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“The Loveliness of Christ” – by Thomas Watson

For this week’s Crossroads Connection, I’d like to direct your attention to a section in Thomas Watson’s (1620–1686) sermon, “The Loveliness of Christ.” In this portion of this message, Watson is placing before his congregation the loveliness of Christ in his sufferings. May it warm your heart and lift you to the heights of praise!

“Christ is lovely in His sufferings when He makes expiation for our sins. But how can He be lovely in His sufferings? Lovely when He was buffeted, spat upon, and smeared with blood? Oh, yes! He was most lovely upon the cross—because then He showed most love to us. He bled love from every vein! His drops of blood were love-drops. The more bloody, the more lovely. The more Christ endured for us, the more dear He ought to be to us. . . . Nor did Christ only endure pain in His body, but agony of soul. He conflicted with the wrath of God, which He could never have done if He had not been more than a man.

 

We read that the altar of wood was overlaid with brass so that the fire on the altar might not consume the wood (Exodus 27:1, 2). This altar was a type of Jesus Christ. The human nature of Christ, which was the wood, was covered with the divine nature, which was like brass, else the fire of God’s wrath would have consumed it.

All that Christ suffered was in our stead (Isaiah 53:5). We ate the sour grapes, and His teeth were set on edge. We climbed the tree, we stole the forbidden fruit—and Christ goes up the ladder of the cross and dies! Oh, how lovely ought a bleeding Savior to be in our eyes! Let us wear this blessed crucifix always in our heart. “The cross of Christ,” said Damascen [John of Damascus], “is the golden key that opens paradise to us.”

 

How beautiful Christ is upon the cross! The ruddiness of His blood took away the redness of our guilt. How lovely are those wounds which wounded the red dragon! When this blessed Rock was smitten, water came out of it to cleanse us and blood to cheer us (1 John 5:6). “When Christ was on the cross,” said Bernard [of Clairvaux], “then the vine was cut—and salvation came to us in the blood of the vine.” Oh, how lovely is this bleeding vine! Christ’s crucifixion is our coronation!

More Prompts for Holy Admiration

I loved this outburst of praise in Spurgeon’s evening devotion today:

O for a throne of ivory for our King. Let Him be set on high forever, and let my soul sit at His footstool and kiss His feet and wash them with my tears. How precious is Christ! How can it be that I have thought so little of Him? How is it I can go anywhere else for joy or comfort when He is so full, so rich, so satisfying? Fellow believer, make a covenant with your heart that you will never depart from Him, and ask the Lord to ratify it. Bid Him set you as a ring on His finger and as a bracelet on His arm. . . . The sparrow has made a house, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, even your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. And in the same way I would make my nest, my home, in You, and may this soul never leave again, but let me nestle close to You, Lord Jesus, my true and only rest.

These reflections from Michael Allen’s essay, “Divine Fullness: A Dogmatic Sketch,” moved me to praise God for his all-surpassing excellencies:

His [God’s] riches are owned by he who is without beginning or end and thus who is characterized by aseity. Yet his bounteous bliss goes beyond mere self-existence or self-sufficiency to also require that we attest his excess, wealth, and fullness. All that he has, he is, and he has all and more. . . Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have shared perfect charity with one another for all eternity, such that their actions toward us do not begin their life of love but only express the public overflow of what has marked their own unity from everlasting unto everlasting.

How can we hold back praising this awesome God!

Finally, I loved this prayer from The Valley of Vision: “Thy never-failing providence . . . makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon, to show me what a short-sighted creature I am, and to teach me to live by faith upon thy blessed self” (185).

Meditation on Psalm 7

Introduction

Psalm 7 finds David in a tsunami of false accusations and slander. Though the specifics elude us, the words, “if there is wrong in my hands (v. 3), suggest allegations of bribery (2 Sam. 15:1–16).

It’s this smear campaign that sheds light on David’s seemingly self-righteous plea: “judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me” (v. 8). But David entertains no notion that he’s sinless; just read Psalms 32 and 51. Rather, his petition is specifically linked to the accusations leveled against him.

Further proof of David’s sincerity are the three if-clauses in verses 3–4 that culminate in his willingness to die if he’s guilty of sinning in the way his enemies charge. Instead of taking matters into his own hands, David foreshadows the behavior of his greater Son, Jesus Christ—the One who entrusted “himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23).

Reflection

But what enables David to respond this way? Two things:

First, God’s character. Engraved on David’s soul is the truth that God is not lukewarm about justice. Indeed, God “feels indignation every day” (v. 11)—that is, his zeal for justice never fluctuates or changes; it doesn’t rise and fall depending on the day. In theological terms, God’s indignation is an impassible indignation.

Second, David has entrusted himself to this God—the just God. Tim Keller perceptively observes that David does not say, “I will take refuge in the LORD,” but “I take refuge,” indicating that he has placed his life in God’s hands.[1] This trust in God frees David to rest in his wisdom and timing. Divine retribution will come; God will judge from his exalted throne (v. 11).

Conclusion

Here’s why Psalm 7 is good news: The one who will judge from his throne on high is also the one who was lifted high on the cross, promising that all who trust in him will escape judgment (John 3:14–18). For Christians, our judgment day has already come and gone.

Prayer: O Good God, the only searcher of men’s hearts, who preservest us that put our confidence in thee from danger of our enemies, lift up thy mighty arm, and put back all those that persecute us; and gather thy church dispersed by the tyranny of godless tyrants; and keep us continually under thy mighty defence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Prayer based on Psalm 7 from Prayers on the Psalms from the Scottish Psalter of 1595, 44).

