Saturday, February 09, 2013

Where to Go When Your Heart is Cold

I've been reading Paul Tripp's book A Dangerous Calling, and I would heartily recommend it for all pastors or anyone who does a lot of ministry.  It has been for me a call back to the gospel, deliverance from making ministry about me, from making it an idol.  Here, Tripp reminds his readers of the remedy of this tendency to make ministry about building the kingdom of self:

"... 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 do something extraordinary to encounter God, but we are not willing to do 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.


Unknown said...

So what you're saying is, when we feel far, we need to change by taping in to what God has already provided. We need not remain in the chill of a season of drought because God really isn't far, even if we feel He is, unless we have drifted from him (and not visa-versa). Yes?

Tom said...

Yes, when we feel far from Him or cold-hearted, we need to go where he has promised to meet us. This is a call to return to Him via the ways He has instituted: Scripture, Sacraments, prayer, etc. However, that doesn't mean that there will be an instant change within us. Nor does it mean that if we turn the means of grace and end up unchanged that we are at fault (though often this is the case). The article doesn't say everything about this process (because if you say everything you end up not saying anything). So, there is no comment in this article about the long waiting that often enter when we sense a cold-heart within us and turn to the Lord via his means of grace. (Perhaps I should've included something on that.) But very often we do find he lifts our spirits and warms our hearts again ... even after a short dip into prayer or the Word. Does that make sense? I think Piper's book might explain things more thoroughly if you're wanting further explanation of the process.