Well, the latest book I'm reading is "Spiritual Depression: Its causes and cures" by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He retired as the minister of Westminster Chapel in 1968, and passed away in 1981. But, he has been called the "greatest Bible expositor in the English-speaking world." This book is a collection of 21 sermons originally delivered at Westminster Chapel in London. "Christian people too often seem to be perpetually in the doldrums and too often give the appearance of unhappiness and of lack of freedom and absence of joy. There is no question at all but that this is the main reason why large numbers of people have ceased to be interested in Christianity," said Lloyd-Jones. In this book he "lays bare not only the causes that have robbed Christians of spiritual vitality, but also the cure that if found through the mind and spirit of Christ."
I struggle with depression myself off and on. I know most people that I know do, too. This book has been amazing. I picked it up one day off Shane's bookshelf for lack of anything else to read. But, I believe it was God-ordained for me. It has really ministered to me. I am only about half way through, but I have been convicted and encouraged. I really think everyone needs to read this book, especially if you struggle with depression at all. He talks about the causes and cures of spiritual depression.
This last chapter I read was chapter 9, "Labourers in the Vineyard." The passage of scripture Lloyd-Jones focused on was Matthew 20:1-16, where Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard workers, and how they were all paid the same at the end of the day, whether they came early or late to work. This is a bit long, but so worth the read, if you have the time.....I was both very convicted and encouraged.
"...they [the workers who had been there all day] began to murmur. ...they are murmuring because they were not given something extra. Is that not a terrible thing? But how true it is that Christian poeple can be guilty of this very thing that our Lord here depicts-the tendency to murmur as the children of Israel did of old, and as these people did at this point, commiserating with yourself, feeling you are not given your rights, feeling you are being dealt with harshly....You remember how the Apostle Paul addresses a word about it to the Philippians. He reminds them that they are to be as luminaries in the heavens, they are to 'do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.'...What a tragic thing it is that Christian people can be miserable and murmuring instead of rejoicing in Christ Jesus. It is an outcome of the fact that they have forgotten that EVERYTHING IS OF GRACE. They have forgotten this great principle that goes right through the Christian life from the very beginning to the very end.
But, that's not all. It leads to another thing, namely, a contempt for others and at the same time a certain amount of jealousy of others.....This tendency comes in and attacks Christian people who have been faithful in their witness and who have done most excellent work. It comes in most subtle ways and makes them miserable because they feel that others have been rewarded in a greater way than they have....
But, above all, and this is the most serious and the most terrible thing of all, they had a feeling in their heart that the householder was unjust. In this conidtion they had persuaded themselves that this man was not righteous in his dealing with them. They were absolutely wrong, there was not a vestige of foundation for that attitude, but they felt it. And so the Christian is tempted of the devil to feel that God is not being fair. The devil comes to him and says: 'Look at how much you have done, and what are you getting for it? Look at that other fellow, he has done nothing yet look at what he is getting.' That is what the devil says, and these people listen to him....That is the spirit, and the thing that makes it so serious is that in that condition the Christian, unless he is very careful, will soon be ascribing unrighteousness to God. He will be feeling that God is not fair to him, that God is not giving him his rights, that God is not giving him his due.
What a miserable thing self is, what an ugly thing, what a foul thing. We are all guilty, of this, every one of us, in some shape or form. The devil comes to us and we listen, and we begin to doubt whether God is just and righteous in His dealings with us. Self needs to be exposed for what it is. Sin in its ugliness and foulness needs to be unmasked. It is not surprising that our Lord dealt with this wrong spirit in the way He did in this parable. It is the greatest enemy of the soul, and it leads to misery and unhappiness. It is bound to do so for every reason. It is utterly wrong, and there is nothing to be said in its defence.
That brings me to the cure. What is the treatment? Is is to understand the controlling principle of the Kingdom of God. That prinicple which seems so obvious but which we are so prone to forget in detail. Our Lord puts it here once and for ever. I am simply putting what He said in other words. The principle is that in the Kingdom of God everything is essentially different from everything in every other kingdom. For, he says in effect, the Kingdom of God is not like that which you have always known, it is something quite new and different. The first thing we have to realize is that 'if any man be in Christ he is a new creature (he is a new creation), old things are passed away, behold all things are new.' If only we realized as we should, that here we are in a realm in which everything is different! The whole foundation is different, it has nothing to do with the principle of the old life. We have to work this out in detail, but first let me underline again that new principle. We must say to ourselves every day of our lives: 'Now I am a Christian, and because I am a Christian I am in the Kingdom of God and all my thinking has got to be different. Everything here is different. I must not bring with me those old ideas, those old moods and concepts of thought.' We tend to confine salvation to one thing, namely forgiveness, but we have to apply the principle throughout the Christian life.
...The first thing is this. Do not think in terms of bargains and rights in the Kingdom of God. That is absolutely fatal. There is nothing so wrong as the spirit which argues that because I do this, or because I have done that, that I have a right to expect something else in return...I don't care what it is, whether prayer or anything else, in no respect must I ever argue that because I do something I am entitled to get something-never....The Holy Spirit is Lord, and He is a Sovereign Lord....we have no right to anything at all...even the rewards are of grace. He need not give them, and if you think you can determine and predict how they are to come you will be quite wrong. Everything is of grace in the Christian life from the beginning to the end....we need to watch our own spirits lest we harbour the thought that He is not dealing with us justly and fairly.
....Do not keep a record or an account of your work. Give up being book-keepers. In the Christian life we must desire nothing but His glory, nothing but to please Him. So, do not keep your eye on the clock, but keep it on Him and His work. Do not keep recording your work and labour, keep your eye on Him and His glory, on His love and His honour and the extension of His kingdom...In effect, leave the book-keeping to Him and to His grace...there is nothing so romantic as God's method of accountancy. Be prepared for surprises in this Kingdom. You never know what is going to happen. The last shall be first. What a complete reversal of our materialistic outlook, the last first, the first last, everything upside down. The whole world is turned upside down by grace. It is not of man, it is of God, it is the kingdom of God. How excellent this is.
...Paul..says: 'Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus'. You see what that means. He did not look at Himself, He did not consider Himself and His own interests only; He made Himself of no reputation, He laid aside the inisgnia of His eternal glory. He did not regard His equality with God as something to hold on to and say: 'Come what may I will not let it go.' Not at all, He laid it aside, He humbled Himself, He forgot Himself, and He went through and endured and did all He did, looking only to the glory of God. Nothing else mattered to Him but that the Father should be glorified and that men and women should come to the Father. That is the secret. Not watching the clock, not assessing the amount of work, not keeping a record in a book, but forgetting everything except the glory of God, the privilege of being called to work for Him at all, the privilege of being a Christian, remembering only the grace that has ever looked upon us and removed us from darkness to light.
It is grace at the beginning, grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie upon our deathbeds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us at the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Christian life starts with grace, it must continue with grace, it ends with grace. Grace, wonderous grace. 'By the grace of God I am what I am.' 'Yet, not I, but the grace of God which was with me.'