Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
2 Chr. 7:14 π Psa. 56:8 π Prov. 13:13 π Eccl. 3:1 π Eccl. 3:4; 2nd π Isa. 5:24 π Isa. 30:12 π Isa. 57:15 π Isa. 59:13 π Isa. 59:21 π Isa. 66:2; 2nd π Isa. 66:5 π Jer. 1:9 π Jer. 6:10 π Jer. 8:5-9 π Jer. 23:9 π Jer. 23:9-40 π Jer. 23:11 π Jer. 23:12 π Jer. 23:14 π Jer. 23:16 π Jer. 23:22 π Jer. 23:29 π Jer. 23:31 π Jer. 23:34 π Jer. 23:40 π Ezek. 3:17-21 π Joel 2:14 π Mt. 16:13-14 π Lk. 6:21 π Lk. 18:1-8 π Lk. 19:37-44 π Jn. 8:32 π Jn. 11:32-35 π Jn. 11:33 π Acts 20:16-38 π Acts 20:18-19 π Acts 20:20 π Acts 20:24 π Acts 20:26-27 π Acts 20:27 π Acts 20:28-31 π Acts 20:37-38 π Rom. 5:10 π 2 Cor. 2:4 π 2 Cor. 6:17 π Gal. 6:6-7 π Phlp. 3:17-19 π Col. 2:8; 2nd π 1 Tim. 2:15 π Heb. 4:12 π Jas. 1:22 π Jas. 4:4 π Jas. 4:6 π 2 Pet. 2:3

At first consideration, this may seem like a strange topic to turn to the Bible for information, edification and instruction. Given some consecrated thought, however, we, like the Puritans of old, may understand the need for more tears being appropriately shed. The Puritans called the expansion of one's emotional abilities to feel and understand the things of God "enlargement of heart." We, as shallow Christians of the modern era, would do well to contemplate these matters which will enlarge our ability to have "heart" in things that matter to God's heart.

In entering into a discussion like this, I must give my assurances that I am not attempting to lay a load of guilt or legalism on anyone. Neither am I attempting to stir anyone up to mere emotionalism - the art of being excited merely for the sake of being excited about something. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

"Emotionalism is ever the most real, because [it is] the most subtle, enemy of evangelicalism."

He believed that feeling alone was not only valueless, it was positively dangerous.

"True feeling must be the result of truth believed and understood, and...warning [must be given] against that type of service where attempts are made to induce emotion by working up' the meeting with music and choruses, or by the telling of moving stories. Tears are a poor criterion for faith [and] being carried away in a meeting by eloquence or singing or excitement is not the same as committing oneself to Christ. To aim at emotion is the surest way to produce counterfeit Christians." [1]

So as we contemplate this subject we do not want to aim for emotionalism or at producing mere emotion. Instead we will want to examine those great truths and understandings that produce in us a greater capacity for strong emotions that support our faith and increase our obedience to God's will for our lives. We must get away from dry, emotionless, religious duty as much as we must avoid mindless, emotional zeal that produces only noise and confusion.

Everything in Due Season

If God is truly an all-wise Creator - and He is - then why did He include the tear ducts and glands in our physical makeup? What are tears and why are they important? Let us begin our examination with God's Word:

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; ( Eccl. 3:1 , 4 NIV; top)

The Bible clearly tells us here that there is a time for weeping and a time for mourning. Those who tell us to conceal or repress our grief and our tears may, quite frankly, be in contradiction and opposition to the will of God. If the Spirit of God, who knows all things and dwells in us, is prompting us to a time of weeping in regards to our personal sins or those of our neighbors or our countrymen, then by all means, weep and grieve extravagantly. Do not restrain (quench) the Spirit of God within. Too often, we are so consumed with the pursuit of happiness and joy - a most useless and wasteful venture to say the least - that we come to unconsciously believe that sorrow and grief come only from the devil. Let us all be mindful of that fact that our Savior was a "man of sorrows." There are times when some of us need to enter into a time of weeping. But there may be others of you who genuinely wonder why the Christian life is not just laughing and dancing as so many of today's false prophets proclaim.

