From Your Pastor: The Spirituality of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Our godly forefather, Jonathan Edwards, wrote his classic The Religious Affections[1] to both define and defend genuine revival and the true, Holy-Spiritual wrought spirituality that should flow from it. What are the characteristics of a true and genuine spirituality that Edwards listed that must be present in true conversion, and that believers can expect in the Christian life? I have listed them below, adding scripture references, and my own pastoral comments.[2]

Edwards’ 12 points on genuine spirituality can be helpful in urging us on to high aspirations in our spirituality, as well as to also help us to exam ourselves to reach assurance in our faith (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-11; 2 Cor. 13:5). Let me encourage you to take each of these before the Throne of Grace, and be honest with Christ from your heart. God desires and delights in “truth in the inward being. Whatever need we have, He provides a Mediator for us full of grace (Psa. 51:6; cf. John 1:14b; Heb. 4:16).


  1. The Indwelling of the Spirit: “Be filled with the Spirit”. All genuine spirituality or revival (personally or corporately in a congregation) begins with God; He alone is sovereign and grants the Spirit according to His good pleasure (Luke 11:13; John 6:37, 44; Acts 16:14b). The faith that the Spirit gives the elect in regeneration is “an ardent (enthusiastic!) thing,” says Edwards (Eph. 2:8-10). The greatest gift Jesus gives to believers is His Holy Spirit. Edwards wrote that “the sum of the blessings that Christ bought by what He did and suffered in the work of redemption” are found in the gift of the Spirit. Father, grant that I truly know you through Jesus Christ, and give me your Holy Spirit as you have promised (John 14:21, 23; 16:13-14; Acts 2:33-36).


  1. True Love for God: “Do you love me?” Genuine spirituality loves God more for who He is (His character), and not merely for what He has done for us in Christ (His redemption). Both are important, but we love God ultimately because He is love and beautiful in Himself, lest He merely become a “means to an end” (cf. John 6:26-29). We shouldn’t love Him merely for saving us, but because He is great and greatly to be praised! We should grow in our love for His holiness, His steadfast, covenant love, His perfections, His Aseity (or glorious self-existence!)—all of the glorious attributes that reveal our glorious God! (Rom. 11:33-36). Father, grant me a holy vision of your beauty and holiness through the Spirit as Isaiah experienced (cf. Isa. 6:1-9).


  1. A Spiritual Sight: “Open my eyes…” Genuine spirituality brings a new way of perceiving reality. A love for holiness, for the things of God. We sense the glory and beauty of God more deeply, and His love for us in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:17-18; 3:17-19). We can “taste and see” that the LORD is good (Psa. 34:8). Father, illuminate my eyes and give me the sight to see your beauty and the beauty of holiness and righteousness.


  1. An Enlightened Mind: “Whatever things are true…” Genuine spirituality bring a love for the truth as God reveals Himself in creation, conscience, and especially in Holy Scripture (John 17:17-19; Rom. 1:19ff; 2:14-16; Phil. 4:8). Father, my God, and king, grant me a deeper love for your truth—especially Biblical-Theological truth.


  1. Deep-Seated Conviction: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness…” Genuine spiritual brings not merely a love for truth, but a deep conviction, zeal, and boldness to confess it, to obey it, to teach it (Acts 4:29, 31; 5:29; 28:31; 1 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 11:1; Matt. 16:17; John 6:68-69).


  1. Evangelical Humility: “Humble yourselves before God…” Genuine spirituality produces a deep humility. Our greatest issue, Edwards wrote, is that we struggle with pride. Spiritual pride is the major reason for serious blockage of the Spirit’s working in the Christian life (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:6; Rom. 12:3). Edwards wrote, “Remember that pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ.” A truly spiritual person is aware of deep self-righteousness within them, and sees its own poverty and need for the grace of God (Rom. 7:19-21; Rev. 3:17). Father, grant me the humility of the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:21; 2:6-8). Father, grant me humility as I walk before you; like the Lord Jesus, grant me a willingness to die to self, and contentedness to be overlooked and forgotten.


