We make a lot of all the distractions that come with life in the modern, always-on, electronic world. And certainly it can be hard to have minds that remain focused for any significant stretch of time before the next beep, the next buzz, the next little burst of dopamine. Yet we do not need to look far into the annals of church history to find that distraction—and especially the kind of distraction that keeps us from being spiritually minded—has always been a challenge and that God’s people have always had to take action against it.
Centuries ago, John Owen wrote a book about issues like this. The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded is not one of his better-known works, though perhaps it should be. But there is a legitimate concern when it comes to reading it today: while Owen’s works were never particularly easy to read, the intervening years have made them harder still. Some of his language has become antiquated and many of his illustrations have become opaque. Thankfully, Kris Lundgaard has done us a service by bringing the best of Owen’s old work into modern times in The Devoted Mind. This is the third time Lungaard has done this with Owen’s books, with the others being The Enemy Within and The Glorious Christ (the first two of which have just been reprinted so the trio now has a consistent and contemporary cover design).
This is not a line-by-line paraphrase of the original work as much as it’s a thematic update or modernization. Lundgaard represents the content of the book under three dominant themes or motifs—the devoted mind, the seeking of God’s face, and the Beloved. By devoted he means a mind that has been set apart to the Lord and given over to him and his service. By seeking God’s face he refers to the pursuit of God’s intimate presence and to the sense of closeness or personal knowledge we can have of God in which we experience a deep assurance of his love and acceptance. And by the Beloved he refers to our Triune God—the one who is the object of the devoted mind and the one whose face or presence we most earnestly seek.
The book, then, traces those motifs in order. “This book,” he says “is about what it means to be spiritually minded, how we grow in spiritual mindedness, and what fruit of spiritual mindedness we can expect to enjoy.” Much of the teaching involves three related and progressive acts of devotion—contemplating God with the mind which then leads to an inclination toward him and a satisfaction in him. And to foster that kind of labor—and, make no mistake, there is labor involved—Lundgaard includes an extensive section at the end of each chapter meant to promote reflection and praxis. Those who really wish to grow in their devotion will want to linger on this section for it “isn’t a set of exercises for overachievers; it’s meant to guide the real mind-work and heart-work of consolidating the ideas of the chapter where they must be consolidated: in our prayers and meditations, in our worship and conversation, in our contemplation of God and communion with Christ.”
The purpose of Owen’s book, and therefore the purpose of Lundgaard’s, is to draw our attention to the Beloved—to the triune God. It is to draw our attention to him not so we can admire him from a safe and comfortable distance, but so we can truly draw near to him. That practice, and therefore this book, will take some effort, but it is effort that will be richly rewarded.Buy from Amazon