I read this a little over a week ago and it is still rocking me. John Newton is writing about those things in life that are not necessarily clear in Scripture. He is considering the idea that “first religious impressions are usually mingled with much of a legal spirit”. I certainly can relate to this as I once for the sake of holiness burned all of my secular CD’s. I now think that may have been going a bit too far and some of those burned are probably more true to the gospel than what is sometimes found on Christian radio. But these words from Newton really shook me up:
And I believe the over-doings of a young convert, proceeding from an honest simplicity of heart, and a desire of pleasing the Lord, are more acceptable in his sight, than a certain coolness of conduct which frequently takes place afterward, when we are apt to look back with pity upon our former weakness, and secretly applaud ourselves for our present greater attainments in knowledge, though perhaps (alas that it should ever be so!) we may have lost as much in warmth, as we have gained in light.
That last sentence is what really got to me. I absolutely despise that there are areas in my life where I have increased in knowledge (light) but I have lost just as much in warmth. I’m going to be vulnerable enough to display some of my early ridiculous beliefs—you can laugh if you desire.
I once had so much “faith” after watching a televangelist that I thought about driving 45 miles without my contacts so that God would heal me, thinking that perhaps God was calling me to exercise faith and then he would heal my deplorable eyesight. Stupid. I am much wiser now. But I have lost a certain warmth and simplicity to my faith. I sometimes catch myself thinking that quotes like this one are a tad silly, “expect great things from God, attempt great things for God”. More light, less warmth.
I once was a passionate anxiously awaiting the rapture firm pretribulationalist. In fact one of my first attempts at writing a book was about the end times mixed with various conspiracy theories. We’re talking similar to the It’s Prophesied song. Stupid. I am much wiser now. But I have lost a certain warmth and expectancy of Christ’s coming. I do not believe I will be raptured (in the pre-tribulation since). But I have also cultivated a lack of eager expectation as regards Christ’s second coming. More light, less warmth. (Although some would argue, less light led to less warmth).
I once prayed passionately during services that people would walk the aisle, get saved, and pray the prayer. Of course I no longer subscribe to Decisional Regeneration, or even really am all that stoked about altar calls. My theology of those things has changed—and I think rightly so. But something wrongly changed in my heart as well. I now find myself much less passionate about praying for lost people in our services. I find less joy when somebody “makes a decision”. I am more skeptical. More light, less warmth.
I could give many more stories, and that fact alone bothers me. I am often convicted by the thought of being like the church at Ephesus—“forsaking their first love”. Or perhaps the Corinthians that had “much knowledge” but not enough love. Perhaps I’m only a clanging cymbal.
So, I want to pray that the Lord will continue to do a work of grace in my heart. Rather than just light, I want light that leads to warmth. I pray for a warm faith, a joyous expectancy of Christ’s return, and a vibrant passion for seeing the lost come to faith in Jesus. I am reminded of something I once heard Keith Green pray—“I want my heart to have baby skin, Lord. I want my heart to have skin like a baby”. Then he sang this song:
Only a vision of Jesus will cure my withering heart.