  1. Roots in True Conversion: But God, rich in mercy…made us alive in Christ…” Genuine spirituality doesn’t necessarily know the exact date of one’s conversion, but knows that it has taken place, and can determine at least the time period in which they were born again and made alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1-5; John 3:3-8). We should ask: “Has true conversion taken place in my life?” Sin’s dominion has been broken in conversion, and there are roots of this in the past, and present fruits to some degree (Rom. 6:11-18; 8:9-11). Father, let me have assurance that my present state before you is rooted in true conversion.


  1. Christ-like Gentleness: “…For I am gentle and lowly in heart…” Genuine spirituality possesses increasingly the “lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper of Jesus Christ” (cf. Isa. 40:11; 42:3; Matt. 11:29; 2 Tim. 2:19-25; James 3:17). Edwards wrote, “Christian boldness and zeal are indeed a flame, but a sweet one.” Father, grant me the gentleness of Jesus, while being bold and zealous for the truth.


  1. A Tender Heart: “How can do this…and sin against God?!” Genuine spirituality has a tender heart towards God. Edwards describes this tenderness before God “like a burnt child that dreads the fire.” Increasingly, we fear hell less, and fear sin more. Increasingly, we fear with a deep dread offending God our Father who has shown such kindness to us. We fear less the consequences of sin (though we hate these, too!), and more the offense sin brings to God (Gen. 39:9b; Matt. 26:41; 1 Pet. 3:8). Sin is a destroyer—and the Evil One seeks to use it to kill and destroy our lives, and our communion with God (John 10:10; 1 Pet. 5:8). Father, grant me a tender heart like you have. Let me hate sin as you hate sin. Let me never offend you.


  1. Balance and Harmony: “…Walking in the fear of the LORD and the comfort of the Holy Spirit…” Genuine spirituality brings a balance and harmony to Christian lives. There will be holy fear and joy that will be realized at the same time (Acts 9:31); there will be suffering and persecution and a fearless thrill to be honored with Christ (John 16:33; Matt. 5:10-12); there will be sacrifice and self-control with complete contentment and satisfaction (Phil. 4:13; Titus 2:11-14); there will be a zeal for the truth, but a humility about the truth (2 Tim. 2:22-25; Acts 18:25-26); there will be withdrawal for prayer and communion with an availability when needed (Mark 1:35-38; 3:7-10; 6:46ff). Father, grant me a balanced heart.


  1. Holy Breathing and Panting After God: “As the deer pants after the waters…” Genuine spirituality possesses a desire to know Christ better. There is a hunger and thirsting after righteousness found in Christ (Psa. 42:1; 119: 131; Matt. 5:6; 2 Pet. 1:5-9). The more one knows Christ, the more one wants more of Him—less of oneself—a deeper breathing and panting for a holier life. There is a deeper satisfaction that fills the believer as they seek Him (Psa. 131; cf. John 6:34-44). Father, grant me a holy hunger!


  1. Fruitful in Christ: “Whoever abides in me…bears much fruit.” Genuine spirituality is fruitful; it possesses the Fruit of the Spirit (John 15:1-15; Gal. 5:22-23). This fruitfulness is manifested in three ways: 1) It seeks to live according to God’s commandments; 2) It seeks to be zealous for good works in the church and the culture; 3) It perseveres by faith in dependence upon the Spirit of God. Works do not save us, but we cannot be saved without them (John 15:13-17; Matt. 5:17-19; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 3:8). Father, let me glorify you in my good works; let me adorn the gospel truths that I know through by working, fruitful, obedient, and persevering faith!


After prayerfully meditating upon these, do you need to be born again? Do you need revival in your present condition? Christ stands full of the Spirit at God’s right hand ready to give the Spirit to all those for whom He gave His life. Need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit? Does KCPC need an outpouring of this powerful Spirit? Let us ask the Father for this great gift in Christ our Mediator. Amen and amen.


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs


[1] Religious Affections, ed. John E. Smith (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959).

[2] The Scripture references I have used are not necessarily those used by Edwards, but texts that seemed to support the truths he wrote about.

