Coop's Column - Simplicity of Spirit, Adult in Knowledge, Childlike in Directness and Wonder
In this series of meditations on the work of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives, we are considering features about Christians which, said the 17th-18th century English Puritan Christians, are Spirit-prompted and Spirit-endowed; and which, more and more, ought to mark the lives of those who aim to follow Jesus faithfully. Christians who do display these qualities are “LUI”, “Living Under the Influence” of the Spirit. In this article we consider the seventh, and final, of these marks: “Simplicity of spirit, adult in knowledge, child-like in directness and wonder”
In this series of meditations on the work of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives, we are considering (seven) features about Christians which, said the 17th-18th century English Puritan Christians, are Spirit-prompted and Spirit-endowed; and which, more and more, ought to mark the lives of those who aim to follow Jesus faithfully. Christians who do display these qualities are “LUI”— “Living Under the Influence” of the Spirit. In this article we consider the seventh, and final, of these marks: “Simplicity of spirit—adult in knowledge, child-like in directness and wonder”
Two connected features, claimed the Puritans, mark those who are maturing in Christian devotion:
- A singular goal
- Enduring in child-likeness, while and growing toward adulthood
The Singular Goal
Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “Your kingdom come.” Evidence that the kingdom begins—must begin—in the hearts of believers. Thus, mature Christ-followers aim to keep their minds conformed, their affections shaped, and their wills bent toward what God desires. Their Savior and Lord has commanded them to love God with their heart’s every ounce of energy, their soul’s entire affection, and their mind’s complete thought and intention. They must have what the Psalmists described as an “undivided heart.”
In the world of the Bible, the heart was the metaphorical seat of a person’s will. His heart made a person capable of choosing. His heart made him capable of determining the entire course of his life—of establishing his motives and desires, his thinking and his actions. A heart that was healthy produced deeds that were in line with what God willed; an unhealthy, evil heart, on the other hand, spewed forth crooked behaviors.
A healthy heart was intent on one thing only—to produce deeds that delight God. Never would it send a welcome smile or offer an open the door to rival idol gods, invaders bent on alluring the heart away from its true home and affection, God himself. Rather, unswervingly, unfalteringly an “undivided” heart kept pursuing its central aim: to bring forth deeds that honor God.
For it is God—God alone—whom the undivided heart wants to please.
And wants to want to want to please.
Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Jesus, My Strength and My Hope,” describes well the singular aim of every mature Christ-follower:
I want a sober mind, a self-renouncing will
that tramples down and casts behind the baits of pleasing ill;
a soul inured to pain, to hardship, grief and loss,
bold to take up, firm to sustain
the consecrated cross.
I want a godly fear, a quick discerning eye
that looks to thee when sin is near and sees the tempter fly;
a spirit still prepared and armed with jealous care,
forever standing on its guard,
and watching unto prayer.
I want a heart to pray, to pray and never cease,
never to murmur at thy stay or wish my sufferings less.
This blessing, above all, always to pray
I want, out of the deep on thee to call,
and never, never faint.
I want a true regard, a single steady aim,
unmoved by threatn’ing or reward to thee and thy great name.
A jealous, just concern for thine immortal praise;
A pure desire that all may learn
and glorify thy grace.
I want with all my heart thy pleasure to fulfill,
to know myself, and what Thou art, and what thy perfect will.
I want I know not what, I want my wants to see,
I want—alas!—what want I not
When Thou art not in me?
Staying Child-like, Becoming Adult
Trust—pure, uncomplicated, wide-eyed, and full of wonder—is the fresh atmosphere of the heart into which Christ has entered and longs to reside. Such trust is child-like. Children find no difficulty in trusting what their minds have not yet fully understood, and possibly never will. So, too, the Christ-follower. Without hesitating or doubting, she trusts the voice of her Father. His voice bids her to stake her future on his promises and to obey his commands. And why does she trust his voice? Because she has heard his voice tell her: “I love you, and always will”; and without questioning, she has believed those words, and taken them into heart.
Thus, mature followers of Jesus Christ aim to remain child-like in their trust. Like children, they want to be chock-full of vitality, brimming with wonder, and open to surprise and delight.
At the same time, mature Christ-followers aim also to grow toward adulthood. For they know that the triune God’s glory is so thick and mysterious, that the world he created is so vast, that the Word he spoke is so rich, and that the Kingdom he is erecting is so broad and deep that not all of eternity will be time enough for their minds to explore, their hearts to contemplate, and their mouths to praise and thank God for who he is and for what he has done for them.
How, then, to learn to stay child-like, while at the same time to grow toward adulthood? Among other practices, Christ-followers must stay in fellowship and worship with one another. Through these practices they can help one another to keep their heart healthy. They can spur one another on toward the goal that God has set before them—increasingly to abide in Christ, to commune with him, to become like him, and to live for him. Thus, they cannot—simply cannot—do without the practice of “meeting together” regularly. (cf. Hebrews 10.25)
“And in conclusion….”
In this series on LUI--“Living Under the (Spirit’s) Influence”—we have been exploring seven features which, said Puritan pastors, mark mature followers of Jesus Christ. The seven:
- Vivid Awareness of the Greatness and Goodness of God
- Eager Desire to Trust and Obey the Bible, God’s Spirit-Inspired Word
- Worshipful Intimacy with Jesus Christ
- Deep Longing to Delight and Honor God
- Generous Humility and Compassion
- Strong Self-Searching and Self-Denial—A Servant Spirit
- Simplicity of spirit—Adult in Knowledge, Child-like in Directness and Wonder
To conclude the series, a word of advice and a word of encouragement:
“It is far better to live a holy life than to talk about it. Lighthouses don’t ring bells and fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they just shine.”
And the encouragement:
“Let us not cease to do the utmost, in order that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord. And let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments.”
"My Lord and my God,
take me from all that keeps me from You.
My Lord and my God,
grant me all that leads me to You.
My Lord and my God,
take me from myself and give me completely to You. Amen."
(Nicholas of Flue, 1417-1487)