Classics


theholywar.jpg

The city of Mansoul is visited by Diabolus (Satan) and Incredulous (Unbelief) in this classic.  With Innocence and Resistance destroyed by the enemies of Mansoul, the city soon is taken captive through the Eye Gate and Ear Gate.

Lord Will be Will takes charge as Reason and Understanding are deposed and imprisoned.

This is the stage in John Bunyan’s Holy War.  An allegory depicting the story of stories- the creation of man, his exile from Eden, and God’s ensuing, pursuing love to deliver him from the corruption of his rebellion even as evil is leavened throgh the flesh of man.  With sobering scences and comical characters- the diabolianians, once identified within the city, crucified atop the city gates in full view of Diabolus in the vein of Colossians 3 “mortify your members” (KJV) “put to death whatever is earthly inside of you” or of Mr. Godly Fear and Mr. Carnal Delight- it can be explained to children and doubles as a primer on spiritual warfare. 

The story being told in terms like this is one of the best ways to awaken a knowledge to the truth and a sense of urgency.  As Bunyan commented elsewhere, Praying in the Spirit, one of the best ways to teach children [or anyone] to pray isn’t giving them some creed or scripted prayer, but to tell them, “of damnation and of salvation… of how to avoid the one and enjoy the other…”  This manner of teaching, he says, will be the quickest way to elicit hearty groans flowing from their hearts and chests, to teach them to pray in the Spirit, and to deliver them from the hypocrisy of those who “honor God with their lips while their hearts are far from him.” 

Before picking up the latest “bestseller” think about what are some of the best sayers of the truth.  Will that book on the New York Time’s list persist as a wealth of wisdom and warning in 100 years, or will it crumble away within a generation awaiting the next fad?  Take a step back in time and see that as we hit the big themes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” 

When it comes time to read, Joel R. Beeke says in Feed My Sheep, ask yourself whether or not that book will increase your love for God, help you to conquer sin, or if your time could be better spent reading another book.  For me, this book has been instrumental in appreciating the spiritual war in the heavenlies all around-seeing the enemy of soul’s tempting and entreating entrance at each of the five sesnes-, in awakening an urgency to the battle, equipping with a practicality against it, and in sensing the love and joy of God for his people.

Advertisements

Please forgive me for the length of the following excerpt. And though it is long, I commend this brother’s message to you and boldness with God’s Word. In the Spirit of God’s Word in Hebrews 11, though he is dead, he still lives. May this serve as an admonishment to follow Christ with love, with passion, with zeal…

The Religious Affections, Part 3, Section 12

Christians in their effectual calling, are not called to idleness, but to labour in God’s vineyard, and spend their day in doing a great and laborious service. All true Christians comply with this call, (as is implied in its being an effectual call,) and do the work of Christians; which is every where in the New Testament compared to those exercises, wherein men are wont to exert their strength with the greatest earnestness, as running, wrestling, fighting. All true Christians are good and faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, and fight the good fight of faith: for none but those who do so, ever lay hold on eternal life. Those who fight at those who beat the air, never win the crown of victory. They that run in a race, run all; but one wins the prize: and they that are slack and negligent in their course, do not so run, as that they may obtain. The kingdom of heaven is not to be taken but by violence. Without earnestness there is no getting along in that narrow way that leads to life; and so no arriving at that state of glorious life and happiness to which it leads. Without earnest labour, there is no ascending the steep and high hill of Zion; and so no arriving at the heavenly city on the top of it. Without a constant laboriousness, there is no stemming the swift stream in which we swim, so as ever to come to that fountain of water of life, that is at the head of it. There is need that we should watch and pray always, in order to our escaping those dreadful things that are coming on the ungodly, and our being counted worthy to stand before the Son of man. There is need of our putting on the whole armour of God, and doing all to stand, in order to our avoiding a total overthrow, and being utterly destroyed by the fiery darts of the devil. There is need that we should forget the things that are behind, and be reaching forth to the things that are before, and pressing towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, in order to our obtaining that prize. Slothful-ness in the service of God, in his professed servants, is as damning as open rebellion: for the slothful servant is a wicked servant, and shall be cast into outer darkness, among God’s open enemies. Matt. 25:26, 30. They that are slothful, are not followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises; Heb. 6:11, 12. “And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” And all they who follow that cloud of witnesses who are gone before to heaven, do lay aside every weight, and the sin that easily besets them, and run with patience the race that is set before them, Heb. 12:1. That true faith by which persons rely on the righteousness of Christ and the work he hath done for them, and truly feed and live upon him, is evermore accompanied with a spirit of earnestness in the christian work and course. Which was typified of old, by the manner of the children of Israel’s feeding on the paschal lamb; Exod. 12:11. “And thus shall ye eat it, with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand: and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s passover.”

As I was being discipled, my teacher told me a sad story of when he was in the college ministry. In his early days as a Christian, a man said, “twenty years from now, half of the people in this room will not be seeking God.” He thought no way, but as time went on, he saw people cool off first hand. I was sobered up quickly.
“That’s scary,” I told him.
“That is scary.” He paused, “Run a little bit scared.”
“How do you know you’ll be having your quiet time in twenty years?” he asked.“Do it now?” I timidly returned.
“Have it today! If you have it today, you’ll have it tomorrow.”
One of the most unsettling things in the Christian walk is the falling away of trusted friends. We live our lives with them; we share our time with them; we open up our hearts to them. Then, slowly with some, instantly with others, we see signs of their disconnect with God. Some past grievance is not forgiven or a sin is justified; a root of bitterness springs up. They harden their hearts and justify more sin. Their tenderness and sensitivity dries up; it is only hurting me, they protest. They lash out and break contact, make false accusations, or grow cynical. In the end, only God knows the condition of their hearts and when or if they will ever return.
Here, in a sobering passage, Jonathan Edwards discloses how Satan goes about to make counterfeits of the most cherished commodities in the world- Christian love and humility. By showing that few take time to imitate that which is fake, but many to imitate that which is rare- gold, silver, diamonds, etc., he points out that there are indeed many fakes out there. A cubic zirconia may look like a diamond, but its treatment of the light within it shows it false. And with some, they cannot be seen as fake until they are held up to the Light over time, and the refraction of their hearts under that light exposes what is true.
Part II Section VI
It is no evidence that religious affections are saving, or that they are otherwise, that there is an appearance of love in them