From Your Pastor: A Biblical Spirituality

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A Biblical spirituality is basically a seeking to be holy as God the Father is holy in an intimate communion or relationship with Him through union with Christ by His Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14; John 14:21, 23; 1 Pet. 1:16-17). True Biblical spirituality is knowing that God in Christ has made His “home” with and in His people by His Spirit, and seeking to live out a life that reveals and demonstrates this amazing truth and wonderful grace. As our Lord says beautifully:

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

A Biblical spirituality is a desire to know, love, obey, and experience God as Father from the heart while fearing and reverencing Him as Supreme God and Lord (John 17:3; John 15:9-11; Rom. 6:4-6, 11-17; Eph. 3:14-21). Spirituality is taking Jesus as Savior and Lord, and living a life of seeking communion with Him through the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). Biblical spirituality expresses itself in the words of our forefather John Calvin: “I offer Thee my heart, O LORD, promptly and sincerely.”

Biblical Spirituality.  A Biblical spiritual is just that, it is Biblical. It is not first and foremost an emotional experience; it is not always necessarily an emotional experience (although there is nothing wrong with praying for this). But true Biblical spirituality is a seeking to know, love, obey, and experience God as He is revealed in Holy Scripture, and especially as He has revealed Himself in Christ, and seeking to understand, as well as be transformed by this truth (Rom. 12:2).

All of our experiences should be rooted in the Bible. When we seek Biblical spirituality through Scripture, it must be what God commands and gives His people grace to do. Yet in knowing and understanding all Biblical truth, we should expect an experience of that truth (think of all the Psalms that teach us to rejoice and be joyful in God our Savior!). If we believe something truly, we will act on it, and we should expect to feel it to some degree. If we truly know and believe something in our heads, it should influence our hearts, affections, our wills. Biblical spirituality is the interface between what we believe about the triune God, and how we live. Biblical spirituality is about both our faith in God, and our works that should accompany and follow true saving faith (Rom. 4:18-21; James 2:17-20).

But there have been many errors and excesses in Christian history with even good believers untethering themselves from Holy Scripture, or being imbalanced in their approach to spirituality. For instance, just to name a few examples, there have been those who desired a life of self-denial in humility, but unintentionally placed too much focus on self apart from Christ. There have been those who have had a misunderstanding of salvation being received by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. Those who have been guilty of seeking mere emotional experiences (read: “ecstasies”) apart from the Word of God. Those who have not made a proper distinction between the Creator and the creature, and use language of being “swallowed up” into the deity. Those who have been guilty of making lists that sometimes can (and often do!) take the place of Scripture, and set up legalistic tendencies that are not robustly focused on the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. Those with an unhealthy withdrawal from the world that requires a monastic lifestyle functionally in order to live according to the teachings (or “rules” of the monastery).

As we understand a Biblical spirituality, it is important to be Biblical. We are called to evaluate ourselves, but always with our eyes on Christ as Savior. We are to understand that salvation is by grace alone apart from our works, through faith, because of Christ alone, and any relationship, any true and saving knowledge of God, any good works that we do that are pleasing to God, all are because of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit given to us in our union with Christ! In any true experience of God, we are never to forget that we are sinners approaching God’s holy presence clothed in the righteousness of Christ, coming to Him through the Mediator He has provided, and thus we must make an important and proper distinction from this day and for all eternity between the Creator and we as creatures, and never “lose ourselves and identities” in the Godhead.

We are to seek to follow and obey God in light of the grace that has been given to us in Christ. As those seeking true Biblical spirituality, we are not called to go out of the world, but to fulfill our callings graciously given to us by God, enjoying the created gifts that God has provided for us, while being wholly consecrated from the heart to Him (1 Tim. 4:1-5; cf. 1 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:17-4:2). Though we should have a wise and healthy contempt for the world compared to the new world that is coming and that has dawned with the coming of the Spirit, we are not to hate the world. We are to seek to glorify God and enjoy and delight in Him in this world, while not falling into worldiness (1 John 2:12-18). This is a paradox. We are to mourn for our sins and brokenness, and the world’s fallen estate, but we are to also rejoice, for the joy of the LORD is our strength (Neh. 8:10; Matt. 5:3-11; Phil. 4:4-9). Maintaining this balance of living in the world as pilgrims and exiles, we are to seek to know, love, obey, and experience God.

