What an incredible weekend. Friday we celebrated the cross of Christ. Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Christ. And now it’s Easter evening when this episode launches online. I love Easter more than any other date in the church calendar — even more than Christmas, to be honest. That move from the cross to the resurrection is so stunning. And it leads to a question from a listener named Becca.
“Hi, Pastor John. I hope you and your family enjoyed the beauty of Christ this Easter season. I’m a young believer who has been devoted to following Christ daily for the last four years. For me each Easter gets richer and richer as I have a more mature understanding and a deeper revelation of the power of the cross. But I am also coming to the conclusion that, knowing the frailties of my own humanity, I cannot sustain the beauty and the works of the cross and the crucifixion I experience in a weekend like this on a daily basis. This frustrates me.
“By Easter Monday I am left dry, feeling almost lifeless and numb to everything I just celebrated, lured back into my brainless media like social media and movies and TV. ‘Back to reality,’ I think to myself. Is this feeling normal? Or how does the cross and resurrection I celebrated this weekend change my life on Monday? What do I take from Easter Sunday into my Monday morning?”
Monday Is Not Sunday
The first thing I want to say is that it is biblical and good to think of corporate worship on Sunday as a God-designed weekly high point in your spiritual life. It ought to be something that can’t be replicated during the week. It can’t be replicated by yourself, and it can’t be replicated in a small group. Individual experiences of Christ and small-group experiences of Christ are essential to our walk with God, but Sunday corporate worship, under the preached word, in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the Spirit-filled singing of God’s people gathered is meant to be an extraordinary work of God in our lives.
“It is biblical and good to think of corporate worship on Sunday as a God-designed weekly high point in your spiritual life.”
The point of that is, for Becca, don’t assume that a decrease of that experience is a bad thing. I mean, he meant it to be special. He meant it to be unusually powerful, and that’s good. Just be sure you’re not setting up artificial expectations for Monday morning as though they should reproduce Sunday morning. They shouldn’t.
Sunday morning is not Monday morning. It is glorious when the gathered people of God sit under the preached word and join in Spirit-filled singing. Oh my, it’s glorious. The things that he’s done for me over the years in those services — they’re are not done any other way. And oh, the way I meet God in those times. I meet him like no other time, even though I love my personal devotions and I love my small group.
Cultivate Good Soil
You asked, Becca, if the feeling is normal to be “left dry,” lifeless, or numb on Monday after experiencing the glories of the risen Christ on Sunday. Well, Jesus’s answer to that question is that for a pretty large percentage of people it is normal, but it ought not to be. I’m basing that on the parable of the four soils. Remember that one?
The word is delivered, and then the devil comes. Let’s say he comes on Monday morning, maybe Sunday night. The devil comes and snatches away the word from the heart (Luke 8:12). Then there’s this other soil where we hear the word of God with joy, and we have no root and flourish for a little while, maybe till Wednesday. And bang! It’s gone. The word is gone. Choked out or burned up (Luke 8:13).
Then in the third soil the cares and the riches and the pleasures of life choke out the word, and it doesn’t bear any fruit (Luke 8:14). Then the fourth soil, like 25 percent of the hearers, hear the word of God, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). For three-fourths of the people in this parable, “left dry” is normal. I don’t want to make any rock-solid claim at all about “three-fourths.” That’s just typical of any given church on any Sunday morning. I’m just pointing out that the normalcy isn’t necessarily a good thing.
For three-fourths of the people in the parable, Sunday morning doesn’t last beyond Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday. That makes it pretty normal and pretty scary. But — and here’s what she’s really asking — it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s my main exhortation, and then three minor exhortations. The big, main exhortation is this: Becca, and all the rest of us who share her life, must be sure that the spiritual high that you experience on Sunday is a truth high, not merely a music high or a friend high. Be sure it’s a truth high.
“If you can’t preach to yourself the truths from Sunday, it’s no surprise that the effects of the truths won’t be there either.”
In other words, as you are singing, reading Scripture, or listening to the sermon, make yourself focus on the truth that you are loving. What truths about God, or what truths about Christ and his ways and his work and his promises, are especially stirring your heart with joy and trust and hope?
