Beauty-Driven Duty

I’ve mentioned several times in recent sermons how much I’ve been enjoying reading Tony Reinke’s book on John Newton, Newton on the Christian Life: To Live is Christ. It’s part of a series of books published by Crossway entitled, “Theologians on the Christian Life.” (You can order your own copy HERE.) Here is something from that book I thought well worth sharing:

…it’s the beauty in Christ that fuels true obedience in us. Newton expresses this truth in one hymn:

            Our pleasure and our duty,

            Though opposite before,

            Since we have seen his beauty,

            Are join’d to part no more:

            It is our highest pleasure,

            No less than duty’s call,

            To love him beyond measure,

            And serve him with our all.

            Quoting this hymn in a sermon, Timothy Kelly followed it with a question: “What is it that has taken the whipsaw out of John Newton’s life from between pleasure and duty and has brought them together?” Answer “A beauty. In other words, the gospel doesn’t primarily give you a duty; it gives you a beauty,” a beauty, without which, “your duty will be impossible.” In other words, long-term Christian obedience will fail if not fueled by the glorious beauty of Christ in the gospel. Apart from this revelation of glory, the Christian life has no combustion. The tension leaves a tortured life, pitting right duty over and against selfish pleasures, one pulling left and one pulling right. The beauty of Christ brings the two into harmony, rightly aligning into one pursuit our joy in him and our obedience to him. (p.132)