10 Resolutions for Mental Health, by Clyde Kilby, posted by John Piper

On October 22, 1976, Clyde Kilby, who is now with Christ in Heaven, gave an unforgettable lecture. I went to hear him that night because I loved him. He had been one of my professors in English Literature at Wheaton College. He opened my eyes to more of life than I knew could be seen. O, what eyes he had! He was like his hero, C. S. Lewis, in this regard. When he spoke of the tree he saw on the way to class this morning, you wondered why you had been so blind all your life. Since those days in classes with Clyde Kilby,Psalm 19:1 has been central to my life: “The sky is telling the glory of God.”

That night Dr. Kilby had a pastoral heart and a poet’s eye. He pled with us to stop seeking mental health in the mirror of self-analysis, but instead to drink in the remedies of God in nature. He was not naïve. He knew of sin. He knew of the necessity of redemption in Christ. But he would have said that Christ purchased new eyes for us as well as new hearts. His plea was that we stop being unamazed by the strange glory of ordinary things. He ended that lecture in 1976 with a list of resolutions. As a tribute to my teacher and a blessing to your soul, I offer them for your joy.

Go here for Kilby’s 10 resolutions for mental health.

Gleaning #8: Humility, Humility, Humility

This is the most important lesson of the Christian life, a lesson that will never know cessation.  For it is true in some sense, that at the point one thinks that he is humble, and asserts as much, he ceases to be humble; and yet, there is a Moses, there is our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Bible absolutely affirms, from the mouths of Moses, and again, from the word of Christ, as humble; and thus there is also a sense in which it would be prideful to assert that one is not humble contrary to the truth that one may actually be.

I do not intend for this to be much more than a word or two, but in God’s providence, through the normal activities of the day, through the precious opportunities to pray, and read the bible, to teach and/or preach, to be a Christian husband, a Christian father, a Christian brother, and friend, He humbles me.  And He often does this by, first, revealing to me my pride, and/or the central gravity of my life and thoughts and words – whether I am pulled and tugged by the desire to please man or God; and upon learning of it, I am humbled – with great thanksgiving, I am humbled.

And this must be cultivated by God-centered view of all things, prayer, and the intense contrast between God’s infinite greatness, His love, mercy, grace, justice and wrath – these He holds perfectly together – and our inherent weakness.  From where does our sufficiency or adequacy, ability or talent, the energy for precious Gospel works of faith in love – where does this come from, but from God who is gracious.  Let us consider these things.  And allow me to encourage you – pursue humility, ask God for it.  Brothers and sisters, strive for humility in all things.  God is gracious!

Gleaning #7: A Foretaste of our Joyful Employment Forever

Psalm 145:3 – Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

It is easy to see that the Psalmist desires to communicate the greatness of God.  He does this by stating three certifiable facts: one pertains to the Lord, the other to the proper response of all creation, and the last to the depth of His greatness, and by implication of all three, there arises the eternality of our heavenly occupation.

First, “Great is the Lord.”  We need to be careful what we call “great.”  We are inclined to use words very loosely in this day and age.  Coffee is “great”.  Football is “great”.  Stuffed crust pizza is “great”.  The Coliseum is “great”.  America is “great”.  The Psalmist, however, reserves this word for the Lord.  It is the same idea that can be drawn from those words of Jesus to the rich young ruler, “Only God is good.”  This would exclude everything else from properly fitting this term “good” or, in our text, “great”.  And for ancient Israel, God was displayed as truly great.  He is the Creator, the Redeemer, the Warrior, the Rock, the self-existent and infinitely free God, perfect in justice and mercy, transcendent and immanent.  And has not proven Himself so to His church, blessed in the Beloved Christ.  Our God is great: a great Father, a great King, a great Lord, a great Savior, a great Treasure, the Delight of the Christian soul.  Great is the Lord.  Veneration is the correct response!

