Focused on Christ (with Joseph Alleine)
Growing in grace requires knowing and meditating upon the Word of God, which both reveals to us the glory of God and exposes to us the shame of sin. This is a slow process, yet we must not lose heart. At the same time, a weak and weary soul will find no comfort when her focus is set on her sin or fear of judgment. Christians must rather set their focus on things above, where Christ is — indeed, on no other than Christ Himself.
Looking to Christ means meditating on who He is and what He has done for you. This is what Joseph Alleine helps the reader do so well in his book, Heaven Opened:
This is His name: “He shall be called ‘the Lord our Righteousness’” (Jeremiah 34:6). To this end He is given to us:
- As our propitiatory sacrifice. “He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). He is “Christ our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7). He is “a lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 18:8). He is our price, our ransom to satisfy justice, pacify wrath, and discharge us from the curse, to blot out the handwriting, break down the wall of partition, finish the transgression, make an end of sins, make reconciliation for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness, and so to bring us to God. Whatever difficulties appear in your way, whatever doubts arise in your hearts—whether from your sins, your guilt, your poverty, or your impotence—whatever objections your fears may hence put in, there is the blood of the Lamb that will answer all. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
- As a merciful and faithful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17). He has made an atonement for us on the earth and appears for us in heaven. He has made reconciliation for us and makes intercession for us, “to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24). We read in Exodus 28:12 and 29 that Aaron, as the type of Christ, was to bear the names of the children of Israel, engraved in stones, upon his shoulders and upon his breastplate when he went into the holy place for a memorial before the Lord continually. Our Lord has entered into the heavens to appear in the presence of God with our names upon His shoulders and upon His heart for a memorial before the Lord. There is not the least of saints but has his name engraved.
It is as if Christ were saying to the Father, “Here is My ransom, and behold My ransomed ones. Here is My price and My purchase, My redemption and My redeemed. Whatever accusers there are, whatever charge is laid upon them, here are the shoulders that have borne all their due and paid all that they owe; and upon these shoulders and in this heart Thou mayest read all their names. And when Thou readest, remember what I have done for them, and acquit, absolve, and let them be accepted before Thee forever. Remember the tears of these eyes, the stripes of this back, the shame of this face, the groans of this body, the anguish of this soul, the blood of this heart; and when Thou rememberest, whatever name Thou findest engraven upon this heart and upon these shoulders, they are the persons whose all these are. And whatever these are, whatever acceptance they have found with Thee, whatever satisfaction Thou hast found in them, put it upon their account. Never let Me be accounted as accepted if they are rejected; never let Me be accounted as righteous if they lie under the imputation of wickedness. If they are not righteous in My righteousness, I must be guilty under their guilt. Whatever I am, whatever My satisfaction is, is all theirs. For them they plead, for them they pray. My tears, My stripes, My wounds, My groans, My anguish, My soul, My blood, all cry and say, ‘Father, forgive them. Father, accept them.’ ”
Of all cries, there are no such strong cries as the cry of blood, and that whether it is against or for the guilty; its voice shall be heard on high. “Thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). And what followed? Woe to those persons against whom blood cried. But where blood, such blood as this, cries for pardon and for mercy, blessed are those souls.
Christian, this blood is for you. It “speaks better things than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). It pleads, sues, and presses for your discharge from all that is upon you. You have many cries against you: Satan cries, your sins cry, your own heart and your conscience cry against you; and you are amazed at the dreadful noise they make. But behold! The blood of the Lamb, who is God, cries for you. You have an accuser, but you have an Acquitter; you have adversaries, but you have an Advocate. You have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who is the propitiation for thy sins” (1 John 2:1–2). “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:33–34).
Nay, further, you have not only a righteous, but a merciful High Priest who has provided a sacrifice, and has a heart to offer it to you. Your name is in His heart as well as on His shoulders, in His bowels as well as on His back. He has blood for you, precious blood; and He has bowels for you, tender bowels. He can have pity and compassion on the miserable (Hebrews 5:2). If He can find no other arguments, He can find arguments enough from your woe and misery to draw forth His soul towards you. He is merciful, and His mercies are tender mercies. He has pity, and His compassions are tender compassions. You are not as tender towards the wife of your bosom, towards your own child; you are not so tender towards your own flesh, towards the apple of your eye, towards your own soul, as your Lord is towards you. His Spirit is moved for you; His soul melts over you; He bleeds in your wounds; He suffers in your sorrows; His eye weeps; His heart breaks over your broken and undone state. Do not fear that He will forget you.
