The Care and Feeding of the Born-Again Heart: In Remembrance of Our Spiritual Forebears
As mentioned at the close of The Training Table last week, please chew on the feast of the heart below from John Flavel’s Christ the Desire of All Nations as he provides “Directions 1-8” for going from a “cold and dead faith” to being “passionate and alive for Christ”!
BUT, before you do, please consider this: Do you have a True and Living Faith at all?
At this point in the history of Western civilization and the Christian church, deep-thinking people would agree that we now live in a Post-Christian culture. This truth has many repercussions…
And likely, the most important aspect of this reality is the not-surprising confusion (1 Peter 5:8) around whether or not any given person is actually a Christian to begin with—a called (Ephesians 1:4; John 6:44), bona fide (Hebrews 11:1), regenerated (John 3:1-8), justified (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), repentant (Acts 2:38), newly created (2 Corinthians 5:17), indwelt (Ephesians 1; John 14:26), loved (1 John 4:7-8), loving (John 13:34-35), truthful (Colossians 3:9-10), bible-based (2 Timothy 3:16-17), confessing (1 John 1:9; James 5:16), faithful (Ephesians 2:8-9), wise/discerning (James 1:5; Philippians 1:9-10), persevering (1 Timothy 4:10), obedient (John 14:15), being sanctified (John 17:17), self-forgetful (1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7), hopeful (Romans 15:13), assured (1 John 3:19-42), witnessing (1 Peter 3:15), pure (Psalm 119:9), self-, sin-aware-and-avoiding (Galatians 5:19-26), good-loving (Philippians 4:8), church-belonging (Hebrews 10:25), fruitful (Galatians 5:22-23), and serving in word and deed (James 2:14-20, 27)—See Resources: (1) (2) (3).
Do you tire reading this list? Or do you resonate and rejoice? Do you know why the difference between these two reactions is important? If you tire and feel like a list of this kind is like playing “pile-on”… and you’re the guy or gal on the bottom getting crushed, it might point to how burdened you feel about all you must DO to merit God’s favor or check off each taxing task on a list, or register each item on the “guilt-o-meter”. But if you resonate and rejoice as you read the list, and see the bible passages in support of each Christian attribute, you are likely spirit-filled and living in the reality of what Jesus Christ HAS DONE in your place, by His atoning birth, His death on the cross, and His resurrection: In, through, by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1, and following), the work has been done and the Spirit within will help bring you along!
Why the “Big Deal”… Reality Check?
Over the past 60+ years, the increasingly secular culture has arrested the development of The Church in favor of worldly, fleshly, and devilish thinking and actions. This is far from foreign to God (Jeremiah 2; Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17), but as a result, between worldly-secular [E.g., no God, only the here-and-now] ideas and non-biblical, worldly churches (Resource: 4), there are far more people unsure… unassured… frail… faulty… misguided about what their self-proclaimed Christian faith really and truly should amount to.
This is so important because if I [or anyone] was to offer the content below to anyone who had not experienced an adult conversion of faith, it would be no more than adding to the “I’M-A-GOOD-OR-BAD-OR-UNWORTHY-OR-WEAK-CHRISTIAN… TO-DO LIST”!
And this would be tantamount to condoning, promoting, spreading the certain death of the law, of work-righteousness, of legalism, of a “tit-for-tat begrudging faith”, of a daisy chain / seesaw “He loves me, He loves me not” fear- and worry-based faith, or of ignoring a truism from John Gerstner such as, “The main thing between you and God is not so much your sins; it’s your damnable good works.”
Promoting a better faith devoid of a real faith is all and only hard-hearted humanism, denial of The Cross, and getting things horribly out of order: Faith comes first and then the fruits of God’s redeeming work follows from it… NOT the other way around.
When We Have Been “Born-Again from Above”…
…and after we have moved from an infant faith (Ephesians 4:14) to a more mature faith, we will feast on the sort of content below in the right manner: “And you will [first] know the truth, and [then] the truth will set you free” (John 8:32; Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)!
First saved purely by free yet costly grace, sanctified, and serving… And then loving any and all ways God and His Saints grow us into Jesus Christ.
