"... The biggest protection against the kingdom of the self is not a set of self-reformative defensive strategies. It's a heart that is blown away by the right-here, right-now glories of the grace of Jesus Christ that we're not easily seduced by the lesser temporary glories of that claustrophobic kingdom of one, the kingdom of self." (Tripp, A Dangerous Calling, p. 102)
So, this leads me to the question: how do I point my heart (as much as I can) to the glories of the grace of Jesus Christ? How do I "behold" these things? (2 Cor 3:18)
John Piper, in his honest book When I Don't Desire God, tells us what we should already know. The key to hearing from God, to seeing him, is not what many of us would expect. Sometimes, we are like Naaman in 2 Kings 5: We are willing to something extraordinary to encounter God, but we are not willing to the simple things he asks. (Sometimes, the more basic steps require us to have more faith in Him.) The cure for our hardness of heart is not flashy.
When our heart is cold, we go to the places where God has promised to meet us: his Church, his Word, his Table, in prayer.
Every Sunday there is a feast for our souls in these things, and every day God is ready to meet us in the following ways. Christians in the past called these "the means of grace":
- His Church reminds us that beholding the glories of Christ is not something we do alone. His Church puts the goodness of God on display through love, through devotion, through the gifts the Holy Spirit gives to each of us, through the image of God being renewed in the Church. (2 Cor 3:18; Eph 4:1ff)
- His Word speaks to us in ways we cannot quite understand. God uses his Scriptures to teach us, to rebuke us when we've lost our way, to show us how to life (2 Tim 3:16-17). God uses his Scriptures to reveal himself to us, to show us how life really is, contrary to the version of how the world works that we hear in our own hearts and in the world around us (John 17:17).
- His Table on Sunday mornings is where we are fed by him with spiritual food (beyond our understanding) and where we have an experience of his presence by faith (1 Cor 10:3; 10:16; John 6).
- Prayer is a great mystery where we meet God and talk to him. It takes faith to believe God hears. So, we come to Him with faith, and we speak.... to God Himself.
So, pastor and Christian, do you need to find yourself need to be "blown away" by the grace of God? Have you turned the Church, the Bible, the Lord's Table and prayer into a daily "to-do" or a means to get lesson plans or a way to minister to others? Have you forgotten that in these things the Living God is made manifest?
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we thine unworthy servants
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all men.
We bless thee for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech thee,
give us that due sense of all thy mercies,
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful;
and that we show forth thy praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to thy service,
and by walking before thee
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit,
be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.