Although the soul of man is most happy and satisfied in God, not all find this happiness in Jesus! What makes Jesus so lovely, so glorious and beautiful to some—and yet so reprehensible to others? We know externally as a man “[Jesus Christ] had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men” (Isa. 53:2b-3). Jesus in His glorious Person came to His world, and it did not know Him, He came to His own people, but His own people did not receive Him (John 1:10-11). The Bible testifies to man that “Jesus is “wonderful”! “He is altogether lovely or desirable!” (Song of Solomon 5:16).
Jesus’s holiness makes Him lovely and beautiful. His holiness is beautiful and desirous only to the regenerate, those who are in Him, who desire to be like Him, whose affections have been inclined toward Him, who love Him, and cherish Him. But for the unregenerate and the sinful, those who reject God from their hearts and seek after mere created things to satisfy their longings and fulfill their needs, Jesus is reprehensible. Jesus is reprehensible, even offensive, because they hate holiness, and they hate the light that exposes their sins. “Men loved evil rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
Only holy people can desire to look on holiness; only people who have been made alive in Christ by His Spirit can desire after Christ and His holiness. Although Jesus cloaked His glory and divested Himself of His glorious privileges as God in the His incarnation (1 Tim. 3:16; Phil. 2:6-8), nevertheless, He is glorious in His humanity, and beautiful as the perfect and holy man, desirous to all those who are redeemed and desire holiness. As Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) said:
All the spiritual beauty of His human nature: His meekness, lowliness, patience, heavenliness, love to God, love to men…compassion…all is summed up in His Holiness.1Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections. Ebook (Dover Publications, 2013), Kindle Location, 3124-139.
Edwards taught that only saints and angels can truly appreciate God’s holiness fully manifested and revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. This sight and gaze on this beautiful holy man will melt our hearts and begin to make us humble like Him. The only place in Holy Scripture where Jesus speaks of Himself and His character is when he says:
“I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29).
To be more like Him! Holy people are affected and attracted by holiness, especially when it is beheld in Christ. Jesus is beautiful and glorious because He is the image of the invisible God, the visible form of the Holy Father clearly revealed (Heb. 1:3; John 1:14-18, 14:9). Therefore, his character that is revealed in His love to the Father and to other sinners, His meekness, devotion, kindness, humility, all of his characteristics are holy and reveal what holy people can aspire to by His Holy Spirit. Thomas Watson (1620-1686) wrote,
Faith is an assimilating grace….Looking on a bleeding Christ causes a soft bleeding heart; looking on a holy Christ causes sanctity of heart; looking on a humble Christ makes the soul humble (my emphasis).2Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pg. 219. Quotes in Beeke and Jones, Puritan Theology, Ebook, Kindle Location 19574-590.
The more one beholds the loveliness and beauty of Christ’s attractiveness, the more one desires and is attracted to this holiness—and is transformed! As Thomas Brooks (1608-80) wrote, “A holy man…can never be holy enough.”3Brooks, Works, IV: 107-108. “To be a holy person is to know a holy Christ, to be in love with a holy Christ…”4Brooks, Works, IV: 129. Holiness is the excellency of all a man’s excellencies, and was the first suit that ever was put upon the back of man’s nature before the fall into sin.5Brooks, Works, IV: 163, 169. Holiness will render you most beautiful and amiable like your Savior!6Brooks, Works, IV: 169-71. Holiness will inflame a person to pursue it more and more:
The beauties of holiness do so affect him and inflame him that he cannot but desire to be more and more holy. Lord, saith the soul, I desire to be more holy, that I may glorify thy name more, that I may honor my profession more, and that I may serve my generation more. Lord, I desire to be more holy, that I may sin less against thee, and that I may enjoy more of thee; I would be more holy, that I may be more prevalent with thee, and that I may be more victorious over all things below…A man desires more holiness, so a man of holiness earnestly prays for more holiness (Psa. 51:2,7).7Brooks, Works, IV: 108.
A sight of this glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, this beautiful humility and meekness will “melt and humble the hearts of men, wean them from this world, draw them near to God, and effectually change them,” Edwards wrote experientially.8Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, Ebook. Kindle Location, 3221-233. A glimpse and experience of this holiness found in Jesus, received by faith in the believer, will humble the soul and wean the soul from all other competitive, created glories that compete for Jesus’s love and affection. Edwards wrote that true spiritual understanding is possible only for a believer, and it results in tasting God’s goodness in Christ. True spiritual understanding is
…A cordial sense of the supreme beauty and sweetness of the holiness or moral perfection of divine things, together with all that discerning and knowledge of things in religion that depends upon and flows from such a sense.9Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, Ebook. Kindle Location, 3347-359.
