Balm on the Soul

December 4, 2017
by George Osborn
  • Balm on the Soul

As part of a course I am on with Crosslands I wrote this conclusion in a summary of a book by Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed. His theology of Jesus is balm to the soul, I pray it blesses you

If as Sibbes states all is of Christ and our sanctification is gained by illumination and not decision then this is good news indeed. Lets take a case study in mind and see how Sibbes’ Christology would affect  and answer this persons deepest need.

Martin has been a Christian for a number of years, he was brought up in a Christian home with loving parents but with ones who had a focus on the keeping of God’s commands as a way to asses whether you were elect and assurance of salvation. You would often here them say ‘are you sure your saved Martin the way you are behaving’. As a result Martin has often struggled to see God as a loving Father and he sees him as distant and demanding. He has two children of his own now and he often finds himself critiszing them and disappointed in them although he tries desperately to love them and be kind to them. When he hears others pray to God and pour out their love to him he cringes inside as he has never had that closeness to God.

How might Sibbes answer Martin, or how might his view of Christ work help him?

He would no doubt preach Christ so beautifully to Martin, he would remind Martin of Christ’s work not his own work, aiming for Martin’s heart not his will. He might rightly tell him how Jesus would not snuff out even the smallest hint of a flame within him – “It is an office of love here to take away the stones, and to smooth the way to heaven”. He would encourage Martin to lift his eyes from his own performance and to look to Christ’s performance on the Cross, I think he would sit down with him and ask him to open up song of songs and show him how much Christ delights in his bride – “We are only poor for this reason, that we do not know our riches in Christ”. I am sure he would tell him of the Father in heaven who Christ came to reveal, to tell him how much the Father loves the Son and subsequently how much the Father loves Martin now he is in the Son by the Spirit. He would assure him, reminding him that the Father so loved the world that he sent his Son, that God overflows with this love and that he had a wrong view of who God is. Believe Christ Martin not Satan. Look to Christ and let his Spirit reign in your heart Martin, do not focus on what you want to have or what you are missing but keep your eyes fixed on Christ and his love. I would hope that Martin might join Martin Lloyd-Jones after an afternoon with Sibbes;

“I shall never cease to be grateful to Richard Sibbes, who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil…. I found at that time that Richard Sibbes… was an unfailing remedy. His books The Bruised Reed and The Soul’s Conflict quietened, soothed, comforted, encouraged, and healed me.” – Martin Lloyd-Jones

Do you see the pastoral implication for Lloyd-Jones and therefore Martin? If we were to follow a view of Christ as simply divine ruler and importer of top up grace as in the will movement we might begin to see a self-help style of Christianity. That Jesus is a stepping stone to making the better you, and how often do we see this today? It’s not Christ centred it’s me centred.

Sibbes Christology has massive implications in my ministry too both on a church level and day to day in reaching out to the lost. I see so often in the Christians around me a down trodden and defeated heart, I see it in my own life far too often. God must be disappointed in me, I look at the sins still persistent in my life, my lack of love for God and apathy and I am tempted to despair but Sibbes would have us look to Christ and his work, to reveal the love of the Father for his Son and his love for us.

Not gazing at Jesus beauty is like going to an art gallery and staring at a blank wall instead of the Picasso that hangs behind us. The beauty of Christ is hanging on the cross, the beauty of Christ is risen waiting in heaven for his bride to finally come. If my focus was on that, would I be so downcast, would I want to give up praying because it feels like Christ is disinterested, would I fear others around me so much if I knew more of this Christ? I think things would be radically different. What are the implications of Sibbes Christology? Christians who are alive in Jesus, full of his love and passion, desiring to follow him. Sibbes has reminded me that I am in a relationship with Jesus not a contract where he ticks off my performance at the end of the day. How often do I come home to my wife and say “You did well today, think you performed pretty decently at being a wife, I would like to see more cleanliness around the tidying of the shoes and tomorrow you can perhaps spend 13 more minutes with me than yesterday before leaving for work!” Yet that’s how I often think God is! Ticking off our performance, what grievous sin this attitude is. I fall more in love with my wife when he see who she is and how she loves me. I fall more in love with Christ when I see who he is and his love for me.

Sibbes’ view of Christ will impact how I go about my mission as I invite others to see the beauty of Christ. It will affect my preaching as I aim to stir peoples affections for Christ rather than beating them with a stick across the cheek of their conscience. It will affect my ministry in those quiet conversations with Christians who are struggling with some besetting sin, rather than hang a mirror before them I would ask them to turn and see the wonderful picture that Sibbes paints of Christ.

I think the last word should go to Sibbes…

“In conclusion and as a general application to ourselves of that has been said, we see the conflicting, but yet sure and hopeful, state of God’s people. The victory lies not with us, but with Christ, who has taken on him both to conquer for us and to conquer in us.

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