Thinking About Jesus: Owen on Meditating on Christ’s Glory
March 7, 2017
Meditation is a difficult duty. Most Christians struggle even with where to begin with respect to this duty. It is particularly important for us to mediate upon the Person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, since beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is the primary means by which we are transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). In his devotional work, The Glory of Christ, John Owen provided five useful helps to meditate on Christ as a divine/human Person. I pass these meditations along to you, hoping that they will increase your devotion to Christ (you can read the full section in Owen's Works, 1:312-322).
- Meditating on Christ is Useful: Consider that the knowledge of Christ as fully God and fully man in one Person is the most useful object of our contemplations and affections (1:312-314). Christ’s identity as the God-man places him in a unique position to make your redemption possible. He also reveals the glory of God to your understanding in a unique manner.
- Learn to Look for Christ in Scripture: Diligently study the Scriptures with the express purpose of finding the glory of Christ in them (1:314-316). The Scriptures assert that Christ is their primary object (Lk. 24:26-27, 45-46; 2 Cor. 3:13-16). The three primary ways that Christ is revealed in the Old Testament is by direct descriptions of his Person and incarnation, by prophecies concerning him, and by the Old Testament ceremonies of worship (Owen richly expands each of these). Yet there is also a devotional necessity for thinking through Scripture in terms of our relation to Christ. If we are convicted, then we need Christ for forgiveness and repentance. If we are exhorted to godliness, then we need Christ as our foundation and pattern. If we are suffering, then we must remember that we share in Christ’s sufferings. If we are comforted by God’s promises, then we must consider that all divine promises are yes and amen in him. Too often Christians read the Old Testament in a manner that is no better than the Jews. Even if we do not see Christ foreshadowed directly in various parts of the Old Testament, we must self-consciously take our knowledge of Christ with us while reading the Old Testament.
- Use What you Know Already: Meditate frequently upon the knowledge of Christ that you have already obtained, both from Scripture and from sermons (1: 316-317). Failing to use and to build upon the knowledge of Christ that we have already is, according to Owen, the “fundamental mistake” standing behind the lack of spiritual growth among so many Christians. This is the error of treating the doctrines of Christ as fundamental and basic, and thus taking them for granted. Owen adds that although we must not isolate ourselves from the world, we must love solitude as well. Without some measure of regular solitude, meditation upon the Lord Jesus Christ is impossible.
- Incorporate Thoughts of Christ into Your Life: Do not simply rely upon fixed times set aside for meditation, but think upon Christ at every possible occasion throughout the day (1:317-320). This is particularly important during those seasons in which Christ “withdraws” himself from our “spiritual experience.” If we know what it is like to “miss” Christ sometimes, then we should take comfort from the fact that this means that we have known what it is to have fellowship with him. When the comforts of communion with Christ diminish, we must seek him with the desperation of thirsty person seeking water. Christ sometimes acts in this way toward us for our good, since his withdrawals increase our dependence on him and the fervency with which we seek him. The truth is that Christ is always near to us, but, as Owen adds, “the principal actings of the life of faith consist in the frequency of our thoughts concerning him” (1:319).
- Be Thankful to Christ and Worship Him: Accompany your thoughts of Christ with admiration, adoration, and thanksgiving (1:320-322). The more we contemplate the glory of our divine/human Lord, the more we will realize that he is beyond the limits of our comprehension. This should lead us to love the Lord Jesus Christ with every faculty of our souls. In heaven, we shall exercise all of the faculties of our souls simultaneously in the worship and service of Christ, but in this world both our understanding and our strength is incomplete. Therefore, sometimes our thoughts of Christ should lead to admiration, at other times to adoration, and still at others to thanksgiving according to our understanding and our capacity. You must never lose sight of the fact that the purpose for which you know Christ is worship.
Owen closes this section with the useful reminder that meditating on the glory of the Person of Christ occurs only in the context of a heavenly-minded life. This is an important thought. Perhaps one reason why meditation is so hard for us is that we have not set our minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father in everything that we set our hands to (Col. 3:1-2). Meditation on Christ’s glory can be a jarring, and sometimes painful, interruption if our minds are trained to run exclusively along the well-worn grooves of our earthly routine. Let us never forget that we are pilgrims and strangers in this world! Let us never be surprised at the difficulty of heavenly-mindedness on this side of glory! Let us make use of means to help us contemplate the glory of our Savior more fully! And may we come to our heavenly Father who is able and ready to help us learn to meditate on the glory of his Son through the power of his Spirit!