Books don’t transform people, paragraphs do.
John Piper said that. I think it is deeply profound. The vast content of the books that have spoken most deeply to me over the years have mostly been forgotten, but captivating paragraphs and quotes still stick in the recesses of my mind. When all else has been forgotten, it is these sentences that keep stirring my affections for Christ.
Around this time of year people start compiling their ‘best of selection’ of what they have read, and what others should read from the year behind us. Instead, I am going to compile a list of the paragraphs that have most stirred my affections for Jesus from 2016.
Prayer is not only the measure of our hearts, revealing what we really desire, it is also the indispensable remedy for our hearts when we do not desire God the way we ought’ | Read in Habits of Grace, by David Mathis
If you don’t see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures | The Curse of Careless Worship
If your goal is purity of heart, be prepared to be thought very odd | Passion and Purity
As [we] dream of progress and civilisation, at the same time see opening up before us the instability and futility of the existing world. Culture has great, even incalculable, advantages but also brings with its own peculiar drawbacks and dangers. The more abundantly the benefits of civilisation come streaming our way, the emptier our life becomes.”
If the ills of humanity were caused by culture, they could certainly be cured in no way other than by culture. But the ills we have in mind are native to the human heart, which always remains the same, and culture only brings them out. With all its wealth and power, it only shows that the human heart, in which God has put eternity, is so huge that all the world is too small to satisfy it’ | Reformed Dogmatics
No idea or attitude or theory or doctrine is of any value that does not inflame the heart and stir the affections in love and joy and fear of God.. if the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart | Religious Affections
James K. Smith
What if, instead of starting from the assumption that human beings are thinking things, we started from the conviction that human beings are first and foremost lovers? What if you are defined not by what you know but by what you desire? What if the center and seat of the human person is found not in the heady regions of the intellect but in the gut-level regions of the heart? | You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
To be human is to have a heart. You can’t not love. So the question isn’t whether you will love something as ultimate; the question is what you will love as ultimate | You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
The longings of our hearts both point us in the direction of the kingdom and propel us towards it. You are what you love because you live towards what you most desire’ | You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead | The Immutability of God
Avoid a sugared gospel as you would shun sugar of lead. Seek the gospel which rips up and tears and cuts and wounds and hacks and even kills, for that is the gospel that makes alive again. And when you have found it, give good heed to it. Let it enter into your inmost being. As the rain soaks into the ground, so pray the Lord to let his gospel soak into your soul.
‘The day will come when you will die and see all of history being rewritten from the halls of heaven. The annals of history will not be filled with wars and kings; there will be one story, the heroes will be missionaries and the victor will be seen clearly as Christ’ | To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
It is not good for us to take too seriously the many untoward experiences we have with ourselves in meditation (on the scriptures). It is here that our old vanity and our illicit claims upon God may creep in by a pious detour, as if it were our right to have nothing but elevating and fruitful experiences, and as if the discovery of our own inner poverty were quite below our dignity. For may it not be that God Himself sends us these hours of reproof and dryness that we may be brought again to expect everything from His word? “Seek God, not happiness” – this is the fundamental rule of all meditation. If you seek God alone, you will gain happiness: that is it’s promise | Life Together
It is more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, then to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him |
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us | The Cost of Discipleship
As much as we want to master the habit of Bible intake, to trace the lines of cause and effect from some action we take to some resulting satisfaction of our soul, the Helper resists our efforts to objectify grace. He lingers in silence. He labours mysteriously, outside our control. He imperceptibly shapes us this morning to make us into who we need to be this afternoon, and next week. His hands act untraceably as he moulds our minds, hews out our hearts, whittles at our wills, and carves at our calluses.
When we get alone with the Bible, we are not alone. God has not left us to ourselves to understand His words and feed our own souls. No matter how thin your training, no matter how spotty your routine, the Helper stands ready. Take up the text in confidence that God is primed to bless your being with his very breath | Habits of Grace
What Paragraphs Have Stirred Your Affections?
This is by no means an exhaustive collection of sentences and paragraphs that have shaped me in 2016, but simply the ones that come most readily to mind, and therefore, the ones most likely to continue to shape me in years to come. What paragraphs and sentences have stirred your affections for Jesus?
Jimmy founded Stirring our Affections in 2016 | Married to Sarah, Pastor in Melbourne and eternally loved and satisfied by Christ