Here’s another excellent post by Gretchen! Make sure you check out the sources – Sibbes is a great read!
A few months back I shared a reflection on a conversation we’d had during the Cor Deo Women’s Programme regarding John the Baptist and how, as a friend of the Lord, he took joy in pointing the Bride of Christ to her Groom, Jesus.
It’s something I’ve continued to ponder. I’ve thought about the times when a brother or sister in Christ was struggling, whether with discouragement, faltering faith, overt sin, or some other burden, and I have attempted to draw them back to Christ with well-chosen Bible verses and sage words of advice. How much better to instead speak of the beauty of Christ and his overflowing love, in order that their hearts might be won again to him!
In recent months I’ve known of several fellow believers who have begun to withdraw from other Christians as they’ve wrestled with the heavy issues of life. They wonder whether God loves them or could love them. They wonder whether they’d be rejected by other believers if their issues became known. In some cases, they’ve become ensnared in sin and have hardened their hearts towards God and others. Whatever the cause, they seem to withdraw, rather than leaning in to draw support from others.
Sixteenth century pastor and theologian, Richard Sibbes, spoke very poignantly of this kind of spiritual “sleepiness.” He wrote, “Men disposed to be asleep desire to be alone. Those that are likewise disposed to take a spiritual nap, will avoid company, especially of such as would awake them…Men in sleep dream of false good, and forget true danger…In sleep the preciousest thing men carry about them is taken away without resistance…” (The Love of Christ 67-68). How sad, and how true!
I’m sure all of us can recall situations where someone seems to have hardened their heart towards God with such fierceness that they are loath to hear of him. I wonder, though, whether in some instances we drive people further away by our approach. What if, rather than offering platitudes or “you ought to’s,” we were to speak of Christ? Sibbes wrote “Again, tenderness of heart is wrought by an apprehension [understanding] of tenderness and love in Christ” (The Tender Heart 21).
Consider how loving, tender, and good the Lord truly is. If you are heartbroken, the psalmist tells us, “He heals brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). If you are burdened, Jesus says, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). To those who feel empty, he says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). To those who are crushed by the weight of their sin, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). There is no pain, no loss, no sin, and no grief that the Lord cannot wash over in his overwhelming fountain of love.
In fact, all of us who know Jesus can have our hearts drawn to love him more as we hear from one another how marvelously gracious he is. How much more one who is being lulled to sleep!
We can remind each other how he demonstrated the depth of his love for us as he poured out his life on the cross, how he forgives, comforts, and blesses, and how he guides, protects, and encourages.
Sibbes, wrote, “As when things are cold we bring them to the fire to heat and melt, so we bring our cold hearts to the fire of the love of Christ; we consider of our sins against Christ, and of Christ’s love towards us; dwell upon this meditation. Think what great love Christ has showed unto us, and how little we have deserved, and this will make our hearts to melt and be as pliable as wax before the sun” (The Tender Heart 57).
In the hustle-bustle and heartbreaks of life, it is so easy for our hearts to be distracted. It’s so easy to have our view of Christ clouded by circumstances. So, whether our brothers and sisters are “wakeful” or “sleepy,” let us share generously a fresh view of the love–and loveliness—of Christ!
— Sibbes, Richard. The Love of Christ: Expository Sermons on Verses from Song of Solomon Chapters 4-6. Edinburgh, U.K.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2011. Print.
— Sibbes, Richard. The Tender Heart. Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth Trust, 2011. Print.