John Owen on Communion With Christ

“When once the soul of a believer has obtained sweet and real communion with Christ, it looks about him, watches all temptations all ways whereby sin might approach, to disturb him in his enjoyment of his dear Lord and Savior, his rest and desire. How does it charge itself not to omit anything, nor to do anything that may interrupt the communion obtained! And because the common entrance of temptations which tend to the disturbance of that rest and complacency which Christ takes in the soul, is from delightful diversions from actual communion with him; therefore is desire strong and active that the companions of such a soul, those with whom it does converse, would not, by their proposals or allurements, divert it into any such frame as Christ cannot delight nor rest in. A believer that has gotten Christ in his arms is like one that has found great spoils, or a pearl of price. He looks about him every way, and fears everything that may deprive him of it. Riches make men watchful; and the actual sensible possession of him, in whom are all the riches and treasure of God will make men look about them for the keeping of him. The line of choicest communion is a line of the greatest spiritual solicitousness, carelessness in the enjoyment of Christ pretended is a manifest evidence of a false heart.” (Communion with the Triune God, pages 238-239)

Where Did God Go in Our Conversations?

Have you ever been with a group of Christians and noticed how little Jesus came up in the conversation? I sat one time in a Baptist church before the service and noticed the (loud) conversation all around me. The poor organist who had prepared a meditative prelude was forced to ratchet up the sound levels to compete with the cacophony in the sanctuary.

A Mary Kay representative was telling of the new shades of color for lipstick. Someone was talking about the Administration’s mishandling of some issue. One guy was really excited about the new Arturo Sandoval CD. Not only was there no reverence for the Lord in a worship setting, there was no discussion of the Lord, period. Social settings are often little different. Everything, but everything, gets talked about but the Lord very rarely figures in the conversation. How strange. It wasn’t always this way among believers.

Adrian Warnock quotes the following on his blog:

“Packer says that the Puritans differ from evangelicals today because with them ‘. . . communion with God was a great thing; to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing. The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not. The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it. When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.'”

Christ will only make His way into our daily conversation when He is a living part of our lives. We talk about what we love. The Lord knows the content of our hearts and our conversations. What does He hear us talk about? It’s something to think about.

One of my favorite passages in all the Bible is found in Malachi 3:16-18.

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

Striving Against Satan

I read an article by Dr. Joel Beeke last night and wanted to share something with you. The article listed a number of specific ways that Satan tries to defeat us and destroy our faith. I want to share just a couple of them from the article, and then I’ll share a list of things we need to do to avoid these snares.

“Device: Satan dampens obedience to the saving knowledge of gospel truth. Once you are saved and come under the refining process of God’s pruning knife, Satan tries to bewilder you. Like Peter, you will then deny your Master and walk unworthy of the spiritual vocation to which you are called.

Remedy: Repent of your backslidings, return to God, and do the good works that you did so zealously in your time of first love (Rev. 2:4-5). Immerse yourself in the Scriptures and in solid biblical literature. Pray much to be enabled to walk in firm, loving obedience before God.

Device: Satan stresses that intellectual knowledge of spiritual truth is enough. If other people who claim to be saved are satisfied just knowing about Christ, why should you long for more experiential knowledge of Christ? Satan doesn’t mind if we continue to learn about Christ, but he works hard to prevent fact-gathering from turning into sanctified knowledge of the truth (2Timothy 3:7). “The devil does not care how many sermon pills you take so long as they do not work upon your conscience,” wrote Thomas Watson.

Remedy: Settle for nothing less than Spirit-worked experiential knowledge of Christ (ICor. 1:30), and, by extension, knowledge of all the great truths of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Christ, who is the living Word (John 1:1) and the embodiment of truth, must be experientially known and embraced. As John 17:3 says, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” The word know in this text indicates a deep, abiding relationship.”

Dr. Beeke points out that the remedies for all of Satan’s devices all follow similar patterns. He writes, “Thomas Brooks, whose classic Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices has never been rivaled, summarized the Christian’s duty in responding to Satan’s devices in ten remedies. Brooks marshaled these remedies from the whole of Scripture:

1. Walk by the rule of Scripture

2. Don’t vex or grieve the Holy Spirit

3. Pursue heavenly wisdom

4. Resist Satan’s first overtures immediately

5. Strive to be filled with the Spirit

6. Remain humble

7. Maintain a strong and constant watch

8. Maintain communion with God

9. Fight Satan in Christ’s strength, not your own

10. Pray much

Beeke concludes, “Finally, would you truly see Satan’s defeat in your life? Focus on Christ. Remember who you are in Christ. Overcome the world by faith in Christ. Bear fruit for Christ’s sake. Don’t become a tempter for Christ’s sake. Put all your hope in Christ. Trust His power. Love Him and His people. Live in such a way that Christ means everything to you.

(This is taken from the February, 2007 edition of The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth magazine, the official publicatin of the Heritage Reformed Congregations.)

The Cleansing Blood

“No single day should pass in the experience of a child of God without washing in the blood.  The blood should be upon all his religious duties, engagements, and services.  Everything should be purged, purified, and perfumed with the blood of Jesus.  This will cleanse, sanctify and beautify all we are and all we do, and render the smallest offering of faith and the lowliest service of love an offering to God of a sweet-smelling savor.”