I want to be careful in this study not to present a bland, fluffy "Sunday school lesson" where I make you feel good with a "God keeps our tears in a bottle" message. It is true that God keeps record of our tears and that He is intimately involved with our pain. ( Psa. 56:8; top ) But we must be careful not to stop there.

As we consider our physical tears, let us ask ourselves what they are good for. Tears bring moisture to the eyes. Without them we would soon go blind as our eyes dry up. Some believe that tears drain excess chemicals from the brain that are produced in times of stress and emotional overload. I am no doctor, and I am sure many could give a better definition of the full value of tears to our vision and their relation to the removal of chemicals from our brain. But in looking at these functions of tears, it is easy to see a spiritual analogy here. Without any tears whatsover, we would soon lose our ability to see the ways and light of God's truth and we would quickly lose our ability to spiritually discern the truths and doctrines of the Bible in a clear and rational manner.

In a similar vein, A.W. Tozer wrote:

The Bible was written in tears and to tears it will yield its best treasures. God has nothing to say to the frivolous man.

It was to Moses, a trembling man, that God spoke on the mount, and that same man later saved the nation when he threw himself before God with the offer to have himself blotted out of God's book for Israel's sake. Daniel's long season of fasting and prayer brought Gabriel from heaven to tell him the secret of the centuries. When the beloved John wept much because no one could be found worthy to open the seven-sealed book, one of the elders comforted him with the joyous news that the Lion of the tribe of Judah had prevailed.

The psalmists often wrote in tears, the prophets could hardly conceal their heavyheartedness, and the apostle Paul in his otherwise joyous epistle to the Philippians broke into tears when he thought of the many who were enemies of the cross of Christ and whose end was destruction. Those Christian leaders who shook the world were one and all men of sorrows whose witness to mankind welled out of heavy hearts: There is no power in tears per se, but tears and power ever lie close together in the Church of the First-born.

It is not a reassuring thought that the writings of the grief-stricken prophets are often poured over by persons whose interests are merely curious and who never shed one tear for the woes of the world. They have a prying inquisitiveness about the schedule of future events, forgetting that the whole purpose of Bible prophecy is to prepare us morally and spiritually for the time to come.

The doctrine of Christ's return has fallen into neglect, on the North American continent at least, and as far as I can detect, today exercises no power whatever over the rank and file of Bible-believing Christians. For this there may be a number of contributing factors; but the chief one is, I believe, the misfortune suffered by prophetic truth between the two world wars when men without tears undertook to instruct us in the writings of the tear-stained prophets. Big crowds and big offerings resulted until events proved the teachers wrong on too many points; then the reaction set in and prophecy lost favor with the masses. This was a neat trick of the devil and it worked too well. We should and must learn that we cannot handle holy things carelessly without suffering serious consequences.

Another field where tearless men have done us untold harm is in prayer for the sick. There have always been reverent, serious men who felt it their sacred duty to pray for the sick that they might be healed in the will of God. It was said of Spurgeon that his prayers raised up more sick persons than the ministrations of any doctor in London. When tearless promoters took up the doctrine it was turned into a lucrative racket. Smooth, persuasive men used superior salesmanship methods to make impressive fortunes out of their campaign. Their big ranches and heavy financial investments prove how successful they have been in separating the sick and suffering from their money. And this in the name of the Man of Sorrows who had not where to lay His head!

Whatever is done without heart is done in the dark no matter how scriptural it may appear to be. By the law of just compensation the heart of the religious trifler will be destroyed by the exceeding brightness of the truth he touches. Tearless eyes are finally blinded by the light at which they gaze.

The whole Christian family stands desperately in need of a restoration of penitence, humility and tears. May God send them soon. [2]

Jeremiah, the Weeping Prophet

Consider Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, who lamented over Jerusalem as he saw its coming destruction and the causes of her destruction. Consider the parallels to modern American Christianity and the implications to our modern age as we read Jer. 23:9-40 :

9 My heart within me is broken Because of the prophets; All my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, And like a man whom wine has overcome, Because of the LORD, And because of His holy words. 10 For the land is full of adulterers; For because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, And their might is not right.

11 "For both prophet and priest are profane; Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness," says the LORD. 12 Therefore their way shall be to them Like slippery ways; In the darkness they shall be driven on And fall in them; For I will bring disaster on them, The year of their punishment," says the LORD. 13 And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; They prophesied by Baal And caused My people Israel to err. 14 Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah. 15 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, And make them drink the water of gall; For from the prophets of Jersualem Profaneness has gone out into all the land.'"

