We will remember them

Eleven years ago we promised: “We will remember them.” Thousands of precious lives taken by vile murderers in just a few hours. Today we keep that promise, thankful for the public ceremonies and church services that revive our failing and fading memories.

We will remember them because if we forget we will be the poorer for it and the nation will be the weaker. Grave social, moral, emotional and even spiritual loss will follow.

We wish we could remember better. Not just the blood-soaked events in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. But also the blood-soaked events at Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha. In 1 Corinthians 15v1-2, the apostle Paul warns that the consequences of forgetting the Gospel are not just grave but fatal:

I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached to you, unless you have believed in vain.

In response, the Puritan Richard Steele preached a sermon on that text entitled: “What are the hindrances and helps to a good memory in spiritual things?”

Steele began by describing the double wound that sin inflicted upon our memories:

  1. We remember what we should forget: unprofitable things, hurtful things, sinful things.
  2. We forget what we should remember: our Creator and what He has done for us, our Redeemer and what He has done for us, the truths of religions, the duties of religion, our sins (to loathe them), our vows to God and promises to others, the church of God, our latter end.

He then lists some of the ways we can further injure and weaken our memories:

  1. Limited understanding: unless we clearly know something we will never remember it.
  2. A carnal, careless heart: which remembers useless songs better than edifying sermons.
  3. A darling sin: that monopolizes our thoughts and debauches our faculties.
  4. Excess of worldly cares: they stuff the memory and leave no room for spiritual matters.
  5. Gluttony and excess alcohol: both damage the brain and the body, though food works more slowly than drink.
  6. Violent emotions such as anger, grief, and fear: all such emotions change our body chemistry, with knock-on effects on the brain.
  7. A multitude of undigested notions: Puritan-speak for “information overload!”

Isn’t it amazing how ahead of scientific curve some of these old Puritans were! We see their beautiful holistic balance even in some of the memory repair treatments Steele proposed:

  1. A balanced climate: the brain thrives when the envornment is not too hot or too cold, not too dry or too damp.
  2. A sober diet: the heathens show up believers here by demonstrating that a sparing and temperate diet improves the mental faculties.
  3. A quiet mind: is like a clear still pool where you can see all the fish.
  4. Audible repetition of Gospel truths: especially to be done with the family at the end of each Lord’s Day.
  5. Writing out truth: Writing out the sermons you hear helps memory, prevents distraction, and stops drowsiness.
  6. Exercising the memory: just as a muscle can be made stronger by use, strengthen your memory with different challenges.
  7. Mourn over your forgetfulness: just as we would expect an employee to apologize for forgetting his duties, so we humbly confess our spiritual forgetfulness.
  8. Pray: Ask God for the promised Holy Spirit to keep the Gospel before your mind (Jn. 14:26)
  9. Diligent attention: if the mind wander in hearing, the memory will be weak in remembering (another way of saying, “don’t multi-task”)
  10. Value the Gospel: the more we love something, the more we will remember it.
  11. Serious meditation: read for a few minutes, shut the book, then think on what you read for a few minutes before going on and the precious truths will abide with us.

We will remember them. Precious truths and precious lives.

This sermon is not online, but you will find it in Volume 3 of Puritan Sermons (Amazon, Logos, Puritan Hard Drive). Steele’s best known work is online: A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in the Worship of God


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Truthful + Beautiful = Faithful

If I wanted you to visit Scotland, I might send you to Scotland’s entry on Wikipedia, where you would find a few thousand words on Scotland’s history, geography, economy, monuments, landmarks, etc.: lots of facts, lots of information, lots of arguments and reasons for why you should cross the pond and visit the old country.

Or I could send you to Flickr or YouTube and encourage you to search for Scottish pictures and videos.

Scotland

Which do you think would be more successful?

The Wikipedia entry might make you say something like, “Well, that’s very interesting! Sounds like a great place. I think I’d like to go there someday.”

But the Flickr pictures and YouTube videos would evoke, “Wow, that’s beautiful. How do I get there and when can I go?”

Beauty is a more powerful persuader than data.

That’s Beautiful!
When the grocery store wants you to buy a new chocolate cake, what do they do? Do they set up a booth with a Powerpoint of the Nutrition Facts? Do they have books explaining the benefits of this low-carb, low-fat, low-sugar, high-protein, high-fiber chocolate cake?

Of course not, they set up tasting booths in aisles where the rich chocolate fragrance draws the nose, the light moist sponge draws the eyes, and the offered sample draws a drooling tongue. You taste and exclaim. “That’s beautiful! Where do I buy?”

Beauty attracts. Beauty draws. Beauty persuades. Beauty compels. Beauty convinces.

Yet, the church, especially the reformed branch of it, is not very good at beauty.

We do logical but not beautiful. We’re good at arguing, but not at attracting.  We’re good at systematizing but not at stunning. We’re good at organizing but not at awing. We’re good at clarity but not at beauty.

He’s Beautiful
Now, of course, we need logic, we need argument, we need system, we need organizing, and we need to be clear. But these are only servants to beauty, a means to an end – that of bringing people to the feet of Jesus exclaiming, “Wow! He’s beautiful!”

Facts, argument, logic, persuasion may bring you to nod your head in agreement.

Beauty produces, “Draw me, I will run after you!”

Truthful + Beautiful
When I’ve preached justification or sanctification, doctrine or devotion, Old Testament or New Testament, I ask not only, “Was it truthful?” but also, “Was Jesus beautiful?”

I don’t want my hearers just to say, “Well that was reasonable, logical, tightly argued, clear, etc.” I want them to say, “Jesus is so, so beautiful.”

Same goes for parenting. Amidst the noise, smoke, and dust of raising children, am I communicating the breathtaking, inimitable, irresistible, beauty of Christ?

Also for witnessing. I can proof text, win arguments, and beat down atheists, Arminians, Muslims and Mormons all day. But did I once try to show them the beauty of Jesus?

Beautiful inspiration
This post was partly inspired by Brian Zahnd’s Beauty will save the world: Rediscovering the allure and mystery of Christianity. Like Trevin Wax, I have some reservations about this book, especially the lack of clarity in a couple of places about the exclusive truth claims of Christianity. But the fundamental core message of the book is one that many of us in Calvinist churches (old and new) need to hear.

For too long we’ve limited the demand of faithfulness to “telling the truth.” To this we must also add “showing His beauty.”

Truthful + beautiful = faithful.


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