Then later on Sunday afternoon, perhaps, write these truths down. Keep a notebook — maybe you call it “My Truth-High Notebook.” In it, you would write one or two or three beautiful things about God and his ways that were given you in the service on Sunday morning.
Believe me, I’ve got no problem with emotional highs. I believe in emotional highs — if they’re truth-highs. Got it? If the emotion is rooted in truth, it’s sustainable. If they are not rooted in truth, they are like an air plant, a plant that doesn’t go anywhere. They just hang there. Of course, a normal plant, which ought to have roots, would just not survive in the air.
On Monday morning, if you can’t recite to yourself and preach to yourself in the power of the Spirit the truths from Sunday, it’s no surprise that the effects of the truths won’t be there either. That’s my main exhortation. Be sure that the Sunday morning high is a truth high. Write down those truths, and you can rehearse them to yourself through the week.
Thawing a Cold Heart
Now here are my three minor encouragements for how to nurture the truth high for the sake of significant joy — if not the same Sunday-morning joy — all through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
First, pray for your heart. Pray for the inclination of your heart. Pray for the eyes of your heart. Pray for the taste of your heart. That’s coming from Psalm 119:36 and Ephesians 1:17 and 1 Peter 2:2–3. We are to pray for the inclination, the eyes, and the taste of our heart.
Many people are fatalistic about the state of their hearts, as if there’s nothing that can be done about a numb heart. They say, “Oh, I’ve got a numb heart. Que será, será. I’m cursed with a numb heart.”
No, the Bible presents a very different picture than being fatalistic. It presents an aggressive pursuit of God’s help for the inclination of your heart, for the seeing of your heart, and for the taste of your heart. Don’t settle for anything less than God’s intervention to incline your heart, illumine your heart, and sweeten your heart. That’s God’s work. He does it in answered prayers. So that’s my first subordinate exhortation: pray for your heart.
Ransack the Bible
Second, use a Bible regimen and ransacking — Bible ransacking. Have a regimen of Bible reading every morning, but add to the regimen ransacking. Regimens are essential. I believe they’re essential, but that’s not the only way the to handle the Bible.
“Pray for the inclination of your heart. Pray for the eyes of your heart. Pray for the taste of your heart.”
The Bible is a gold mine. It’s a fountain of life. It’s sweet honey. It’s a mine where you can pick grapes and satisfy your hunger and your thirst. It’s just full of encouragement and steadfastness, but sometimes the regimen we have doesn’t lead us to the places where that happens.
On those mornings, we need to add ransacking to regimen. In other words, flip through the Bible. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Be thinking, “I’ve gotta find a promise.” And you look for something you’ve underlined in years gone by or something that meant much yesterday. You have to ransack this book until you find something sweet and precious and valuable that you can roll around on the tongue of your soul all day long. That’s exhortation number two: add ransacking to regimen.
The last one is replace spiritual squelchers with spiritual sustainers. Becca, you referred to your own spiritual squelchers. You’re not a dummy. You know what they are. You told me what they are. You said, “My brainless media, like social media and movies and TV.” Those are your words, not mine.
Well, if you know where the poison ivy is, don’t walk through it. We’re grown-ups. Replace poison ivy with flowers that smell good and grape vines that hang with sweet grapes. I’ll mention two squelch-avoiding sustainers. One, hang out with godly people. Two, generously give your time and effort to some worthy service. We all know that we tend to pick up the enthusiasms of others, and we all know that it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and blessedness is what we are eager for.
Here’s my summary.
1. Rejoice that corporate worship is unique, special, and glorious. You can’t imitate it on Monday, even if Monday has its own way of being wonderful.
2. Don’t be among the three-fourths who let the word be burned up, choked out, or snatched away.
3. Be sure that the spiritual high Sunday morning is a truth high, not a music high or a social high.
4. Nurture the truth roots by earnestly praying for your heart’s inclination, eyes, and taste.
5. And finally, add Bible ransacking to Bible regimen, and replace squelchers with sustainers.