What is it God Requires of Us?

Every so often I will get these emails, texts, random articles or funnies pulled from a Dilbert calendar from my dad. I treasure all of these things, because dad and I are in that group of people (you know if this is you) who love being thought of in these small ways; and are moved, be it tears or laughter, by the heart behind the gesture and word content. I love it when my dad shares his heart with and confides in me, or just wants to vent to me. This is one email that I had to share with everyone:

I want to share a quote from John Owen from his book, Grace and the Duty of Being Spiritually Minded.  I think it is powerful, searching, shocking, frightening.  Perhaps, this is because I have just about finished reading through it and I know the context of this quote.  I hope no one will read it and dismissively say, “Yep, I know that.”  Or, I hope no one will read it and say, “What a legalist he was!”  However, I have no doubt many will want to argue with Owen, both because of the rigor of his Christianity and the unrelenting way he searches our heart.  In our undoctrinal, antinomian age where superficial knowledge of the Scriptures abound and deep, careful analysis is discouraged, I would only ask one thing of those who will disagree with him:  On whatever basis one disagrees with Owen, he or she must bring forth a biblical, exegetical argument that is equal to and refutes what Owen says.  It is of no account for someone to disagree with Owen, who was perhaps the greatest theological mind of any age, just because they do not like what he says.  If they say that being spiritually minded is not what Owen says it is, let them show us from Scripture what it is then that we may prove ourselves by their standard.  Let them disprove him from Scripture.  Here is the quote:

To “walk with God,” to “live unto him,” is not merely to be found in an abstinence from outward sins, and in the performance of outward duties, though with diligence in the multiplication of them.  All this may be done upon such principles, for such ends, with such a frame of heart as to find no acceptance with God.  It is our hearts that he requires, and we can no way give them unto him but by our affections and holy thoughts of him with delight.  This it is to be spiritually minded, this it is to walk with God.  Let no man deceive himself; unless he thus abound in holy thoughts of God, unless our meditation of him be sweet unto us, all that we else pretend unto will fail us in the day of our trial.

In his book, he is expounding Romans 8:5-6:  “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be fleshly minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace….”  Understand, Owen is drawing a sharp and eternal distinction – as does Paul in this passage – between those who are fleshly-minded and thus unsaved and those who are spiritually minded and thus saved.  Owen’s point is that to be saved is to be spiritually minded, which means that our thought-life will be much engaged in meditating upon God – His person and His works – if we are spiritually minded, i.e., saved.  Being “spiritually minded” for Owen is no passive, inert idea or abstract status.  He argues (rightly, I think) that being spiritually minded refers to the actual exercise of our minds as renewed by and under the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He uses Paul’s teaching of “spiritual-mindedness” as an intensely practical test of our profession of faith.  He asks some pretty straightforward questions like, “How much of your time do you spend thinking about/meditating on God/Christ?”  In the last sentence of the above quote he is reiterating a point he has often made in his book that no matter what someone says or does they are deceiving themselves as to their standing in Christ if they do not “abound in holy thoughts of God” and “our mediation of him be sweet unto us.”  Owen’s Christianity is muscular, rigorous, intensely challenging, humbling.  And, I must add, right on as far as I can tell.

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