Spiritual Recovery

30 Jan

What do you do when you grow cold spiritually?

If someone grows cold physically, we know exactly what they should do, they need to get themselves near something hot, like a fire, in order to heat themselves up. The same of course is true spiritually. If you want to heat up spiritually, you need to get yourself as near as you can to, and stay as long as you can with, Jesus Christ who is the fire that can heat up the coldest person spiritually.

We were at church yesterday and were able to celebrate communion and during our communion service the person speaking was doing one thing and one thing only, lifting up the person of Christ and as he did so, I was reminded once again of how amazingly practical and life-transforming simply beholding Jesus Christ is. We talk about wanting to make our sermons practical and relevant, there is nothing more practical and relevant than simply talking about Jesus accurately and passionately.

Unfortunately, if there is one thing we as people are slow to do in this modern world of ours, it is to look long and hard at Jesus. We want to talk about us. We want to talk about being good people. We want to talk about how to have a successful life. You have all kinds of preaching about self and all kinds of talk about life in this world, which is pretty much the way it has always been, but where is Jesus Christ, it is as if he was a piece of trivia, as if he were merely a name or a historical figure to which we give a nod, but of no real and lasting importance.

And if that’s the way many of the people around us are, we should constantly be checking our own hearts to make sure we haven’t come down with the same spiritual sickness. John Owen saw something similar happening in his day and writes, “I am afraid we have not, some of us, that love for Christ, that delight in him, nor do make that constant abode with him as we have done. We have very much lost out of our faith and our affections him who is the life and centre, the glory and the power, of all spiritual life, and of all we have to do with God, Jesus Christ himself.” In other words, Owen was concerned and we should be as well, that our Christianity isn’t missing Christ.

What should we do if we find that happening? Let me paraphrase Owen once again:

1. Deliberately place your trust completely in Christ, and daily. If your heart is cold towards Christ and your mind empty when you begin to think of Christ, start speaking to yourself and more importantly, start speaking to Christ. Say to Jesus, “This is who you are. I love you because you are fully God. I love you because you are fully man. I love you because I can depend on you.” Take one thing you know to be true about Christ or His work and trace out in your mind the difference that it should make on the way you think and live. “Jesus, you have died that I might be forgiven. That means my sins are no longer counted against me. That means I have complete peace with God. Jesus, I believe that. I believe you are my only means of forgiveness and I believe that your work is more than enough.”

2. Work at filling up your hearts with love for Christ. We live in such a feeling centered age that this may sound strange to us, but if I am not feeling love towards my children, I don’t just sit back, I need to work at filling up my hearts with love for them and the same is true with Jesus Christ. There are so many reasons to love Him, you can just pick one and then set your heart on it like a bulldog with a bone. You say, but I don’t know where to start? Look for Jesus in your pastor’s sermons. When you go to listen to preaching, ask God, please show me why I should love Jesus more as a result of what the pastor says? Look for Jesus in your Bible reading. When you study a passage ask yourself what does it tell you about Jesus that gives you reason to love Him. Study the gospels over and over and over. We know that Jesus reveals God to us, so as you study the gospels, keep asking yourself what is Jesus teaching me about what God is like? One of the simple things you might do and this is perhaps too obvious, but sing Christ centered songs. You may not feel like singing right away, sure, I have been there, but sing songs that remind you of who Christ is and sing them until your heart begins to heat up. Or if you are like me and can’t sing, marry a woman who can sing or have daughters that can sing and try to sing along with them. (Joking of course, but it is nice!)

3. Meditate, study, and find great joy in hearing about Christ. Don’t become discouraged just because some of the things that we learn about Christ are mysterious, think about them anyway. We sometimes grow best by thinking about the truths that are most mysterious. Like the incarnation, you start thinking about that and sometimes you can think about it only for a few moments because it seems so difficult, but don’t stop there. Don’t let anyone stop you from thinking long and hard about these things by saying, oh they are dry and dusty doctrines, you should just love Jesus. Jesus is a person and these truths help us understand that person. They are your life. Of course you don’t study them to argue them, you study them to love him but study them! Go to some of the old, dead guys and start reading. I know that their words can be so hard to understand, but man, this is Jesus we are talking about and some of these men were given such great insight into the person of Christ. Candy floss is easier to eat than steak, but less filling if you know what I mean. Don’t settle. And encourage your pastor, when he goes deep into the person of Christ, sit up in your seat in church, nod your head, go up to him afterward and thank him for telling you about Christ. Ask him to recommend some books and tapes that you could listen to in order to help you understand Jesus better.

4. Instead of simply going through the motions of your spiritual duties, think a little bit about what you are actually doing and seek to do what God is calling you to do in the way that God calls you to do it.

If you are feeling like God is so far away and you are just so cold, then you might just try to go back to the beginning with some of the things God has called you to do. Like say praying. Instead of just shooting up some words to God before a meal, stop and think, what am I really doing when I am praying? What do I need to really pray? O.k. I am talking to God. Wow, how should I talk to God? I should talk to him with fear and awe, I should know that I need him, I should come to him in boldness trusting in Christ, I should plead the promises with him. Well, fear and awe, why should I feel fear and awe? I need to remind myself of what God is like as I go to prayer. I should think for a while about my real condition and how much I need God’s help today. I should ask God as I go about doing these things to really help me believe them.

Maybe one last warning:

It’s so easy for us to talk and talk and talk about spiritual things, without ever having those spiritual things really go deep into our hearts. That’s a sure and certain path towards spiritual coldness. It is so easy for us to hear something and to get an idea of what it is about and to go out and talk about it without really ever grabbing hold of those truths in our hearts. You go to church and you hear a sermon and you understand the concept and you go out and talk about it for a day or two, but it is obvious that truth didn’t go into your heart, because there is no long term change that takes place. Don’t confuse verbal assent and the ability to talk about something with really believing and delighting in that same truth. When you come to church or go to preach, don’t be satisfied with merely talking about the Word of God or Jesus as if he were an interesting truth, like a historian might talk about George Washington or something, no, come to Jesus as if He were your life, because of course He is, and commit yourself to never talking about Jesus or listening to a sermon without at the same time working as hard as you can through the Holy Spirit that you might experience the power of those truths in your everyday life as well.

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