Ignorance of God makes idolators or weak worshippers. Knowledge of God, like knowledge of one’s spouse, increases and intensifies love and praise for God.
But it is easy to seek knowledge as an end, or maybe more accurately to seek knowledge for the praise of our knowledge. This is a subject that I’ve spoken about repeatedly, a subject that I believe is relevant for our flock, and a subject that regularly requires repentance.
I’ve referred to seeking Bible knowledge as an end as trying to fill one’s “truth-tube” and those who do so as “truth-tubers.” This is not a criticism of truth, but rather an image intended to provoke our thoughts about what truth is for.
Imagine organized rows of clear and clean glass test tubes, all filled to various heights with fantastic colored liquid. What good are those tubes doing for each other, including the ones that are filled to capacity? They are close, but they are not connected.
The illustration of truth-tube came as I attempted to come up with the opposite of a great illustration used by John Bunyan in his book, Christian Behavior.
“Christians are like the several flowers in a garden, that have upon each of them the dew of heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall their dew at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other.”
The “dew of heaven” is grace and truth. We are “nourished” in order to “become nourishers of each other.” This is why we speak truth in love for sake of being joined as a body and growing as a body built up in love.
What is the single most important thing you can do to grow into God’s image? Do you remember when the apostle Paul wrote about believers being “filled with all the fullness of God”? Is that even allowable? It’s an inspired description, so it must be. But how does that happen? What is the process? We’re naturally too weak to do it on our own, therefore Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers that they:
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18–19, ESV)
The single most important and humanly impossible need is for us to know the love of Christ. It’s not that we need to love Him more, though we will. It’s not that we need to obey for 70 years or by strength 80, though He may enable us to do that. We will be deified–filled up with all God’s fullness–as we come to have His love wrapped around our heads.
John Bunyan wrote an entire book on these two verses, The Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, recently published under the title, All Loves Excelling. Near the end he asked,
Couldst thou (sinner) if thou hadst been allowed, thyself express what thou wouldst have expressed, the greatness of the love thou wantest, with words that could have suited thee better? (Knowledge, 37)
In other words, could you have imagined, let alone asked for, a better love than Christ’s? Satan hates for you to know this goodness. He hates for us to come to the Lord’s Table set with the symbols of Christ’s love spent for us, the body and the blood of Jesus. Christian, remember His death on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection three days later. Abide in His love. Come, eat and drink it represented in this communion meal. It fills you with all God’s fullness.
On laughing as responsible leadership:
For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.
—King Lune in The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
On laughing as hard humility:
[K]ings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness….It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do….For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.
—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
On laughing as Calvinist worship:
If, therefore, when thou hast fled, thou art taken, be not offended at God or man: not at God, for thou art his servant, thy life and thy all are his; not at man, for he is but God’s rod, and is ordained, in this, to do thee good. Hast thou escaped? Laugh. Art thou taken? Laugh. I mean, be pleased which way soever things shall go, for that the scales are still in God’s hand.
—John Bunyan, Seasonable Counsel
You are very hot for mercy, but I will cool you; this frame shall not last always; many have been as hot as you for a spirit, but I have quenched their zeal….What care I, saith he, though I be seven years in chilling your heart if I can do it at last? Continual rocking will lull a crying child asleep. I will ply it close, but I will have my end accomplished. Though you be burning hot at present, yet, if I can pull you from this fire, I shall have you cold before it be long.
—John Buynan, Grace Abounding, #110
What would they judge of thee if they knew thy heart began to fail thee in thy journey, or thy sins began to allure thee, and to persuade thee to stop thy race? would they not call thee a thousand fools? and say, O, that he did but see what we see, feel what we feel, and taste of the dainties that we taste of! O, if he were here one quarter of an hour, to behold, to see, to feel, to taste and enjoy but the thousandth part of what we enjoy, what would he do? What would he suffer? What would he leave undone? Would he favour sin? Would he love this world below? Would he be afraid of friends, or shrink at the most fearful threatenings that the greatest tyrants could invent to give him? Nay, those who have had but a sight of these things by faith, when they have been as far off from them as heaven from earth, yet they have been able to say with a comfortable and merry heart, as the bird that sings in the spring, that this and more shall not keep them from running to heaven.
—John Bunyan, The Heavenly Footman
Persecution is a weapon that kills both at the breech and at the muzzle, that, though it may strike and wound those against whom it is directed, it yet more certainly debases and degrades those who use it.
—John Brown, John Bunyan—His Life, Times and Work, 215, regarding the failure of religious suppression by force in Bunyan’s day.
It is the part of the Church to suffer rather than to strike, but it is an anvil that has worn out a good many hammers.
—John Brown, John Bunyan—His Life, Times and Work, 196, in reference to Buynan’s submission to the state.
Ministers never write or preach so well as when under the cross: the Spirit of Christ and of Glory then rests upon them.
—George Whitefield, in reference to John Bunyan’s writing of The Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison. (quoted in Horner, The Pilgrim’s Progress: An Evangelical Apologetic, iii)
Profess men may, and make a noise, as the empty barrel maketh the biggest sound; but prove them, and they are full of air, full of emptiness, and that is all.
—John Bunyan, The Acceptable Sacrifice, 719. Regarding those who perform religious duties without a broken heart.
He had studied our Authorized Version … till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and though his writings … continually make us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak with out quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.
—In reference to John Bunyan. Charles Spurgeon, Autobiography, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 159.