Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review of A Spiritual Appeal to Christ’s Bride

A few months ago I bought an iPod Touch.  And I was perfectly content with my little iPod.  In fact it was awesome!  There was so much that could be done on it.  It expanded my world.  My iPod Touch was by far the coolest gadget that I owned. 

Then a very dear and gracious friend decided to simply bless me with an iPad.  (Yeah, I know you need to figure out where to get friends like mine).  Now my iPod seems tiny, stunted, and a little sad compared to my iPad.  An iPod can’t hold a candle to an iPad.  Compared to the greater the lesser doesn’t look so sweet. 

As I reflect on this I realize that this is the plight of many teenagers that I have ministered to.  Okay, I’ll be honest.  It’s the plight of my own heart.  I can be pretty content with my iPod to the neglect of the much greater iPad.  Rather than really striving to grab hold of and experience the fullness of Jesus I settle for a little bit. 

So as a pastor it is my task to encourage people that there is more to Jesus than the paltry experience that we often settle for.  And as a follower of Jesus I must constantly be reminded that my own heart is far too easily pleased. 

Jodocus van Who?!?!?

When settling for a paltry experience of Christ is the norm for the Church we are indeed in perilous times.  This was the climate that Jodocus van Lodenstein found himself in.  Lodenstein (1620-1677) was a preacher and poet of the Dutch Further Reformation; a movement that paralleled English Puritanism. 

Lodenstein believed that the Reformation did not go far enough in terms of practice.  It had recovered sound doctrine but in his mind that doctrine had yet to penetrate the culture of the church.  “Lodenstein equated the Reformation to Ezekiel raising bones in the valley of dry bones.  The Reformation renewed good doctrines, but it was only a skeleton on which flesh was yet needed.” (23)  What was needed for a thorough Reformation was the Spirit. 

To use our earlier analogy, Lodenstein firmly believed that those living in his day were satisfied with the iPod (doctrinal Reformation) when the iPad was much better (spiritual Reformation).  To this end he stressed the need for the Spirit’s work as well as the Christian life.  “He stressed sanctification more than justification…in so doing he paved the way for later pietists to follow in his steps.”  (31)

That which was dear to Lodenstein’s heart has been captured in the latest from the Classics of Reformed Spirituality series: A Spiritual Appeal to Christ’s Bride.  This book is a compilation of nine sermons preached by Lodenstein, that aim to awaken the nominal Christian from spiritual slumber and to experience more deeply the benefits of Christ. 


Since very few people have heard of Lodenstein the first twenty or so pages are dedicated to introducing the reader to his life and times.  Written by Joel Beeke, this section is worth the price of the book for history nerds like myself.  I’ve studied English Puritanism pretty extensively but have heard little of the parallel Dutch Further Reformation.  This introduction is helpful and informative.

The nine sermons are pretty typical of his era of preaching.  He introduces the text, makes a spiritual/theological point, raises objections, answers the objections, and then offers some application.  If you have read any of the English Puritans you know how they often take one verse, look at it from all angles, and then preach 25 sermons on that one verse.  Lodenstein is similar though he tends to be more heavy on applications than some of the English Puritans. 

Lodenstein does not engage in what you would term expository preaching but he has some real gems that need to be shared.  His passion for an experiential religion bleeds throughout his sermons.  You can feel his passion and angst for the people he ministers to as he pleads with them to reject vanity and embrace the fullness of Christ. 

Rather than discussing all of these sermons it may be beneficial to list their titles and then explain their common themes. 
  1. Belonging to God Involves Self-Denial (1)
  2. Belonging to God Involves Self-Denial (2)
  3. Self-Denial Involves Submitting to God’s Will
  4. Dead Hearts
  5. God’s Departure from the Church
  6. Divine Illumination in Conversion
  7. Vain Excuses for Turning from Christ
  8. The Bride’s Charge to the Daughters of Jerusalem
  9. The Bridge Brought into Christ’s Chambers
As you can see self-denial is a major theme for Lodenstein.  By this he means that “belonging to God therefore means that we possess nothing for ourselves but that everything is for the Lord.”  The first three sermons serve to flesh out this idea. 

Another major theme is Spirit-wrought repentance.  Lodenstein believed that his Church was living in Ezekiel 37; they were a lifeless body of professing believers but ones that lacked the Spirit.  “The life-giving Spirit who is in Christ Jesus was lacking, by whom the power of sin, which formerly held sway over us, must be slain.”  Because there was no Spirit there was no morality.  Therefore, Lodenstein prays for and pleads for a Spirit-wrought repentance.

The final theme that I will mention is the one that gives the book its title; the relationship of Christ’s Bride to her husband.  Lodenstein saw the Song of Solomon (as was typical in his day) as an allegory of Christ and the church.  As such he saw a few pictures of the Bride turning away from her husband.  These he used to call the church back into a vibrant relationship with her husband.  This passionate plea informs the entirety of his sermons. 


There is one other theme that runs through at least the first few sermons fairly prominently; we must submit to God even if he doesn’t give us grace to over come sin.  Consider these quotes:
“…we are obligated to acquiesce in what God prescribes, which includes being submissive even if God does not give an increased measure of grace to obey His will.”  (37)
“Should he permit you to fall into sin and become spiritually dull and lethargic, you must learn to say, ‘Yes, Lord, my delight is in Thy will.’”  (39)
“…you should submit to God’s sovereign dispensation insomuch as He has been pleased to determine that you shall not gain further victory over sin.”  (109)
Now I don’t think that Lodenstein is encouraging his people to be comfortable with sin and just wait until the Lord gives them grace to overcome it.  That would contradict his frequent calls of repentance.  But I do think that he is taking his “Calvinism” into dangerous territories. 

He is practically denying the truths of Romans 6-8.  We have been freed from bondage.  It seems to me that he is assuming that the will is in bondage even during sanctification, and that is simply not the case.  We are free to obey the Lord. 

Perhaps, I am misunderstanding Lodenstein, and if so I welcome correction.  I also am sensitive to the fact that he ministered in a much different time than I do (although not so different really).  The church and the community were often so interwoven that the lines between believer and unbeliever were often muddied.  And Christian living was often expected of those even that were unbelievers.  So I can understand how the lines between justification and sanctification could get muddied.  But there is a hopelessness to some of Lodenstein’s appeals that really do not apply to someone that DOES have the Spirit of God. 

Why You Still Need This Book

Nonetheless, this is still a book worthy of adding to your personal library.  I am not certain that this would be the greatest fit for the average layman that is unfamiliar with reading 16th and 17th century literature.  There would be other books that would be more helpful introductions. 

However, to the pastor and student this book is helpful.  I hope to see more works from the Dutch Reformation.  There are some very reach truths in this work that will benefit many.  The history is also worthy of your ten dollars.  I found it interesting to see the way that a man from the Netherlands in the 17th century handled text and dealt with some of the same spiritual struggles we have in our day. 

There is much we can learn from Lodenstein, and to that end I recommend this book.  You can pick it up at Reformation Heritage for only 8 bucks

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...