16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They continually say to those who despise Me, The LORD has said, "You shall have peace"'; And to everyone who walks according to the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.'"

18 For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it? 19 Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury - A violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. 20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand perfectly.

21 "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings.

23 "Am I a God near at hand," says the LORD, "And not a God afar off? 24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the LORD; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the LORD.

25 "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy in My name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' 26 "How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, 27 who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.

28 "The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?" says the LORD.

29 "Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

30 "Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," says the LORD, "who steal My words every one from his neighbor. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets," says the LORD, "who use their tongues and say, He says.' 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," says the LORD, "and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all," says the LORD. 33 "So when these people or the prophet or the priest ask you, saying, What is the oracle of the LORD?' you shall then say to them, What oracle?'

"I will even forsake you," says the LORD. 34 "And as for the prophet and the priest and the people who say, The oracle of the LORD!' I will even punish that man and his house. 35 Thus every one of you shall say to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What has the LORD answered?' and, What has the LORD spoken?' 36 And the oracle of the LORD you shall mention no more. For every man's word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. 37 Thus you shall say to the prophet, What has the LORD answered you?' and, What has the LORD spoken?' 38 But since you say, The oracle of the LORD!' therefore thus says the LORD: Because you say this word, "The oracle of the LORD!" and I have sent to you, saying, "Do not say, The oracle of the LORD!'" 39 therefore behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and will cast you out of My presence. 40 And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.'" (top)

We could literally spend hours contemplating the vast amount of valuable material here for our edification. And I encourage you to do so. Take much time and meditate on this passage above. You will gain much good by doing so. But for purposes of our discussion here, let us consider only a few pressing and pertinent points.

Let us look first at verse 9 (top) : Jeremiah's heart was broken because of the prophets. How often do we even get mildly disturbed, let alone broken-hearted, over the babblings and blasphemies of supposed "men of God"? Or do we fall silent and remain fearful of being "divisive and judgmental"? Do we not realize that it is these same false prophets and teachers who scream the loudest about "touching God's anointed" and "You should be more loving and accepting"? Do we not see the hypocrisy and self-serving protection of their deceptive application of Scripture to themselves and the false practices being foisted upon us? Do our hearts grieve over their lies?

In verse 11 (top) God says that both the prophet and the priest are profane. A similar situation was experienced by a Franciscan monk named Giles in the 13th century. In spite of his obvious, self-sacrificial devotion to God, a priest who enjoyed all the self-indulgent luxuries of his day called Giles a hypocrite. Giles went away sorrowful and depressed. When a friend tried to explain to him that the priest lied, Giles was incredulous. "How could a priest lie?" he asked becoming incensed at the very supposition. [3] And yet God says that such was the case in Jeremiah's day. And just as judgment was not sleeping for the false prophets of Jeremiah's day (v. 12; top ), it was not sleeping for the false priests of the apostate Romish Church of the Middle Ages that brought on the Protestant Reformation, and it is not sleeping for the apostate prophets and teachers of our day. Consider carefully Peter's warning which reads: "By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber." ( 2 Pet. 2:3; top )

In verse 14 (top) God indicts the false prophets because they not only allowed sin to continue in their hearers' lives, they actually participated in it themselves and encouraged it in others. Adultery and deception became the cultural norm instead of godliness and respect for truth as God would have it. As a result of these false practices, God said that no one repented of their wickedness. As a result judgment comes upon the nation. The parallels to our own modern culture are so obvious I almost feel it redundant to speak of them. But when statistically more married partners have been sexually unfaithful than ever before, when statistically more unmarried people experience pre-marital sexual relationships, when homosexuality is being accepted as a viable alternative - and much of this within the "church" - something must be said to stem the tide of rising wickedness or we will be held to be as guilty as the false prophets of Jeremiah's time. We must say it bluntly, sex outside the monagamous confines of marriage is sin! Sex with the same gender is not only sin, it is an abomination to God! Quit flirting with the worldly nonsense which at first sounds like wisdom. (see Col. 2:8 ) It is only deception that leads to destruction. "Touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you," says the LORD. ( 2 Cor. 6:17; top )

In verse 16 (top) God warns us: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless..." This means that you should not even listen to the false prophets, they will ruin you, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. In order for you to be obedient to this command from God, you will often have to turn off the so-called "Christian" television station. You will have to destroy false books lest someone else pick them up and be ruined by them. You may actually have to leave an assembly that refuses to teach God's message and and faithfully practice His Word.

