Monday, November 06, 2006

Lloyd-Jones 'Spiritual Depression' (III)

I am revelling in this book. The man (Dr Lloyd-Jones) has spiritual ballast (phrase nicked from Lloyd C. Douglas, who uses it of Dean Harcourt in books like 'Green Light'). He is educating my mind, warming my heart and stirring my will - which is precisely what we should long for each and every author, and particularly every sermon, to do. He is, in very many ways, very true to the Puritans he so loved - which is what I like about him. I am praising God for this book.

The Doctor is writing about sad Christians, arguing that such words are (rightly understood) incompatible, yet still form a fair description of many people. He is examining the causes and cures of such a condition. I'm basically trying to summarise him, and not comment too much (which, so far, I'm managing). Two more chapters today.

5. That One Sin
"Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." (1Tim 1:16)

Some think that suffering, unhappiness or trouble are alien to the Xn life, but they are wrong, & the NT is full of examples to prove this. Instead, if you have had no trouble in the Xn life, you may well not be a Xn at all - since, on conversion, we become special objects of Satan's attention, as he aims to disturb and upset us.

One common way the Devil tries to do this is to keep Xns bound up in the past - depressed because of some particular sin, or specific form that sin took in their case. This is a very common problem, affecting many people. Now these people really are Xns, understanding salvation - but thinking themselves in a different category because of this particular sin.

What is the real trouble here? There is both the work of Satan, and also ignorance of doctrine - a failure to understand the NT's teaching on salvation. Because of this latter, there is a strong sense in which the person affected must not pray for relief; this is what they have always done, and it hasn't worked. Obviously we must all pray, praying without ceasing as Paul did; but at this point the afflicted Xn must think.

Think of what? In 1Tim 1 Paul sees himself set up as a model for all those who feel that their sin passes some supposed limit of God's mercy. If he can obtain mercy, so can we all. Further, we must not differentiate between sin & sin - there is only one sin, really, and that is unbelief. Thus we must not think in terms of sin, but of relationship to God. Remember Gen 39:9b (a great memory verse - particularly for us blokes).

The problem with this type of unhappy Xn is that they don't believe the Scriptures. In thinking 'there's this terrible sin I've committed' such a person is not believing the Word of God - 1Jn 1:8-9 is abundantly clear. Another problem is not understanding what was achieved at Calvary - Jesus' sacrificial, atoning death, by whose stripes we are healed. Justification does not just mean that we have been forgiven, but that we have been given the righteousness of Christ.

Thus, ultimately, such depression is a failure to realise our union with Christ. We were one in Adam, and are now one in Him. Thus we must never look at our past lives in any other way than such as glorifies God as we praise Him.

(I slightly disagree here, and with the corresponding bits of the next chapter too, in that I don't think that regretting past sin is wrong - in fact, it seems to be a part of biblical repentance. Just as we look at the cross, so we look at our past sins: we hate that they happened, yet delight that they were part of God's will, through which he has acted for his name's sake and thus for our good.)

6. Vain Regrets
"And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the Grace of God I am what I am: and His Grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the Grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor 15:8-10)

'It is not an unfair deduction to make, therefore, that what accounts for the masses being outside [the church] is the condition of those who are inside.' (79) Looking superficially, many could think that there are happier people outside the church than inside it. This is, of course, wrong; but it is not unfair - and the cause is the attacks of Satan, which we are here trying to protect against. We turn, then to people who are crippled in the present as the result of looking back to the past - not to past sins, but to so much time spent outside of the kingdom.

There is nothing wrong with such regrets in one sense; what is wrong is the misery that so often accompanies them. The Xn life is very finely balanced - as we see here.

Common sense dictates that we don't waste time and energy worrying about things we can't change - that's just sensible, whether Xn or not. We should never worry about things we can't change. Further, such dwelling on the past often causes failure in the present. More, if you do believe much time to have been lost in the past, the last thing you'll want to do is think about it now! Resolve to make up for that lost time.

Turning to the Apostle's teaching, what matters first is that you are now a Xn. It matters not what you were, but what you are now. Thus it is not the time of entry but the fact of entry into the kingdom that matters.

Moreover, such depression may indicate a fascination and preoccupation with self. Why judge yourself, when judgement is God's? The Lord's parable about the labourers in the vineyard destroys any vain regrets about what we could have done, had we started earlier.

Putting it more positively, we must not focus on ourselves, but rather know Him and His ways. Feeling a greater interest in Christ leads to much less interest in ourselves. What matters in the kingdom is not length of service, but our attitude of heart.

Finally, nothing matters in the kingdom but the Grace of God. he does not see as men do, nor compute as we do. Through Joel He says: "I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:25). Never look back, never waste your energy; forget the past and rejoice in the present: praise God for what you are now, and that you are in the Kingdom.


Blogger Beckie said...

I see how this is panning out as something different to medical depression, but I don't see how "sad Christians" cannot be said to exist - but maybe i do not correctly understand. What about weeping for nations full of lost souls?
I guess here that Lloyd-Jones's point is more that Christians should not become upset by dwelling on the past?
(i think i shall have to read this book!)

1:57 pm, November 07, 2006  

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