I remember reading J. I. Packer a few years ago and being struck when he said that the Puritans are like the Redwood trees of the Christian world (the Redwoods are the biggest trees in America). And I remember being even more struck when he said: “And John Owen is the greatest of the Redwoods”.
And just as the Redwood trees would be a momentous climb, so John Owen requires a momentous effort to read. He even laments his own writing style. But I firmly believe his writings and works are worth all the toil in the world.
This short blog on communion with God is really an attempt to make accessible what John Owen has to say about how we worship the Father and the Son in an intimate and particular way. The aim of this blog is to elicit deeper and richer worship.
So how do we worship the Father, and the Son?
The Father: Owen begins pastorally by helping us to see that we commune with the Father in love. Christians should see that the Father is full of love for us. I think it’s tempting for us to sometimes think that God the Father only loves us because Jesus died for us. But notice the order of John 3:16. It’s because God loved the world that he sent his Son to die for it. Because God set his affections upon us he paved the way back for us to commune with him through the sacrifice of his Son.
And there are two responses from us if we’re to have communion with God the Father. First, we must receive this love by faith, and through Christ. We need to see, behold, and hold on to the fact that as the light of the sun comes to us and warms us by its beams, so through Jesus, the beams of the Father’s love comes to us with delight. Second, we are to respond in love as we marvel at the fullness of the Father’s love towards us. A right understanding of God’s love to us must pass through the head and into the heart. And when the heart is warmed by the love of God we cannot help but love him back. Ephesians 1:4 begins with God’s love to us in Christ, and finishes with our love for him.
The Son: We commune with Jesus Christ in grace. Grace is everywhere described to Jesus Christ. Grace and truth came through Christ (John. 1:16-17). We commune with Christ in grace in three ways.
- Grace as personal beauty. We commune with Christ in his beauty because we are desperately needy. As Christians, we can assume that when we first come to saving faith we are needy and Christ meets our need. But then we eventually move on and lose our neediness. But this isn’t the case, we never become not needy. But the good news is that Christ never becomes not sufficient to meet our needs. The Father was pleased for the fullness to dwell in Christ (Col. 1:19). Because of his fullness, Christ meets our every need. Are you dead? Christ is your life. Are you weak? Christ is your strength. Are you ignorant? Christ is your wisdom. Are you guilty? Christ is your righteousness. As we see Christ’s sufficiency for our every need we commune with him in the grace of his beauty.
- Grace as acceptance. Paul in the book of Ephesians reminds us that we’ve been saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). This grace is the free undeserving acceptance of God the Father through the blood of Christ. This grace is extended to us because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And so we get to commune with him as the blood brought bride.
- Grace as renewal, and the enabling to walk in the holiness of a new life. This is an organic grace that we receive from Christ. It’s a grace that Jesus works in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. In John 15, Jesus says he is the vine, and we are the branches. When we are united to Christ by faith he will produce good fruit in us. This is a work of his grace.
So next time you drop to your knees in prayer, consider the unique ways you can pray to God the Father in love, and God the Son in grace. Consider how you relate to each member in particular. And may your walk with God become richer, deeper, and more meaningful in the years ahead.
Part II on the Spirit still to come…