The Cataclysmic, God-wrought Change in Man’s Heart: Observations from Puritan John Flavel

One of my favorite Puritans was a man by the name of John Flavel.  His writings were and are eminently practical and biblically sound.  I have been much helped by his work Keeping the Heart.  In today’s text (Eph 5:8-14) we are told that you and I were darkness.

The Problem

John Flavel, in writing of man’s heart, speaks of just how dark we were: “Man, by the apostasy (abandonment of belief), has become a most disordered and rebellious creature, opposing his Maker, as the First Cause—by self-dependence; as the Chief Good—by self-love; as the Highest Lord—by self-will; and as the Last End—by self-seeking.  Thus he is quite disordered, and all his actions are irregular.”

The Solution

Yet, that is not where we remain, for by the grace of God, we are called to walk as children of light (Eph 1:8) because of the fragrant sacrifice that Christ made (Eph 1:2).  Flavel goes on to say, “But by regeneration the disordered soul is set right; this great change being, as the Scripture expresses it, the renovation of the soul after the image of God—in which self-dependence is removed by faith; self-love is removed by the love of God; self-will is removed by subjection and obedience to the will of God; and self-seeking is removed by self-denial.  The darkened understanding is illuminated, the refractory (stubborn) will sweetly subdued, the rebellious appetite gradually conquered.  Thus the soul which sin had universally depraved, is by grace restored.”

The Application

Is your life characterized by faith, the love of God, subjection and obedience to God’s will, as you practice self-denial?  If so, you are walking as a child of light.  Or is your life characterized by self-dependence, self-love, self-will (doing what you want), and self-seeking (your perceived good over God’s expressed good)?  If so, you may still be darkness.  Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Eph 5:14).