Thus, “and greatly to be praised.”  The overflow of beholding our great God is great praise, that is, as God is great, and our hearts behold some degree of His greatness, our response is a degree of praise that equals and arises to that which we have beheld.  There is a balance in the statement, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.”  In truth, the statement is remarkably unbalanced, and for this reason, God has granted His children eternity for the same occupation.  Simply put, the Lord is infinite in all of His attributes, and thus it is quite impossible, though good and right and spontaneously essential, to equally praise Him on account of His greatness.  If we were to greatly praise God every second of every minute of every hour of every day for the rest of our lives, we would not come close to the praise that ought to be and will be ascribed to His name in heaven forever.  And so it is a remarkable grace that God requires, grants, and loves what praise we give to Him – and for this He should be greatly praised!

Third, to bring more clarity to the issue, “and his greatness is unsearchable.”  This expresses what I have said.  And here, our eternal occupation is implied.  The logic of God’s Spirit is sweet at this point.  (1) The Lord is great.  (2) He is to be greatly praised.  (3)  But the greatness of the Lord, for which we are to greatly praise Him, is itself “unsearchable.”  Herein, the eternality of our eternal occupation is laid bare.  For God will forever be great.  And His greatness is unsearchable.  This life is certainly not long enough to search out what is unsearchable (though, in His grace, we can praise Him for what He has revealed of Himself).  And with that in mind, only eternity will grant us the time to search out what is of such greatness, such infinite glory and depth, that it is dubbed “unsearchable.”  And so, as we behold ever new vistas of God’s greatness forever, so our employment will forever be the exercise of greatly praising our God.  And thus, our employment now is, by God’s grace, a foretaste of our joyful employment forever.  Let us then be about beholding our God in the face of Jesus Christ, in all of Scripture, and in our lives; let us be marked by a passion for biblical praise.

Gleaning #6: Read Biblical Introductions Well

Mark introduces his gospel in this way: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet . . .”

I think there is a tendency to overlook the introductions to the books of the Bible.  I am beginning to understand that that is unwise, like seeking to build a building without its hermeneutical (interpretive) foundation.  If at any point in the gospel you become stuck as to the meaning of the passage, or perhaps, you begin to wonder what in the world is being communicated, you can always come back to the introduction and see exactly what the author (Mark) intends to communicate as a gloss over everything else that follows.

I would also encourage you to spend time meditating on each verse – yes, even the introductory verses.  By meditation I do not intend the worldwide infatuation with emptying the mind – what possible sense does that make?  Being mindless is generally frowned upon (though ironically, again, most seem to adore the idea when it is attached to “spirituality” of some sort – anyway!).  These first few words of the Gospel of Mark have been extremely sweet to my soul in recent days for at least two reasons:

First, that any man would call Jesus the Christ is absolutely astonishing, and should serve as impetus to the praise of God’s glorious grace.  Having read and studied the Gospel of Luke for the majority of this year, I have noticed a simple framework in the first nine chapters that centers on Jesus as the Christ of God.  At least three times (possibly four), the narrative begs the question through its characters, “Who is this guy?  Who is this Jesus?”  And there is a tremendous build up that peaks at Peter’s confession.  Jesus asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  And Peter, speaking as representative, replies, “You are the Christ of God!”  And we are meant to explode with joy at that confession!  Why?  Not only because God has given a Christ in Jesus for sinners, but that no human being, that is, flesh and blood, is able to come up or derive or produce or self-reveal that confession.  The parallel text in Matthew 16:17 states as much and presses upon us the reality that only the Father in heaven, the God who sovereignly reveals divine truth, reveals to sinful man that Jesus is in fact the Christ!  If you confess today that Jesus is the God-man, Prophet, Priest, and King, that is, the Christ, the One who reconciles sinners to God by way of His perfect Person and Work, that is the grace of God and your heart ought to soar at the prospect of such mercy!  And here, in Mark 1:1, what is Mark’s confession?  “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Thus, in a word, “Christ”, as it is joined to “Jesus”, is highlighted the revealing, and saving grace of God in the life of Mark.

