Song – More of You

It has been far too long since I last recorded a song, so over Christmas I spent a few evenings in my home studio (well, in my dining room actually). The song I chose is called “Lord, You Desire” and was written by my friend John-Daniel Laurence. It has been one of my favourites ever since I first heard him play it. If you would like to hear the official version, get hold of the Your Favour album from All Saints Peckham.

As usual, the recording isn’t really ‘finished’ as there are a multitude of improvements I would like to make, but I have decided to stop here. You can listen to my version here:

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Recording Notes

Mixing – the whole song was recorded and mixed in REAPER.
Drums - programmed with EZdrummer, using the Nashville kit, plus some compression
Bass - played on my Yamaha bass, with with some extra compression and EQ
Vocals – I made a real mess of recording these due to difficulties getting a good signal level. I then added EQ and compression and used the new Bootsy EpicVerb for reverb.
Piano – I used the True Pianos demo, with some EQ to take the low end off, some very gentle compression and a convolution reverb.
Electric Guitar – used a patch from Line6 GearBox.
Cello – uses a Dimension Pro patch

Lyrics

Lord, you desire a heart that’s pure and holy
Without holiness, no one can see you Lord
Blessed are the pure in heart; they shall see you
A heart after your heart, this is what you desire

Give me a heart that burns for you
A passion that will never fade away
Give me a devotion that will never cease to cry
More of you in my life

I need more of you, more of you
More of you in my life

Book Review – You Can Change (Tim Chester)

After reading two extremely good books by Tim Chester (Total Church and Delighting in the Trinity), I was really looking forward to reading his latest publication. You Can Change, subtitled “God’s transforming power for our sinful behaviour and negative emotions” maintains the high standard.

In it, he sets about describing how we can have hope for change, whether we are struggling with a particular sin, or simply feel we have plateaued in our spiritual walk.

As you might expect from Tim, this is a theologically rich book, and points repeatedly to Scriptural truths to be understood rather than to “disciplines” or practices to be put into effect. However, it is also immensely practical, and includes some questions to help you apply the teaching of each chapter directly to your personal life.

He starts off by saying that God’s change agenda is for us to become just like Jesus – we were made in the image of God with the intention that we reflect his glory. This change is not instantaneous however. Sanctification does not usually progress through crisis moments but in a thousand small decisions made day by day.

Chapter two examines why we want to change, and deals with wrong reasons, including trying to make God love us (he already does), or trying to prove ourselves (there’s no point). He moves on to examine how we change. External activities can’t change us, because sin comes from within, from in the heart. He has some very helpful thoughts on the nature of legalism and the power of grace. The Spirit’s role is to give us the desire to do what is right. Sanctification ultimately is God’s work, but that does not mean we are passive. He then examines how God uses our sufferings, hardships and struggles to work towards his purposes in our lives.

Chapter five is particularly helpful, pointing out that behind every sin is a lie, which must be countered with the truth. However, it is possible to have “confessional faith” with “functional obedience”. He identifies four key truths about God that we need to preach to ourselves. There are some very good insights on fearing God rather than man. Chapter 6 deals with the desires we have, and the importance of recognising idolatrous desires. We serve whatever our hearts desire most. We need to put to death sinful desires, not just sinful behaviour.

God always seeks the best for his people and that best is himself.

Chapter seven is perhaps my favourite in the book. He addresses the question “what stops us from changing”. The answer boils down to one of two things: love of self or love of sin. He then goes through several examples which I found very provoking, including proud self-justification, proud self-reliance, and hating only the consequences of sin. In the following chapter he claims that faith and repentance are the only true gospel “disciplines”. What we traditionally call disciplines should rather be thought of as “means of grace” – ways we can reinforce faith.

Though much of the book has been about applying the truth of the gospel to holiness, a chapter is devoted to change in the context of community (which will come as no surprise to readers of Total Church). This was again very provoking as often we view holiness as a strictly personal project. The book ends by reminding us that God intends a lifetime of daily change for us.

Overall I would say this is another outstanding book well worth the time required to read it. It should not be thought of as only for people struggling with a specific large sin. Any Christian would benefit from reading it. It is full of first class theology, but its real strength is how that theology is applied so directly to real everyday situations. The variety of examples used mean that most people will find their own struggles directly addressed in some way.

Do I have any criticisms of the book? Well coming from a more charismatic persuasion I would perhaps have made more of the Spirit’s empowering us to resist temptation, and not just focusing on his giving us the right desires. I suppose you could argue they amount to the same thing. And sometimes the emphasis on God working through our trials can leave you wondering whether it would be a sin to pray to be removed from them!

