Coop's Column - Worshipful Intimacy with Jesus Christ

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 English Puritan Christians, are Spirit-prompted and Spirit-endowed and which ought to mark the lives of those who aim to follow Jesus faithfully.


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 English Puritan Christians, are Spirit-prompted and Spirit-endowed and which ought to mark the lives of those who aim to follow Jesus faithfully.

Christians who display these qualities are “LUI”— Living Under the Influence of the Spirit. This week we consider the third of these marks: worshipful intimacy with Jesus Christ.

To explicate this feature, I can do no better than to cite wise words from two pastors and one professor of theology. The pastors are Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a 19th-century preacher at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle for 38 years, and John Piper, pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., for 33 years. The professor is Stanley Hauerwas of Duke Divinity School. What each wrote bears eloquent witness to their deep affection for their Savior.

I love Jesus Christ

Piper once recalled an incident during his student days at Fuller Seminary in the late 60s. “A group of us were huddled around James Morgan, the young theology teacher who was saying something about the engagement of Christians in social justice. I don’t remember what I said, but he looked me right in the eye and said, 'John, I love Jesus Christ.'”

Piper added: "It was like a thunderclap in my heart. A strong, intelligent, mature, socially engaged man had just said out loud in front of a half dozen men, 'I love Jesus Christ.' He was not preaching. He was not pronouncing on any issue. He was not singing in church. He was not trying to get a job. He was not being recorded. He was telling me that he loved Jesus.

"The echo of that thunderclap is still sounding in my heart. That was 40 years ago! There are a thousand things I don’t remember about those days in seminary. But that afternoon remains unforgettable. And all he said was, 'John, I love Jesus Christ.'

"James Morgan died a year later of stomach cancer, leaving a wife and four small children. His chief legacy in my life was one statement on an afternoon in Pasadena. 'I love Jesus Christ.'”

Our nature as children of God

Loving the one who is both Savior and Lord, said Piper, must be top priority for any person who chooses to bear his name and aims to follow him.  "Loving Jesus is natural and necessary for the children of God. It’s natural because it’s part of our nature as children of God. 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God' (John 8:42). The children of God have the natural disposition to love his Son.

 "Loving Jesus is also necessary because Paul says that if you don’t love Jesus, you will be cursed: 'If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed' (1 Corinthians 16:22). Loving Jesus is an essential (not optional) mark of being a beneficiary of God’s grace. 'Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible' (Ephesians 6:24). If you hold fast to the love of anything above Jesus, you are not his disciple: 'Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me' (Matthew 10:37).

Piper spells out what loving Jesus daily means for him personally:

“I admire Jesus Christ more than any other human or angelic being.
I enjoy his ways and his words more than I enjoy the ways and words of anyone else.
I want his approval more than I want the approval of anyone else.
I want to be with him more than I want to be with anyone else.
I feel more grateful to him for what he has done for me than I do to anyone else.
I trust his words more fully than I trust what anyone else says.
I am more glad in his exaltation than in the exaltation of anyone else, including me

What do you think of Christ?

Next, Spurgeon:

“The great test of your soul’s health is: ‘What do you think of Christ?  Is He to you ‘ fairer than the children of men’ (Ps. 45.2),’chiefest among ten thousand’(Song of Solomon 5.10), ‘the altogether lovely’ (5.16)?  When Christ is thus esteemed, all the faculties of the spiritual man exercise themselves with energy. I will judge your faith by this barometer: Does Christ stand high or low with you? If you have thought little of Christ, if you have been content to live without his presence, if you have cared little for his honor, if you have been neglectful of his laws, then I know that your soul is sick. May God grant that it will not be sick unto death! But if the first though of your spirit has been, How can I honor Jesus? And if the daily desire of your soul has been, ‘Oh that I knew where I might find him! (Job 23.3), I tell you that you may have a thousand infirmities and even scarcely know whether you are a child of God at all, yet I am persuaded, beyond a doubt, that you are safe, since Jesus is great in your esteem. I do not care about your rags; what do you think of his royal apparel? I do not care about your wounds, though they bleed in torments; what do you think of his wounds? Are they like glittering rubies in your estimation? I think no less of you, though you lie like Lazarus on the dunghill, and dogs lick your sores. I do not judge you by your poverty; what do you think of the King in his beauty? Has He a glorious high throne in your heart? Would you set him higher if you could? Would you be willing to die if you could but add another trumpet to the melody that proclaims his praise? Then it is well with you. Whatever you may think of yourself, if Christ is greater to you, you will be with him before long.”

And Finally, Hauerwas: “The Father desires that those whom the Son calls to be his disciples be made, through the work of the Holy Spirit, unembarrassed lovers of Jesus.”

Prayer

“Who is this who smothers me with the most fragrant perfume?
Who is this who transforms my ugliness into perfect beauty?
Who is this who gives me the sweetest wine to drink and the finest food to eat?
It is You, Holy Spirit. You turn me into a bride fit for Jesus Christ.
You give me wine and food fit for a wedding in heaven.
My heart was weary, but now it is eager for love.
My soul was sad, but now it is full of joy.
Jesus gave his life for me. Now You, Holy Spirit, give me to him

(Adam of St. Victor, 12th century)

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