And secondly, that the gospel which Mark espouses is admirably simple, and in a sense, remarkably ancient and radically new at the same time.  For the sake of brevity, I mean to say that Mark is hardly innovative.  How indeed does he begin the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  With an introduction to an ancient text of the Old Testament!  He literally writes 12 words (The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God), and then goes immediately to: “As it is written!”  Mark is no philosophy major.  He is not interested in starting a new religion, beginning a new cult or sect.  He is not moved to display what intelligence he had at his disposal.  He is not all that creative.  Plainly and simply, Mark is concerned with communicating the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and thus, he turns immediately without hesitation to the Word of God.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is ancient!  His beginnings are from of old.  He is the Ancient of Days!  In one sense, the Son of God has been emanating forward from all eternity, to put on flesh, live sinlessly for sinners, die in the place of sinners, be raised and ascended, to accomplish and apply the salvation of God.  Mark makes this plain when he writes, “As it is written.”  And there is a sense in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is new.  This Mark simultaneously accomplishes by “As it is written,” for what then follows are quotes from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, which without the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, would be somewhat ambiguous.  That is, they find their fulfillment and truest meaning in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the work of God so near to Mark’s own day – and in light of eternity, very near to our own!  In this sense, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is radically new – the escalation and fullness of God’s promises, now dispensed through Him to those who repent and believe in Him.  Is this not a word to us in our day?  That amidst American pragmatism, Mark is inclined to go no further than twelve of his own words before he runs immediately to the text of God.  May we be so inclined!  May the Lord grant us to be men and women of the text, to communicate the old (and glorious) Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; so long innovation, hello Bible.

Summarily, read your introductions well – pray through them, meditate and memorize them, and let them set the aroma of Christ all about your heart.

Gleaning #5: God Has Granted a Child

Three weeks ago I noticed a “Big Picture Story Bible” sitting within my bookshelf atop my neatly aligned books.  The “Big Picture Story Bible” is somewhat of a pictorial biblical theology for children – and apparently, useful for adults as well!  Thus, I became immediately curious.  I know every book on my shelf and I had never seen that one.  So with supreme intelligence I asked Jenny, “What’s this?”  She had anticipated my intricate awareness of what is and is not normal within the realm of my library, and as such, had purposely set it there for my inspection.  So she was somewhat furrowed that I had not gone along with her plan; nevertheless, in her kindness, she calmly asked me to open the front of the book, and lo and behold, pregnancy strips – positive!

God has granted us a child!  Jenny is in her ninth week.  As such, the Lord has made us parents for nearly two months, and it is a joy to arise with my wife and pray for our child, to consider her and this baby in all of my thoughts, to carry them around with me in my heart all the day long.  And I praise my God, a merciful and gracious Father to us, right and wise in all His ways; and my Lord Jesus Christ through whom I know Him; and the Spirit of Christ who comforts me in my prayers, bearing witness with my spirit that our baby “lives and moves and has his or her being” in Creator God, my perfect Father.  So praise God with us, and pray for Jenny, pray for this baby, and the Lord knows, pray for me.  God has granted us a child and in this we rejoice with unceasing joy!

Gleaning #4: Be Not Hard of Heart!

When it comes to the hard of heart, my previous Bible study had left me with the impression that this was relegated to the example of Pharaoh’s heart, and the Lord’s sovereign dealing within it (roughly throughout Exodus 4-14).  It was this example that Paul plucked from Exodus to make his point concerning the effectiveness, sovereignty, justice and mercy of God in salvation (Romans 9).  But as when one walks through a vineyard and finds that the farther he goes the more he is privileged to pick, eat and be satisfied, so it is with one’s walk and gleanings through the Bible.  And thus,

the last gleaning dealt with the hardness of Israel’s heart – that which the Lord required, and that which only the Lord can give, Israel did not have but was no less called to have it (see Deuteronomy 10, 29).