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[1] Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (New York: Viking, 2015), 9.

Three Highlights of the Week

In a world overrun with harsh criticisms and rampant cynicism, I want to double down on my efforts to celebrate every evidence of God’s grace in my life. I want to shine a spotlight on every ounce of encouragement he sends my way.

I found three this week.

The first were the lyrics to Augustus Toplady’s (1740–1778) hymn, “Payment God Cannot Twice Demand”:

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?

 

Complete atonement Thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate’er Thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in Thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with Thy blood?

 

If Thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.

 

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest!
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty;
Trust in His efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee!

The second was George Herbert’s (1593–1633) poem “Submission.” Most people crave positions of influence and long for greater notoriety. I know I have, and still do––which is why I need to read and re-read this poem. It oozes gospel-wisdom and reflects the appropriate God-centered posture of Christ’s servants.

But that thou art my wisdome, Lord,
And both mine eyes are thine,
My minde would be extreamly stirr’d
For missing my designe.

 

Were it not better to bestow
Some place and power on me?
Then should thy praises with me grow,
And share in my degree.

 

But when I thus dispute and grieve,
I do resume my sight,
And pilfring what I once did give,
Disseize thee of thy right.

 

How know I, if thou shouldst me raise,
That I should then raise thee?
Perhaps great places and thy praise
Do not so well agree.

 

Wherefore unto my gift I stand;
I will no more advise:
Onely do thou lend me a hand,
Since thou hast both mine eyes.

Finally, Scotty Smith’s prayer “All Purpose Grace” lifted my eyes heavenward to the radiant Christ!

How did God encourage you this week?

Three Prompts for Holy Admiration

And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders (Revelation 14:2–3a).

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In November of 1740, Jonathan Edwards preached a Thanksgiving Day sermon on Revelation 14:3, titled, “They Sang a New Song.” (For the sake of context, I included verse 2 in the citation above.) Throughout the message, Edwards makes much of singing, and notes:

“The music of this new song consists in holy admiration, in exalting thoughts of the glory of God and the Lamb and the great things of the gospel; and in divine love, in loving God for his excellency appearing in the face of Christ, in holy rejoicing in God and in delight and complacence [rest] of the soul in Jesus, whereby we, having not seen him, do love him [1 Pet. 1:18].”[1]

I was struck by the phrase holy admiration. If Edwards is right that worship “consists in holy admiration” (and I believe he is), then let me provide you with three prompts for holy admiration.

Admire God because you enjoy communion with him. God did not create the world because he needed something to love. God is love (1 John 4:8). And the astounding news of the gospel is that the God who needed nothing freely shares his perfect life with imperfect people. And that includes you. Do you love God? If so, why? “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). What grace! But as we often say at Crossroads, grace is not some abstract thing. Grace has a name—Jesus Christ. We enjoy communion with the triune God because the eternal Son of God shares his sonship with us by grace: “Christ is the true Son, and so when we receive the Spirit, we are made sons.”[2]

Admire God because you are never alone. Life in a sin-infested world often feels like walking through quicksand. It’s an exhausting slog. Failures, losses, disappointments, and tragedies pile up. Satan exploits these moments of desolation in our lives by trying to convince us that we’re alone in a harsh world and that no one cares. But that’s not true. The truth is that we are not alone because God is with us. The bookends of Matthew’s gospel prove this. The one whose name is Immanuel (Matt. 1:23) promised to be with us “to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). More than that, the Holy Spirit indwells us (1 Cor. 3:16). He is our down payment (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13–14), ensuring that we will forever dwell with our King in heaven. In the meantime, as we journey home we have twenty-four hour access to the One who is ever-ready to hear our prayers: “God’s ears are alert to the human heart.”[3]

Admire God because of the local church. Sundays are my favorite day of the week. All week long I look forward to gathering with my church family. Why? Because I’m weak, forgetful, and needy. I assume you’re the same way. Gathering with God’s people each week, singing his praises, uniting our hearts in prayer together—what could be better? Our corporate worship is what God designed it to be: a foretaste of heaven.

As is so often the case, Spurgeon was right: “My Master does not treat His servants meanly; He gives to them the way a king gives to a king. He gives them two heavens—a heaven below in serving Him here, and a heaven above in delighting in Him forever.”[4]

May these three prompts for holy admiration inform your worship of God today.

Let’s close with a prayer from Puritan Robert Hawker (1753–1827):

“Come then, you blessed, holy, lovely one, and ravish my spiritual senses with your beauty, that my whole soul would be filled only with the love of Jesus every day. Until that day when, from seeing you here below, through your grace, I come to look upon you, and live forever in your presence, in the full beams of your glory in your throne above.”[5]

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[1] Jonathan Edwards, “They Sing and New Song,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 22, Sermons and Discourses 1739–1742, ed. Harry S. Stout and Nathan O. Hatch, with Kyle P. Farley (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 236.

[2] Athanasius, Letters to Serapion, 1. 19. 5., in Works on the Spirit: Athanasius the Great and Didymus the Blind, trans. Mark DelCogliano, Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, and Lewis Ayers (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011), 82.

[3] Augustine, “Exposition of Psalm 119,” in Essential Expositions of the Psalms, trans. Maria Boulding, ed. Boniface Ramsey (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2015), 71.

[4] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, rev. ed. Alistair Begg (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), August 22, evening devotion.

[5] Robert Hawker, “In the Beauty of Jesus,” in Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans, ed. Robert Elmer (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 93.