Ironically, for a group caricatured as being strict and unfeeling, the Puritan's greatest legacy is the insight that we are worshiping creatures whose beliefs and actions flow from our affections, not our minds. It is our desires, not our intellect that direct us.
Matt Papa takes this key insight and unpacks it beautifully in his book Look and Live. We are worshipers, created for worship from the womb. If we want to fight the grip of sin in our lives, Papa argues, we need only look at the greatest and most glorious object of our worship: God, who most powerfully reveals his glory on the cross. As Papa says, "we worship our way into sin. We must worship our way out."
The glory of God is no trivial thing. "The glory of God is the reason why every person in the Bible who encounters God nearly falls dead. It changes you. When we see God, we get small." Papa looks at God's glory in redemptive history and in nature, stoking the awe of our hearts.
Papa then turns his sights on the idolatry of our hearts, idolatry that exists any time the constant flow of worship from our hearts is not aimed at God. Provocatively he says that our idolatry is the greatest injustice in the world: greater than starvation, sex trafficking, and abortion. "These are terrible things," Papa says, "But there is no greater injustice than this—that God is not worshiped." If we are to take Scripture seriously, Papa is correct.
With this, Papa cycles back to how we can defeat the power of sin in our lives. Turning to the Puritans, Papa says, Idols are never removed. They are replaced. Displaced. They are not suppressed. They are eclipsed." He continues, "Jonathan Edwards (essentially) said it this way: We always do what we most desire to do." He quotes Blaise Pascal, who echoes the sentiment: “We forsake pleasures only for others which are greater.”
Quoting from 2 Corinthians 3:7-10, Papa reflects on Paul's principle that Jesus's glory far exceeds Moses's glory which the Israelites could not even look at. We see this glory most perfectly in Jesus and on the cross. Even as he waits for us in glory he still bears those glorious scars!
Do we want to experience transformation? Behold Jesus: "Christianity’s first call is not “Behave!” but “Behold!” It is first a call to see Jesus." In so doing, our hearts, our affections are not only changed, but our very selves are transformed by the beholding. Papa appeals to Augustine, "To say it Augustine’s way, we are what we love."
There is powerful truth and hope in that vision. May it be so with my heart, and with the hearts of those who pick up Papa's gem and follow him in looking at the glory of God and then living in light of such glory.
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