He looks at us in our suffering as he would have looked at Jesus had our sin not been imputed to him

I’ve written about this before HERE and HERE, but here’s another angle on it. Calvin on 2 Corinthians 1:5:

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound This statement may be explained in two ways — actively and passively. If you take it actively, the meaning will be this: “The more I am tried with various afflictions, so much the more resources have I for comforting others.” I am, however, more inclined to take it in a passive sense, as meaning that God multiplied his consolations according to the measure of his tribulations. David also acknowledges that it had been thus with him:

According to the multitude, says he, of my anxieties within me,
thy consolations have delighted my soul. (Psalms 94:19.)

In Paul’s words, however, there is a fuller statement of doctrine; for the afflictions of the pious he calls the sufferings of Christ, as he says elsewhere, that he fills up in his body what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ. (Colossians 1:24.)

The miseries and vexations, it is true, of the present life are common to good and bad alike, but when they befall the wicked, they are tokens of the curse of God, because they arise from sin, and nothing appears in them except the anger of God and participation with Adam, which cannot but depress the mind. But in the mean time believers are conformed to Christ, and bear about with them in their body his dying, that the life of Christ may one day be manifested in them. (2 Corinthians 4:10).

Samuel Bolton states a similar idea in The True Bounds of Christian Freedom:

…God has mercy for ‘can-nots’, but none for ‘will-nots’. God can distinguish between weakness and wickedness. While you are under the law, this weakness is your wickedness, a sinful weakness, and therefore God hates it. Under the Gospel He looks not upon the weakness of the saints as their wickedness, and therefore He pities them. Sin makes those who are under the law the objects of God’s hatred. Sin in a believer makes him the object of God’s pity. Men, you know, hate poison in a toad, but pity it in a man. In the one it is their nature, in the other their disease. Sin in a wicked man is as poison in a toad; God hates it and him; it is the man’s nature. But sin in a child of God is like poison in a man; God pities him. He pities the saints for sins and infirmities, but hates the wicked. It is the nature of the one, the disease of the other.

The main take-away I got from Calvin today is that God the Father somehow views the sufferings of his people as their share in the sufferings of Christ. In other words, the Father poured his wrath out upon Jesus in his suffering so that he could sympathize with us in our suffering. He looks at us in our suffering as he would have looked at Jesus had our sin not been imputed to him. He sees our failings and pains as weakness, not as wickedness. In doing so, he is the “God of all comfort.”

Advertisements

They are More Evil than the Rest of us Walking Pavement

In his novel/novella, Ray, Barry Hannah has a preacher with suppressed urges murder the love of the main character’s life (The ‘flying’ is a reference to being a pilot in WWII):

In their secret hearts, such perversities as Maynard know there are things they can never have, things they have wanted with all their hearts. So they kill them. Most preachers are this way. Their messages seem benevolent, but they are more evil than the rest of us walking pavement.

When I fly again, it will be against the preachers.

-Barry Hannah, Ray, p. 54

I am a preacher, so I take statements like this, even in a novel, to heart. Hannah had a love/hate relationship with the church for a long time. He openly confessed Christ later in his life (and I’m thankful for this), but that’s not what’s important here. The issue here is actually taking such a statement seriously: Preacher, be careful what you do with your urges, and how you mortify them. Suppression is not enough. The Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners. Do you think that you’re better?

Seeing Your Ugliness in Others

I studied the man as he spoke; for all those years I’d handed my ugliness over to people and seen only the different ways it was reflected back to me. As reluctant as I was to admit it now, the only indication in my companion’s behavior was positive.

-Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face, p. 222

A pretty good principle: When you see bad in others, be careful that you’re not just seeing your own badness reflected back to you. We tend to lash out at our own sins when we see them in others, while at the same time failing to see them in ourselves. This is the old splinter/log principle.

The Murder of the Soul

Oh, learn to pity your own soul, for he who sins offends and wrongs God, but also wrongs and destroys his own soul, or, as some read the text, despises his own soul (Proverbs 8.36). Oh, think of it! what! have you no value, no regard for your soul? Will you neglect and despise it, as if it were good for nothing, but to be damned, and go to Hell? Will you be felo de se, a self-soul-murderer? Shall your perdition be of yourself? Oh, look to yourself, for sin, notwithstanding all its flattering pretences, is against you, and seeks nothing less than your ruin and damnation.

-Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin, p. 37

The phrase ‘soul suicide’ has been banging around in my head for years. I couldn’t remember where I came across the phrase. Then I started re-reading The Sinfulness of Sin and there was the idea: ‘a self-soul-muderer.’

First a Fox and then a Lion

Sin first tempts—and then damns! It is first a fox—and then a lion! Sin does to a man—as Jael did to Sisera. First she brought the milk and butter to Sisera—then she pounded the tent peg through his head! Judges 5:26. Sin first brings us pleasures which delight and charm the senses—and then comes with its hammer and nail! Sin does to the sinner, as Absalom did to Amnon. When his heart was merry with wine—then he killed him, 2 Samuel 13:28. Sin’s last act is always tragic!

Thomas Watson, The Mischief of Sin

Sweet, then bitter; alluring, then destroying; enticing, then striking.

“When the devil finds a person sleeping, he enters. But when Christ finds him sleeping…”

Sin brings one low in desertion. This is a deep abyss indeed. Psalm 88:6, “You have laid me in the lowest pit.” Desertion is a short hell. Song of Solomon 5:6, “My beloved has withdrawn himself and was gone.” Christ knocked—but the spouse was loath to rise off her bed of sloth and open to Him immediately. When the devil finds a person sleeping—he enters. But when Christ finds him sleeping—He is gone. And if this Sun of righteousness withdraws His golden beams from the soul, darkness follows.

-Thomas Watson, The Mischief of Sin

The Puritans (like Thomas Watson) and their ilk were not shy of bringing up passages from Song of Solomon such as the one quoted above and applying them to the Christian life. Octavius Winslow gives us another example:

I sleep, but my heart waketh.’ Here was the existence of the Divine life in the soul, and yet that life was on the decline. She knew that she had fallen into a careless and slumbering state, that the work of grace in her soul was decaying, that the spirit of slumber had come over her; but the awful feature was, she was content to be so. She heard her Beloved knock: but, so enamoured was she with her state of drowsiness, she gave no heed to it – she opened not to him…A believer may fall into a drowsy sate of soul, not so profound as to be entirely lost to the voice of his Beloved speaking by conscience, by the word, and by providences: and yet so far may his grace have decayed, so cold may his love have grown, and so hardening may have been this declension, he shall be content that this should be his state (Personal Declension and the Revival of Religion in the Soul, pp. 21-22).

By the way, I couldn’t recommend Winslow’s book more highly. It is one of my favorites.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was fond of saying that the fact that the Holy Spirit is likened to a dove points to his gentleness and propensity to be grieved and quenched. When he is grieved he withdraws. That is not to say that he withdraws in such a way as to remove himself wholly from the believer’s life. Rather, it is to say that he exercises less influence and offers less consolation and aid.

The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. And Christ says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). In the Context of Revelation 3, this was an offer/promise to believers.

The spiritual sleeper, the one who hesitates to answer the door of Christ’s calling, leaves himself vulnerable to Satan. That is Watson’s point. Jesus will not force himself on you. Satan is another story. So get up and answer the door.

I say all of this as a Calvinist of course. I am not saying that God’s effectual call can ever be resisted. It cannot. The point is that the believer who becomes a spiritual sluggard is asking for trouble.

Let’s say you’re married. Your wife is hinting that she needs some time with you. She has her ways of doing this. You should have learned them over the years. Maybe you should have read the Love Languages book. If you are not sensitive to her overtures and subtle pleadings, then your relationship is not going to flourish.

And so, be sensitive to Christ’s knockings. Don’t let sin and sloth put you in such a frame that you are blinded and vulnerable to Satan.

Inside We’re All the Same

INSIDE WERE ALL THE SAME LADIES TEE

My wife came across this Peeps shirt in a store the other day and told me about it. I actually think it’s true, but I don’t think they were thinking about the same thing I am – the sinful nature.

  • And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3).

John Owen: Being Convinced Of Your Position Before God

One of my former pastors used to refer to this quote occasionally. I always found it helpful, so I finally dug around and found the reference. The kind of convincing Christians need to be engaged in:

1. To convince those in whom sin evidently hath the dominion that such indeed is their state and condition…

2. To satisfy some that sin hath not the dominion over them, notwithstanding its restless acting itself in them and warring against their souls…(Works of John Owen, Volume 7, p. 517).

This is the great chore for anyone who would win the lost and encourage the sanctification of Christians: convincing non-believers that they are under the dominion of sin and convincing Christians that they are free from that dominion.

  • Romans 8:9 ¶ You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.