Thursday, December 27, 2007

How Are You Feeling About Jesus?

How Are You Feeling About Jesus?[1]

In B. B. Warfield's compelling sermon “The Religious Life of Theological Students,” delivered to the student body of Princeton Seminary, he writes:

“You will never prosper in your religious life in the Theological Seminary until your work in the Theological Seminary becomes itself to you a religious exercise out of which you draw every day enlargement of heart, elevation of spirit, and adoring delight in your Maker and your Savior.”

The goal of the theological student then, is to do all of his work in the name of the Lord – in agreement with His will and character. It is, as Warfield later suggests, “to study as in the presence of God.” It means viewing study as an act of worship and a way of delighting in God – not just having thoughts about Him. If we believe the framers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism were correct, it means to glorify God and enjoy Him as you study! That is how very many theological students begin – but so very few maintain and, more importantly, end this way.

Pastors often find this temptation, to allow Bible study to become academic and have no effect on the heart. Amazingly, it is very easy to lose sight of Christ in the midst of all our thinking, speaking and counseling about Him.

And of course, the Christian mom, or plumber or dentist or engineering student or software engineer is faced with the same challenge – to “do all things in the Name of Christ Jesus.” This means that we are to be both cognizant and dependent upon Him and if we are, that will have some effect upon us.

In fact, I will be very bold and suggest that there is something spiritually off with us if the general pattern of our experience is not one of being regularly startled or humbled or warmed or shocked or challenged or rebuked or intrigued or enflamed or humbled or angered or broken by our contact with Jesus Christ.

I have four children. In the continual ebb and flow of those relationships, there are days when I tear up with joy over them and then there are days when I might look at the little olive plants around my table and ask, “Where is the gardener! Let's do some pruning!” My point is that these people affect me. This is the very nature of relationship and it is a relationship that we have with Jesus Christ if we are born again. Thus, if we are unaffected by Jesus, if there is nothing happening in us as a result of our contact with Him – then we are in the very worst state of all!

We have grown cold and dull. Apathetic. We are on the dangerous road to soul destruction! Thus, I am asking you today, in your deepest heart, in those most intimate parts of your soul… what is your experience of Jesus. I am not asking you what you know about Him. I am asking you if He is having any affect on you. I believe I can ask you this question on the authority of God's Word – for that perfect book teaches us that no one stayed neutral toward Jesus while He was on this earth. It was impossible for a man or woman or boy or girl who had real contact with Jesus to remain untouched in the soul. Their responses greatly varied, but there was a response!

My goal here is to amass a host of examples of these responses. I am setting out to stack them all up against you then push the whole load on top of you. I will be asking you – what is YOUR response to Jesus.

Dear ones, may God be gracious to use this Word to melt, condemn, encourage, pierce, edify or whatever needs to be done to our hearts. But may there not be a single one of us who feels content to go on indifferently – unfeelingly – with Jesus!

Look briefly with me at these examples of how people responded to Jesus from the Gospel of Luke:

As a boy in temple… astonishment

Luke 2:47-48 “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.”

The initial response of Nazareth residents….marveling

Luke 4:22 “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”

Capernaum synagogue members after casting out demon… amazement

Luke 4:36-37 “And they were all amazed and said to one another, “ What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.”

The great catch of fish… conviction

Luke 5:8 “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’”

Paralytic through the roof healed…awe

Luke 5:26 “And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.’”

In Judeadesire

Luke 6:17-19 “And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.”

Raising the Nain widow's son… fear

Luke 7:15-17 “And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.”

A prostitute anoints Jesus feet with tears and perfume… worship

Luke 7:37-38 “And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”

Disciples after Jesus calms the storm…shock

Luke 8:25 “He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’”

After Gerasene demoniac cured… paralyzing fear

Luke 8:35-37 “Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.”

After Jesus’ transfiguration… astonishment

Luke 9:42-43 “While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”

With the Pharisees… anger

Luke 11:53-54 “As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

Bent woman healed on Sabbath… shame / joy

Luke 13:17 “As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame , and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.”

