Thanks for letting me share this, Duncan!
I guess I should start by saying thank you to Elliott. I’ve always wanted to write a note but was never brave enough to quite take the plunge until I read his earlier today. Hopefully the title doesn’t turn you off too terribly much; I’m simply stealing it from John Owen since a book of his has really been pressing into me lately.
The past few days and weeks, I have been in a terrible conundrum that, until today, has really embittered me. I’ve spent a large majority of my free time studying theology, disecting the New Testament, and meditating on worship music, but despite that I have hardly been able to stop exclaiming alongside Paul “Oh wretched man that I am!” How is it that I can stop the eager study of my Bible, indulge myslef in sin, and return to where I left off? Or like Wednesday, stop, indulge, and head to church! This just paints a terribly confusing picture of myself that during the past few days has become clearer and clearer. So, without further ado I would like to show you, as best I can, where my thoughts have lingered and clung this lovely summer day!
The great reformer John Calvin depicted humanity in his Institues (told you I was reading that book you bought me, dad!) like this:
“For our nature is not only utterly devoid of goodness, but so prolific in all kinds of evil, that it can never be idle. Those who term it concupiscence use a word not very inappropriate, provided it were added, (this, however, many will by no means concede,) that everything which is in man, from the intellect to the will, from the soul even to the flesh, is defiled and pervaded with this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that the whole man is in himself nothing else than concupiscence.”
Matt Chandler, a modern preacher in Texas, says it even more eloquently: “Part one of the Gospel message… You suck.” Alrighty Matt, I can concede that much. One simple topical tour through the Bible will make both those previous quotes quite evident. If that isn’t enough try this: “Do you do absolutely everything for the glory of God? From the moment your eye lids tighten at the sound of your alarm clock to the last unintelligible vestiges of your prayers or daydreams before you drift off into peaceful slumber are you wholly aware and attempting to advance His kingdom?” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that your answer, along with mine, is no. This, my friends, is called sin, and this is a problem.
If you are anything like me then you’re fighting for clarity! “I hate sin! I love sin! I love God! I love sin!” Can you feel Paul’s anguish in Romans 7:14-20? If I’m a born-again Christian and I’ve given God my life and I love Jesus… and I know Jesus, then why do I keep sinning!?
John Piper is a pastor in Minnesota, and he is absolutely one of my favorite men to follow online and read his works. Allow me the moment to give you just a taste of his mission. Desing God. Christian Hedonism. What that means is that God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him. God is most glorified when my joy is a direct result of my satisfaction in Him and Him alone. Think about what satisfaction means to you! If a meal has satisfied me then I won’t go out and attempt to find another! If I view God for what He is then how could I look for another?
I hope I’m not losing you, track with me for just a little while longer! More doors need to be opened before we find the throneroom!
Mediate with me for a moment on two quotes.
The first is from Bill Jones, the president of Columbia International University.
“Scripture elaborates on this theme: God receiving glory by restoring fellowship between the human race and Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.”
The second is from Henry Scougal who died in 1678 at the age of 27 after having already graduated from university, been appointed to teach philosophy at said unversity, been a pastor, and returned to university to teach divinity.
“The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.”
Volumes have been written by and about these two men but those quotes paint a massive picture. One so massive that it might just cover the entirety of salvithic history.
My soul’s worth is measured by the object that it loves. What do you love? Friends, family, leisure, sports, church, small groups, music? Are any of those things bad? No, of course not! The problem is that those things leave possiblities for sin to hide, to fester, or even to attack! Anyone who’s been in a relationship with a boyfriend of girlfriend knows how wonderful and wholesome it can be, but I’m sure you also know how sinful and idolatrous it can as well! Everything in life is like that. Well, almost everything.
It isn’t hard to figure out where I’m going with this but it is so key to realize the truth. Absolute reality is not abstract, and it is not mythological. It (He) walked on this very planet! It (He) has redemeed us with its (His) blood! It (He) lives inside of you! What does this mean within the context of all those fancy quotes that I’ve been making?
If I love God and everything I do is for His kingdom, then sin can be conquered because it will have no foothold! No door to crouch near! No ditch in which to lie and wait!
