It’s a small book written by the 17th century Puritan Pastor Thomas Goodwin…Yes that’s right “Puritan”. But don’t let ideas of solemn men dressed in black put you off! Goodwin’s reason for writing this book was to convince Christians about how Jesus feels towards us. He aimed to show that the gloriously ascended Jesus feels no less love towards sinners on earth now than he did while amongst his disciples, and that the Bible contains many proofs that should encourage and gladden the sin-burdened Christian.
To do this he walks us through the Bible demonstrating through Jesus’ own words, and the teaching of his apostles, how deeply Christ loves us, how readily he welcomes us to himself, and how he longs to return for his bride the church!
Doesn’t that sound like a great read?!
Now it’s taken me a few months to get round to reading it – in fact it took me getting ill with the flu to make a concerted effort to begin, as I knew the dated language might be a challenge, but I’m so glad I started! In fact, I’ve gotten used to the language, and it has been helpfully edited with notes here and there to explain old-fashioned terms. (I’m sure my vocabulary is benefitting too!)
Here is a taster for you of some of its delights:
A Sure Servant
In Part 1 Goodwin takes us through John 13, showing us that as Jesus washes the disciples feet he demonstrates not only their need, and his gift on the cross, but also that despite his great power, and anticipation of his quickly approaching glory, he loves them and serves them absolutely.
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end…
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel round his waist.
He points out that John tells us Christ “loved them to the end” and that it is his knowledge of his approaching death, resurrection, and ascension that prompts him in this act of love that will stay in the minds of his disciples forever. One of Goodwin’s reasons for highlighting this is to assure us that Jesus still loves us although he has returned to his throne, his attitude has not changed, and his love has not cooled.
(Forgive my clumsy summary – he writes on this fully and carefully!)
A Loving Bridegroom
Goodwin also demonstrates how Jesus Christ will one day again serve his people – at his own wedding feast! (Luke 12:36)
And in Ephesians 5 he shows us how Christ is the one to wash his church and make her beautiful, presenting her as his radiant wife. He gave himself up for her, and he will not abandon her, or wait for her to purify herself, but beautify her!
Another key passage that Goodwin uses to encourage is John 17, using it to explain Christ’s heart towards believers as he prays to his Father for them.
I was also really moved by his reminder that Christ returns himself for his bride, he doesn’t send a servant as he might, reigning in his glorious perfection, but longs to return for his people! (See John 14)
These are just a few of the comforting truths that Goodwin expounds from scripture, and I’m only half way through the book!
It’s easy not to notice our hearts growing cold, and the doubts creeping in as we wrestle with sin and suffering. Does Jesus really love me? He feels so distant. How can he forgive me when I’ve done X, Y or Z?
The Heart of Christ is a worthwhile read, especially if like me you are new to Puritan literature! It has filled me with a new gratitude to Christ, and a greater joy and assurance of his love, straight out of the pages of the Bible!
Praise God for sending Christ Jesus – the servant king, the rescuer, the bridegroom.