In verse 22 (top) the Lord tells us that if the false prophets had indeed listened to the true God, the people would have repented. What a simultaneously sad and hopeful statement that is. To think that these false prophets had spent their time studying God's Word and were still unable to come to know Him and His will for the people is sad in itself. To know that the same time they spent in their study and pursuit of spiritual matters could have been productively spent in a true pursuit of God but wasn't, is also sad. To know that presenting God's true message to the people would have caused them to repent and would have made God's judgment upon them unnecessary, is a sad thing when we look back historically and see that the false prophets did not present God's message and Israel and Jerusalem were led off to foreign captivity.

But it is also a hopeful statement for anyone who is caught in false deception, either as a teacher or a follower. If you will humbly return to God's Word, setting aside all preconceived notions, become like Paul, who was committed to know only Christ and Him crucified, and allow God to re-educate you as to what the Bible really says, you may yet be saved from out of the apostasy of our time if that is where you find yourself entangled.

In verse 29 (top) God asks "Is not My word like a fire? And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" This is echoed in Heb. 4:12 (top) , where the writer says: "...the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." We must get away from the conception that God is spewing forth wimpy, soft-soaped nonsense! We must see that God's Word is fire and a hammer. A fire consumes and burns while a hammer breaks to pieces. When was the last time your heart and life was burned by the powerful and active word of God? If it's been a long time, you need to draw closer to the fire! When was the last time you were broken by the truth of God's Word in a certain area of your life? If you have never been broken by His Word, be distrustful of your salvation experience and cry out to God for His salvation and cleansing hammering upon your hard heart! You are in dire need if you have never been burnt or broken by God's truths but have only been intellectually stimulated or emotionally "touched" as if you were being instructed in some humanly originated philosophy or system of thought. Be careful not to be cheated out of eternal rewards by not entering fully and experientially into the truths of God's Word. (see Col. 2:8 ; Jas. 1:22; top )

In verse 31 (top) God says that He sets Himself against the false prophets. That warning alone ought to send shudders down the spine of everyone who handles His Word and speaks His truths. If we have been given the privilege to speak in His name, we ought to be fearful lest we in any way misrepresent God. And if we find that we have been in error, we should be just as public with our repentance as we were with our error. And if our error is grievous to the Spirit of God and the Body of Christ, we should gladly relinquish our place of speaking to someone who is better equipped to speak rightly and who will more appropriately represent the heart of God to His people. How dare we continue to spew forth false doctrine and heresy and blasphemy as if there were no judgment day coming? Do we really want to return to the camp of those who are considered God's enemies? Consider Rom. 5:10 ; Jas. 4:4 ; Phlp. 3:17-19; top .

In verse 34 (top) , God tells us that He will even punish the false prophets Himself. He is not going to leave this to the natural consequences of sin. He is not going to simply turn the devil loose on them. He will personally see to their punishment Himself. If that does not frighten those who speak falsely in His name, that one indeed has a hard heart and a blind eye for the truth of God's Word.

In verse 40 (top) , God promises reproach and shame. The root meaning of the Hebrew word that is translated as "reproach" gives the thought of exposing shameful things, of treating contemptuously, rebuking, and causing shame. The root meaning of the Hebrew word translated here as "shame" means to taunt or insult, to wound, or to inflict disgrace. Again when it is God who is promising to do this to one who falsely speaks in His name, it ought to cause even the most diligent saint to hesitate to speak in His name. And when God adds the words "perpetual" and "everlasting" as adjectives, it is time to be truly fearful of mishandling His Word and misrepresenting Him to His people. It is interesting in this verse that the same Hebrew word is translated first as "everlasting" and then as "perpetual." The meaning is that of something veiled or concealed giving the idea of something "without end." If unending shame is the dominant characteristic you want to be used to describe your eternal destiny and you want God to be committed to being your enemy and opponent, simply be a false prophet and say, "Thus says the Lord..." when He has not thus said. Do not be decieved, God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows is exactly what that man reaps. ( Gal. 6:6-7; top )

