Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lloyd-Jones 'Spiritual Depression' (II)

Lloyd-Jones' book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures is examining the reasons behind and cures for the fact that many Xns are miserable. 'One of the reasons why the Christian Church counts for so little in the modern world is that so many Christians are in this condition. If all Christians simply began to function as the New Testament would have us do, there would be no problem of evangelism confronting the Church. The matter would deal with itself immediately. It is because we are failing as Christian people in our daily lives and deportment and witness that the Church counts for so little and that so few are attracted to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' (37) This is what makes this topic so urgent.

3. Men as Trees, Walking
"And He cameth to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him, and besought him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when He had spit upon his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he was ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. And He sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town." (Mark 8:22-26)

This miracle is remarkable, because it is in two stages; Jesus could have healed him all in one go, but doesn't, which must be for a good reason, as we see here, to teach. The main lesson is for the disciples, who have seen everything but haven't yet got it. But it is also a permanent lesson for God's people, a terrible message. The message turns on this: after the first stage of the healing, could the man see? This is the condition focussed on here (in this sermon), that of Xns concerned and unhappy for lack of clarity. Such people are hard to define - sometimes seeming Xns, sometimes not; alternately seeing themselves as Xn and then not.

What do these people see? Very often, they understand that there's something wrong with them, and are thus unhappy in themselves. The also may have seen the excellencies of the Xn life - both for society and personally. the may have come even further, seeing Jesus as the only hope - that he is 'somehow the Saviour'. Further, they know that they cannot help themselves. They are not like the people we thought about in the last chapter, who think they can put themselves in the right; they see that they cannot save themselves. Do they see? Yes - as in the story/parable.

But they are still confused, and this in three areas: they are unclear in the totality of the principles of salvation; they do not perceive that their heart is not fully engaged; their wills are divided.

The fault for this condition may be many things. Often evangelists are at fault in bringing people to this pass. But also the people themselves may be at fault, for various possible reasons: they may dislike clear thinking and definitions because of their demands; they may not fully accept Scripture; they may not be interested in doctrine - falsely separating Bible teaching from doctrine; some may take Scripture's truths in the wrong order. Each of these faults within the person may sit under the heading of an unwillingness to think things through.

So, what is the cure? The first is obvious: don't pretend to see if you can't! The man needed to admit (again) his need to Jesus, and ask for further help. Had he not done so, he may not have been healed further - and may have gone around describing men to others as trees, with great harm. The second is the opposite; while the first temptation is to run before you can see, the second is to feel totally helpless and become desperate.

The cure is to be honest, and answer the Lord's questions truthfully and honestly, and to submit yourself to him. Decide to stop asking questions and take the truth in its correct order: submit to God, become as a child, and plead for clear sight. Examine yourself and come to him - who has promised to heal all those who come to him. Know him to be you all, and that you belong to him.

4. Mind, Heart and Will
"But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you." (Rom 6:17)

Satan is a subtle enemy, only desiring to ruin God's work. 'The moment we become Christians the devil is particularly concerned to get us down, and he has no more successful way of doing that than to make us miserable.' (52) This verse presents, in positive form, another negative cause for this condition of Christian misery; the apostle is emphasising 'the wholeness of the Christian life. ... The whole man is involved the mind, the heart and the will, and a common cause of spiritual depression is the failure to realise that the Christian life is a whole life, a balanced life.' (52)

Often this condition may be caused by the preacher or evangelist - each of whom grows converts or disciples much like themselves. Firstly, spiritual depression is often caused by our failure to understand the greatness of the gospel - a failure to embrace the "form of doctrine" which is the great truth of the gospel in Romans - or Ephesians, or Colossians; we need "the whole council of God". But, secondly, we must also understand that the whole man must be involved in and by this gospel - the mind & heart & will.

Some only seem to have a mental comprehension; they have views, and basically study Christian philosophy - so that Xty is merely a point of view or intellectual attitude. Likewise, some are only interested in the debates - so that these are great hobbies and interests. But I have seen these men on their deathbeds, and the sight is terrible because the gospel they have argued about has not gripped them, and therefore does not help them.

Some have the gospel affect their heart only, which is more common today. There is a massive danger in undergoing a purely emotional experience - which can be obtained by a far-from-complete presentation of the gospel. People are in this position through various means - an interest in spirituality, a delight in aesthetics, a vigorous appeal in a meeting. Some even come to enquiry rooms after evangelistic events not knowing why they are there - and are content to go on enjoying themselves emotionally without harnessing the mind and will.

Finally, some involve the will alone - taking up 'Christianity', but neither knowing why, nor experiencing the power of knowing Jesus. They take up Christianity, as opposed to being taken up by it.

And just as having only one faculty involved, so having any two is also wrong; so great a gospel must take up the whole man. Not only that, but lacking this balance must lead to problems later on. Thus there must be a definite order about these things: truth comes to the mind, moving the heart and motivating the will. Thus neither the heart nor will must be approached directly; the evil often find comfort that they can still weep in a Xn meeting - which is a false deduction and very horrible confusion. But likewise, though starting with the intellect, none must think the Christian message ends there - it moves the heart and thus the will yields. 'O God make us balanced Christians, men and women of whom it can be said that we are obviously, patently obeying from the heart the form of doctrine which has been delivered unto us.' (62)

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5:28 am, January 22, 2007  

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