In the book of Joshua, the Lord hardens the hearts of the enemies of Israel so that they will come into battle against the Lord and be completely cut off from the earth, disinherited that God’s people might rest in the new Eden (which never materialized and thus purposed to look forward to something greater, namely, Christ, and through Him, the hope of an eternal and new heaven and earth), see Joshua 11:20.  Here also the hardening of their hearts is equated to receiving no mercy from God or the people of Israel in battle.  The hard of heart receive justice only.

We see this previously in Deuteronomy 2:30 with Sihon the King of Heshbon.  The Lord made his spirit hard and his heart obstinate in order that he might fight with Israel and be destroyed.

We see this prior to this in Exodus 14:17 when the Lord hardens the hearts of not one person, but thousands of Egyptians which leads to their destruction in the Sea.

Here is the point: Be not hard of heart!  And do not say to yourselves, “Well who can resist his will,” as they did to Paul in Romans 9, for Paul has already provided any adequate answer.  Suffice it to say that Pharaoh, the enemies of Israel, Sihon, the company of Egyptians, and apparently the majority of ancient Israel, were not doing anything that they did not previously desire to do or would have done, and thus they are responsible.  And yet there is a time in which the Lord also makes the heart obstinate.  This is balanced by the following: that while the Lord hardens hearts, and is just in doing so, you are no less responsible to respond in saving faith to His overtures which require new hearts.  The fact that you live this day should cause you to cast yourself wholeheartedly upon his mercy, and the grace revealed to us in Jesus Christ, in whom a new heart for sinners is promised!  If you do not, the destruction is yours to own, and be do not be fooled, the hard of heart are hardened unto destruction.  Therefore, be not hard of heart!  God has promised in the New Covenant that He will give a new heart, and that Covenant has been ratified by the blood of Christ – it is offered to you today in Christ!  Repent and believe upon Jesus, and God will save you, and be for you!

Gleaning #3: The Bible’s Theology of the Heart

While American marketing and the larger pop culture advertises the human heart as the seat of foolish, comedic and temporary lust (culturally synonymous with love), the Bible reveals a more comprehensive understanding.  The heart, while remaining tied to the affections, is the seat of the person’s thought life, his or her inner life, the character, the personal self.

And it is depraved!  That is, it is dead and dying, so to speak.  Thus, the biblical heart, being depraved, implies the rottenness of the person themselves.  The thoughts of the inner man are only in rebellion against God – but God gave what the Bible calls the heart for this express purpose: out of original life and communion with God, the heart of man would at all times assent to God, adoring Him and thus with love and joy obey and praise Him forever.  This we lost in the Fall.

Recently I was reading the book of Deuteronomy which some regard as the “heart of the Old Testament.”  It is a marvelous book!  And it has an explicit theology of the heart – particularly concerning the biblical paradox of the heart.  In several places, the people of Israel are commanded to search for the Lord with all their heart.  In other places, they are incited to put their hearts to His Word.  Elsewhere, they are to love the Lord God will all of their hearts.  Moreover, Moses mentions that the Lord tested them at points to know what was in their hearts (or rather, that it might be made plain to them that their hearts were indeed insufficiently wired for the task).

But in Deuteronomy 10:16, an interesting twist is introduced to the biblical plot.  The people of Israel are told “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”  The point, keeping in mind that they understand physical circumcision quite well, is that their inner selves had to be circumcised or made clean in order for them to do all that the Lord had commanded them to do, and if the heart was not circumcised, then they would not be able to do these things.  Their hearts had to be supernaturally enacted upon by God.  But, in fact, from the history of Israel, and surmising even from what Moses says in 10:16, the people of Israel were a stubborn people, that is, their hearts were hard – no different than Pharaoh’s perhaps?  And thus, as is well documented, they were consistently in rebellion against the God who had redeemed them as a nation.  They had not obeyed His commandments, because they did not have the hearts to do so.  This may sound like a quandry, and perhaps it must get a bit foggier before it decides to become clear.

