This past Sunday we considered how the gospel reconciles our past and present sin. One observation we made is that it is not mere actions that alienate us from God, but also our misguided affections. Scott Thomas, Director of Acts 29, posts some thoughts on what it means to be spiritually minded vs. carnally minded which also emphasize the central role of affections in the Christian life. He draws from the deep wells of John Owen for insight and offers us this gem:
One has to decide if one’s mind is fixed upon the spiritual or upon the things of this world. The Geneva Bible published in 1599 (the Bible of the Puritans) says, “For they that are after the flesh savor the things of the flesh: but they that are [savoring] after the things of the spirit, the things of the spirit.” Toward what do you savor: heavenward or earth-bound?
What we savor determines our savior. Our desire determines our deity.
It’s not our desire for things, but rather, the strength of our desire for them that produces hostility towards God. If God is not uppermost in our affections, then we become hostile towards him. Why? Because God threatens to unseat what we desire most. If you desire the approval of others more than you desire God, then approval is your God. If you desire control more than god, the control is your god. You are controlled by control. So it goes with success, beauty, goodness. When our hearts turn to other things, we turn our noses up at God. Bottom line, we do not desire God as he ought to be desired. Unlike the finite things of approval, control, success, God is infinitely desirable.
This time of year Christians often redouble their spiritual efforts in resolve to be more holy. Some will think about or even venture to join an accountability group. Originally appearing in the Journal of Biblical Counseling, this article seeks to correct misguided approaches to accountability, deconstructing legalism and cheap peace, while advocating a gospel-centered, God-honoring approach to accountable relationships. An excerpt:
Put ten bucks in the jar to keep from sinning.
When I recall some of the popular discipleship disciplines I advocated in college, I shudder. Did I really think that they were biblical or even helpful? When one of my disciples caved into a particular sin he was “being held accountable for,” he had to put ten bucks in the jar. Sounds awfully close to an indulgence doesn’t it? Yet, in
our aim to promote “holiness,” ten bucks was the penalty for pandering to sin. We thought this approach to accountability was especially good for fighting sexual sin. If one of the guys I discipled had a particularly lustful week, (viewing inappropriate TV, reading pornographic material, or masturbating), he had to “pay the price.”
When we met for our weekly accountability meeting, I would ask a range of questions designed to promote accountability, but as I recall, we only assigned sexual sins the steep penalty of ten dollars. “Other sins” were considered less grievous. Sometimes the accumulated cash was put in the offering, other times it was used to celebrate “not sinning” over dinner. Somehow, this practice was supposed to motivate holy living, but instead, it fostered a legalism that undercut a more biblical approach to fighting sin.
John Owen has long been a holy influence on my life and thought. His Mortification of Sin has profoundly influenced my approach to fighting personal sin. The recent release of Communion with the Triune God has afforded me yet another delightful plunge into this Puritan divine’s comprehension of God and how we have been created to communion with him.
Though the entire book is too lengthy to cover in detail, I will offer some highlights from my reading.
Did the OT Saints Commune with the Triune God?
In chapter one, Owen clearly lays out that communion with God is the sweetest relationship possible, better than “any friendship” and possible only through Jesus. Remarking on the difference between the communion with the Trinity as presented in the Old and New testaments, Owen comments: “The thing itself is found there; but the clear light of it, and the boldness of faith in it, is discovered in the gospel, and by the Spirit administered therein” (91). Thus, communion with the Triune God is sharpened and enabled by the gospel of Christ administered by the Spirit. But what of Moses, David, and Solomon? Did they not commune with the triune God? Owen remarks: “Though they had communion with God, yet they had not parr?sian—a boldness and confidence in that communion.”
What is Communion (with God)?
his communication of himself unto us,
with our return unto him of that which he requires and accepts,
flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him.
in a affection-stirring summary Owen writes:
It is, then, I say, of that mutual communication30 in giving and receiving,
after a most holy and spiritual manner, which is between God and
the saints while they walk together in a covenant of peace, ratified in
the blood of Jesus, whereof we are to treat. And this we shall do, if God
permit; in the meantime praying the God and Father of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ—who has, of the riches of his grace, recovered us
from a state of enmity into a condition of communion and fellowship
with himself—that both he that writes, and they that read the words
of his mercy, may have such a taste of his sweetness and excellencies
therein, as to be stirred up to a further longing after the fullness of his
salvation and the eternal fruition of him in glory.