I thought while I was reading it that there would be benefit in condensing this material into a shorter booklet that could be used as the basis for small group study, especially considering his emphasis on change within community. I think there is probably a little too much material in there for it to be done a chapter at a time (depending of course on what else you do in a your small group meeting). The size of Vaughan Robert’s “God’s Big Picture” would be ideal.

The “Love Languages” of Jesus

I’m sure most of my readers have heard of the “five love languages”. The idea is that different personality types appreciate different ways of love being expressed. These are:

  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

The idea is that if we discover what someone’s “love language” is, we can better communicate our love for them. Now I am sure there is a certain amount of truth in this, but what would you say that Jesus’ “love language” was? In what way does he wish us to express our love for him, and in what way does he show his love for us?

You could probably find occasions in the gospels in which Jesus either ‘spoke’ or was ‘spoken to’ in each of those five languages. But in John 13-17, which I have been working my way through recently, two “love languages” stand out that don’t make it into the list of five.

Obedience

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
(John 14:15 ESV)

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.
(John 14:21a ESV)

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,
(John 14:23a ESV)

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,
(John 15:10a ESV)

The main way that Jesus asked his disciples to express their love for him was through obedience. This is not legalism, it is the outworking of love. Jesus has told us plainly that his love language is obedience, and if we love him, we will demonstrate it by keeping his commandments.

Jesus himself demonstrated his own love for the Father in exactly the same way:

… I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. …
(John 14:31 ESV)

Sacrifice 

Obviously, Jesus did not express his love for his disciples through obedience to them. He certainly gave them quality time, and performed acts of service for them. He promised that he would show his love by “making his home” with his disciples through the indwelling of the Spirit (John 14:23). But the ultimate way that Jesus expresses his love for us is through sacrifice.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
(John 13:1 ESV)

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
(John 15:13 ESV)

Jesus’ willingness to lay down his life demonstrated the extent of his love both for his Father, that he would obey even in this, and for us, that he would willingly die to save us.

Concluding thoughts

I guess I would sum up these verses about love in John with two observations:

  • Claiming to love Jesus is hollow if we are not willing to obey him.
  • We can’t love like Jesus loved, if we are not willing to sacrifice on behalf of others.

Convicted of Righteousness

8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11 ESV)

I have always felt that these verses in John are quite tricky to understand. From reading some commentaries, it appears that the Greek isn’t straightforward either. The concept of the Spirit “convicting” people of sin is not problematic, but what does it mean that he will convict people of “righteousness”?

One solution that I have heard is to take the word ‘convict’ to mean ‘convince’. i.e. The Spirit will convince people that Jesus is the righteous one. Or he will convince them of their need to be righteous. Not only does this require a modification in the meaning of the word convict between verse 9 and 10, but it is in danger of making the Spirit’s work into a merely intellectual persuasion.

Don Carson offers an interesting alternative take on what it means to convict the world concerning righteousness:

John loves to quote or allude to Isaiah, and Isaiah 64:5 establishes that all the dikaiosyne (righteousness) of the people of Isaiah’s day was as a menstruous cloth. Within the Fourth Gospel, this reading of ‘righteousness’ is eminently appropriate. (The Gospel According to John, PNTC, D A Carson, p537)

What does this make of the clarifying phrase: “because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer”? Carson explains that the Spirit is simply continuing an important aspect of the ministry of Jesus, confronting and challenging religious hypocrisy:

The reason why the Paraclete convicts the world of its righteousness is because Jesus is going to the Father. … [The] Paraclete … drives home this conviction in the world precisely because Jesus is no longer present to discharge this task.

Not all commentators are convinced by this. Köstenberger considers it plausible, but prefers a legal interpretation:

… the Spirit of truth in his legal function of parakletos is said here to prosecute the world on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus, who is declared just and vindicated in court. (John, BEC, Andreas Köstenberger, p472)

However, if Carson is right, this is a very provocative concept. All Christians know what it feels like to be convicted of sin by the Spirit, but have you ever been convicted of “righteousness”? We know the Spirit’s voice telling us that our bad temper, greed or impure thoughts are sinful and we need to repent, but have we ever considered that some of our religious good deeds could in fact require repentance too?

Repentance for empty legalistic ‘righteousness’ would take on a different form to repentance from sin. Repenting from sin involves stopping the wrong behaviour, but repenting from righteousness requires something even deeper. After all, the Pharisees regularly gave alms to the poor and prayed daily. Jesus was hardly intending for them to stop these activities. Repenting from legalism is therefore a change of heart rather than necessarily outward behavioural change.

Like many Christians at the start of a new year, I try to make resolutions concerning things like Bible reading and prayer, as well as other spiritual goals for the coming year. But we need to beware of turning from grace to legalism and doing the right things with the wrong motivation, or before long, we will find the Spirit convicting us of our shallow religious ‘righteousness’ and calling us back to a relationship with God based on delight and not duty.