He is a merciful and faithful High Priest. No dignity to which He is exalted above you, no distance to which He is removed from you, can make Him forget His friends. He has gone into the heavens, and is there exalted far above all principalities and powers, and has sat down at the right hand of God. He has gone, but He has carried your name with Him as a perpetual memorial for you. You are unfaithful, and that is a shame to you! You forget your Lord at every turn: every business that comes, every trouble that comes, every pleasure that comes, every companion that comes, makes you forget your Lord; you forget His love and you forget your duty. Oh, how small a matter will steal your heart from Him, yea, stir up tumults and rebellions against Him! Your comforts, your hopes, your needs, you have daily of Him. Will not all these prevail to hold Him in remembrance with you? You forget your Lord, but He will not forget you. Though you have been unfaithful in many things, yet He is unfaithful in nothing. “Yet He abideth faithful. He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). He would not be true to Himself if He is not faithful to you. His interest lies in you: you are His, His possession, a member of His body. Fear not; if He should be unfaithful to your soul, He would therein be unfaithful to His own body. If you case is such that He can help you, if there is anything wherein He can succor you; if all that He has—His blood, His righteousness, or His interest with the Father—will be sufficient for your help, than He has undertaken to procure it for you and secure it to you. Faithful is He that has called you, and He will do it.
This now is that Jesus who is given unto us as our propitiatory Sacrifice, as our merciful and faithful High Priest. This is He who suffered on the earth and has gone into the heavens for us, standing in His red robes, garments rolled in blood, with those glorious white places on the red garment: pardon, peace, absolution, and acceptance; with the names of His ransomed ones engraved upon His heart and His shoulders. This is that Jesus who is “the Lord our Righteousness...”
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Christian, are you nothing in yourself? You have enough in your Jesus. Are you dark? He is a Fountain of light. Are you dead? He is a Fountain of life. Are you poor and low, weak in knowledge, in faith, in love, and in patience? He is a treasure of all grace, and what He is, He is for you. Is He wise? He is wise for you. Is He holy? He is holy for you. Is He meek, merciful, humble, and patient? He is so for you? Is He strong? Is He rich? Is He full? It is for your sake. As He was empty for you, weak for you, and poor for you, so for you He is mighty and rich and full. While you bewail your own poverty and weakness, oh, bless yourself in your Lord, in His riches, righteousness, and strength.
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O Christians, a sight of Christ in our sorrows, in our fears, in our thickest darkness—what daylight it would bring in! When you look into your heart, and are astonished and confounded at what you find there, at the blindness and the hardness, the poverty and the emptiness, the guilt and the guile, the pride and the peevishness, the evil thoughts, the vile affections, the filthy lusts that are swarming and working in you; when you look into the world and tremble at what you behold there, the malice, the craft, the power that is engaged against you, the furious spirits, the fiery tongues, the fierce looks, the violent hands that are flying upon you, and the little relief that the earth will afford you; when your heart faints and dies within you at the sense of your woeful and forlorn state, then take sight of what you have in your Lord, presented to you by His Spirit.
Look here, soul, at what your Jesus has sent you down—a glance from His eye, a drop from His heart, a crumb from His table—and all to tell you, “I have not forgotten you. Behold the care I take of you, the treasures I have for you, to encourage your love and to reward your faithfulness.” Oh, how this will make all your darkness to depart, and will turn the shadow of death into the morning!
Thus is the Holy Spirit given to the saints to be the light of their eyes, the death of their sins, the guide of their ways, and the stay of their hearts. He is given to them to uphold their grace and maintain their peace, to subdue their enemies or their fears, to secure them from temptations or succor them when they are tempted, to wipe off their reproach or make it their crown, to heal their diseases or make them their cure, to help their infirmities, work their works, make their yoke easy and their burden light, to turn their sighs into songs, to form their groans into prayers, to send them up to their Lord and bring down their returns, to comfort their hearts, and to establish, strengthen, and settle them so that they are neither offended at their chains nor moved from the hope of the gospel.
Dr. Don Kistler (DonKistler.org) is an ordained minister residing in Orlando. He is the founder of the Northampton Press, and the author of A Spectacle Unto God: The Life and Death of Christopher Love and Why Read the Puritans Today? The editor of all the Soli Deo Gloria Puritan reprints, Kistler has edited over 150 books and is a contributing author for Justification by Faith ALONE!; Sola Scriptura; Trust and Obey: Obedience and the Christian; Onward, Christian Soldiers: Protestants Affirm the Church; and Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching.
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