–Octavius Winslow

When Pulpits Loomed Large

german-pulpit.jpgTom, I and our 11-year-old William attended an organ concert yesterday afternoon at the historic Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Milwaukee. Built in 1878, the old church still has all the original pews and pulpit and flooring. (Charles Spurgeon was in the prime of his ministry across the Atlantic when this church was built.) It is one of the most gorgeous and acoustically perfect churches in the city with a marvelous old organ.

We went to hear a renowned organist from Germany, Uwe Karsten Groß, and it was a lovely hour and a half. We arrived early, uncertain of available seating but we were the first ones there. Tom met a music colleague, Dr. John Behnke, from Concordia University Wisconsin, and Dr. Behnke graciously took us upstairs to the organ loft to meet Professor Groß. William, who is a serious piano student and aspiring organist, was thrilled to have him explain the pipes and the stops and demonstrate the various colors of the organ’s sound. What a treat.

As we sat waiting for the concert to begin, we noticed the huge old German-style pulpit that felt like it loomed out over the congregation. The pastor would ascend the pulpit from a little staircase at the back. Above the pulpit is a little roof designed underneath in the shape of a shell to help spread the sound of the pastor’s voice long before microphones and speakers existed. The photo on this post is a similar design from another German church. (See photo of Trinity in comment section.)

“Imagine preaching Dr. Seuss from that pulpit,” Tom commented. His reference to Dr. Seuss comes from a very bad experience we once had at a church Thanksgiving service where a young pastor got up in the pulpit and began his sermon with the words from Green Eggs and Ham. We consider it a low water mark in our church experiences. I have been thinking this morning about Tom’s remark and how apt it was. The pulpit at Trinity was dominant in the church because it represented the dominance of the preaching of the Word. The early Lutherans (and, of course, conservative Lutherans today) very much believed in the preeminence of the Word of God, and even their architecture spoke of it.

What a serious matter it is for a man to ascend into a pulpit and minister the Word of God to a congregation. How could any pastor view his role with anything but holy fear and trembling when you consider what an awesome thing it is to pastor a flock of Christ’s sheep? When I read of Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s weeping before the Lord over the names on the church roll, it makes me glad for the people that were under his care. M’Cheyne understood what so few pastors today understand—it is a holy calling, and it should be carried out with intense prayer.

We live in an age when a rebellious church is being pastored by equally rebellious pastors, men who are stained by the world and the flesh and who care only about their own temporal, numerical success. They use the name of Jesus, but desecrate it by disobeying the commands of Christ. It is a time of wandering for many serious believers who find themselves without an earthly shepherd, and without a congregation of like-minded believers in some parts of the country. Many long for a day once again when the pulpit looms large in our churches; when pastors have utter confidence in the power of God’s Word to change hearts and lives. We long to see faith in action, answers to prayer and souls converted by the power of the Gospel.

When I find such a pastor’s ministry, I always feel tears prick my eyes. Here’s another that hasn’t bowed his knee to church-growth Ba’al! May God give us many more.

Seeking For Jesus

“Seeking for Jesus.” John 6:24.

This, my soul, should be your constant employment, wherever you are, however engaged; in going in, or out; at rising up, or lying down; whether in public or private, in the church or market-place; the closet, the family, the garden, the field, the house: the question ever arising in the heart should be–where is Jesus? Blessed Spirit! you Glorifier of my Lord, will you constantly excite this seeking for Jesus in my heart? Will you, Lord, give me every moment a sense of need, then a view of his fullness, suitableness, readiness to impart; then bring Him, whom my soul loves, and me together; and then open a communication in leading me forth in desire, and giving me faith to receive from the infinite fullness of my Lord, and grace for grace?

Lord Jesus! I would desire grace to seek you, as for hidden treasure. I would seek you, and you only, O my God! I would separate myself from all other things. It is Jesus my soul chooses, my soul needs. I would trust in nothing beside. No duties, no works; neither prayers nor repentance; no, nor faith itself, considered as an act of my soul, shall be my comfort, but Jesus alone I would make my centre; and every thought, and every affection, and every desire, like so many streams meeting in one, should all pour themselves, as rivers, into the ocean of your bosom! And the nearer, as a stream that draws near the sea is propelled to fall into it, so the more forcible and vehement let my soul be in desires after you, as my soul draws nearer the hour of seeing you. Oh Lamb of God, cause me to be seeking after you through life, pressing after you from one ordinance to another; and when ordinances cease, and all outward comforts fail, then, Lord, may I gather up (as the dying patriarch did his feet in the bed) all my strength, and pour my whole soul into your arms, crying out, “I have waited for your salvation, O Lord!”

From The Poor Man’s Portions by Robert Hawker (1753-1827)

The Shepherd’s Scrapbook

I am adding a site to my blogroll today because I have found a place I want you to know about. The Lord has been compelling me to increasingly seek knowledge of and communion with Him above all other ministry activity. The writings of the Puritans are a constant and powerful spur on to prayer and a deeper love for Jesus Christ. The Shepherd’s Scrapbook blog by Dr. Joel R. Beeke speaks for itself. I hope that readers who are also hearing the call of the Lord to a deeper and more serious walk with Him will be blessed by the cross-centered content of the Shepherd’s Scrapbook.