Above All Else, Possess This
There are verses in the Bible that are profound, but always make me smile. I love the passage in Mark 8 where Jesus says, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.' It is profound. To follow Jesus we must take up our cross. That is we must be willing to go after him, knowing that we will be mocked and scorned and ultimately we must die. Yet, the part that makes me smile is that Jesus is quite literally saying, 'To follow me, you have to take up your cross and follow me.' That is 'To follow me, you have to follow me.' It is so simple and so profound.
Another passage that I love is from Proverbs 4. The author says this: 'The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.' Such simple instruction yet so profound. Thomas Brooks in his opening comments in Precious Remedies is saying something like what we see here in Proverbs 4. Above all else get truth yet this is not a truth in the sense of just going out and reading a lot, this is truth that has feet.
It is not he who reads most—but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.... If your light and knowledge be not turned into practice, the more knowing a man you are, the more miserable a man you will be in the day of recompense; your light and knowledge will more torment you than all the devils in hell. Your knowledge will be that rod that will eternally lash you, and that scorpion that will forever bite you, and that worm that will everlastingly gnaw you; therefore read, and labor to know, that you may do—or else you are undone forever.
Now, it can be easy here to make the mistake of putting 'head' knowledge and 'heart knowledge' (for lack of better terms) up against each other. This is the type of thing we hear regularly, 'I knew it in my head, but not in my heart.' I am not convinced that knowledge can be thought of that way. Often it seems we believe that we can separate knowledge into this 'head' and 'heart' dichotomy because we believe that we can 'possess' truth. Helmut Thielicke puts it well when he says:
Truth seduces us very easily into a kind of joy of possession: I have comprehended this and that, learned it, understood it. Knowledge is power. I am therefore more than the other man who does not know this and that. I have greater possibilities and also greater temptations. Anyone who deals with truth as we theologians certainly do succumbs all too easily to the psychology of the possessor. But love is the opposite of the will to possess. It is self-giving. It boasteth not itself, but humbleth itself.
You see, truth is not something we can possess. When we believe we can possess it, we think we can encounter truth and remain unaffected. However, truth by its very nature does not leave us unaffected. Truth, when we truly know it, changes us. It molds our affections. This is why Brooks calls us to meditate on what we read. Brooks is calling us to read slowly, to read thoughtfully, to read with the view of gaining wisdom.
The process of sanctification is, in many ways, just this. It is a regular encounter with the truth and allowing that truth to change us. So, as we read the Bible and we encounter passages where we hear that Satan 'roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour' (1 Pet 5:8). Do we actually believe this to be true? If it is true that Satan is out to destroy us, we should be preparing ourselves for his assaults. We do this studying the ways in which Satan attacks us.
This is the point of Brooks' opening statements. He wants to place before us the beauty of truth. He wants to call us to pursue it like a precious jewel. He wants us to grasp hold of it and see it change our lives. If we pursue truth, if we seek it, we will find it. In finding this truth, we will be able to combat the lies of the devil. In many ways, we hear echos of this in Thomas Chalmers' most famous sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. In this sermon Chalmers tells us that we can't fight sin by simply not wanting to sin. We need a new, a greater affection to replace the affection we have toward our sin. Brooks and Chalmers give us that new affection; a love for that which is true, that which is good, that which is beautiful. A love for God himself.
Seek truth, meditate on it, and put it into practice. A good friend has said many times to me and to many others that 'wisdom is doing the next right thing.' To do the next right thing, we need to know what is right, we need to meditate on that, and then we need to do it. My prayer this week is that I seek the truth, that I do not confuse my opinion with the truth, that I am not deceived by the wiles of the devil, and that as I meditate on this truth, I put it into action by putting on the full armor of God.
Satan [does] more hurt in his sheep's skin than by roaring like a lion. - Thomas Brooks
The blog is currently going through Thomas Brooks' Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices. If you would like to read along, next week I will be reading and commenting on Chapter 2 Device 1 and 2. If you have any thoughts about the text, I would love to hear them.