Charity and Its Fruits - a book recommendation
If you're like me, you've noticed a lot of people are more anxious now than normal. Normally, a lot of people who are anxious. We do live in a fallen world. There's all kinds of complexities and problems, but now in this time of pandemic, of global crisis, of all the crazy things happening, and the moral revolution, all these different things at the same time, anxiety is high for the average person, even for the Christian who has faith in Christ and is redeemed, and has the best assurance of what is to come. Still, we're tense, it's a difficult time.
In today's book recommendation, something that we like to do for our ministry partners - recommend quality books, books of substance - we're going to look at a book by the famous pastor theologian, preacher, revivalist, Jonathan Edwards. The book that we recommend today is Charity and Its Fruits. I remember when I first picked up a book by Jonathan Edwards, it was called Religious Affections. It was part of my training as a missionary church planter here in Italy. It absolutely blew my mind; very complex. It was overwhelming for me at first until I began to appreciate all that this man had to say. In my mind, brilliant people were supposed to make things easier for us. This guy takes us back to the time of the Puritans. I think he's known as perhaps one of the last Puritans, or the last Puritan. He was able to explain things in such detail, going so deep on matters that things you would never even comprehend he unpacked in such a way that it's just remarkable. You have to read his books to understand that, but to make a point, I remember when I would read, and I would find out that one sentence, he could take one sentence and fill an entire page with colons, and semi colons, and commas abounding! It's just astonishing to me. I was troubled because I thought brilliant people are supposed to make things easier and simpler for us. I was challenged to appreciate that more instead of fighting against it, and to realize it's a stretching of our mental capacities. It helps us to become better thinkers and reasoners, a text like Rreligious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. Still today, that book remains one of my favorites. Perhaps in the future, we'll do a recommendation of that as well.
Today, Charity and Its Fruits is another book that I read by him. It's more readable, digestible. It goes through the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, the talk about love. He, I believe, unpacks this chapter about love better and more thoroughly than anybody, perhaps in the history of the church. It's just really astonishing how he goes, verse by verse, word by word, unpacking, discerning, what does it mean to have Biblical love and the love that we have in Christ, and how we are to live that out in a church context with our church family. This is a very good read.
We're going to see a couple inserts from the last chapter, which is chapter 16, and it's titled, Heaven, a World of Charity or Love. When he says charity, what he means is love.
In this particular chapter, the last chapter on Heaven, we want to recommend because this helps us when we think of missions. Part of our book recommendations is to give it a missions focus. Now often on the mission field, missionaries encounter numerous difficulties, from isolation, to persecution, to abuse, to the need to persevere even when we don't see the results that we desire for a long period of time. Many a missionary has gone several years without seeing converts, until finally the Lord blessed and handfuls and numbers of people became saved and a church was formed. There's a lot of difficulties that missionaries face. One thing we always need to keep in mind is what awaits us. A big and important motivator for all of us in the Christian life really, is to have a Biblical vision of heaven, of what awaits us, of the wonders and splendors that are awaiting us in the presence of the Lord for eternity. Typically, we all have a very low understanding, a very limited understanding of what is to come, of the blessed hope that we actually have, of eternity with the Lord in heaven, what that will actually look like. I believe Jonathan Edwards here, in this chapter, chapter 16, also does one of the best, perhaps the best painting of pictures of what heaven will look like. He unpacks that, describes that, gives us such a beautiful and thorough image of the life to come. I believe no one has has surpassed it. At least as far as my studies have gone, I have not seen anybody write as thoroughly as beautifully as Jonathan was does here in this entire chapter related to the afterlife, life with the Lord in heaven for eternity.
The page we're going to read says this, "There shall be nothing within themselves to clog or hinder the saints in heaven, in the exercises and expressions of love. In this world, the saints find much to hinder them in this respect." So what he's saying here is that as we live as Christians in this fallen world, we're redeemed but we don't have a redeemed flesh. We still have a sinful flesh, and it's a burden. It slows us down. It keeps us from being all the Lord would have as be in his life.
"In this world, the saints find much to hinder them in this respect. They have a great deal of dullness and heaviness." Again, because of this flesh. "They carry about with them a heavy molded body. A clod of Earth, a mass of flesh and blood that is not fitted to be the organ for a soul inflamed with high exercises of Divine Love, but which is found a great clog and hindrance to the Spirit, so that they cannot express their love to God as they would and cannot be so active and lively in it, as they desire. Often they feign would fly, but they are held down as with a dead weight upon their wings. Feign would they be active and mount up as a flame of fire, but they find themselves as it were, hampered and chained down, so that they cannot do as their love inclines them to do." As the love of God in them inclides them to do they cannot do. "Love disposes them to burst forth in praise, but their tongues are not obedient; they want words to express the ardency of their souls, and cannot order their speech, by reason of darkness; and often for want of expressions", (for lack of expressions in other words), "they are forced to content themselves with groanings that cannot be uttered. But in heaven, they shall have no such hindrance", he says. "There, they will have no dullness and unwieldiness, and no corruption of heart to war against divine love and hinder its expressions; and there no earthly body shall clog with its heaviness, the heavenly flame. The saints in heaven shall have no difficulty in expressing all their love. Their souls, being on fire with holy love, shall not be like a fire pent up but like a flame uncovered, and at liberty. Their spirits, being winged with love, shall have no weight upon them to hinder their flight. There shall be no want of strength or activity, nor any want of words, wherewith to praise the object of their affection. Nothing shall hinder them from communing with God, and praising and serving him just as their love inclines them to do. Love naturally desires to express itself; and in heaven, the love of the saints shall be at full liberty to express itself as it desires, whether it be towards God or to created beings."
The saints in heaven shall have no difficulty in expressing all their love. Their souls, being on fire with holy love, shall not be like a fire pent up but like a flame uncovered, and at liberty. - Jonathan Edwards
Again, this is just one excerpt from this book, Charity and Its Fruits, from the final chapter about heaven. We commend this to you as a read that you should definitely invest in and get. I think you can get it very cheap on Amazon as a Kindle read (link below). It will greatly encourage and edify your soul, especially as you're living in these troubling times. We all really need to have a new captured, a new sensitivity, to what awaits us with the Lord in heaven. When we look to what lies ahead of us, we can endure the difficult times that we're enduring now. As missionaries, we have to endure a lot. It's very important for us to have a good heavenly vision of what awaits us, because when we have a vision of how great and glorious it will be when we're with the Lord, all this stuff we go through now really seems small in comparison to what lies ahead of us. That motivates us to be faithful ambassadors of Jesus Christ, to spend ourselves for the evangelization of the lost, making of disciples, and planting of Biblical churches. So again, we commend this to you pick it up. You won't regret reading this book. It will transform your life. It will renew you in ways you cannot even imagine as you live for Jesus Christ. God bless you and until the next time when we do another book recommendation to encourage you and bless you as you walk with the Lord.
The PMc Media Ministry exists to incorporate Christians into the Lord's mission of evangelism, discipleship, and church planning in Italy so others can flourish in Jesus' global mission, whether they go or they stay. Thank you for being a part of the ministry.
Charity and Its Fruits on Amazon