(5) John Owen: The Difficulty of Spiritual Mindedness

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In this post I thought I’d highlight Owen’s reflections on why Spiritual Mindedness can feel such a difficult thing for us to pursue. On the slowness of growth in Spiritual Thinking:

“It may seem that our progress in growing more spiritually minded is very slow. Our love for spiritual things is like a shrub in the desert that hardly ever seems to grow. This can be because we are content with our present spirituality… That is to be like a refugee who runs from the troubles of one country, only to squat just inside the borders of another and be little better off than before.”

The source of Difficulty:

“Let me insist  that such an attitude of content with so little spiritual experience cannot be expected to produce a sense of spiritual peace. Growth in spiritual mindedness is difficult, but the difficulty often arises from the fact that we want to keep in our daily lives things that are inconsistent with spirituality.” “In other words, the difficulty is in ourselves and not in spirituality. WE do not wish to put aside every hindrance (Hebrews 12:1).”

Compare yourself with the descriptions below where Owen describes possible reasons for why we can find Spiritual Mindedness so difficult to pursue:

i.) “As the sealing wax takes and preserves the impression of the seal, so believers grow to be like what they love. Compare those unbelievers of whom Peter writes, whose lustful looks betrayed the sin they loved (2 Peter 2:14).”

ii) “Or the difficulty may arise from actual sins in us… Then we will seek spiritual growth in vain. We do not need some refreshing drink then, but rather some deep surgery!”

iii) “The Gospel promises forgiveness of sins to believers, and also much more – the promise of peace, joy, spiritual strength, assurance and a bright hope. Many Christians come little further than the forgiveness in their spiritual experience. They are foolish to be content with so little.”

I especially wonder at how common the 3rd point (above) is for many Christians. It is indeed a wonderful thing to be freed from the fear of judgment. Apart from Christ, it would be far more than we could hope for from God. BUT as with the refugee illustration above, to be content with forgiveness alone is to shout “ENOUGH” as God is still pouring forth his blessings. …or… I wonder if we make the mistake of being satisfied with how godly we are, while being dissatisfied with how spiritual we feel?

Reflection: – Are we content to “squat just inside the boarders” of Christian life? Why? – Could the difficulty we experience lie within ourselves, and not with “thinking spiritually”  itself?

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