Just as there are dire warnings for those who callously mishandle God's Word, there are equally awesome promises for those who reverently, fearfully, respectfully and appropriately divide the Word of God's truths. (see Prov. 13:13 ; Isa. 5:24 ; 30:12 ; 59:13 , 21 ; 66:2 , 5 ; 1 Tim. 2:15; top ) We must be careful to honor our God by displaying the respect and reverence for His Word that is justly due. The beauty of the written Word itself alone should instill within us a fervent desire not to see it mishandled as if it were the latest trash or romance novel hot off the press. And yet so many of us treat God's beautiful truths with contempt either through false dissemination of its precepts, through blatant disobedience to its revealed truth, or through simple neglect by never bothering to read what is contained within its pages. And not only is this contempt in itself harmful to us, it is in our best interests to go to great lengths to treat God's Word with a healthy respect and reverence. But we still continue to heap up for ourselves judgment and reproach, don't we?

Jeremiah wept as a prophet not just because he knew that judgment was coming upon his people, but also because he knew why the judgment was coming. He knew how avoidable judgment was if people would only humble themselves, pray, seek God's face, and turn from their own wicked ways. ( 2 Chr. 7:14 ) He knew that God might turn and leave blessing instead of judgment. ( Joel 2:14 ) Jeremiah knew, however, because God had told him that all would oppose him and none would listen ( Jer. 1:9 ; 6:10; top ), that the Israelites would not repent and would thus face God's wrath and judgment. Are we to weep any the less when we consider the frequent warnings our nation has been given but which have been ignored?

Paul, the Weeping Apostle

We do not often think of Paul as a weeping apostle, but when we carefully examine the record, we will see that it is so. Consider again the parallels to and implications for our modern culture as we read Acts 20:16-38 . Paul is at this time travelling back toward Jerusalem to bring money that has been collected for the people there who were experiencing hardship.

16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. 17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the ekklesia.

18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you. 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 and how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

22 "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

24 "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the ekklesia of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

32 "And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. 35 I have shown you mercy in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship. (top)

Again there is much here that we could meditate upon and be edified with, but let us turn our attention to specific verses only. Again I encourage you to read and meditate upon the passage much more fully than I will discuss here.

Let us look first at verses 18 and 19 which tell us that Paul lived as a weeping apostle as he "served the Lord with many tears and trials." (also see 2 Cor. 2:4; top ) We don't think of him that way very often. And if we did, we would probably compare him to the modern "weepers" we see on Christian television who weep just to stir us emotionally, ostensibly to evoke our commitment to God but primarily to invoke our signature on a check. But Paul was not that sort of a "weeper." His weeping came from a much more genuine source as we shall see.

In verse 20 (top) it says that Paul "kept back nothing." That is, he gave his all when he taught and shared and lived among those to whom He preached the gospel of Christ. The love which Paul had for all those he preached to is more than evident throughout all his epistles and it is this love that prompted his weeping over those he loved and longed for. What a testimony of the depth of character that Paul possessed! Shallow modern man has precious few examples of this depth of manhood.

In verse 24 (top) we again see the all-out attitude of Paul as he is committed to finishing his race even to the expending of his own life to do so. Again, the depth of manhood apparent in Paul is so sadly lacking in our modern culture as we see irresponsible fathers abandon children who need them, as we see inadequately prepared employees walk off the job because of too much stress or too many requirements of responsibility, as we see emotionally immature and unstable husbands vent their frustrations and anger on wives and children unable to protect and defend themselves. No, Paul was committed to the highest goal of all, the upward call of Christ Jesus, and he never neglected to display the love, joy, peace, and patience of the Spirit as he suffered many terrible things in his pursuit of that goal. We could learn a lot from Paul, couldn't we?

