“But Nourishes and Cherishes It”

“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” [Eph 5.28-30].

In this verse Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives on the principle that the two are now one and no one hates his own flesh.  Marriage redeemed is, of course, the shadow of which Christ and the church is the substance.  And Christ is said to nourish and cherish the church as an encouragement to husbands to do the same with respect to their wives.  “Nourish and cherish” her!

Now, I have good intentions towards my wife, to nourish her, but my attempts do often come across as a force feed rather than a considerate nourishment.  And she, God love her, is not afraid to tell me so.  Yesterday, I asked her in fun that age old question, “Do you love me?” to which she responded, “Yes.”  (Whew!)  And then I asked her the next logical question, “Why?”  She responded with several reasons, one of which was that I was God’s man for her, that I have a sanctifying effect upon her — but that that process was often difficult.  Now, sanctification is difficult — gouging out eyes, cutting off hands — this is a bloody mess.  But, I thought, perhaps she does not understand the goal of sanctification, even as I am not always stayed on the fuel for providing nourishment.  Two quick musings on these things —

On her understanding the goal of sanctification [my provision of nourishing food] — it is to nourish her.  It is to join with God’s omnipotent purpose in salvation — that she be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, which is that she be conformed to her highest beauty in the eyes of God.  So ladies, when your husband tries to correct your theology, or explain the Scriptures to you, or encourages you to think more deeply, feel more affectionately, serve more earnestly, etc., don’t be frustrated or of ill-will.  He seeks your health; he despises the sight of your protruding ribs and boney knees [metaphorically speaking].  He wants for you what God wants for you.

Now, ladies, what you need to know more than anything else is the same thing that we, men, must recognize in this clause — true nourishing is indivisible from cherishing.  Ladies, you want the nourishment to be basted in adoration.  Men, we ought to adore our wives — this is the fountain of all proper attempts at nourishment.  So we need to ask, “How do these two go together, nourish and cherish?”

Answer — This is how they go together, “nourishing” and “cherishing”, we attend with all love to the healthiness [nourish] of that which we most prize [cherish].  And Christ does prize His church more than all, save the Godhead, but even these two “cherish-ings” are not at odds but do go together.  For His insatiable love for the Father and His glory did coincide with His insatiable love for us, that is, His passion for the reparation of the Father’s honor [life, death, resurrection, ascension] did go hand in hand with our salvation, or again, His cherishing of God’s glory and our eternal good are indivisible and both indissolubly advanced in Christ alone.  So, then, even as He would without cessation cherish the glory of God, so He without cessation cherishes our good, and, therefore, with an equal passion attends to our nourishment.

So, men, husbands, major in cherishing your wife as a display of your passion for the glory of God.  Then, your attempts at her nourishment will be God-entranced rather than set to the tune of “If much would be made of me, my wife has to be the next Sarah Edwards;” they will be saturated in “Husbands, love your wives,” instead of “she must be like this other guys godly wife;” they will be the springs which flow from the fountain of a personal, practical, particular love and adoration grounded in the self-sacrificial joy of Jesus Christ.  And, as God would have it, it is this cherishing, this love that is fruitful to constrain the hearts of our wives to the very thing that we, with God, aim at in seeking to nourish her — specifically, her love for and conformity to Jesus Christ!

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Regeneration

One of my favorite passages from Thomas Watson’s sermon “How We May Read the Scriptures With Most Spiritual Profit” is a quip on regeneration (the new birth, being born again), —

The word calls for regeneration; have you the signature . . . of the Holy Ghost [Spirit] upon you?  . . . Is there such a change wrought in you, as if another soul did live in the same body?

Thomas Watson, Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, 57-71, emphasis mine.

Humility

As John Owen opens up our communion with the Holy Spirit, having already advanced many wonderful and difficult truths, and now happening upon what it means that the Holy Spirit is the seal set upon us unto the day of redemption, comes to this humble sentence,

I amnot very clear in the certain peculiar intendment [intention] of this metaphor; what I am persuaded of the mind of God init I shall briefly impart.

John Owen, Communion with God, 242, vol 2 of 16.

That is, he will only impart what he is persuaded of himself, that it is the mind of God.  May the Lord grant us the humility of the mighty puritan who would, in his dying days, refer to himself as Christ’s “poor under-rower.”  May we be careful to write, teach, preach, converse upon what we are persuaded is the mind of God in the Scripture.

