Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Depression, Spiritual

In the sermon 'The True Foundation', Martyn Lloyd Jones uncovers a major issue at the core of overcoming the state of spiritual depression. He argues that as believers, the 'joy of salvation' and the 'the joy of our lord' is ours - so then it is a contradiction for us to be 'bound up in shallows and in miseries'*. So if that is you, you may rightly ask, why am not joyful when I am a believer?

Let me comment from the outset that the Depression can be a problem independent of spiritual causes - what I am trying to say is that some people suffer depression as a result of severe circumstances, a chemical imbalance or a physical predisposition. The content of this section is not intended for those, let us consider spiritual aspects here which commonly cause this state. 

Martyn Lllod argues that many Christians are in a state of depression because they have never understood the point of their salvation; and if they truly did, they would not be stuck in the darkness of depression. He explains that many Christians focus on their journey of sanctification, losing sight of the first and more crucial concept of justification. He refers the readers to John Wesley as a prime example of someone who was living the life of service and good works, never having experienced the joy of his salvation, never having received the truth of justification by faith and thus struggling to find joy in his own works. He is speaking to those who try to earn God's favor, essentially to justify themselves in God's eyes by their own righteousness (and they may well be leading lives that are righteous). They don't really relate to justification (I add here, by Christ's faith not our own), because they do not see a need for it! they are caught up in their own attempts and efforts of getting right with God, (some even miss the point of the need for redemption since they are already 'righteous'). The author explains that a preoccupation with sanctification before coming to terms with justification, leads to a perversion of 'the law' as an instrument for attaining righteousness when it was intended by God as a means to further the way of salvation. 

Why don't some get justification by faith? Perhaps there is an absence of a conviction for sin (they don't think of themselves as 'sinners'); as the author stresses, 'you must be made miserable before you can know true christian joy' - no -this assertion does not stand in contradiction to the goal at hand of overcoming the misery of depression - yet it is at the heart of joy to know misery first. In other words, the joy of salvation can only be perceived in the wake of a personal conviction of the misery of our helplessness under the yoke of sin. The words of Simeon in the temple referring to Jesus may be describing exactly that: 'this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel'. The author sums this up: 'there is no rising again until there has been a preliminary fall.' Now, if you've been brought up in a "Christian" family, then you may be under this illusion that somehow because you may have led a sheltered life, you've never really been "a sinner". I have heard some express their envy at people who were redeemed from a 'life of sin' - unwittingly admitting that they don't see their state as in need of redemption - the comparison and measure becomes 'me vs other people', rather than 'me vs the law of God'. I was there at some point of my journey before God opened my eyes. So, yes we wake up to the fact that "There is none righteous, no not one, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". First: salvation, justification through Christ alone - nothing to do with our earning favor. It follows therefore: who can possibly be short of joy when they realise the free gift which we could not possibly earn? Nobody is ever good enough, He alone is good enough.

Martyn Lloyd presents this as truly basic, yet remarkably a crucial corner stone of the faith that every believer must come to terms with. His chapter is a well presented outline of the connection between missing the whole point of justification by faith and a state of spiritual depression - doctrinally and experientially makes a whole lot of sense to me.

* quote, Shakespeare.

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