Archive for May, 2009
Last night, at our Lord’s Supper service, I preached from Heb. 12:1-4 and emphasized our need to “fix our eyes on Jesus” and “consider him.” I quoted from John Owen’s excellent book, The Glory of Christ (1684):
How, then, can we behold the glory of Christ? We need, firstly, a spiritual understanding of his glory as revealed in Scripture. Secondly, we need to think much about him if we wish to enjoy him fully (1 Peter 1:8). If we are satisfied with vague ideas about him we shall find no transforming power communicated to us. But when we cling wholeheartedly to him and our minds are filled with thoughts of him and we constantly delight ourselves in him, then spiritual power will flow from him to purify our hearts, increase our holiness, strengthen our graces, and sometimes fill us “with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”
This quote is taken from the Puritan Paperback version — modernized, abridged and made easy to read. You can see the other volumes in the Puritan Paperbacks series here. If you’re feeling courageous or have some comfortability with reading Puritan prose, the unabridged edition of Glory of Christ is available online for free or in the hard cover Volume 1 of Owen’s Works.
I’d recommend eventually getting to and working through (even if it is work) the older, unabridged edition, but no matter what version you start with, I cannot recommend this book enough. It might be in my top three of all time favorites.
UPDATE: My friend, Justin Taylor, pointed me to a version of The Glory of Christ that I unfortunately didn’t know about. It appears to be an unabridged yet revised/updated edition of the book, put out by Mentor. So this edition would be something between the two options listed above: longer than the abridged Puritan Paperback, but in more contemporary language than Volume 1 of Owen’s Works (which was last edited in the 1850s). If you’re interested to read more about the Puritan John Owen, a good place to start is Justin Taylor’s website JohnOwen.org.
Josh Harris makes a good case for resisting the temptation to tweet during the worship service … further proving the connection between the words twitter and twit (Merriam-Webster: \twit\ noun: a silly annoying person).
In anticipation of our Lord’s Supper service tonight, here’s a meditation from Paul Tripp:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51: 17).
God doesn’t want you to come to Him empty-handed.
No, you can’t come to Him full of yourself,
And you can’t come to Him based on your track record
And you can’t use your performance as a recommendation.
No, you can’t come to Him based on your family,
Your position in life,
The successes you’ve had,
The possessions you’ve accumulated,
Or the human acceptance you’ve gained.
But God requires you to come with your hands full.
He requires you to bring to Him the sweetest of sacrifices,
The sacrifice of words,
He calls you to bring Hosea’s offering.
“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
And return to the Lord.
Say to Him
“Forgive all our sins
And receive us graciously,
That we may offer our lips as the sacrifice of bulls.”
God doesn’t want you to come to him empty-handed.
He asks of you a sacrifice.
Not a grain offering,
Not a lamb or a bull.
No, that requirement has been satisfied
By the blood of the Lamb.
Yet God asks of you a sacrifice
It is the offering of words,
Words of humility,
Words of honesty,
Words of moral courage,
Words of moral candor,
Words that could only be spoken,
By one who rests in grace.
Words of confession are what you must bring.
Free of negotiation or excuse,
On His altar of grace,
And receive forgiveness and cleansing.
Uncover your heart,
Exposed by words, and say:
“We will never again say, ‘Our gods’
To what our own hands have made,
For in You the fatherless find compassion.”
What David willingly did He requires of you,
Come with words,
It is the way of grace,
It is the way of freedom,
It is the way to God.
–Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, pp. 25-26.
Join us for our Lord’s Supper service this evening. It’s always the last Wednesday of every month at 6:30 PM. In fact, come early this week for the missions fund-raising dinner at 5:30 PM.
(Yes, I know that’s when the Red Wings game starts, but all things in their time: forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, singing, preaching, sacraments, and then … “go, drink your wine, eat your bread, and watch your hockey with a merry heart, for God has already accepted your deeds” – paraphrasing Eccl. 9:7.)
In our recent Clarus weekend, on “The Convergence of Doctrine and Delight,” several references were made to the thought of Jonathan Edwards and especially his work, Religious Affections (which you can read online for free, or purchase in hardcopy, or you can start with Sam Storms’ excellent summary of it).
Though less famous, Edwards several works on The Great Awakening (nicely combined in Vol. 4 of the Yale edition of his Works) are perhaps equally important for this theme ‚ especially The Distinguishing Marks of Revival (1741) and Some Thoughts Concerning Revival (1742).
Here are a few exemplary paragraphs from the latter work on the relationship of “light” (truth) and “heat” (affections) for preaching:
One thing that has been complained of, is ministers addressing themselves rather to the affections of their hearers than to their understandings, and striving to raise their passions to the utmost height, rather by a very affectionate manner of speaking and a great appearance of earnestness in voice and gesture, than by clear reasoning and informing their judgment: by which means, it is objected, that the affections are moved without a proportionable enlightening of the understanding.