The Implications of the Edwardsian Principle for Evangelism and Preaching (Part II in a Series)

What is the Edwardsian principle, that is, the keystone rule of Jonathan Edwards?  If you have paid any attention to John Piper’s ministry over the last thirty years, you know it.  And I would argue that the principle itself is not original to Edwards or Piper, but is in fact derivative.  It is derivative from the Scriptures.  God is the original of it.  But what is it?  Simply this: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Or, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.  Edwards writes, “The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God].  Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at the glory he has displayed,” and elsewhere, “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted,” and it is this magnification of His glory in the happiness of His creatures in that glory that God is committed to with unswerving zeal; thus, again, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.

This morning I simply want to show, by virtue of Piper’s quotes on the matters, what implications this holds for evangelism and preaching.

First, for evangelism, —

If the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing, then evangelism means depicting the beauty of Christ and his saving work with a heartfelt urgency of love that labors to help people find their satisfaction in him.  The most important common ground with unbelievers is not culture but creation, not momentary felt needs but massive real needs.  Augustine’s famous prayer is all important: ‘You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace till they rest in you.’  If a person realizes that the image of God in man is man’s ineffably profound fitness to image forth Christ’s glory through everlasting joy in God, then he will not gut the great gospel of its inner life and power. . . . Our evangelistic task is not to persuade people that the gospel was made for their felt needs, but that they were made  for the soul-satisfying glory of God in the gospel.

Second, what of preaching?

Similarly, Christian preaching, as part of the corporate worship of Christ’s church, is an expository exultation over the glories of God in his word, designed to lure God’s people from the fleeting pleasures of sin into the sacrificial path of obedient satisfaction in him. . . . When Edwards pondered the aims of preaching for the glory of God he said, ‘I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.’  High affections rooted in, and proportioned by, the truth — that is the goal of preaching.

John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 39-40.

Justin Taylor’s Tribute to John Stott (1921-2011)

Wonderful.  Go here.

And another on which one book of Stott’s to read.  Go here.

The Implications of the Edwardsian Principle for Heaven and Hell

What is the Edwardsian principle, that is, the keystone rule of Jonathan Edwards?  If you have paid any attention to John Piper’s ministry over the last thirty years, you know it.  And I would argue that the principle itself is not original to Edwards or Piper, but is in fact derivative.  It is derivative from the Scriptures.  God is the original of it.  But what is it?  Simply this: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Or, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.  Edwards writes, “The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God].  Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at the glory he has displayed,” and elsewhere, “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted,” and it is this magnification of His glory in the happiness of His creatures in that glory that God is committed to with unswerving zeal; thus, again, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.

This morning I simply want to show, by virtue of Piper’s quotes on the matters, what implications this holds for heaven and hell.

First, what of heaven then?

“Heaven will be a never-ending, ever-increasing discovery of more and more of God’s glory with greater and ever-greater joy in him.  If God’s glory and our joy in him are one, and yet we are not infinite as he is, then our union with him in the all-satisfying experience of his glory can never be complete, but must be increasing with intimacy and intensity forever and ever.  The perfection of heaven is not static.  Nor do we see at once all there is to see — for that would be a limit on God’s glorious self-revelation, and therefore, his love.  Yet we do not become God.  Therefore, there will always be more, and the end of increased pleasure in God will never come.

Hear is the way Edwards puts it: ‘I suppose it will not be denied by any, that God, in glorifying the saints in heaven with eternal felicity, aims to satisfy his infinite grace or benevolence, by the bestowment of a good [which is] infinitely valuable, because eternal: and yet there never will come the moment, when it can be said, that now this infinitely valuable good has been actually bestowed.’  Moreover, he says, our eternal rising into more and more of God will be a ‘rising higher and higher through that infinite duration, and . . . not with constantly diminishing (but perhaps increasing) celerity [that is, velocity] . . . [to an] infinite height; though there never will be any particular time when it can be said already to have come to such a height.’  This is what we see though a glass darkly in Ephesians 2.7, ‘[God seats us in heaven with Christ] so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’ It will take in infinite number of ages for God to be done glorifying the wealth of his grace to us — which is to say the will never be done.”

Second, what of hell?

Hell is unspeakably real, conscious, horrible and eternal — the experience in which God vindicates the worth ofhis glory in holy wrath on those who would not delight in what is infinitely glorious.  If infinitely valuable glory has been spurned, and the offer of eternal joy in God has been finally rejected, an indignity against God has been committed so despicable as to merit eternal suffering.  Thus, Edwards says, ‘God aims at satisfying justice in the eternal damnation of sinners; which will be satisfied by their damnation, considered no otherwise than with regard to its eternal duration.  But yet there never will come that particular moment, when it can be said, that now justice is satisfied.’  Of the love of God and the wrath of God, Edwards says simply, ‘Both will be unspeakable.’

