Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Cure for the Unhappy Christian

An unhappy Christian is a paradox.  Sadly, too many Christians fit this description.  Richard Sibbes touches on this situation in his treatise, The Bruised Reed, showing that no matter what the cause of the Christian's distress the Gospel is the sure remedy.  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who testified to having found great help from Sibbes during a low time in his own life, likewise, addresses the causes and cure of what he labels spiritual depression.

I was first introduced to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones's series of sermons on the topic of spiritual depression about ten years ago when our local church's men's ministry selected this book for one of our studies.  This book made a great impression on me and I am glad to know that most of the original audio of Lloyd-Jones's sermons are available online (download instructions are listed below).  Yesterday morning I listened to the fourth sermon in the series which is based on Romans 6:17.  This sermon oozes with gospel clarity.  I recommend it to you!  

Here are a few of my scribbled notes (I recommend that you be an active listener and take notes when you listen to this kind of preaching.  It will repay you well!): 
  1. Often spiritual depression, or unhappiness in the Christian life, is due to our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel.
    • Some think the gospel is merely a message about forgiveness.
    • Some think the gospel is merely an issue of morality.
    • Some think the gospel is simply something nice, and beautiful; but they cannot come into the details of what it is.
    • Rather, the gospel is "the form of doctrine," "the standard of teaching," "mighty arguments and propositions, and borrowing from Carlyle, "these infinitives and 'immensities.'"
    • The unhappy Christian has never realized that the gospel is a way of life. The whole of life must come under the gospel because the gospel is all-inclusive.
  2. The whole man must be involved in it and by it: mind, heart, and will.
    • Mind, heart, and will are the three main characteristics of our being.
    • Most of us tend to lean primarily towards one.
      • For some the head only seems to be engaged.  The tragedy is that their interest stops with the intellect.
      • For some the heart only seems to be engaged. 
        • they have had an emotional release
        • they seek a mystical experience
        • some are moved aesthetically by forms, rituals, etc.
        • some have responded to persuasive calls; they were moved but do not know why
      • For some the will only seems to be engaged.  They attempt to persuade themselves or "make a decision" to take up Christianity rather than being taken up by the gospel. [At this point Lloyd-Jones states emphatically that "we should abominate this word 'decide'" from our evangelistic terminology.  This is worth pondering! 
Salvation is God's work of bringing wholeness and balance to people.  Furthermore, these three characteristics of our being (mind, heart, and will) must come into balance in the proper order.

First, we must understand the truth of God in our minds.  Lloyd-Jones insists, "The apostles were not sent out simply to have results and to change people; they were sent to preach the gospel, to preach the truth, to preach Christ, to declare Jesus and the resurrection."  [(My personal reflection) This is so liberating!  Yes, I want to see change in the hearts of people just as much as the next guy; however, I need to keep in mind that I am called to lift of Jesus Christ because he is the only One who is able to apply the grace of the New Covenant, i.e. radical heart change.]
  • A Christian is a man who knows why he is where he is.
  • A Christian is a man who knows why he is what he is.
Second, the truth engages the heart to respond in love.  Lloyd-Jones connects the first two as such: "having seen the truth he loves it."

Third, with a clear understanding the heart motivates the will to practice the truth; to live it.

In conclusion, Lloyd-Jones offers the following warnings:
  1. The heart is never to be approached directly!
  2. The will is never to be approached directly either!
The heart is always to be influenced by the understanding.  The ability to understand truth is a unique ability of mankind.  The gospel starts with the intellect and then goes on to move the heart and the will.  In this way the gospel restores balance and wholeness to imbalanced and broken people.

I hope that this encourages you to consider this series of sermons.  I believe that it will be well worth your time; especially this message.

In order to download it go to the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust Audio Library and follow their simple and safe subscription process for immediate access.  Once you've logged in, click Enter the Library and search for Spiritual Depression.  The title is Mind, Heart and Will - Romans 6:17 (file name: MLJ.SD04lib).