In Deuteronomy 29:4, Moses tells the people, “But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”  Thus the people must do all of God’s law.  In order to do so they must have what they do not have – a circumcised heart.  These are God’s words.  But then, through Moses, it is communicated that they very thing the people need, the very thing that the people do not have, the very thing needed to do all of God’s law, is a thing that God gives – which in His sovereignty, He has not given.  Points to be taken?  God has not given them a hard heart.  The people, from Adam, all nations included, are born with hearts of stone, stubborn to the truth and way of God.  And, God has the ability and freedom to give them new hearts, or circumcised hearts.  But, to this point, by and large, He has not given what they need to obey, and yet, still further, they are still accountable to God for the fact that they have not obeyed.

More clearly: The people of Israel needed, as anyone does today, a new heart which they themselves could not affect, but which God freely gives to whomever he wills.  Jeremiah and Ezekiel pick up on this in their prophecies concerning the New Covenant promises: Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”  Ezekiel 36:25-27, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

God gives new hearts.  This is a promise of the New Covenant.  How then may anyone receive such promises?  Matthew 26:27-28, “And (Jesus) took the cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  As blood ratified ancient covenants, so the life and death of Christ purchased the New Covenant and its promises for all those who enter into fellowship with Him through repentance and faith in Him.  Christ, who had nothing but the new heart died, that what He always had might be given to us.  In Christ, we have received from God the new heart, the heart of flesh that is sensitive to Him, that with joy and love obeys Him.

So be not discouraged nor perplexed at the apparent paradox between God’s divine sovereignty and our very real human responsibility, such that you miss the fact that God graciously gives what He requires of us – a new heart, to the new man, through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Coming up: Gleaning #4 – Be Not Hard of Heart!

Gleaning #2: A Sermon of Power and Passion by Matt Click

The sermon provided here is one that both believer and unbeliever would do well to give 50 minutes to.  The believer will find himself encouraged, while the unbeliever, who, perhaps, has many curiosities about Christianity, will find himself amidst the wonder of God’s grace to His children, and the hope that we as Christians have and hold.  It certainly blessed my soul and caused me at many points to laugh, cry and praise my God.  If you knew the man preaching it, you would be all the more humbled, blessed, and moved to adoration of God’s great mercies.

P.S. You could not spend your time more wisely today than to pray to God thanking him for gifting the church with a man (saved by grace) like Matt, and then to proceed by praying for him and his wife, Jamey and their quickly approaching ministry.

A Series of Gleanings

You must pardon me for my absence, but in God’s providence, life has gently swallowed me up – but not without many wonderful wanderings through the land of the Bible, and in that pilgrimage, a great many gleanings from its eternal richness.  I don’t know particularly how many gleanings there will be jotted upon this page, but the past few weeks have brought many helpful and blessed thoughts about the things pertaining to my Lord Jesus Christ.  So, a series of gleanings will follow – they may be thoughts, sermon links, etc., but are sure to be random at the human level (though the Lord certainly knows them).  I hope that they will be helpful to you as you continue to sojourn this land in Christ in light of the guaranteed inheritance of glory divine.

Gleaning #1: A Synopsis of Luke 9:57-62

Thought: The text presents a question and an answer they may be gleaned from the three explanatory statements of Jesus.  The question: What does it mean to follow Christ (or what does the Christian life look like or – more personally – what does the Christian person prioritize and how)?  The answer: The Christian life is the life of humility amongst hostility (v. 58 cf. 10:3) that prioritizes Christ (v. 59) by proclaiming the Gospel (the kingdom of God in Christ) (v. 60) and relentlessly pursuing its advancement (v. 62).  This obviously could go much deeper at every level, and I would be appreciative of comment and discussion of these points.  I praise my God by His grace He has made Christ the epicenter of my life and its pursuit – I am racing for the only true, right and worthy goal!  Praise God!