These are the other five questions from Donald Whitney’s book. We look at the first five questions in a previous post.
6. Do you delight in the Bride of Christ?
This was one of those questions that did not seem to fit in with the rest of the questions. My first reaction was this, “What does this have to do with my ‘personal’ faith journey?” And, fundamentally, that was part of the problem. When I create a scenario where my faith is all about “me” and my faith is not a part of the greater “we,” (i.e., the church), then I have set myself up to no longer need anybody else. In order to avoid this we have to see the faith as something that we come into rather than as something that belongs to me. I just bought shares in the Kingdom of God. That is not how it works.
“So one of the best tests of whether we belong to Christ is whether we delight in His delight, namely, the people who comprise His church.” (Kindle Location, 754)
This is a wonderful reflection of what is missing in many areas of the church. There are places where members of the same congregation have not spoken to each other in years, maybe even decades. This is not a good witness to the world about the love of God in us, for them. If I do not or cannot delight in the company of the other believers, heaven will not be as blissful as many have imagined. This next statement and question helped me to clearly understand what this idea of delighting in the Bride of Christ meant.
“The truth of Scripture is better expressed by a congregation confessing, ‘We are the bride of Christ,’ than by a solitary Christian saying, ‘I am the bride of Christ.’ Therefore, do you delight in the church, that is, in the gathering of believers, their corporate experiences and labor?” (Kindle Location, 772)
7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
My first reaction was, “No.” I have not participated in spiritual disciplines like I should. The primary reason is that I was unaware that there were a variety that could be practiced. After reading Whitney I have discovered that the spiritual disciplines must move from the category of “could be done” and become “should be done.” There are several statements made by Whitney in this chapter that are worth highlighting.
“Remember also that the spiritual disciplines found in Christian Scripture are sufficient.” (Kindle Location, 876)
“All the Christian spiritual disciplines are important and singularly beneficial. A discipline neglected is a blessing unclaimed.” (Kindle Location, 879)
This final example reveals the goal of the disciples life. To learn and grow and foster a consistent witness and a growing faith. We shouldn’t want to be a flash of fervor followed by nothing.
“Perhaps you are like a Christian woman I know who sometimes wonders if she is still growing spiritually, because the original God-kindled blaze of eternal life that once illuminated the darkness of her life so suddenly, seldom flames up as dramatically as when she was first converted. But what is true for the woodstove is true in this case for the Christian heart as well: just because the beginning of the combustion may briefly be more spectacular than at present doesn’t mean the fire isn’t growing. The initial burst of spiritual flame may be more dazzling, but the heartfire’s greatest effectiveness occurs as it burns into consistency.” (Kindle Location, 861)
8. Do you still grieve over sin?
My first reaction to this was, “I am not even sure people would understand this question.” As I read through the chapter it was just amazing to me how easy it is to become prideful in having received God’s grace. The wonderful words of God’s love are supposed to make us for full of ourselves. We should be moved to become more full of Him. Grieve over my sin changes how I look at everything, or at least it should.
“The closer you get to Christ, the more you will hate sin; for nothing is more unlike Christ than sin. Because Jesus hates sin, the more like Him you grow the more you will grow to hate sin. And the more you hate sin, the more you will grieve whenever you realize that you have embraced that which killed your Savior.” Kindle Location, 956)
Whitney’s clear description of what it means to draw closer to Jesus is important. Sin is darkness. It is everything that God is not and will never be. Therefore, if we are drawing closer to the eternal life of the Son of God the must necessarily be change occurring in our lives. This understanding of drawing close and the quote from Thomas D. Bernard, was also very revealing.
“The closer you come to the light of Christ, the more sins His holy light will expose in you. In the words of nineteenth century Bible scholar Thomas D. Bernard, ‘Our sense of sin is in proportion to our nearness to God.'” (Kindle Location, 971)
Finally, I was struck by the unshakable reality that grieving over sin will actually have the opposite effect than what I anticipated. Whitney says that
“Godly sorrow in the growing Christian makes him a thousand times more aware of his pride than his humility.” (Kindle Location, 1013)
9. Are you a quicker forgiver?
As I mentioned in Part 1, these questions are so simple and direct the longer you look at them the more you realize how important the answers are. This question in particular, has that effect. Let the two following passages sink in for a moment.
“Repenters toward God are forgivers toward others. Those who find themselves unable to forgive reveal that they’ve never experienced the transforming forgiveness of God.” (Kindle Location, 1084)
“The one who announces forgiveness where it hasn’t been sought not only discounts the importance of repentance, he also misunderstands the requirement of Scripture. But the one who is not willing to forgive is contradicting the Scripture, and for the moment at least, is putting the reality of his salvation to the test.” (Kindle Location, 1106)
I do not think that Whitney was off the mark here. Not only is our testimony questionable when we fail to forgive, but we should be concerned about where we stand before. When we are unable or unwilling to extend forgiveness to others after we have experienced it for ourselves, something is terribly wrong.
10. Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?
We have all heard that there are some people who are “So heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Well, the truth may actually be the opposite. What if we are not heavenly minded enough? What if we have failed to truly consider the wonder and joy of heaven? What if, because we do not appreciate what is to come, we have sold ourselves and those around us short of God’s best?
The twist that Whitney provides here is that the yearning for heaven that all Christian’s should have is at its heart a longer for the completion of God’s work of making us totally holy. When the work of Salvation that Jesus ratified on the cross is completed, we will be able to enjoy God’s company forever. But, only a holy people can enjoy that. That is why a yearning for heaven is a desire to holy. This was last statement is just a striking truth.
“Jonathan Edwards put it this way: “But neither a … longing to be in Heaven, nor longing to die, are in any measure so distinguishing marks of true saints, as longing after a more holy heart.”‘” (Kindle Location, 1198)
“Paul wrote like a man who had not only tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8), but like one who has found the holiness of the Lord eternally and irresistibly addictive.” (Kindle Location, 1229)
The single best sermon I have EVER heard on what heaven will be like was given by Dr. Sam Storms in 2003 at the Desiring God National Conference. It was called “Joy’s Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven”. You can listen online or download the video here.
These ten question have the potential to provide a major course correction in your faith journey. But, they could also end up doing nothing to take you deeper into God’s plan and purposes for your life. The choice is yours.