In verses 26 and 27 , Paul says that he is innocent of all blood. This includes innocence of the martyrdom of Stephen in a general sense because of his forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ but what he says here more strictly applies to everyone to whom he had ever spoken to about the Gospel of Christ. What made him innocent? The answer is given in verse 27; top where Paul states "I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." That Paul was not held responsible for the listener's response to the truth so long as Paul was careful to appropriately present the truth, is similar to the warning God gave to Ezekiel:

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require of your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul." ( Ezek. 3:17-21; top )

If we apply this to our modern teachers, who more often seem to give us only "partial counsel of God" because they fear to upset their own status quo, we quickly come to pity them. We as the ekklesia, the Body of Christ, must get back to the point where Jesus is both good news and bad news. There is no good news of salvation if there is no bad news that man is wicked and needs a Savior and is lost to Hell unless he receives God's offer of salvation. There is no good news of eternal blissful rewards of righteousness if there is no bad news that there is also eternal damnation in Hell if we get too attached to this corrupted world. There is no good news of forgiveness of our sins if there is no bad news that all of human kind is hopelessly corrupted and willfully sinful and needs forgiveness that only a holy God can give. We must not shun to give the whole counsel of God or our souls will be held responsible for the blood of these that were lost while we remained silent or spoke wrongfully.

In verses 28-31 (top) of Acts 20 we read that Paul continually warned the ekklesia elders about false teachers whom he called wolves and this is why he wept so often. How different today when, as we sound the warning cry about false teachers, we hear, "Unloving! Divisive! Judgmental! Fault-finder!" Isn't it sad that, as we challenge and confront their sin and error, they respond with attacks on our character? Shouldn't that tell us something about the true condition of their soul and their lack of spiritual maturity? But, oh, that we could all learn to weep over the false teachers. Perhaps if we wept for them more in our prayer closets when we are alone with God, they would be less vulnerable to the deceiving spirits and the false doctrines they have been exposed to as God would be moved to intervene on their behalfs through our relentless petitioning. (see Lk. 18:1-8; top )

In verses 37-38 (top) we see that they all wept freely. All the things that Paul had done in their presence - the teaching, the preaching, the working, the sharing, the caring, the giving, the laughing, the loving, the living - somehow the depth of Paul's love had been successfully transferred to these Ephesian elders. Oh that we could learn a lesson here as well! If we could only give ourselves to the life and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would find it to be as contagious as is the worldliness which now surrounds us. Yes, we would have to work harder at being loving than we would at being worldly, for the latter comes naturally. But the rewards are so much more worthwhile and satisfying. Oh, that we could learn this lesson of Paul and the elders of the Ephesian ekklesia from the Spirit of Holiness and Love Himself!

Jesus, the Weeping Savior

As we consider now the even greater example of manhood, Jesus Christ, let us consider what caused Him to weep. Let us read Lk. 19:37-44 , again with a thought towards perceiving any parallels that might exist to our modern culture.

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: " Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples."

But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the day of your visitation." (top)

The scene here is Jesus' triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem one week before He will be crucified. This event was prophecied by prophets like Zechariah and Daniel, even to the day. Daniel's prophecy of seventy weeks included a timetable by which the Jews could have known that this was a direct fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. The disciples of Jesus are shouting Messianic phrases from Psalm 118 and the Pharisees wanted Jesus to rebuke them for acknowledging Him as King and Messiah. Jesus' response is illuminating - in order for prophecy to be fulfilled, the rocks would have cried out had the disciples forfeited their place in the fulfillment of prophecy. That should tell us something. If we refuse to participate in God's plan for those around us and even the world, He is capable of causing rocks to speak His Word. In some cases it would seem that both the results would be better and the intelligence level of the speaker would be greater, as there are many who speak first and think later. But we must see that God's purpose will be fulfilled - it is our participation in them that is optional.

But in spite of all that was written of Messiah, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes all missed Him. They did not understand that their Messiah had come. And Jesus, seeing the judgment that would come upon Jerusalem as a result of their persistent, willful blindness, wept over the city.

This is comparable to something Jeremiah said and may be one of the reasons that some of the people believed Jesus to be Jeremiah the prophet come back to life. (see Mt. 16:13-14; top ) Jeremiah cried out:

"Why then has this people slidden back, Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return. I listened and heard, But they do not speak aright. No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, What have I done?' Everyone turned to his own course, As the horse rushes into the battle.

"Even the stork in the heavens Knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow Observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the LORD.