To which I would say, I am far from thinking that it is not very profitable, for ministers in their preaching, to endeavor clearly and distinctly to explain the doctrines of religion, and unravel the difficulties that attend them, and to confirm them with strength of reason and argumentation, and also to observe some easy and clear method and order in their discourses, for the help of the understanding and memory; and ’tis very probable that these things have been of late, too much neglected by many ministers; yet, I believe that the objection that is made, of affections raised without enlightening the understanding, is in a great measure built on a mistake, and confused notions that some have about the nature and cause of the affections, and the manner in which they depend on the understanding. All affections are raised either by light in the understanding, or by some error and delusion in the understanding; for all affections do certainly arise from some apprehension in the understanding; and that apprehension must either be agreeable to truth, or else be some mistake or delusion; if it be an apprehension or notion that is agreeable to truth, then it is light in the understanding. Therefore the thing to be inquired into is, whether the apprehensions or notions of divine and eternal things, that are raised in people’s minds by these affectionate preachers, whence their affections are excited, be apprehensions that are agreeable to truth, or whether they are mistakes. If the former, then the affections are raised the way they should be, viz. by informing the mind, or conveying light to the understanding. They go away with a wrong notion, that think that those preachers can’t affect their hearers by enlightening their understandings, that don’t do it by such a distinct, and learned handling of the doctrinal points of religion, as depends on human discipline, or the strength of natural reason, and tends to enlarge their hearers’ learning, and speculative knowledge in divinity. The manner of preaching without this, may be such as shall tend very much to set divine and eternal things in a right view, and to give the hearers such ideas and apprehensions of them as are agreeable to truth, and such impressions on their hearts, as are answerable to the real nature of things: and not only the words that are spoken, but the manner of speaking, is one thing that has a great tendency to this.
I think an exceeding affectionate way of preaching about the great things of religion, has in itself no tendency to beget false apprehensions of them; but on the contrary a much greater tendency to beget true apprehensions of them, than a moderate, dull, indifferent way of speaking of ’em. An appearance of affection and earnestness in the manner of delivery, if it be very great indeed, yet if it be agreeable to the nature of the subject, and ben’t beyond a proportion to its importance and worthiness of affection, and there be no appearance of its being feigned or forced, has so much the greater tendency to beget true ideas or apprehensions in the minds of the hearers, of the subject spoken of, and so to enlighten the understanding: and that for this reason, that such a way or manner of speaking of these things does in fact more truly represent them, than a more cold and indifferent way of speaking of them. If the subject be in its own nature worthy of very great affection, then a speaking of it with very great affection is most agreeable to the nature of that subject, or is the truest representation of it, and therefore has most of a tendency to beget true ideas of it in the minds of those to whom the representation is made. And I don’t think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection. I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.
Though as I said before, clearness of distinction and illustration, and strength of reason, and a good method, in the doctrinal handling of the truths of religion, is many ways needful and profitable, and not to be neglected, yet an increase in speculative knowledge in divinity is not what is so much needed by our people, as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light and have no heat: how much has there been of this sort of knowledge, in the Christian world, in this age? Was there ever an age wherein strength and penetration of reason, extent of learning, exactness of distinction, correctness of style, and clearness of expression, did so abound? And yet was there ever an age wherein there has been so little sense of the evil of sin, so little love to God, heavenly-mindedness, and holiness of life, among the professors of the true religion? Our people don’t so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched; and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching that has the greatest tendency to do this.
– Some Thoughts Concerning Revival, Works of Jonathan Edwards Online, Volume 4, The Great Awakening (Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University, 2008), pp. 385-388.
The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 45:
Question: How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?
Answer: First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he won for us by his death. Second, by his power we too are already now resurrected to a new life. Third, Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.
Kevin DeYoung expounds on each of these three benefits.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings.” Yup, I mean that song (I prefer this version on YouTube, dubbed over a Japanese James Bond-like movie). The song has been in my head ever since I said “feelings” 56 times in my last sermon. Of course, the song doesn’t talk about feelings in the same way that Luke 8 does, but that’s just the oddity of a brain like mine — filled with Bible and pop-art.
So with the pop-art nostalgia out of the way and that song now freshly in your head, let me give you some book recommendations on the Bible and feelings.
I’ve been reading through a new book by Brian Borgman, which is more of an overview and analysis of all the different feelings in the Bible, Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life. You can see the table of contents here, and from that page you can read each of the 21 chapters online for free (you got to love the people at Crossway, who actually seem to look at Christian publishing as more of a ministry than a money-maker).
During our recent Clarus conference on “The Convergence of Doctrine and Delight” we mentioned several great books on the importance of the affections and how to fight for joy, such as:
- Anything written by our speakers, Ray Ortlund and Sam Storms (see the Clarus Resource page).
- Anything written by John Piper, especially Desiring God and When I Don’t Desire God.
Of course, the references to emotions in Luke 8 are not just the kind of amazement and joy; there are many more references to fear, worry, and sadness. Here are a few books I’d strongly recommend on thinking through and wrestling with our “darker” emotions:
- Ed Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest
- Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man
- Paul Tripp, A Shelter in the Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble (also which can be read on the Crossway website for free).
That’s the review of last Sunday. On to the preview of this Sunday.
This coming Sunday, Lord willing, we’ll entertain this question: in light of the miracles and emotions in Luke 8 how do we fight for joy and faith when the miracle doesn’t come? How do we move from angst to awe, from fear to faith, and from lament to laughter when the storm-tossed drown, when the sick stay sick, when the dying die? Do we need miracles to believe? Luke gives us some hints at the answer, but from there we’ll go hunting in the Psalms.