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“Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me,” is the closing line from John Donne’s Holy Sonnet: Batter My Heart, Three-Person’d God.
Jonathan Edwards called this concept “The Expulsive Love of A New Affection.” Unless God’s love becomes increasingly real to us, unless our hearts experience the flame of His Spirit, the breath of Aslan, the sense that He is with us, loving, sacrificing, seeing — we won’t be able to release our idols. We’ll keep running to them. And so we cry with John Donne: “Batter my heart, three-personed God!”
When I was a freshman at Northwestern University I was dating another freshman named Jack. He was good-looking and charming, but I could also see that he was selfish. Yet I couldn’t seem to resist that charm, that handsome face. But one February day I met Steve, my future husband. He caught up with me after class and stopped me to introduce himself. I had admired him from afar and actually began to shake when he started talking to me. I pretended it was the wind off of Lake Michigan, and he responded by taking off his trenchcoat and wrapping it around my shivering shoulders. My knees nearly buckled at his gallantry. When he asked me out, I accepted immediately. We had our first date and I came home, fell on my bed, and said to my roommate, Heather, “I want to marry that man.”
Jack didn’t know about my date with Steve and he called the next day and invited me to fly to South Carolina to meet his family. I wavered. I had known Jack for a while and I knew this was a significant invitation. If I turned it down, it might very well mean the end for Jack and me. But if I went, it might very well mean the end for Steve and me.
The big realization? I couldn’t have them both. I chose Steve. (Thanks be to God! I lost Jack and gained Steve.)
In the same way — we can’t have both our idol and the presence of the Lord. We deceive ourselves into thinking we can, but we cannot. The Holy Spirit is a person, and we can grieve Him, cause Him to back up from us. So when we are tempted by our idol, we must ask ourselves which we really want. Do I want to graze on potato chips — or do I want the presence of the Lord? Do I want to win this argument — or do I want the presence of the Lord? Do I want this person’s approval, or the approval of God? That’s what we need to speak to our souls in the moment of temptation.
The key is growing in our love for the Lord, “the expulsive power of a new affection.” (You can find this essay by Jonathan Edwards on the internet.) As John Donne put it, “Unless you ravish me, I cannot be chaste.” How are we “ravished?” How are we set on fire?
We grow in our desire for the presence of the Lord as we behold Him, as we slow down and really look at Scripture, which we will do today. Let’s behold Jesus in the closing of John 11. Lazarus is dead. Jesus has just been weeping with Mary. Now, let’s step into the story.
1. Read John 11:33-37
A. Keller says that the translators have shied away from showing the fury of Jesus in this scene. I thought Elizabeth got a taste of it when she wrote, in the last post,
Wow. I sit to answer and the tears flow. He knows my pain. And He doesn’t sit aloof and above it all, He aches over it. This is NOT what God had intended before the Fall. He hates the sin that has entangled me, but He loves me, dearly holds me and lets me cry.
What hard things in your life right now cause Jesus to groan, to weep, to be angry at the effects of the fall on his beloved child? Write them down.
B. What was evident to the Jews in verse 36? Is the love of Jesus for you evident to you today? If not, why should it be?
C. How was Jesus misjudged in verse 37?
2. Read John 11:38-57.
A. Describe the emotion of Jesus in verse 38. (Again, remember, He loves you as He did Lazarus.)
B. Describe the conversation between Martha and Jesus in verses 39-40. How is Jesus gentle with her?
C. How do we know, again, that Martha must have responded to Jesus’ gentle rebuke, according to verse 41?
D. Describe the raising of Lazarus.
E. Try to put yourself in the place of Mary and Martha. Imagine their emotions.
The next passage is very important, because it shows what it truly cost Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, which He obviously knew was going to happen. Remember, Mary, who will be the one who will sacrifice all of her security, her savings, and her reputation is watching. Truly, what she sees causes her to fall so deeply in love with Jesus that she is willing to give all.
3. Read John 11:45-53
A. In verses 47-48, how did the Chief Priests and Pharisees react to the raising of Lazarus and why? What do you think was their idol? Could they have their idol and Jesus as well?
B. What wisdom did Caiphas give? Can you see a prophetic word here?
C. Describe the impact of the raising of Lazarus on Jesus (verses 53, 54, and 57) Do you think Jesus knew this would happen?
4. Compare the love your idol gives you with this love you see in Jesus.
5. What I want you do to here is a suggestion from Tim Keller for inflaming our hearts. Review this week’s passage and look for three things:
A. Is there a verse or thought that causes you to worship Jesus?
B. Does this lead you to confess a sin?
C. Can you give thanks, therefore, for God’s grace?
6. The Holy Spirit is a person who can be grieved when we run to other lovers. Steve would have been grieved if I had gone to South Carolina — and he might have backed away. In the same way — if we aren’t sensing the presence of the Lord, could it be we have grieved Him? The next time you are tempted — ask yourself which you want — the presence of the Lord or your idol. Report here!
7. Meditate on John Donne’s poem and share any phrases that leap out at you and why.
Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
8. GIVE US PROGRESS REPORTS ON YOUR “STONE.”