“On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.” John Owen
“The things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” These words from the timeless hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” should be at the forefront of every Christian’s minds. It also correlates very well with the quote from John Owen above.
When we see the beauty, the glory, and the grace of Christ, the “painted beauties of this world” will fade into nothingness—they will grow “strangely dim.”
In this article, I want to speak to the biblical notion of how Jesus, in his majestic glory as the ascended Son of God, makes the world look “blah.” In an age when we’re enticed by the simplest thing, we need to revert our eyes back to the glorious splendor of the risen Christ, that our taste for the world will grow bitter.
Impossible to Enjoy?
In the last sentence of Owen’s quote, he says that when we fix all our thoughts on Christ, the world will be impossible to enjoy. What does he mean here, exactly? Is he saying we can’t enjoy things that are in this world? Certainly not, as it’s quite true that Christians can enjoy many things on earth.
What Owen was doing here, in context, is making a comparison between Christ and the world. He’s not saying it’s impossible to enjoy things in the world—food, sex, entertainment, etc.—he’s saying that, when compared to the eternal glory of Jesus Christ, the things of this world seem impossible to enjoy, that is, their appeal grows faint.
One of the things God wants us to do in this life is enjoy his gifts. He has created things for us to use for their proper purpose. This is His common grace—grace that extends to both believers and unbelievers. We find common grace in a juicy steak or a beautiful sunset. You don’t have to know Christ intimately to enjoy those.
Yes, we can and will enjoy gifts in life. But yes, when we compare those gifts to the Giver—oh my, they fade away like Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals.
Crucified to the World
Jesus’s crucifixion was gruesome. It was horrific. When Owen calls for Christians to be crucified to this world, he’s saying we should become dead to this world. Dead to this world and alive to Christ. “Do not be conformed to this world,” Romans 12:2 states, “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that…” We’re not called to not enjoy the world, but look at the world in a way that’s different from everybody else.
There’s one big reason why we are called to look at the world differently, and that reason is this: sin. Sin has distorted everything. Everything you see—even yourself—has been distorted by sin. So we know, as Christians, that good things can become bad things very quickly. That might be because the entertainment uses it for sinful purposes or because we know our own hearts are prone to succumb to temptation.
Glory of Christ
The Giver of all gifts is surely more appetizing to the eye than the actual gifts. But many have their spiritual eyesight distorted and find more pleasure in the gifts rather than the Giver. The glory of Christ is supreme, and Christians believe this with all our might! Let us continually fixate our gaze on the glories of Christ so that our infatuation with the things of this world will become putrid.
Christ is surely worth it.