Posts Tagged ‘George Swinnock’

I’m getting older.

Last week I sat at a funeral and pondered the fact that soon we’ll begin burying our parents. I’m on high blood pressure medicine and trying to avoid medicine for cholesterol. The finish line of retirement is getting too close and I don’t have money to retire. I’m close to being too old to change congregations as a pastor. Windows are closing on me. I’m dealing with the fading of the flesh.

I want to see the flourishing of faith in my life. I want the renewal of the inner man as the outer man fades away.

What better book to read on vacation than The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith by George Swinnock. I own the Works of Swinnock, a Puritan, and have read his material on prayer. This is a short reproduction by Reformation Heritage Books.

I didn’t finish it on vacation and it got bogged down in my post-vacation reading surge for a short topical sermon series. But I got through it.

Don’t let that dissuade you from reading the book. That was a me thing, not a it thing.

The basis of this book was a funeral sermon that Swinnock preached. It would be interesting to know how much of this was the sermon, since it is about 170 pages. I usually try to preach a homily, what I call sermons of about 20 minutes or less. CavWife jokes that 20-30 becomes the sermomily and over 30 is a full-blown sermon. This easily could have been one long funeral sermon.

It is broken into two main ideas, as indicated by the title. He wants people to face the futility of life and the “treasures” it offers. He calls people to seek their satisfaction in God as their portion. This is an exposition of Psalm 73:26. Much of it seems to be taken up with the negative, but he keeps coming back to what Piper would call Christian Hedonism in the 1980’s.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

There are chapter titles like: Man’s Flesh will Fail Him, The Folly of Living for the Flesh, Be Prepared to Die, How to Be Prepared to Die. As I said the futility of living for the flesh. Sowing there we will reap nothing by misery & condemnation.

Beginning chapter 9 the focus shifts to: God Is Man’s True Happiness, God Alone Is Sufficient to Man’s Soul, Portion of Sinners and Saints in the World to Come.

The chapters are relatively short allowing for devotional reading. You can work through the book as time permits. If you are like me, you hate stopping mid-chapter. You don’t need a big chunk of time to work through a chapter.

Who cares if it isn’t worth reading? It is worth reading. Even as a Christian for over 30 years, living for the flesh is always an ever-present danger. It changes over time and as you age. You can be preoccupied with health (I joke with some retired folks that going to the doctor is their new job), or retirement or “legacy”. The world still offers distractions from Christ.

We still need reminders of the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ as our portion. This book presses that home in a variety of ways.

I had a few minor quibbles. For instance, Swinnock is critical of Naboth for wanting to hang on to his inheritance. He seemed to take that out of its historical context in which that was part of the portion God provided. The villains of the story are Ahab and Jezebel who coveted his inheritance for themselves and destroyed him as a result. The walk away for that text is not that Naboth should have treasured God and sold his inheritance.

This is a book worth reading to reorient yourself as your flesh fades so God will be the portion you seek.

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