The Decathlon has begun with a pointed focus on captivation. Why is this? The answer is because no road through life is more challenging than the path of Jesus, and no man will proceed far unless his heart is overtaken by a vision of glory. The early Europeans settlers would have never ventured across the Atlantic if they had not been convinced that the prospect of a new life was worthy of the perils of the journey. The same is true for us. The degree to which we see and taste divine glory is the degree to which we will lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares, and run with endurance the race set before us (Heb. 12:1).
But let’s be honest: few men can raise their hands and profess to have hearts that are smitten by the beauty of God. Many of us have experienced such fervor for a season, perhaps when we were first saved, but since that moment our love has risen and ebbed like the tide of the sea. What, then, can fickle men like us do in order to deepen the passion of our pursuit of God? Here are five suggestions.
1 – Padlock Your Attention to Jesus
J.I. Packer, a sage among evangelical theologians, advises a ‘constant meditation on the four gospels, over and above the rest of our Bible readings.’ Why does he recommend this? The answer is because only in the gospels do we read about the life story of Jesus. Packer goes on unashamedly to say that the four gospels of the New Testament are the most wonderful books on earth. In saying this Packer is not disparaging the rest of the Bible. He is simply reminding us that the highest peak of God’s revelation is the man, Jesus Christ. If any traveler wanted to be captivated by the glory of the ruggedness of the United States he could do no better than visit the Grand Canyon. Likewise, if any Christian would like to be overcome by the glory of God, destination number 1 is the life story of Jesus.
2 – Sip on Old Hymns
Contemporary praise music is often like cotton candy (or ‘candy floss’ for those in the UK): it tastes great in the mouth but instantly dissolves on the tongue. Old hymns are more like a dram of whiskey. The first impression may be unappealing; nonetheless, with a bit of training and refinement of taste, there is a richness of flavor that lingers in the mouth and warms the belly. My suggestion is not to sing these old hymns, but to meditate on them. Too often the majesty of their words is sunk by heavy and melancholy tunes. Where can a man begin? Here are two very old but equally wonderful hymns: (1) Eternal Power Whose High Abode and (2) Jesus, Thy Boundless Love for Me.
3 – Photograph the Unforgettable
What do we do when we visit Rome and see a historic building or when we climb the Alps and reach a breathtaking summit? We pull out a camera and take a photo. Why do we do this? The motive is to have an imperishable copy of what we have seen so that we can revisit the experience. Something similar is possible for men spiritually. There are certain heights of the New Testament where the revelation of Jesus Christ is so breathtaking that apostles expectantly become poets, using balance and form to convey a wondrous truth that eludes raw description. Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:15-18, and Revelation 1:12-17 are three examples. Such passages ought not to be perused and abandoned like a newspaper but photographed and retained like precious memories. God has given us no resource more useful than our minds. Why not spend our free time stocking the shelves of memory with poems of Christ from the New Testament?
4 – Read Biographies
What is the best way to catch a disease? Hang around people who are already infected. Do you want to the furnace of your heart to burn white hot? Spend some time with John Wesley, George Whitefield, Hudson Taylor, Dawson Trotman, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, and other stalwarts of the faith. Imperceptibly, their love will kindle your love, and over time you will feel the pace of discipleship quicken and the energy of faith surge.
5 – Don’t Miss Gathered Worship
Jesus has told us that where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there among them (Matt. 18:20). Something special happens when Christians meet together to remember the death and resurrection of Christ. The Spirit may not erupt with equal power on each occasion. Yet, in the words of a classic hymn, ‘sometimes a light surprises’. Indeed it does. There is no better place for a dry heart to catch fire than while singing praise, reflecting on the Word, and taking the bread and wine. If you want to be a captivated man, don’t miss church. Sunday worship is where Jesus will be. You should be there, too.