In a prior post, I made the point that the heart of a Christian man must be captivated in order to make significant progress toward spiritual maturity. This leads to a further question, what are the objects that ought to captivate the heart of a man? There are three.
The first is the glory of God. There is a radical reorientation of the soul that occurs the moment a man realizes that there is a living God. To read and understand Genesis 1, Psalm 145, the book of Job, or Isaiah 40 is to experience nothing less than a Copernican revolution of the soul. God is all-in-all; I am not. Next to Him even the universe is tiny, simple, and barely getting started. He is there and alive – two facts significant enough to startle the soul into a new spiritual alertness. But there is more: he is also personal, faithful, just, merciful, wise, good, and loving. In a sentence, captivation begins by seeing the footprint of a Creator in the Old Testament and then realizing that this trace is in fact a Holy Presence addressing me right now. The effect of such an encounter is to fall on one’s face and to worship in reverent silence.
Second, captivation occurs when a heart beholds the beauty of Christ. In The Religious Affections Jonathan Edwards makes the point that, in saving us, God orchestrated our redemption so that it would be both effective and beautiful. Such is the wondrous power of the cross. The very act that saves us captivates the wellspring of our devotion. Men who are prepared for spiritual growth have tasted this beauty. They understand that the greatest honor and delight available to human beings is knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus and Jesus alone is ‘the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of His nature’ (Heb. 1:3). He is the light of God’s presence and the fountain of joy (Ps. 36; Jn. 1:4). Knowing him, and the Father through him, is eternal life (Jn. 17:4).
The third source of captivation is a vision of the glory of godliness. There is nothing uglier to the eyes of unbelief than a radical pursuit of holiness. Submission instead of assertion, meekness instead of pride, self-control instead of self-fulfillment, persecution instead of comfort, heavenly treasure instead of earthly reward, spiritual joy instead of momentary pleasure – this reads like a blueprint for misery to a secular audience. But the captivated man has a different point of view. To him, the gain of godliness far outweighs the costs. To follow the way of the cross is to venture down a path that leads to eternal joy, honor, and fellowship. Are there difficulties? Yes. Are there sacrifices? Of course. But there is also imperishable, undefiled, and unfading blessing (I Pet. 1:4). A captivated man appreciates the words of Isaac Watts, ‘Religion never was designed to make our pleasure less.’ He knows that the glory outweighs the shame, the hope infinitely repays the sacrifice. For him, the way of the cross is the only path through life that could satisfy his deepest longings. Such a man appreciates the reply of Peter to Jesus when Jesus asked the twelve if they would like to go a different way: ‘Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (Jn. 6:38).