This week we look at Chapter 4 of Martyn Lloyd Jones’s book Spiritual Depression, and specifically what he describes as the Unbalanced Christian.
It is this lack of balance that often leads to this condition of spiritual depression.
The text referenced is Romans 6:17
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Lloyd-Jones puts it this way:
The whole man is involved, the mind, the heart and the will, and a common cause of spiritual depression is the failure to realize that the Christian life is a whole life, a balanced life. Lack of balance is one of the most fruitful causes of trouble and discord and disquietude in the life of the Christian man.
We find a balanced Christian when the mind, the emotion, and the will are all properly exercised and balanced. Where any one or two of these are lacking, there is an opportunity for frustration, despair, uncertainty, doubt, etc., all of which can lead to spiritual depression.
Let’s look at what each of these look like in isolation:
“There are some people in whose case the head only seems to be in use— the intellect, the understanding. They tell us that they are tremendously interested in the gospel as a point of view, as a Christian philosophy. These are the people who are always talking about the Christian outlook or, to use the present day jargon, the Christian insights. It is something purely philosophical, something entirely intellectual……There are others, not so many today, perhaps, as there used to be, whose sole interest in the gospel is their interest in theology and doctrine and metaphysics, and in great problems, arguments and discussions.
But the tragedy was that it stopped at that interest, and their hearts had never been touched. Not only was there an absence of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives but there was often an absence of the ordinary milk of human kindness.”
“But there are others in whose case the gospel seems to affect the heart only. This is commoner today. These are the people who feel that they have had an emotional release; they have passed through an emotional crisis. I do not want to disparage this, but there is a real danger in having a purely emotional experience only…….At last they hear a message which seems to give them deliverance from that one thing, and they accept it, and all is well. But they stop at that. They wanted this particular release and they have had it. That can be obtained from an incomplete presentation of the gospel, and it leads to a partial and incomplete experience. Such people, because they desire that primarily, have had an emotional experience and nothing else.”
“Then, finally, you have the same thing in those whose will is alone involved. It is possible, and it has happened unfortunately, for people to be persuaded to take up Christianity. They say that they believe that it is a good life and they solemnly decide to take it up.”
A Balanced Christian
The message of the Gospel fulfills all three completely. The mind processes the truth of the gospel and the doctrines found in the Scriptures. It moves the heart and the emotions entirely and it leads to total obedience in the realm of the will.
The Order of Balance
In regards to these three, Lloyd-Jones gives what he thinks is the correct order in which they must come.
First and foremost, one must have truth. One must exercise the mind…the intellect.
We are not concerned simply to attract people emotionally or in the realm of the will, we are concerned to ‘preach the Word’. The Apostles were not sent out simply to produce results and to change people. They were sent ‘to preach the gospel’, to ‘preach the truth’, to preach and declare ‘Jesus and the resurrection’— this message, this form of doctrine, the deposit! Those are the terms used in the New Testament and the Church is certain to produce these spiritual monstrosities when she fails to put that first. The Christian should know why he is a Christian.
Then the heart will be applied properly:
Then having seen the truth the Christian loves it. It moves his heart. He sees what he was, he sees the life he was living, and he hates it. If you see the truth about yourself as a slave of sin you will hate yourself. Then as you see the glorious truth about the love of Christ you will want it, you will desire it. So the heart is engaged. Truly to see the truth means that you are moved by it and that you love it. You cannot help it. If you see truth clearly, you must feel it.
Then follows the will:
You cannot be joined to Christ and be one with Him, and at the same time ask ‘shall we continue in sin?’ Does this great truth give me licence to go on doing those things which formerly appealed to me? Of course not. It is inconceivable. A man who knows and believes that he is ‘risen with Christ’ will inevitably desire to walk in newness of life with Him.
A Few Thoughts
Again, as seen in the past chapters, a complete understanding of the Gospel is crucial, and the sooner this happens the better. In the Gospel the bad news leads us to despair, yet is necessary in making the good new of the Gospel glorious and complete. This truth leads to a stirring in the heart and emotion.
We often see today an appeal to the heart and emotion only and this is a dangerous practice that leads to a dangerous outcome both temporally and eternally.
Truth must precede and produce this heartfelt response.
As Lloyd-Jones stated, the apostles were called to preach the good news, and that calling has not changed for us.
At the same time, remember the danger in stopping with the mind/intellect only. Our hearts must be subsequently moved as well as our will.
Are you deficient in any one of these three areas? If so, could this be a possible culprit for your “spiritual depression.”
Take time to reflect on this message and ask the Lord to help you find balance regarding the mind, the heart, and the will.
Other Posts In This Series:
Introduction – Let’s Strive Toward A More Consistent Joy
Chapter 1 – Spiritual Depression – General Causes and Treatment
Chapter 2 – A True Foundation For Overcoming Spiritual Depression
Chapter 3 – The Uncertain Christian: “Men as trees, walking”
Chapter 4 – The Balanced Christian: Mind, Heart, and Will