Contemplation and Complacency

“O Taste and See that the LORD is good!  His hesed lasts forever!”  The essence of this prayer from Psalm 34 is echoed in Jesus’ invitations to follow Him, and in His declaring that His greatest longing was for us to be with Him always.    

Jesus asked His Father (see John 17:22-24) to draw us, His true disciples, into His glory.  His motivation was His great love for us, He wanted us to be with Him where He is and see His glory.  He was not content to leave us in a world falling apart, a world full of chaos. His work culminates in taking us home, to the home we’ve always longed for, to a land where righteousness dwells, a home that no sin can destroy.  The more you get to know Him, the more this will be the longing of your heart, and this longing will drive your prayer life. We still await this culmination, we eagerly await His return. And when He takes us home, to that heavenly country, we will no longer be distracted from enjoying what is truly Good.  

Yet even now, where His Spirit is at work, we are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  God has called us “into His own kingdom and glory,” (1 Thessalonians 2:12) and as we know Him more, our view of His glory will grant us endurance.  We will more eagerly await His coming, more joyfully endure hardships (as our joy is not sourced in circumstances, but in Christ), rather than choosing the less satisfying temporal diversions offered to us here.

His glory satisfies our souls like nothing else can.  All the good we enjoy here on earth points to Him who is truly Good, and the Author of all goodness.  John Owen’s book on the Glory of Christ teaches about this better than any contemporary book I know of.  The first time I read it I was startled by his saying that a proper view of His glory fills us with complacency.  Then I realized our generation has usurped this fine word, and twisted it. When we hear “complacent” or “complacency” we think lazy, unmotivated, satisfied with nothing–no passion, no zest for life.  However the word once meant full of pleasure! Having had a zeal for God according to true knowledge, having had the zest for life that sought out true satisfaction, having a soul filled with true and lasting pleasure, this one could be described as complacent.  Satisfied with true pleasure rather than false or fleeting fads.  

“The constant contemplation of the glory of Christ will give rest, satisfaction and complacency to the souls of those who are exercised therein.  Our minds are apt to be filled with a multitude of perplexed thoughts–fears, cares, dangers, distresses, passions, and lusts make various impressions on the minds of men, filling them with disorder, darkness, and confusion.  But where the soul is fixed in its thoughts and contemplations on this glorious object, it will be brought into and kept in a holy, serene, spiritual frame. For “to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6). It does this by taking our hearts from all undue regard of all things below, in comparison to the great worth, beauty, and glory of our Redeemer.  (See Philippians 3:7-11)” 1

The constant contemplation?  Yes, the Spiritual Disciplines are intended to help us grow in this.  To love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, etc means we grow in constancy.  We learn to pray without ceasing. We rejoice always. We contemplate His glory.  We journal, study, practice solitude, meet for corporate worship, celebrate, fast, sing, praise, grieve, take the sacraments, catechise ourselves, etc.  And as we are ‘exercised therein’ we grow. As we neglect this contemplation, as we run away from being constantly nourished on His words, or evade true fellowship, or put off fasting and praying, so we atrophy.  To contemplate, to grow in this toward constant contemplation, is the way of maturity.  

  1. John Owen, The Glory of Christ, (Pavlik Press, 2012) Loc 439.

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