Trinitarian Spirituality. A Biblical spirituality is always Trinitarian. The goal of Biblical spirituality is to glorify and delight in the triune God and to enjoy Him (Eph. 1:3-14; Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 10:31). There are false and dangerous spiritualties bandied about today that seek false hopes through false gods and saviors. This is not Biblical spirituality but demonic spirituality of which we must be careful (1 Cor. 10:19-22; Acts 13:10, 16:16-18; 1 Tim. 3:7, 4:1; Rev. 9:20, 16:14). A Biblical, Trinitarian spirituality teaches believers to go boldly and courageously to the Father, through the Son, our provided Mediator, by the Spirit (Eph. 2:18; cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). The Son is “from the Father” as the Savior and hope of mankind (John 1:14-18). God sent the Son into the world out of His deep and faithful and undying love to His people. Christ was sent “from the Father” to live, die, be raised, and enthroned at God’s right hand, and to then pour out His Spirit in His fullness upon His people (John 3:16-19; Acts 2:33-36). The Father is the fountain of love from which all of the works of the triune God flow forth!

All Persons are equal in substance, power and being, and yet they all three perform specific aspects of our salvation as the one God. In Biblical spirituality, this should be recognized. We should seek to have a relationship with the one God through each Person of the Trinity by praising and enjoying God the Father’s love for us in Christ, adoring the grace of the Son as our Savior, Bridegroom, Mediator, Friend, and King, and living in fellowship with the Holy Spirit and in communion with one another as members of Christ’s one Church! As the Apostle Paul summarizes this Trinitarian spirituality:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Let us remember that the goal of all Biblical spirituality is the glory of God the Father, through the Son our Mediator, by the power and grace of the Spirit. The practice of all spirituality begins with a humble submission to Christ through regeneration by the Spirit, and a daily humble submission in denying oneself and taking up one’s cross and following Him (Matt. 16:24; Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 2:1-5). The heart of all spirituality is honesty from the heart before God and man, being nothing more, nothing less than a lost and broken sinner saved by grace, who is being transformed by the work of God’s Spirit to be renewed in the image of Christ (Psa. 139:23-24; 2 Cor. 6:6-7; 1 John 3:18; cf. 1 Tim. 1:12-17). Biblical spirituality is considering oneself as a sinner who is being changed daily by the power and grace of God the Spirit and through one’s faithful, God-given, Holy-Spirit empowered striving to work out of this salvation in union with Christ (Phil. 2:12-13; John 15:1-11). It is aspiring to perfection while realistically knowing that as long as you are in this world you will have an agonizing struggle with remaining sin, though you’re a beloved child of God (Rom. 7:21-25; Rom. 8:11-15; Galatians 5:16-25; 1 Cor. 9:27; Titus 2:11-14; Heb. 12:4; 1 John 3:1-3).

Christ-focused Spirituality. Though some spiritualties in Christian history have emphasized the importance of the imitation of Christ, they have sometimes failed to place Christ first and central in our reflection upon this imitation. Biblical spirituality is a Christ-focused spirituality. Christ is our Savior first. He is the Savior of our souls, but He is also our example. The Apostle Peter wrote: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21; cf. 1 Cor. 11:1). In light of the mercies of God in Christ, all that we do in imitation, we are to do as “living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1-2), running the race with endurance, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our Faith! (Heb. 12:1-2). In a truly Biblical spiritual Christ is central to our knowing God, loving God, obeying God, and experience God. Let us never forget this focus upon the Person and Work of our blessed Mediator, and then go and live for Him in imitation of Him by the Spirit!

Communal and Personal/Public and Private Spirituality. A Biblical spirituality is both communal and personal, it is concerned with the church and with our personal pursuits of “quiet time” with God. Biblical spirituality steers a clear path through the Scylla of Sacramentalism, and the Charybdis of Individualism. Biblical spirituality in its public dimension is an external, outward spirituality that is involved with the visible church (Rom. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:4-14). This involves professing one’s faith, confessing one’s faith publicly before believers and unbelievers in evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 10:9-17; Acts 2:47; 4:4; 5:1-5; 6:7; 11:21). It is seeking to observe and remember the Lord’s Day in order to keep it holy, so that one can participate in the primary means of grace, or the primary means the exalted, enthroned Christ uses to grow and mature His people through the faithful preaching of the word, the biblical administration of the sacraments, and being formally accountable for discipline as members of Christ’s Church (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Cor. 5:1-5). This public aspect is in living in community in a local congregation of saints, while growing up in Christ, and seeking and growing in one’s spirituality through loving and serving one’s neighbor as oneself (Gal. 6:1-2; Rom. 12:5-13; 1 Peter 4:9-11).