“Christ the Desire of All Nations”—let the love of God and the language bring you along!
“Does this put you upon this inquiry—How shall I get my desires kindled and enflamed towards Christ? “Alas!”, you may say, “my heart is cold and dead, not a serious desire is stirring in it after Christ.”
To you I shall offer the following directions:
Direction 1—Remember quiet time with God. Redeem some time every day for meditation; get out of the noise and clamor of the world, Psalm 4:4; and seriously consider how the present state of your soul stands; and how it is likely to go with you in eternity: It is here all sound conversion begins, Psalm 69:29.
Direction 2—Remember the depth of inherited Sin. Consider seriously that lamentable state in which you came into the world. You are a child of wrath by nature, under the curse and condemnation of the law so that either your state must be changed, or you will inevitably be damned, John 3:3.
Direction 3— Remember the depth of habitual sinning. Consider the way and course you have taken since you came into the world, proceeding from iniquity to iniquity. What command of God have you not violated a thousand times over? What sin is committed in the world, that you are not one way or other guilty of before God? How many secret sins are upon your score, unknown to the most intimate friend you have in the world? Either this guilt must be separated from your souls, or your souls from God for all eternity.
Direction 4—Remember God’s answer and offer to the Sin and the sinner. Think upon the severe wrath of God reserved for every sin; “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23. And how intolerable the fullness of that wrath must be when a few drops sprinkled upon the conscience in this world are so insupportable, that has made some to choose suicide rather than life. Yet this wrath must abide for ever upon you, if you do not get an interest in Jesus Christ, John 3:36.
Direction—Remember the manifold mercies and grace of God in Christ. Ponder well the happy state and condition they are in who have obtained pardon and peace by Jesus Christ, Psalm 32:1,2. And seeing the grace of God is free, and you are set under the means of it; why may not you be as likely to find it as others?
Direction 6—Remember to be a radical and stay on the extremes of the Gospel—lest we forget. Seriously consider the great uncertainty of your time and the preciousness of the opportunities of salvation, never to be recovered when they are once past, John 9:4. Let this arouse you to lay hold upon those golden seasons while they are yet with you; that you may not bewail your folly and madness, when they are out of your reach.
Direction 7—Remember to be firmly, accountably, self-sacrificially committed to a Christian community of faith. Associate yourselves with serious Christians; get into their acquaintance, and beg their assistance; beseech them to pray for you; and see that you rest not here, but be frequently upon your knees, begging of the Lord a new heart and a new state.
Direction 8—Remember “no stumbling blocks”… stay deeply rooted in Christ, by example, and for the sake of, and serving, The Church. In conclusion of the whole, let me beseech and beg all the people of God, as upon my knees, to take heed, and beware, lest by the carelessness and scandal of their lives they quench the weak desires beginning to kindle in the hearts of others. [By analogy… If:] You know what the law of God demands for striking a woman with child, so that her fruit go from her, Exodus 21:22, 23. [Then:] O shed not soul-blood, by stifling the hopeful desires of any after Christ.
As Matthew 18:5-6 says, ‘And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’” (emphasis added)
In a nutshell, can we say without hesitation and with great gratitude, humility, boldness and joy, “I am more sinful that I could ever dare imagine, and yet, I am more loved than I could ever dare hope for, therefore I will graciously and urgently serve others in the name of Jesus until I stand face-to-face with Him. Amen.”
NEVER FORGET: When we faithfully, diligently, biblically, and communally REMEMBER we will always “RE-MEMBER” the limbs, body, unity, and effectiveness of The Church!
Please, beloved race runners for Christ, join us at The Training Table next week when we will look at a meaty, heart-filling, life-giving quote by Thomas Watson, “Poor in Spirit”—for the comparatively and wildly rich marathoners for Christ who grace The Training Table, this is a very important message!
‘Till then, long and faithful may you run,
(1) The Acid Test of Being a Christian, by Dr. Tim Keller
(2) The Four Spiritual Laws, by Campus Crusade for Life
(3) Action, by Sinclair Ferguson
(4) A Clarion Call to the Modern Church, by John MacArthur