God’s Glory in the Face of Jesus Christ

In this post I shared a portion of Thomas Chalmers’ sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, in which he highlights the insurmountable problem that faces us all. That problem is that:

[the heart’s] desire for one particular object may be conquered; but as to its desire for having some one object or other, this is unconquerable.

So my heart must always have something in place as its chief affection, something I cling to above all else. The human heart seeks out idols. And the worst part is that whenever I am freed from one idol, another idol always comes (sometimes without me knowing) and fills the gaping vacuum that is left.

So what is the solution? How can I be freed from the endless cycle of idol-worship? Of overcoming one idol only to have another come in and occupy its place in my heart? How can the idol that currently sits on the throne of my heart be removed, and all other idols kept from entering in against my will?

This is Chalmers’ answer:

It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy. It is when He stands dismantled of the terrors which belong to Him as an offended lawgiver and when we are enabled by faith, which is His own gift, to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and to hear His beseeching voice, as it protests good will to men, and entreats the return of all who will to a full pardon and a gracious acceptance — it is then, that a love paramount to the love of the world, and at length expulsive of it, first arises in the regenerated bosom. It is when released from the spirit of bondage with which love cannot dwell, and when admitted into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the spirit of adoption is poured upon us — it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way in which deliverance is possible. And that faith which is revealed to us from heaven, as indispensable to a sinner’s justification in the sight of God, is also the instrument of the greatest of all moral and spiritual achievements on a nature dead to the influence, and beyond the reach of every other application.

The Chief Affection of the Heart

Thomas Chalmers’ “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”

In this sermon Chalmers talks about the human heart’s need to have something as its chief affection — some thing, some pleasure, some material possession, some person, some status etc. He makes clear that all of these affections, if they are in the central place Christ must occupy in our hearts, are wrong affections; are idols.

He points out that as soon as one wrong affection has been overcome, another will rise in its place. We must have something at our core, and if it is not Christ it will always be an idol of some kind. Even if we beat one idol, another of a different sort, perhaps invisible to us, will come. The answer is that Christ himself must reign in our hearts. And that happens when we see him as he is. Beautiful, holy, pure, loving, merciful. Desiring and longing for his bride. This is our Lord. Let us fix our eyes on him and let our hearts be warmed to him. May he reign uncontested in our hearts and our minds.

In this passage Chalmers refers to wrong passions or affections as “tastes”. Here is the problem we have until a greater affection for Christ enters our hearts:

It is seldom that any of our tastes are made to disappear by a mere process of natural extinction. At least, it is very seldom, that this is done through the instrumentality of reasoning. It may be done by excessive pampering – but it is almost never done by the mere force of mental determination. But what cannot be destroyed, may be dispossessed and one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection of the mind.

It is thus, that the boy ceases, at length, to be the slave of his appetite, but it is because a manlier taste has now brought it into subordination – and that the youth ceases to idolize pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has become the stronger and gotten the ascendancy and that even the love of money ceases to have the mastery over the heart of many a thriving citizen, but it is because drawn into, the whirl of city polities, another affection has been wrought into his moral system, and he is now lorded over by the love of power. There is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered; but as to its desire for having some one object or other, this is unconquerable.

On the Identity and Role of the Holy Spirit

John Stott on the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit is the self effacingness of God.

He shuns publicity in favour of magnifying Christ.

His is a hidden floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Christ. The floodlights are not seen — you are meant to see the building on which the lights are trained. He is the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.

The Holy Spirit’s chief delight is to bear witness to Christ.

On The Holy Spirit

The Spirit of Truth loves to bear witness to the One who is the Truth.

As Jesus pleads our cause before the Father, The Spirit pleads Jesus’ cause before the world.

Without the Spirit’s witness our witness is futile.

A Puritan Prayer

A prayer from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions:

Confession and Petition

Holy Lord, I have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and unbelief, of failure to find Thy mind in Thy Word, of neglect to seek Thee in my daily life. My transgressions and short-comings present me with a list of accusations, but I bless Thee that they will not stand against me, for all have been laid on Christ. Go on to subdue my corruptions, and grant me grace to live above them. Let not the passions of the flesh nor lustings of the mind bring my spirit into subjection, but do Thou rule over me in liberty and power.

I thank Thee that many of my prayers have been refused. I have asked amiss and do not have, I have prayed from lusts and been rejected, I have longed for Egypt and been given a wilderness. Go on with Thy patient work, answering ‘no’ to my wrongful prayers, and fitting me to accept it. Purge me from every false desire, every base aspiration, everything contrary to Thy rule. I thank Thee for Thy wisdom and Thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross.

No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If Thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burnt away with trial, give me sanctified affliction. Deliver me from every evil habit, every accretion of former sins, everything that dims the brightness of Thy grace in me, everything that prevents me taking delight in Thee. Then I shall bless Thee, God of Jeshurun, for helping me to be upright.

On prayer

In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to preach. No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack. Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.

— E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer

On Evil

Evil is not a rival force to God at all, but an utterly subservient thing that will entirely be done away with by the One who is sovereign.

— Mike Reeves

More from Richard Sibbes

Here he continues with the image of the Christian as the “smoking flax” or faintly burning wick.

We must have two eyes, one to see imperfections in ourselves and others, the other to see what is good. `I am black,’ says the church, `but comely’ (Song of Sol. 1:5). Those who are given to quarrelling with themselves always lack comfort, and through their infirmities they are prone to feed on such bitter things as will most nourish that disease which troubles them. These delight to be looking on the dark side of the cloud only.

We must not judge of ourselves always according to present feeling, for in temptations we shall see nothing but smoke of distrustful thoughts. Fire may be raked up in the ashes, though not seen. Life in the winter is hid in the root.

We must beware of false reasoning, such as: because our fire does not blaze out as others, therefore we have no fire at all. By false conclusions we may come to sin against the commandment in bearing false witness against ourselves. The prodigal would not say he was no son, but that he was not worthy to be called a son (Luke 15:19). We must neither trust to false evidence, nor deny true; for so we should dishonor the work of God’s Spirit in us, and lose the help of that evidence which would cherish our love to Christ, and arm us against Satan’s discouragements. Some are as faulty in this way as if they had been hired by Satan, the ‘accuser of the brethren’ (Rev. 12:10), to plead for him in accusing themselves.