Biblical spirituality in its private dimension is an internal, inward spiritualty that seeks daily to deny self, bear one’s cross, memorize and mediate upon Holy Scripture. It seeks to take one’s sin serious, and to be faithful to God, useful in His service, watchful, and prayerful. This private dimension involves a private “closet” or secret place where only God sees (cf. Matthew 6:1-18). Our Lord Jesus promises a reward of grace (not merit!) in the practice of this: “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:18). This private dimension of spirituality includes daily repentance for sins, a walking closely with God, or keeping in step with the Spirit, praying continually, and in general living with God-given, Spirit-induced, Biblical-focused, Christ-centered zeal for God and His work (Gal. 5:25; Rom. 12:11-12). To walk this way privately is to involve oneself in a difficult spiritual battle as a pilgrim on the way of the King. It is to involve oneself in cosmic warfare that requires the upmost seriousness, sober-mindedness, and watchfulness, while confidently and courageously that your King has won the battle, and all you are to do is to stand in His victory and conquering strength by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:10-20).

A Spirituality for Everyone! Do you desire to be spiritual? Do you desire to be spiritual as you are called to be (Gal. 6:1-2)? If you are united to Christ Jesus by His Spirit, and if you are a child of the Heavenly Father through faith in Christ, then you are indeed “spiritual”. In fact, the term “spiritual” in the Bible refers to Christians united to Christ by faith, and usually means “Holy-Spiritual” (Rom. 8:9-11; 12:1; 1 Cor. 2:13, 15, 3:1, 14:37; Gal. 6:1-2).

Do you want to be spiritual? Are you united to Christ by faith? Then earnestly live this biblical spirituality out in your daily life in reliance upon His grace. In Christian history, there were times where the truly “spiritual” folks were those who withdrew themselves from the world to seek spirituality out of the world (even out of the church for some of the excessive spiritualists). These would seek to get the “meat of the word” while the “common” Christians would feed on the “milk” (cf. 1 Peter 2:2, 5). But true Biblical spirituality is really becoming who you are already are in Christ. Christ has “purchased a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). This grace teaches us to renounce ungodliness and worldliness and spiritually trains us to live “self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12). This grace, this love of God, this spiritual reality should be sought by us in Christ because we are spiritual!

The Bible teaches that there are no “spiritual elites” within the church of Christ. Christians are indeed the spiritual elites within the world no doubt, because we possess, or are possessed by Christ’s Spirit, but within the church we all have the Spirit of God, and this makes us truly and biblically “spiritual”. Do we seek this spirituality? Do we seek to know, love, obey, and experience our Heavenly Father in Christ by His Glorious Spirit? In other words, like the Apostle Paul, do you desire to leave your sinful works of self-centeredness behind, and press earnestly forward to take hold of Christ because He has taken hold of you? (Phil. 3:12-16).

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Phil. 3:12-16).

Do you desire to grow? This is an important part of being a Christian (2 Peter 1:3-12). Within the church, there are definitely different gifts, graces, functions, and callings (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12), but no spiritual elite where only a few can attain to holiness in Christ, and make progress in the Christian life. No, the Bible clearly teaches that “spiritual” is what defines those who possess the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit helps us to live like Christ, knowing, loving, obeying, and experiencing the Triune God. The question is not whether or not you are spiritual in Christ, it is whether or not you are maturing and growing in that spirituality in reliance upon His grace.

Do you want to know more of God’s love for you in Christ? Do you want to possess more of the fullness of grace that is found within Christ? Do you want to be filled with joy in the Spirit as you grow in Him?

Ask Him for it.

In reliance upon His grace, go for it!

This is my prayer for you, dear Ketoctin:

That “you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…” (Col. 1:9-11).


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs