At Humble Orthodoxy, we value the place of theology in each of our lives. We also recognize that theology is set apart from other studied disciplines. Theology has a quality that paleontology, biology, or philosophy don’t have: it is the truth about God woven into our heads, hearts, and hands. Not mere knowledge, not strict information. It is a part of who we are and how we exist in this world.
Which is how we decided on our next series: Head, Heart, and Hands.
Rev. Ronnie Martin, Professor of Pastoral Leadership at Emmaus will prick our hearts next week as he asks us to receive God’s Word like good food. He will cause us to consider the posture of our hearts as we long for the Lord.
– The Humble Orthodoxy Editorial Team
I love food.
I wish I had a more eloquent way to say it, but there you go. More specifically, I love my wife’s food. Especially her desserts. If you were to drop by the house on a random afternoon sometime in the fall, there’s a good chance you would be met by the irresistible aroma of one of her famous (well, to me anyway) apple galettes or other seasonal baked goods. You give me one apple galette and a dollop of whipped cream, and my heart is singing praises to the Lord for making ingredients this unbelievably delicious.
But here’s the thing–never once have I wanted to grab my wife’s cookbook and study the ingredients of that apple galette while it cools on the stove. Never have I wanted to invite a friend over and delve into the deep history of apple galettes through the ages and the ways different cultures have baked them. I have one goal for an apple galette and that is to (no surprise) eat it. I want to taste the buttery, flaky goodness of the crust and savor the brown cinnamon caramelized around the edges of those sweet apples as it melts into my mouth between sips of hot coffee or tea.
This is the best way for me to describe what I want to happen to my heart as I receive God’s word into the recesses of my soul. I want to be drawn in by the kind of longing and desire that leaves me wanting more without leaving me wanting. David describes this “soulful longing” as something God satisfies in the same way we are satisfied with “rich and fat food.”
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me (Ps. 63:1-8).
One of the most right and rational fears for Christians is that Christ and His word might become absent from the affections of our hearts. What are some ways we see this happen which need to be guarded against? Here are three:
1. The Academic Heart— God’s word becomes the means to acquire knowledge, which is no bad thing. But knowledge of God without a love for God’s son is a knowledge that is curiously devoid of wisdom and good fruits.
2. The Obligatory Heart— God’s word becomes another box to check off in a long list of tasks filed under “things Christians do.” The problem is that without a heart of love for Christ, Christian tasks, services, and disciplines are twisted into being duties over delights. Exhausting.
3. The Compartmentalized Heart— God’s word becomes “what good Christians do” on Sunday mornings or mid-week Bible studies. If we don’t see God’s word as a heart-forming act of communion between God and His image bearers, it has the potential to become an exercise of mindless functionality.
These are not the means that form your heart toward a deeper affection for Christ. It’s like eating food only to survive, or eating at certain times of the day because that’s the healthiest way to eat, or only eating when food is prepared and placed in front of you. Interestingly, many people only eat food for these very reasons, but it’s doubtful they are enjoying food the way God intended.
It’s doubtful they are exploring new flavors or relishing flavors that have become their favorites that they look forward to enjoying.
We want God’s word to form our hearts in such a way that one of the main components of that formation is a deeper longing and desire for our soul to find satisfaction by no other substitutes.
Growing up in the 1980s, the trend for households trying to be healthy was to use butter substitutes like margarine. For so many years, margarine was butter to me! Until I met my wife, who took deep offense to margarine and refused to use anything but real butter. I remember the first time I took a bite of pancakes with real butter melting off the sides intermingled with dark, rich maple syrup. It was paradise on a plate, and I was never going back.
To savor God’s word is not merely the reading of words. It is hearing the voice of our Creator speak words of truth, grace, mercy, love, compassion and joy to the innermost regions of our hearts. This will be how we guard against substitutes becoming the greater affections of our souls.
Only when we taste and see the goodness of God through the grace of Jesus Christ will we begin to be formed by His word in such a way that our heart will sing, “His steadfast love is better than life.” This is the only kind of longing and desire that leaves me wanting more without leaving me wanting.
Ronnie Martin is Lead Pastor of Substance Church in Ashland Ohio, Director of Leader Renewal for Harbor Network, and co-host of The Happy Rant Podcast and The Art of Pastoring Podcast. His upcoming book is “The God Who Is With Us” (October 2022, B&H Publishing).
Photo by Andy Chilton