“I will rejoice over them to do them good.”—Jeremiah 32:41.
How heart-cheering to the believer is the delight which God has in His saints! We cannot see any reason in ourselves why the Lord should take pleasure in us; we cannot take delight in ourselves, for we often have to groan, being burdened; conscious of our sinfulness, and deploring our unfaithfulness; and we fear that God’s people cannot take much delight in us, for they must perceive so much of our imperfections and our follies, that they may rather lament our infirmities than admire our graces. But we love to dwell upon this transcendent truth, this glorious mystery: that as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so does the Lord rejoice over us. We do not read anywhere that God delighteth in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that He delighteth in the habitable parts of the earth, and that His delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give His soul delight; nor doth He say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee”; but He does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by His grace. In what strong language He expresses His delight in His people! Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over thee with joy, He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.” As He looked upon the world He had made, He said, “It is very good”; but when He beheld those who are the purchase of Jesus’ blood, His own chosen ones, it seemed as if the great heart of the Infinite could restrain itself no longer, but overflowed in divine exclamations of joy. Should not we utter our grateful response to such a marvellous declaration of His love, and sing, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation?”
A quote from Thomas Chalmers’ sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”:
Salvation by grace – salvation by free grace – salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God – salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of justice, than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness. Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel, and we raise a topic of distrust between man and God. We take away from the power of the Gospel to melt and to conciliate. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity which so many dread as the germ of antinomianism, is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against it. Along with the light of a free Gospel, does there enter the love of the Gospel, which, in proportion as we impair the freeness, we are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness. To do any work in the best manner, we should make use of the fittest tools for it.
Perhaps the sins which you and I confess are not the tithe of what we really do commit. Our eyes are not sufficiently opened to know of the heinousness of our own sin, and it is possible that if we could fully know the extent of our sinfulness it would drive us mad. It is possible that God in mercy suffers us to be somewhat blind to the abominable accursedness of sin. He gives us enough of it to make us hate it, but not enough to drive us absolutely to despair.
“Looking unto Jesus.” — Hebrews 12:2
It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”
Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee — it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee — it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument — it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.”
Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu’s name.”
“I asked myself, How may I best improve these three hours upon the coach top? It darted through my mind, with vivid light, as a beam from the Lord, that a man can do no better things than believe the love of God to himself and his species. I saw – as I never saw before – how all stimulus to holy work comes out of that. I therefore at once gave myself up to a believing meditation of the truth which, with unusual demonstration, the Spirit had borne home upon my heart. As I did so, the meaning of the cross marvellously shone out. My faith strengthened. I took hold of God’s love to me and to man as I had never done before. The journey seemed done too soon. I got down from that coach-top with an indelible lesson and a soul on fire.”
A few lines from Iain Murray’s biography of John Wesley. Here he writes about a man who followed in Wesley’s footsteps, the celebrated Methodist preacher William Bramwell.
To a James Drake he wrote: ‘… Dwell much on the love of Jesus.’
… His personal life was conformed to this same spirit. To keep oneself in the love of God was for him the mainspring of the Christian’s life. It was a privilege requiring constant watchfulness for ‘Satan will use a thousand means to damp our love’. ‘To be clear in pardon of all our sins, to be pure in heart, to live in love — this is heaven on earth. What is all the world compared with this! To live in profession is so far well; but to enjoy the kingdom, to live in God, to have union with him, to bear his image, to glorify our God, and finish the work, — this is our grand business on earth.’
… to understand the man aright we have to go to what he saw as the whole purpose of the Christian revelation: The gospel is to bring men into the presence of God. Its objective is not forgiveness, nor even holiness (in itself); it is union with God and all other blessings are related to that end. In Paul’s words, the end is “that you might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19). This is the belief that leads to the wonder expressed by Charles Wesley,
And will this sovereign King
Of glory condescend?
And will He write His name
My Father and my Friend?
For Bramwell, the first need of the Christian is ‘to live in the closest fellowship with God’. ‘To retain a constant sense of the presence of God is our glory in this world.’ And he was sure that ‘to live in God’ is the only source of the believer’s usefulness. This is the repeated note in his letters. Christians are to ‘do all in God'” ‘We may do all things in him. You may see, talk, walk, and suffer in the Lord.’ Giving his own testimony, he writes: ‘I view him [Christ] in all my acts, take hold of him as the instrument by which I do all my work, and feel that nothing is done without him.’ This is how he understood the command ‘Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might’ (Eph. 6:10).
“Money, poverty, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery — the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
John Bunyan’s conversion:
“As I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience . . . suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and, methought withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand, there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday and today for ever (Heb. 13:8).”
“Now did my chains fall from my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations also fled away, so that from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now also went I home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”
”The man who is trying to be a Christian is trying to hold on to something. The man who is a Christian feels that he is being held by something. It has been put to him, it is there; it may even seem to be in spite of him, but it is there. It is not what he is doing that matters to him; it is what has been done to him…” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Here’s another gem from Don Carson’s book, Scandalous.
In this section Carson gives examples of two very different days that you might experience from time to time. One day is filled with frustration, disappointment and failure at home and at work. You’re late for work and when you get there you find people talking behind your back, your boss puts you under pressure, when someone asks you about Christianity you’re rude and unhelpful, the kids won’t behave, you can’t be civil with your wife when you’re disappointed with what she has prepared for dinner.
The day ends with a dry, guilt-ridden, and formulaic prayer.
The other example Carson gives is just about the perfect day. Everything goes well at home and at work and you feel a million dollars. You have a great quiet time with your wife, you are appreciated at work and get a raise, you meet that person who wanted to know about Christianity and this time answer their questions with wisdom and tact, the kids are delightful, mealtime is wonderful, and after dinner you have a heartfelt and intimate conversation with your wife.
This day ends with a prayer that is long, lavish, joyful, and laced through with a sense of peace — you feel justified.
I certainly recognize these patterns in my own life.
Here’s what Carson has to say with regard to the two end-of-day prayers:
On which of these two occasions have you fallen into the dreadful trap of paganism? God help us: the sad reality is that both approaches to God are abominations. How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of the kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing.
Do you not understand that we overcome the accuser on the ground of the blood of Christ? Nothing more, nothing less. That is how we win. It is the only way we win. This is the only ground of our acceptance before God. That is why we can never get very far from the cross without distorting something fundamental, not only in doctrine but in elementary discipleship, faithful perseverance, obedience, and spiritual warfare against the enemy of our souls. If you drift far from the cross, you are done. You are defeated. We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb. We dare approach a holy God, praying in Jesus’ name, appealing to the blood of the Lamb.