Bartimaeus… praise

Luke 18:42-43 “And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

Triumphal Entry…. rejoicing

Luke 19:37-40 “As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! ” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

People and Pharisees During the Passion Week… hate / hunger for more

Luke 19:47-48 “And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.

Pharisees finally silenced… silent awe

Luke 20:26 “And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.”

After His death… repentance

Luke 23:47-48 “Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.

My point? Simply that wherever men came into contact with Jesus they were provoked, or undone or dissembled. Something happened to them.

Is something happening to you? Is your “adoring delight in you Maker and Saviour” growing and expanding and deepening? Are you being affected by Christ? Can you read your theology, study the Greek of John 1, consider the lives of saints from years past and simply stay the same?

I am convinced that one of Satan's great delights in the theological school is to create a man who thinks like a Christian and talks like a Christian and even acts like a Christian… but does not FEEL like a Christian… and is content with that!

Such a man ventures nothing on Christ. Such a man lives happily without prayer. Such a man tolerates mediocrity in his relationships. Such a man justifies his sin because he is cold to the convicting work of the Spirit. Such a man speaks great truths about God without the faintest flutter in his heart. Such a man is hollow, lonely, aimless and of no eternal impact on this earth. I know… for far too often I am that man.

What we need is to have our feelings melted again by His real presence. How can we do this?

Let me be clear, we are not to go on some search for experience or feelings! Our search is for Christ, not emotions or new highs or mystic experiences. I am saying, though, that if we find Christ, we will feel something! Thus, no feelings and no response may be a very good indicator we have a cold heart.

How do we find Jesus then? I know of only one recourse to suggest to you. Start with the big truths about our Saviour again. Did God not send His only son to be a man and to walk on our tiny planet? Did this Jesus not speak and do we not have the very Words of God in our hands? Do we believe there is a literal hell full of souls enduring eternal punishment for their sin? Do we believe there is a literal heaven full of souls basking in eternal bliss? Do we believe that this God has made Himself known to us by glorious grace and called us to tell men of His gospel – that they too may have life in Christ?

If you are a Christian, then I say these are the Truths that you do believe – and truths they are brothers! If they make no indentation on our callous hearts then we have good cause to stop everything else and to beg this Almighty Creator to enflame our hearts and make Himself known to us.

We must keep seeking Him, not willing to let go the Saviour's leg until we receive the blessing. Oh, He may undo you in the process and you may find the dislocation of all you think you need. But I say, hold on until you meet Him afresh – until you are in awe or amazement or fear... until you must worship. Seek Him until you feel that you must have more of this Saviour in order to live. Keep seeking and praying and looking until you are shocked or shamed into joy, rejoicing and praise! Don't be content, brothers, to feel nothing when you think of the real Jesus! Don't settle for mud pies when a glorious feast awaits you. Beg your Saviour, “Lord, be my one great delight!”

If we are feeling nothing when we think of Jesus, then we must take stock of our heart's condition. Apathy and indifference to Jesus may very well be your greatest enemies in this world. Somehow brothers, find a way to make all that you do to His glory. Somehow, find a way to enjoy Him in the midst of what looks to be drudgery and work. Pray Psalm 63 until you can say every word of that most precious Psalm as your own. He satisfies, brothers… and nothing else does. He is so worth losing all to gain. Make your life one of worship and delight in your Saviour.

Amen.

Hark! the Name of Jesus, sounded

Loud, from golden harps above!

Lord, we blush, and are confounded,

Faint our praises, cold our love!

Wash our souls and songs with blood,

For by thee we come to God.

John Newton, Hymn #82, Olney Hymns (London: W. Oliver, 1779). Originally titled “Praise for Redeeming Love.” 8.7.8.7.7.7.



[1] Adapted from a sermon preached at Toronto Baptist Seminary on September 7, 2004.