“Many hypocrites are like comets that appear for a while with a mighty blaze; but are very unsteady and irregular in their motion (and are therefore called wandering stars, Jude 13), and their blaze soon disappears, and they appear but once in a great while. But the true saints are like the fixed stars, which, though they rise and set, and are often couded, yet are steadfast in their orb, and may truly be said to shine with a constant light. Hypocritical affections are like a violent motion; as that of the air moved with winds (Jude 12), but gracious affects are more a natural motion; like the stream of a river, which, though it has many turns hithers and thither, and may meet with some obstacles, and runs more freely and swiftly in some places than others; yet in the general, with a steady and constant course, tends the same way until it gets to the ocean.”- Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, 300.
“These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”- Jude 12-13.
Comets ignite and flare up as they pass quickly across the sky, to be burned up and extinguished momentarily. Waterless clouds are clouds that boast of water and yet fail to deliver the nourishment and refreshment they promise. Fruitless trees in autumn are passed their fruit bearing season, again not producing the fruit of which they boast. Those that talk of Christ with much emotion and passion and fit this description in Jude are shepherds not concerned with sheep but are self-absorbed and consumed with pride. They are overcome emotionally by the heat and warmth of their own imaginations, only to be cooled quickly by the slightest sign of opposition, suffering, or inconvenience. And yet Christians are steady and steadfast. They do not wander aimlessly through the heavens but are fixed in the cosmos. They are trees that produce fruit. They are shepherds that feed sheep. They are steadfast because they are in the Steadfast One (1 Cor. 15:57-58). They are water-filled clouds because they are filled with Living Water (John 4:13-14). They are trees planted in the Solid Ground (Col. 2:6-7). They are shepherds made so by the Great Shepherd (John 10:11). They are stars fashioned after the Bright, Morning Star Himself (Rev. 22:16). Christians are rivers that meet the ocean. Edward’s words are true. It may take us years. We may twist this way and that. We may flow swiftly in moments and turn into lazy rivers the next, but the destination of a Christian is sure. The vast expanse and beautiful horizon of the Ocean is what we will see when all is said and done. We cannot mistake emotionalism, passion, or intensity as markers of true discipleship. Though disciples certainly exhibit these at times, what marks them out above all things is constancy and endurance. As Christians, we must endure. Let us fix our eyes on the Enduring One who will not fail us, who will bring to completion in us all that He has started.
*I like this picture because of the trash in the bank. If we are, indeed, streams headed for the sea, then our banks are bound to be trash filled at times, ugly and at times uninspiring. But just look in the distance! There is no more trash there, no more waste, just a vast expanse of beauty.