The Cure for Cold Religion

The reason our affections are so chilled and cold in religion—is that we do not warm them with thoughts of God. Hold a magnifying glass to the sun, and the glass burns that which is near to it. So when our thoughts are lifted up to Christ, the Sun of righteousness, our affections are set on fire. No sooner had the spouse been thinking upon her Savior’s beauty—but she fell into love-sickness. (Song of Sol. 5:8). O saints, do but let your thoughts dwell upon the love of Christ, who passed by angels and thought of you; who was wounded that, out of his wounds, the balm of Gilead might come to heal you; who leaped into the sea of his Father’s wrath, to save you from drowning in the lake of fire! Think of this unparalleled love, which sets the angels wondering—and see if it will not affect your hearts and cause tears to flow forth! — Thomas Watson

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Church dynamics

From Ray Ortlund: “Some preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. . . . What then?  Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”  Philippians 1:15, 18 A church can be controlled by a horizontal dynamic of winners-and-losers, the people focused on each other, disappointed with each other, grumbling about each other — self-righteousness bumping up against self-righteousness, hurting and getting hurt. Or a church can be controlled by a vertical dynamic of response to Christ, the people looking upward, amazed at him and his grace — broken but grateful sinners coming together because all they need to be happy is Christ himself. Your church might be dysfunctional.  But if Christ is being preached, even with impure motives, that should be enough to make you happy.  It might be all you’re going to get out of your church.  And if you require more, who gave you the right

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High Affections

More from Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections. Having recently completed a paper on The Affections, I must say, I have grown in my love for the book and for Edwards. There is much here we need to apply to the Church today. Love is an affection; but will any Christian say, men ought not to love God and Jesus Christ in a high degree? And will any say, we ought not to have a very great hatred of sin, and a very deep sorrow for it? Or that we ought not to exercise a high degree of gratitude to God, for the mercies we receive of him, and the great things he has done for the salvation of fallen men? Or that we should not have very great and strong desires after God and holiness? Is there any who will profess, that his affections in religion are great enough; and will say, “I have no cause to be humbled, that I am no

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Fool’s gold?

From Ray Ortlund: “Fool’s gold: a term for non-gold ore similar in color to gold, usually mistaken by beginning prospectors because of the brassy glitter.” In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God(1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own sins and eccentricities.  The true gold of grace is discernible in these four ways: One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work. Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work. Three, when we are believing, revering and devouring the Bible more, God is at work. Four, when we love Jesus and one another more, God is at work. Satan not only wouldn’t produce such things, he couldn’t produce them, so

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The Spirit of Love

“When we thus think of the Holy Spirit we properly think of Him as the one who generates love towards God in our hearts…When we are thinking of the biblical ethic as motivated by and fulfilled in love to God and our neighbour, it is a caricature and travesty of this love that we entertain unless it is a love generated in us by the apprehension of the love that passes knowledge, the love of God in Christ…How vacuous and hypocritical are the pretensions of those whose religion and ethic consist in the maxim, ‘As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them (Luke 6:31), but who know nothing of the constraint of the love of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and therefore as the Spirit of love He captivates our hearts by the love of God and of Christ to us. In the diffusion of that love there flows

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John Owen on Stirring the Mind to Contemplate the Glory of Christ

My thanks to Matt Harmon for this: In his treatise “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” John Owen offers five “directions” for stirring up the minds of believers to contemplate the glory of Christ (chapter 4): Let us get it fixed on our souls and minds, that this glory of Christ in the divine constitution of his person is the best, the most noble, useful, beneficial object that we can be conversant about in our thoughts, or cleave unto in our affections. Our second direction unto the same end is, that we diligently study the Scripture, and the revelations that are made of this glory of Christ therein. Another direction to this same end is, that having attained the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ from the Scripture, or by the dispensation of the truth in the preaching of the gospel, we would esteem it our duty frequently to meditate thereon. Let your occasional thoughts

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Oh to love, to believe, to hope, to delight in God!

“Oh to love the Saviour with a passion that can never cool; Oh to believe in God with a confidence that can never stagger!  Oh, to hope with an expectation that can never be dim!  Oh, to delight in God with a holy over-flowing rejoicing that can never be stopped, so that we might live to glorify God at the highest bent of our powers, living with enthusiasm, burning, blazing, being consumed with the indwelling God who worketh all things in us according to His will! Thus, Lord, would we praise and pray at the same time, confess and acknowledge our responsibilities, but also bless the free, the sovereign grace that makes us what we are.  Oh God of the eternal choice, O God of the ransom purchased on the tree, O God of the effectual call, Father, Son and Spirit, our adoration rises to heaven like the smoke from the altar of incense.  Glory and honour and majesty and power and dominion and

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The Most Important Prayer Request in the World

From John Piper: The most important prayer is that the most important person in the universe do the most important act in the universe. That’s why Jesus put this request at the beginning of the Lord’s prayer: “Hallowed be your name.” God is the most important person in the universe. More important than all others put together. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17). The whole-souled act of hallowing God’s name is the most important act in the universe. To “hallow” means to “sanctify” which in God’s case means to set apart in your mind and heart as supremely great and beautiful and valuable. “Hallowed be your name” means, “See to it that your name is hallowed. Use your infinite power and wisdom and love to stir up billions of hearts and minds to admire you and prize you above all things.” We ask him to

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Altogether lovely

“Yea, He is altogether lovely.”—Song of Solomon 5:16. HE superlative beauty of Jesus is all-attracting; it is not so much to be admired as to be loved. He is more than pleasant and fair, He is lovely. Surely the people of God can fully justify the use of this golden word, for He is the object of their warmest love, a love founded on the intrinsic excellence of His person, the complete perfection of His charms. Look, O disciples of Jesus, to your Master’s lips, and say, “Are they not most sweet?” Do not His words cause your hearts to burn within you as He talks with you by the way? Ye worshippers of Immanuel, look up to His head of much fine gold, and tell me, are not His thoughts precious unto you? Is not your adoration sweetened with affection as ye humbly bow before that countenance which is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars? Is there not a

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