog.pdf#page=375, and this section starts on PDF page 375 (in the print, page 356), or you can get it in other formats here

…or you can listen to the entire book on this page:
Thomas Manton – James Commentary

From Thomas Manton:

Verse 13. – Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”

Ye that say, “To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, etc.” By an imitation he recites the speeches or thoughts of the Jewish factors or merchants: Now we will go to Alexandria, or to Damascus, or to Antioch, which were the places of their usual traffic [for business]. Observe hence,

Obs 1. That carnal hearts are all for carnal projects. Thoughts are the purest offspring of the soul, and do discover the temper of it. Men are according to their devices; see Isa. xxxii. 6, 7: “Liberal men devise liberal things.” Carnal men are projecting how to spend their days and months in buying and selling, and getting gain. The fool in the Gospel is thinking of enlarging his barns, and plucking down his houses, and building greater (Luke xi. 17, 18): this engrosses all his thoughts.

One apostle describes such men thus, “Minding earthly things” (Phil. iii. 19). Another thus, “Having a heart exercised with covetous practices” (2 Pet. ii. 14); that is, with earnest contrivances how to promote their gain and earthly aims.

A gracious heart is for gracious projects, how they shall be more thankful (Psa. cxvi. 12), how more holy, more useful for God, more fruitful in every good work; “what they shall do to inherit eternal life.” Oh! consider, this is the better care, that more suits with the end [purpose] of our creation and the nature of our spirits. We were sent into the world, not to grow great and pompous, but to enrich our souls with spiritual excellencies, etc.

Obs 2. Again you may observe, that carnal men send out their thoughts to forestall and fore-enjoy their contentments ere [before] they obtain them. [ie. looking forward to expected events and enjoyments with excitement] It is usual with men to feed themselves with the pleasure of their hopes. Sisera’s mother’s ladies looked through the lattice, pleasing themselves in the thought of a triumphant return (Judg. v.).

Thoughts are the spies and messengers of the soul; hope sends them out after the thing expected, and love after the thing beloved. When a thing is strongly expected, the thoughts are wont [often] to spend themselves in creating images and suppositions of the happiness of enjoyment. If a poor man were adopted into the succession of a crown, he would please himself in the supposition of the future honour and pleasure of the kingly state. Godly men, that are called to be co-heirs with Christ, are wont [often] to pre-occupy the bliss of their future estate, and so do in a manner feel what they do but expect.

So also do carnal men charm their souls with whispers of vanity, and feed themselves with the pleasant anticipation of that carnal delight which they look for: as young heirs spend upon their hopes, and riot away their estate ere [before] they possess it.

Well then, look to it; it is a sure note of fleshliness, when the world runs so often in your thoughts, and you are always deflowering [corrupting] carnal contentments [in this case I believe lawful ones] by these anticipations of lust [generally, any corrupt desire in the heart] and sin; and you have nothing to live upon, or to entertain your spirit withal, but these suppositions of gain and pomp, and the reversion [future possession] of some outward enjoyment.

Obs 3. Again, you may observe their confidence of future events. “We will go, and continue there a year,” etc. Note from that, that carnal affections are usually accompanied with, certainly much encouraged by, carnal confidence. They are doubly confident: of the success of their endeavours. “We will get gain”; of the continuance of their lives, “We will continue there a year.” Lust [corrupt desires] cannot be nourished without a presumption of success.

When men multiply endeavours, they liittle think of God, or of the changes of providence. [If they were to], It is [or would be] enough to undo [sadly, to them, take away from them their] lust [corrupt desire] to suppose [that] a disappointment [might happen].

Besides, when there is such a presence of means [wealth, prosperity], we ascribe little to the highest cause [God and His providence, how He causes things to happen in our lives]. First the world steals away our affections, and then it intercepts our trust: there is not only adultery in it (James iv. 4), but idolatry (Eph. v. 5). It is not only our darling, but our god; and that is the reason why worldly men are always represented as men of a secure presumption; as, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke xii 9). “I shall die in my nest, and multiply my days as the sand” (Job xxix. 18). So in that apocryphal passage, “I have found rest, and will eat continually of my goods, and yet he knoweth not what time shall come upon him” (Ecclus. xi. 19). They think now they have enough to secure them against all chances [happenstances].

Well then, look to your confidence and trust: when you are getting an estate, is your expectation founded in faith, or lust [corrupt desire]? When you have gotten an estate, where lies the assurance of your contentment, in the promises or your outward welfare?

Obs 4. Again, from that to-day or to-morrow, and we will tarry there a year. Carnal men are not only confident of present, but future welfare; which argues a heart stupidly [insensibly, like in a stupor] secure, and utterly insensible of the changes of Providence: “To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundantly” (Isa. Ivi. 12): “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever” (Psa. xlix. 11).

Men love to enjoy their carnal comforts without interruption, thought of death, or change. Every day is as a new life, and brings sufficient care with it; we need not look out for so long time. But worldly men in their cares do not only provide for the morrow, but the next year, in their possessions; do not only please themselves in their present happiness, but will not so much as suppose a change.

May God grant the things of the world be seen as the vain things they are. May our hearts be with spiritual things and all our desires be toward Christ Jesus, being in union with Him, loving Him, adoring Him, and worshipping Him in our hearts, minds, words and actions!