This sense that Edwards speaks of distinguishes true Christians from mere hypocrites. The sense, or taste that one has in Christ of God’s beauty and holiness in Christ is more than a mere notional or mental or intellectual knowledge of God in Christ; it is experiential; it is the kind of knowledge that “surpasses knowledge” as the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 3:17-19: “…To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
To be more with Him! As we are increasingly attracted to Jesus’s holiness, we will desire to be with Him more in intimate communion of prayer and praise and fellowship (Col. 3:1-4). Believers will desire to enjoy more fellowship with Jesus, to rest in His love, to experience a foretaste of heavenly fellowship in communion with Him now. We will want to realize more of our conjugal union between us and Jesus Christ by His Spirit. John Owen used very tender and intimate terms to describe the biblical relationship believing souls have in their union with Christ, using the imagery of a Bridegroom and a Bride (cf. Eph. 5:27-32; see Song of Solomon). He said that believers’ communion with the Son of God is to know that,
Christ makes himself over to the soul, to be his, as to all the love, care, and tenderness of a husband; and the soul gives up itself wholly unto the Lord Christ, to be his, as to all loving, tender obedience…. ‘Poor Harlot,’ saith the Lord Christ, ‘I have bought thee unto myself with the price of mine blood; and now, this is that which we will consent unto—I WILL BE FOR THEE, AND THOU SHALT BE FORE ME, and not for another…10John Owen, Communion with God, in Works, 2:56.
To do more for Him! The holiness that we see in Jesus Christ by faith makes believers desire to be more like Him, to be more with Him, and to do more for Him. In union with Christ Jesus, there is nothing that the Christian desires more than to please His Heavenly Father. We live our lives making it our “aim” to please Him (2 Co. 5:9). Once the sweetness of Jesus’s love is tasted and experienced to a certain degree, this love will manifest itself in obedience (John 15:14: Our Lord says: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”). Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) wrote: “…The [satisfied and holy] soul will return in all fruitful obedience to the Lord, when he receives the sweet of the love of the LORD.” Henry Scougal (1650-1678) wrote:
The love of God is a delightful and affectionate sense of the Divine perfections, which makes the soul resign itself wholly unto Him, desiring above all things to please Him, and delighting in nothing so much as in fellowship and communion with Him, and being ready to do or suffer anything for His sake, or at His pleasure. Though this affection may have its first rise from favors and mercies of God toward ourselves, yet doth it, in its growth and progress, transcend such particular considerations, and ground itself on His infinite goodness…11Henry Scougal. The Life of God in the Soul of Man. (Scotland, Great Britain: Christian Heritage Books, 1996; reprint), 55.
Thomas Shepard wrote “That He loves me…fetches warmth and life into my heart….Love Christ, and you will never be weary of doing for Christ (emphasis mine)…What kindles love so much as this comprehending knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and His love, this will make a man a burning beacon of love, make a man melt into love.”12Thomas Shepard, Parable of the Ten Virgins, (Grand Rapids, MI: Soli Deo Gloria Books, an imprint of Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 61. Holy love for Christ makes one do holy works for Christ. This love makes us want to be more holy, but also gives us a deeper and heartfelt desire to serve Christ in order to please Him. Thomas Brooks wrote: “Holy love is very laborious. Nothing makes a Christian more industrious, painstakingly diligent in the service and ways of God, than holy love.”13Thomas Brooks, ibid., IV: 120-21. Brooks wrote:
Holy love will make us to pray and to praise, it will make us wait and work, it will provoke souls to study Christ, to admire Christ, and to live to Christ, to lift up Christ, to spend and be spent for Christ, and to break through all difficulties that it may come nearer to Christ, and cleave closer to Christ.
Thomas Brooks, ibid., IV: 121.,/fn>
As we grow in Christ as believers, we will desire to delight in Him and to serve Him wholeheartedly. We will make it our aim to please Him. The maturing Christian realizes increasingly more and more that He was “created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared beforehand for him to walk in” (Eph. 2:10). The maturing Christian who is being dazzled by the beauty and influenced by the love of God will realize that she is possessed of Christ to be pure and zealous for good works, and that this, too, is the good news of the glorious Gospel: We are redeemed by His love to serve Him with passion:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (emphasis mine). – ESV Titus 2:11-14
To be continued…Part VI: The Affectionate Journey Home to the Beloved
In Christ’s Love,
|↑1||Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections. Ebook (Dover Publications, 2013), Kindle Location, 3124-139.|
|↑2||Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pg. 219. Quotes in Beeke and Jones, Puritan Theology, Ebook, Kindle Location 19574-590.|
|↑3||Brooks, Works, IV: 107-108.|
|↑4||Brooks, Works, IV: 129.|
|↑5||Brooks, Works, IV: 163, 169.|
|↑6||Brooks, Works, IV: 169-71.|
|↑7||Brooks, Works, IV: 108.|
|↑8||Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, Ebook. Kindle Location, 3221-233.|
|↑9||Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, Ebook. Kindle Location, 3347-359.|
|↑10||John Owen, Communion with God, in Works, 2:56.|
|↑11||Henry Scougal. The Life of God in the Soul of Man. (Scotland, Great Britain: Christian Heritage Books, 1996; reprint), 55.|
|↑12||Thomas Shepard, Parable of the Ten Virgins, (Grand Rapids, MI: Soli Deo Gloria Books, an imprint of Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 61.|
|↑13||Thomas Brooks, ibid., IV: 120-21.|