“…It may be observed, that the more excellent any thing is, the more will be the counterfeits of it. Thus there are many more counterfeits of silver and gold, than of iron and copper: there are many false diamonds and rubies, but who goes about to counterfeit common stones? Though the more excellent things are, the more difficult it is to make any thing like them, in their essential nature and internal virtue; yet the more manifold will the counterfeits be, and the more will art and subtlety be exercised and displayed, in an exact imitation of the outward appearance. Thus there is the greatest danger of being cheated in buying medicines that are most excellent and sovereign, though it be most difficult to imitate them, with any thing of the like value and virtue, and their counterfeits are good for nothing when we have them. So it is with Christian virtues and graces; the subtlety of Satan, and men’s deceitful hearts, are wont chiefly to be exercised in counterfeiting those that are in highest repute. So there are perhaps no graces that have more counterfeits than love and humility these being virtues wherein the beauty of a true Christian especially appears…”

I was gripped most by the section in the Affections “Gracious affections soften the heart, and are attended with a christian tenderness of spirit.” The comparison between a broken heart and the child-likeness of believers is wonderfully done. Here are some excerpts for your daily reading / meditations:

“Gracious affections are of a quite contrary tendency [than false affections]; they turn a heart of stone more and more into a heart of flesh. Holy love and hope are principles vastly more efficacious upon the heart, to make it tender, and to fill it with a dread of sin, or whatever might displease and offend God; and to engage it to watchfulness, and care, and strictness, than a slavish fear of hell. Gracious affections, as was observed before, flow out of a contrite heart, or (as the word signifies) a bruised heart, bruised and broken with godly sorrow; which makes the heart tender, as bruised flesh is tender, and easily hurt. Godly sorrow has much greater influence to make the heart tender, than mere legal sorrow from selfish principles.
“The tenderness of the heart of a true Christian, is elegantly signified by our Saviour, in his comparing such a one to a little child… A little child has his heart easily moved, wrought upon, and bowed: so is a Christian in spiritual things. A little child is apt to be affected with sympathy, to weep with them that weep, and cannot well bear to see others in distress: so it is with a Christian; John 11:35, Romans 12:15, I Corinthians 12:26. A little child is easily won by kindness: so is a Christian. A little child is easily affected with grief at temporal evils, or any thing that threatens its hurt: so is a Christian apt to be alarmed at the appearance of moral evil, and any thing that threatens the hurt of the soul. A little child when it meets enemies, or fierce beasts, is not apt to trust its own strength, but flies to its parents: for refuge so a saint is not self-confident in engaging spiritual enemies, but flies to Christ. A little child is apt to be suspicious of evil in places of danger, afraid in the dark, afraid when left solitary, or far from home: so is a saint apt to be sensible of his spiritual dangers, jealous of himself, full of fear when he cannot see his way plain before him, afraid to be left alone, and to be at a distance from God…”

Since last September I have been slogging my way through Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections. I expected Edwards to be deep and somewhat dense when Jerry Bridges told me last summer that Edwards was tough for him to understand! I am pressing on and hoping to finish sometime soon.
If you are not aware of who Edwards is, he was a pastor when the Great Awakening was sweeping across America. He has been called the Mount Everest of theologians, with Calvin and Luther being the foothills. He has been argued as the best philospher in American history.
His most famous, though just a fraction of his work, is enclosed in a sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. It’s a shame that this is all most people know of Edwards since the delivery of the sermon and the response to the sermon is rarely, if ever, put into context. The message takes up about 4 pages out of more than 1700 in Edwards’ works (and that is not even his complete works), and Edwards’ talk of heaven was much bigger and more emphasized than his Hell. Critics say Edwards was not loving because he gave a sermon on Hell. However, when Edwards preached this message to a congregation that had not changed in light of the revival of the Great Awakening, people cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” He did not tell them what they wanted to hear; he told them what they needed to hear.
Now that Edwards has been at least slightly vindicated, let’s get back to The Religious Affections. The Affections was written to help instruct pastors, etc. what to look for in a true convert when the Great Awakening was spreading through the nation. It has a short introduction of terms, and is then broken down into three sections. The first section describes the affections, the emotions, in Christianity and their importance to it. The second section identifies certain traits or emotions and how they may, but are not necessarily, evidences of true Christianity. The final section is the longest, and there Edwards lays out what are the affetions that are truly Christian, for example: Affections from the Holy Spirit soften rather than harden the heart; they promote the spirit of love, meekness, forgiveness, quietness, mercy as appeared in Christ; and they are attended with humiliation. Edwards warns against trusting visions and dreams to give assurance of salvation or favor with God, but he affirms the true Christian affections- grief over sin, humility (becoming less while God becomes greater), weeping with those who weep, rejoicing in the truth, joy, etc.
I commend this book, with its difficulties, to my brothers and sisters. Don’t expect it to be easy, but do expect it to be deep, thoughtful, and weighty.
More details to come from within the book soon…