Monday, August 30, 2010

Gospel Wakefulness with Richard Sibbes

In the third sermon of Richard Sibbes' Bowels Opened he preaches Song 5:1 on the invitation to the feast and then the dangers of becoming sleepy, rather than having a gospel wakefulness (a phrase I'm borrowing from Jared Wilson). I'm finding the series very helpful and I share these highlights and a pdf of the whole for your benefit.

DOWNLOAD PDF: Bowels Opened (3 of 20): Gospel Wakefulness

Sibbes sets the scene:
 "From this mutual delight between Christ and his spouse we observe next, that there is a mutual feasting between Christ and his church. The church brings what she has of his Spirit; and Christ comes with more plenty."
The church is invited to feast with Christ.
 "This is an invitation to the most magnificent feast: The comforts we have from Christ are the best comforts; the peace, the best peace; the privileges, the highest privileges... What could Christ give, better than himself to feed on?"
Sibbes shows the excellence of communion with Christ, and his Father, the Spirit, the church. And there is music "At a feast, because it is intended for rejoicing, there is music; and what music like to the sweet harmony between God, reconciled in Christ, and the soul, and between the soul and itself, in inward peace and joy of the Holy Spirit, shedding the love of Christ in the soul"

The feast is brilliant. And it is the ministers of the word who invite the church to come, and so she should - joyfully accepting the invitation. Why would we refuse? We should keep up our appetite, exercising ourselves so that we will eat while we can... "There is no danger of taking too much. Where the spring is infinite, we can never draw these wells dry..." Come and eat joyfully, knowing he will welcome us - like the Father to the prodigal. Welcomed as friends of God. Sibbes shows us friendship.
(1) Friendship is the sweetness, intimacy and strength of love.
(2) In friendship there is mutual consent, a union of judgment and affections. "one soul in two bodies."
(3) There is liberty which is the life of friendship; there is a free conversation between friends, a free opening of secrets.
(4) In friendship, there is mutual solace and comfort one in another. "Christ delights himself in his love to his church, and his church delights herself in her love to Christ."
(5) In friendship there is a mutual honour and respect one of another; but here is some difference in this friendship. "Christ's honouring of us is his putting honour upon us. Our honouring of him is the giving him the 'honour due to his name,'"
The second half of the sermon concerns the danger of becoming sleepy after feasting. Abraham, David, Job and Peter stand as examples. The church though can be open about how she is - frank about her sin. Such openness at our sin (1) give honour to God (2) shame Satan (3) prevent accusation from the world (4) ease our souls (5) be delivered. 

Only the gospel gives us the freedom to show our weaknesses. We can become sleepy from (1) A full stomach (2) Sorrow (3) Weariness (4) Music (5) Lack of exercise  (6) Disease (7) Poison (8) Yawning company. Each has it's spiritual parallel.

Sleep makes us want to (1) Be alone "Those likewise that are disposed to take a spiritual nap, will avoid company, especially of such as would awake them. They will hardly endure rousing means." (2) Shut others out (3) Live in dreams and fantasy. This is illustrated from the history of the church, with a warning that even the best of men can become sleepy.
What are the signs of sleepiness?
(1) If we differ from that we were, then all is not well
(2) The true rule is, that description that is in the word, of a waking and living Christian.
(3) Look to the examples of others that are more gracious.
(4) It is evident that we are growing on to a sleepy condition by this, when we find a backwardness to spiritual duties, as to prayer, thanks giving, and spiritual conference.
(5) When the soul begins to admire outward excellencies;

Motives against sleepiness
(1) Consider the danger of a secure and sleepy estate.
(2) A sleepy man can lose everything.
(3) God meets some with crosses in this world that gain nothing from them.
(4) Sleepiness is an odious temper to God.
(5) Sleepiness is irksome to our own spirits.
Finally... "A man is not a man, a Christian is not a Christian, when he is not awake. He so far degenerates from himself...  A Christian as a Christian, that is, in his right temper, should be in the act an exercise of what is good in him, upon all occasions; as we say of God, he is a pure act, because he is always in working....  What a deal of ill might they escape and avoid that they lie in, if they would rouse up their souls to be as Christians should be, and as their soul and conscience tells them they ought and might be, did they rightly improve the means they have!"

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