"How can you say, We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us'? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; So what wisdom do they have? ( Jer. 8:5-9; top )

How much wisdom do you possess if you cannot see the judgments of God upon your nation? How much wisdom do you possess if you do not see the need for repentance and godly living? How much wisdom do you possess if, like the ancient Roman gladiator who fought blindfolded, you insist upon finding your own way to eternal life and joyful living? How much wisdom do you have if you listen to the false notion that education alone produces knowledge about the Bible and right living? How much wisdom do you have is you cannot see how the enemy has invaded the "church"? None worth mentioning.

Jesus Weeps Over Our Pain

There is yet one more instance of the Master weeping that I believe we should examine. Consider Jn. 11:32-35 :

Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."

Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, Where have you laid him?"

They said to Him, "Lord, come and see."

Jesus wept. (top)

Why is Jesus weeping here? The Bible does not give a definitive answer. But I believe the answer is in verse 33; top . Jesus sees Mary weeping and in pain because of her loss of her brother. But what does Jesus really see that is so painful to Him? Perhaps it is her lack of faith that would have caused her to be at rest and comforted at this time of sorrow. I believe that is consistent with the character of God. I believe that He weeps when we don't trust Him and we experience needless grief and pain. That is not to say that Mary should not have felt the loss, but rather that in the loss, she could have trusted Jesus more and hurt less. God mourns when we mourn but I believe we grieve His heart even more when, in our mourning, we refuse to be comforted by His love and care.

Using Our Tears as a Gauge

What do our tears (or lack thereof) tell us about ourselves? In short, they measure our spiritual maturity. And this is not to pressure you with guilt! We are where we are, and only God can truly change us. We must accept our present condition as just that and from there, continue to grow. But we can objectively use our tears as one gauge, one measuring stick, or one thermometer to measure our progress toward spiritual maturity and fervent, zealous service to God.

I see three basic manifestations of tears that will illuminate what stage we are in in our growth to spiritual maturity. There may be more but these three adequately give us a standard by which to test our own lives.

The first stage is when we cry because our expectations remain unfulfilled. Often these expectations are wrongful of themselves, being either based on human wisdom or emotional desire. These tears reflect the presence of self-pity and a self-focus that is not pleasing to God. They represent spiritual immaturity, Christian babyhood. Often these tears are accompanied with phrases such as "I was supposed to get..." or "How come You didn't do such and such for me, God?" or "Why didn't You...?" And as terrible as all this sounds, it is not all bad - if you are a baby Christian. At least you are talking to God about the realities of your heart. But for those who have been with the Lord for a long time, let us hope that you are moving beyond this stage. And of course, one cannot look to the mere mouthings of these phrases as signs of growth, but it is the presence of these phrases accompanied with genuine, heart-felt tears that signify growing depth of emotion for God.

The second manifestation of tears is because of unmet desires. And these often represent deeper longings for godliness. They show more of a God-focus and signify that we have begun to enter into spiritual adolescence. Often these tears accompany requests like "Make me more like You, God" and "Why do I sin against You, Father?" These are definite signs of a shift in focus and a growing recognition of responsibility. And again, the phrases must be accompanied by genuine tears to be useful as a gauge of our growing spirituality. As Jesus told the Pharisees, any rock can speak forth the right words, but it is only a heart truly sold out to God that experiences the pain that produces genuine tears. And as every athlete knows, if there is no pain, there is no real growth or progress.

The third manifestation of tears that signify spiritual growth is when we begin to weep over the needs and requirements, not of ourselves, but of others. This is true spiritual maturity. Such a one will cry out "Use me to meet their needs, Lord" and ask "What can I give or do for them?" The focus is still on God, but there is now present a burning desire to meet others' needs with no thought for the expectations and desires of self.

There are some other specific things that our tears, or their absence, can objectively measure as well. The first of these is our personal freedom. Our culture has adopted a ridiculous lie from Hell that says that "real men don't cry." I guess somebody forgot to tell that one to Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus, three excellent examples of true manhood in the face of adversity. This is only a cultural lie and ought to be quickly ignored by anyone who knows the truth. Jesus promised that we shall know the truth, and the truth will set us free. ( Jn. 8:32; top ) As men in our culture, our ability to cry represents the degree to which we are free from the cultural expectations of those around us.

