Give Us Hearts that Burn O Lord

William Cowper says in one of his letters
that he once was friends with a man of fine taste
who confessed to him that
although he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity,
he could never read this passage in Luke’s Gospel (the Emmaus Walk – Luke 24)
without being deeply affected by it,
and feeling that
if the stamp of divinity was impressed upon anything in the Scriptures,
it was upon that passage.

Below is a portion of Cowper’s poem entitled “Conversation.”
Read it slowly savoring each one and envisioning that memorable walk to Emmaus!

It happen’d on a solemn eventide,
Soon after He that was our surety died,
Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined,
The scene of all those sorrows left behind,
Sought their own village, busied as they went
In musings worthy of the great event:
They spake of him they loved, of him whose life,
Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife,
Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts,
A deep memorial graven on their hearts.
The recollection, like a vein of ore,
The farther traced enrich’d them still the more;

They thought him, and they justly thought him, one
Sent to do more than he appear’d to have done,
To exalt a people, and to place them high
Above all else, and wonder’d he should die.
Ere yet they brought their journey to an end,
A stranger join’d them, courteous as a friend,
And ask’d them with a kind engaging air
What their affliction was, and begg’d a share.
Inform’d, he gathered up the broken thread,
And truth and wisdom gracing all he said,
Explain’d, illustrated, and search’d so well
The tender theme on which they chose to dwell,
That reaching home, the night, they said is near,
We must not now be parted, sojourn here.

The new acquaintance soon became a guest,
And made so welcome at their simple feast,
He bless’d the bread, but vanish’d at the word,
And left them both exclaiming, ’Twas the Lord!
Did not our hearts feel all he deign’d to say,
Did they not burn within us by the way?

Word-Saturated Worship

Scripture suffuses every part of our worship services.

  • We call one another to our awesome task of worshipping God with Scripture.
  • We sing God’s praise with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in order to make God’s Word memorable and vivid.
  • The Spirit uses God’s Word to convict us of sin and to show us our fresh need of His forgiveness and grace.
  • We use the precious promises of God’s Word to assure us of His pardon.
  • We give attention to reading His sacred Scriptures because faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
  • We preach His Word because, through it, God chooses to save and cause some to be spiritually reborn (1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Peter 1:25).
  • Also, His Word equips us to live for Christ and to make an impact His kingdom during the perilous times in which we live (2 Timothy 3).
  • Lastly, God sends us out with His blessing to serve a needy world. This benediction comes from His Word!

Why do we make such a big deal about the Word saturating all of our worship? Because… “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24).

Through the eternal, profitable, inerrant, and living Word of God, we hear and receive “the good news” by which we experience eternal salvation. Therefore, it is imperative that we carefully prepare our hearts to give our undivided attention to His Word when we gather with God’s people to worship Him!

Life and Health and Peace

In the public domain by age

Charles Wesley

The first to link these precious words together was Charles Wesley, in a classic celebration of the impact of Jesus Christ. This coming Lord’s Day we begin our worship service with his great hymn:

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
Jesus — the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears;
‘Tis life and health and peace.

J.I. Packer writes in his book Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life:

These are three of the weightiest and richest words that Scripture uses for the renewed existence of those who know God’s sovereign grace. Each of these words has an everyday meaning — life and health referring to one’s physical condition and peace signifying inner and outer calm — but here what they express is the spiritual well-being of the born again.

Life — eternal life, as the New Testament regularly calls it — is the state in which one recognizes, receives and responsively relates to God in Jesus Christ: in other words, Jesus Christ the Lord in his identity as God the Redeemer, who now calls us into fellowship with himself and with God the Father through God the Holy Spirit.

Health is a concept focused by the New Testament adjective healthy, which has traditionally been translated “sound” (as when we describe horses as sound in wind and limb); it is the state of well-being in which our spiritual system functions steadily and strongly the way it should, in faith, hope and love Godward.

Peace is a word of wide meaning that covers the state of being divinely pardoned and accepted; of knowing that this acceptance, based on Christ’s cross, is solid and lasting fact; of accepting and loving oneself as the person God made in his image and loves and has redeemed and is restoring; of accepting one’s circumstances, whatever they are, as divinely ordered for one’s good; of facing the unknown future in calm reliance on God’s promises; and of refusing to respond in kind to any violence and hostility shown to one by others. Life, health and peace are three words that together sum up the essence of Christian life.

The point becomes more vivid by contrast. The reality of life is opposed to the state of unresponsiveness to God, which is called death in Ephesians 2:1, 5, and Colossians 2:13 on the analogy of a corpse, which is totally unresponsive to any stimulus of any kind.

The reality of health is opposed to the inner sickness of unloving, self-serving, God-defying lifestyles, which exhibit human nature out of sorts and indeed wasting away, for these are the degenerative diseases of the soul.

The reality of peace is opposed to the stress and strain, the anxious, fearful, troubled, resentful, bitter, vengeful, addictive, adversarial way of living that so many moderns and postmoderns are anchored in nowadays. By contrast with these wretched alternatives life, health and peace appear as words of deliverance and delight.