1 John 2:15 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Psalm 27:4 – “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

— David

David’s Digest: 10 Years of the Broken Idol

I would like to share something personal yet glorious to God. These are what I’ve come to believe about certain things; and I thought I would share them, to indeed give God the glory; to magnify His infinite graces, mercies, faithfulness, goodness, forbearance, and other attributes; and perhaps in the possibility they might help someone else.

Ten years ago today, the Lord granted I stop excessive alcohol drinking….again.

The first was in 1999, where God turned me from living a heathen life to stopping the partying and living for Him, attending church and really seeking Him.

Now, I’ll assume we can all agree that alcohol abuse is a sin:

1 Cor 6:9-10 – “9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Gal 5:19-23 – “19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

I also personally believe that alcohol in and of itself is lawful in the Bible. I don’t want to get into that here, but I do believe it is when done properly.

A little more than 5 1/2 years later, I thought that, since what I thought were the reasons I was drinking before were not a part of my life anymore, it seemed reasonable that I could participate in something biblicly lawful in a lawful way.

Sadly, that ended up not being the case, and eventually after about 4 years, I was participating in it quite unlawfully, to a very bad degree again.

However, once again, the Lord in His infinite mercies, saw fit to help me stop again, and grant repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim 2:5), as it appears.

My sin is ever before me though, especially with the aggravation of living hypocritically (20 years ago I wasn’t trying to live a Christian life while I was drinking, but this time I was), and that at the time I was an elder in this community (which I am not now); and I sadly believe my sin affected not only Sue, but the group in spiritual and temporal ways, even in ways only God knows about. I will forever grieve for all of this. I pray those affected will forgive me, and thanks to those who bore with me, especially Sue, a truly godly woman and wife.

So then I wondered, what happened? How did it get so bad again given the original motivation didn’t seem to be there anymore?

And then I read a book that talked about idols of the heart, and when I got to the one about comfort, I knew that was it. I worshipped comfort — physical, emotional, whatever comfort — and alcohol helped provide that.

Here is one of the Webster’s 1828 definitions of idolatry:

Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.

And one for idol:

Any thing on which we set our affections; that to which we indulge an excessive and sinful attachment. An idol is any thing which usurps the place of God in the hearts of his rational creatures.

God is our comfort…

1 Cor 1:3-4 – “3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

…and my desire for comfort was excessive and was put in the place of God. That is plain idolatry. In fact, all sin has idolatry in it, where God says do or do not do this, and we say we know better than God, thus declaring ourselves to be god. It even was the promise for the sin in the garden, to be as God.

God says not to drink alcohol unlawfully, but I said, my desire is to my own comfort, regardless of what you say, God.

How heinous. But sin is heinous, because it’s against a perfectly holy, loving, and good God. And doubly so when we do it even though we say we love God.

And so, my prayer has been that God would remove the idols of my heart, especially because He is the searcher of the heart, and only He knows it perfectly:

Jer 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

1 Chron 28:9 – “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

Psa 44:21 – “Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.

Psa 139:23 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

Here is what God says about idols of the heart in Ezekiel 14, and what He will do to those who maintain them:

2 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

3 Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?

4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;

5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.

6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

7 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself:

8 And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.

9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

10 And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;

11 That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord God.

God is God, regardless. However, if He will be our God, then He alone must be God. Nothing else can be looked upon for our trust, or comfort, or safety, or anything. God is the placeholder for all of these things, and if we do not behave toward Him in that way, we are idolaters.

And so, the first time I stopped drinking, all I did was tear off the tops of the weeds, when in reality, the roots were still there…in my heart.

I know that I can never drink again casually, because for me, it will slowly be building up that idol again, stone by stone. There might not be much to see at first, but eventually, before I’d know it, it would be standing tall once again with me bowing to it. God forbid!

Rom 3:10-12 – “10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

It is only by God’s graces do we do anything truly spiritual, in matter and in manner. Without Him, we only have our carnal man, and that does no good, nor seeks for God. And so, we need to seek from Him the breaking down of the idols of the heart, for repentance, and for love to Him above all other loves.

While dealing with the struggle against seeking comfort from creation is not a constant with me at this time, I believe that God helps me every single day with this. And while I know I can never drink casually again, that doesn’t mean without His help each moment I would make it, and I fully believe left to myself, I will not. And again, while the struggle is not much on my mind now, I still at times ask Him for help to not drink this day, or thank Him for helping me not drink this day, to be grateful to Him, and to make sure I remember that I am powerless without Him.

Ps 73:25-26 – “25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

May God grant us that to be true.

I am eternally grateful to the Lord for granting what appears to be repentance, the sight of my heart idols, and what I pray is a true hatred of them and all sin, not because of the consequences, but out of love for Him and the offensiveness they are to the One I love. And I thank Him for the great atoning work of Christ Jesus, forgiveness and cleansing from sin by His precious blood!

Although I certainly do not want to diminish the difficulty of all this — nay, impossibility without God — and your personal struggles with it, and the emotional, psychological and physiological aspects of alcohol dependency, I pray if you’re struggling with these types of things that maybe you’ll consider some of the above.

And most of all, do not ever leave the foot of Christ, in beseeching Him for mercy, help and His graces to live idol-free, especially from the secret ones of your heart.

And He is faithful. In the heart-idol verses from Ezekiel above, He says He afflicts the people so they will be His people and He will be their God. How gloriously gracious and merciful indeed!

Deut 7:9 – “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Thank the Lord, and may God’s graces and mercies be with you.

— David