Tears can also measure our sincerity. Tears can tell us how much or how little we really want to walk in true godliness and holiness. They can tell us how much we are really just putting on a religious show for those around us.

Tears can indicate compassion. They can show us how much the suffering of others really affects us. Or their absence can show just how cynical and calloused our hearts have become.

Tears can indicate true spiritual knowledge. The presence of tears will effectively gauge the depth of your understanding of the realities of heaven and hell, of life and death, and of their eternal and irrevocable consequences. A lack of tears in this regard, as is a lack of desire to rescue the lost, can be an effective sign of a cold and hard heart.

Tears can effectively gauge the real depth of our grief over sin. Peter wept bitterly after denying Christ. But is our sin, with our increased understanding of who Christ is, any less than a similar denial? But how often do we seek a lonely place and weep bitterly because we have sinned against God and grieved His Holy Spirit?

Tears can measure our contriteness before God. This is an old word not much used in our proud and arrogant, self-serving society. It means to be humble and selfless, aware of your own sinful nature and ways in comparison to a holy and pure God - to be contrite is to be repentant, sorrowful for sin, forsaking of sin, penitent. Our tears measure how objective our view of ourself and of God really is. The Bible promises that God is with the broken and contrite ( Isa. 57:15 ; 66:2 ) and humble but God promises to frustrate and take down the proud and haughty. ( Jas. 4:6; top )

In short, tears are an objective measure of the true depth of our Christian character before God. Remember what Tozer said, "There is no power in tears per se, but tears and power ever lie close together in the Church of the Firstborn." Perhaps some of us have too much of the form of godliness and too little of the power because we refuse to weep and grieve over the things that are breaking God's heart.

Let me share with you a poem called "Lament," written by Evangeline Paterson, and perhaps you will further understand the need for tears in our stricken culture.

Weep, weep for those
Who do the work of the Lord
With a high look
And a proud heart.
Their voice is lifted up
In the streets, and their cry is heard.
The bruised reed they break
By their great strength, and the smoking flax
They trample.

Weep not for the quenched
(For their God will hear their cry
And the Lord will come to save them)
But weep, weep for the quenchers

For when the Day of the Lord
Is come, and the vales sing
And the hills clap their hands
And the light shines

Then their eyes shall be opened
On a waste place,
The smoke of flax bitter
In their nostrils,
Their feet pierced
By broken reed-stems...
Wood, hay, and stubble,
And no grass springing,
And all the birds flown.

Weep, weep for those
Who have made a desert
In the name of the Lord.

In closing, let us consider one of the paradoxes of the Christian life that Jesus taught in His sermon on the mount. This paradox is found in Lk. 6:21 (top) where Jesus says, "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh."

One reason we don't experience the deeper joy that we all desire is because we don't experience the deeper grief over the things that grieve God. We opened this discussion with Eccl. 3:4; top , recognizing that there is a time for mourning and weeping as well as a time for laughing and dancing. Our culture seems determined to experience only joy, happiness, laughter and dancing. I submit to you that until we both weep and mourn deeply, we will remain shallow, immature and incomplete in comparison to the image of Christ.

Dear God, we come recognizing Your sovereignty and Your authority. We confess that we have often neglected to be moved by the things that grieve Your heart. We have neglected far too often to even find out how You feel about the things that are going on in our world and we ask Your forgiveness.

Father, we thank You for Your grace that wants to mature us into the image of Christ Jesus. We ask that you enlarge our hearts to better experience the emotions that come as a direct result of knowing You and of learning more of Your deep truths. Cause us to walk in the fullness of Your joy - and Your grief. Let us not shirk the darker emotions because we want to be only fluff and airy in our emotions. Cause us to feel and love deeply, to live life to its fullest. Let us not merely exist in shallow survival from day to day. Cause us to prevail and overcome in all things for Your glory. Amen.

[1] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939, Iain H. Murray, (Banner of Truth Trust, 1982) p. 216. back

[2] A.W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares, "God Tells the Man Who Cares" (chap. 1). back

[3] St. Francis of Assisi, Johannes Jorgensen (Doubleday & Company, Garden City, NY, 1955), 97,98,137. back

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