John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 37-38.

“How We May Read the Scriptures With Most Spiritual Profit,” Part III

Watson’s directions, 21-24 and concluding thoughts.

Direction 21. Set upon the practice of what you read. . . . The word written is not only a rule of knowledge, but a rule of obedience: it is not only to mend our sight, but to mend our pace. . . . Reading without practice will be but a torch to light men to hell.

Direction 22. Make use of Christ’s prophetical office. . . . Such as would be scripture-proficients, let them get Christ to be their teacher. “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” [Lk 24.45].  Christ did not only open the scriptures, but “opened their understanding.”

Direction 23. Tread often upon the threshold of the sanctuary. — Wait diligently on a rightly constituted ministry: “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching diligently at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors” [Prov 8.34].  Ministers are God’s interpreters; it is their work to open dark places in Scripture.  We read of “pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers” [Judges 7.16].  Ministers are “earthen” pitchers [2 Cor 4.7].  But these pitchers have lamps within them, to light souls in the dark.

Direction 24. Pray that God will make you profit. — “I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit” [Isa 48.17].  Make David’s prayer: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” [Psalm 119.18]. . . . Implore the guidance of God’s Spirit: “Thou gavest them thy good Spirit to instruct them” [Neh 9.20].  Though the ship hath a compass to sail by, and store of tackling, yet without a gale of wind it cannot sail.  Though we have the word written as our compass to sail by, and make use of our endeavours as the tackling, yet, unless the Spirit of God blow upon us, we cannot sail with profit.  When the Almighty is as “dew” unto us, then we “grow as the lily,” and our “beauty is as the olive-tree” [Hosea 14.5, 6].

Two corollaries, —

[1]. Content not yourselves with the bare reading of scripture, but labour to find some spiritual increment and profit. — Get the word transcribed into your hearts. . . . Never leave till you are assimilated into the word.

[2]. You who have profited by reading the holy scriptures, adore God’s distinguishing grace. — Bless God that he hath not only brought the light to you, but opened your eyes to see it; that he hath unlocked his hid treasure, and enriched you with saving knowledge.  Some perish by not having scripture, and others by not improving it.  That God should pass by millions in the world, and the lost of his electing love should fall upon you; that the scripture, like the pillar of cloud, should have a dark side to others, but a light side to you; that to others it should be a “dead letter,” but to you that “savour of life;” that Christ should not only be revealed to you, but in you; [Gal 1.16] how should you be in an holy ecstasy of wonder, and wish that you had hearts of seraphim burning in love to God, and the voices of angels, to make heaven ring with God’s praises!

Objection.  But some of the godly may say, they fear they do not profit by the word they read.

Response.  As in the body, when there is a lipothymy or “fainting of the vital spirits,” cordials are applied: so let me apply a few divine cordials to such as are ready to faint under the fear of non-proficiency.

[1]. You may profit by reading the word, though you come short of others. — The ground which brought forth thirty-fold was “good ground” [Mt 13.8].

[2]. You may profit by reading the word, though you are not of so quick apprehension. — Some impeach themselves of non-proficiency, because they are slow of understanding. . . . A Christian’s intellectuals may be less quick and penetrating, yet that little knowledge he hath of scripture keeps him from sin; as a man that hath but weak sight, yet it keeps him from falling into the water.

[3]. You may profit by reading scripture, though you have not so excellent memories. — Christian, art thou grieved thou canst remember no more?  Then for thy comfort, —

[a]. Thou mayest have a good heart, though thou has not so good a memory.

[b]. Though thou canst not remember all thou readest, yet thou rememberest that which is most material, and which thou hast most need of. — At a feast we do not eat of every dish, but we take so much as nourisheth.  It is with a good Christian’s memory as it is with a lamp: though the lamp be not full of oil, yet it hath so much oil as makes the lamp burn: though thy memory be not full of scripture, yet thou retainest so much as makes thy love to God burn.  Then be of good comfort; thou dost profit by what thou readest; and take notice of that encouraging scripture: “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, he shall bring all things to your remembrance” [John 14.26].

Thomas Watson, “How We May Read the Scriptures With Most Spiritual Profit,” in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, 68-71, vol 2 of 6.