You will probably respond as such: “Well that’s all well and good, but how can I possibly love God that much? Didn’t you read that ridiculously confusing quote by John Calvin?”
Answer: “I surely did. I also read Genesis 6:5, Ephesians 2:1, and 1 Corinthians 2:14 (among others). Let me show you another passage, one that was brought to my attenition last night. ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for [God’s] power is perfected in weakness.'”
You will respond (along with me earlier this week) “But I’m still sinning!”
Me too, friend… me too.
I spent the day attempting two analogies. Maybe they will help.
1. God as the water of life
Have you ever seen one of those Brita water filters? Maybe you even use one regularly. It’s so easy to view life with God as a similar apparatus! I bring my dirty ‘water’ and fill God up with it, and He purifies me! Bam! Whadda you know?! Christianity made easy! Now there might be some merit to that but on the whole it is A) way too ‘me’ centric and B) God doesn’t need anything from us! (Acts 17:25) I know the first half of this analogy is flawed and somewhat silly but let me give you the second half before you get too caught up with it. Let’s view God as more of a mountain stream. Think of that perpetual flow, quaintly but surely, making it’s way down the mountain. It has no resevoir that must be regulary filled by man, it’s crystal clear flow is pure and nourishing! But oh how it shapes the mountain! The mountain is hard, solid stone. Even though the stream seems quaint, and only seems to run along the surface, with time it will cut magnificant swaths out of the very mountain itself! So is it with God! Your heart is hard! Ezekial says it is made of stone! But God can cut it! He pierced the heart of the people in Acts! (Ch. 2)
2. God as the glorious sun
Think back to history class. Remember the ice age? Giant glaciers covered huge areas of land! Have you ever been to Niagra Falls? You guessed it, glacier. Think of the roar of water, the breath taking heights, one of the natural wonders of the world on display! Geologist will tell us that at the last ice age (this is not a post about creation, so just go with it) it was frozen solid! Well, did some Canadian cave man just wake up and say ‘Oh golly gosh! The ice mountain has melted!’ Doubtful. It took thousands of years worth of sunrises. Inch by inch. Drip by drip. So it is with your heart! Maybe one brilliant ray of sunlight has made it through! Maybe the Word of God has pierced you and given you a new heart of flesh! But what of the rest of your icy prison? The cold that surrounds your now beating heart? It will melt friends, but not overnight.
I have gone on long enough, but I would like to close with one more passage and the thoughts that it stirs in me.
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Just in case you’re wondering, I’m well aware that I posted the King James Version. Read it again. Slowly this time. Isn’t it poetic? When you think of beautiful, do you think of God? Read it again. Did you know that the King James Version was the very first English Bible? Do you see providence when I say that? The very grammar, the very syntax of redemtion was stroked onto paper for a reason. Think back to the quote from Bill Jones for a minute. The cross wasn’t an accident, everything in history prior to that was leading up to it. Ephesians and Revelation say that God knew us, chose us, wrote our names in the book of life before the foundation of the world (Hebrew idiom for: In eternity)! John tells us that Jesus is recorded as saying He will lose no one who His father gave Him/believes in Him. Do you understand what I meant by asking if you saw the providence?
History itself was set in motion so that Jesus, God incarnate, full diety cloaked in human form, could come for you. You Christian boy, you Christian girl. He came for you! That is how we mortify sin. Or to better phrase it, we can’t mortify sin!
Keep your eyes on the cross! To look away is to search for folly and vanity! C.S. Lewis rightly said that pride is the deadliest sin. If we have pride, we are so busy looking ‘down’ at sin, ‘down’ at others that we can’t lift our eyes to Jesus! Keep your eyes heavenward friends! You will stumble! But His name is unshakable! Your foundation will catch you! Rest assured in that. The greatest commandment is to love God with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, and ALL your mind. There is a reason for that, friends! God knows that He is the best thing possible for us! If you (we) follow that commandment, sin will die! Let us kill it a little bit more each and every day! Let us wake up and immediately attack it with such force that the devil himself flees!
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” -Close of Jude