Godly Affections

The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.

 

C.S. Lewis once wrote in his book A Mind Awake, “If I find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. In other words, if there is anything in this world that satisfies my soul, it is proof I am not destined for heaven…yet. We were not made for this world. Therefore nothing should satisfy me about it. For example,

  • If you look forward to Friday night movies more than Sunday morning worship services, your affections are in the wrong place.
  • If you would rather read the latest entry on a friend’s blog or Facebook page than read God’s word, your affections are in the wrong place.
  • If you get more get more excited about putting on trendy clothes when you get home than putting on righteousness, your affections are in the wrong place.

Why? Because Paul says, “… Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20). We were not made for this world and the Christian waits not for the newest, latest, trendiest most exciting movie, song, iPhone or text message; he has only one thing he can’t wait for: heaven.

So is there anything we can look at in our soul that unveils our true focus and anticipation? Answer: the affections.

The word “affection”, I admit, is a strange word because today “affection” does not mean what it used to. We think of affections as something we are “attached to,” which is Webster’s definition. We say it is something we really like and aren’t afraid to show some physical expression. You have your own examples; we devote our energies and attention to things, stuff, etc. We show affection towards people, things and pets.

The problem: these are earthly affections and they don’t prepare us for a heavenly home. The world has nothing for us…nothing. Why? Earthly affections are temporary.

 What is a religious affection?

In the Great Awakening, the greatest American theologian Jonathan Edwards was used of God to address the concern people had become spurious in their faith. Their faith lacked any spiritual punch. They said but they didn’t do; their hearts were far from God. People believed that profession of faith = genuine salvation. Edwards was concerned that Satan was gaining a foothold in early America by counterfeiting salvations. He saw people making professions with no meaning.

Rev. Philemon Robbins – another pastor at this time – didn’t agree with Edwards confronting Christianity. He countered by saying, “The only real evidence of true salvation is an inward feeling based on an experience.” In other words, if we have a salvation experience, we are saved. Edwards says, “No, it is based on a life of manifesting righteousness. It is only based on fruits we bear.”

What is religious affection? Religious affections are godly emotions that include our values, passions and wills. Religious affections are godly passions; they are passions of and for righteousness. Religious affection is godly zeal for holiness. They are who you and God (and maybe only you and God) know you to be. We all have affections but we don’t all have religious affections.

The leader of the apostles, Peter, wrote in his 1st Epistle, “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (I Pet 1:8). In other words, Peter is describing the affections of a genuine believer. He has his affections on Christ alone. His affections are “inexpressible” and glorious.

 Why should I be concerned about my affections?

First, affections are not optional. It’s not a smorgasbord where you pick and choose which desires and affections you want to consume you. God expects our affections to be upon Him always, with no exception. When we become believers, your affections are supposed to change and if they don’t, you need to question your salvation (Col 3:1-2).

Second, affections are not merely emotions. We can’t trust high emotional fervor as true conversion; not putting on a show; emotions are not evidence of grace.

Third, being religious does not mean we have godly affections. Eagerness to be externally religious is not evidence of salvation. Just ask the Pharisees.

What should I do if I don’t have my affections in the right place?

If I am not “affectionate” for the right things, what should I do? John Piper’s advice in the book The Dangerous Duty of Delight is three-fold: 

  1. Confess the sin of joylessness (Ps 61:2). He understood that when there was not joy in his life He went to the Mt. Sinai of affections: God. What types of activities are you involved with or people you are surrounding that are keeping you from religious affections? Get rid of them…all of them!
  2. Pray God would restore the joy of obedience (Ps 40:8). If you are lacking, ask God. C.S. Lewis gave us the following insight in his book Mere Christianity – “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. “
  3. Follow Jesus. Edwards – “Scripture places religion in the affections, true religion is summed up in love, the religion of the most notable saints in Scripture consisted in the affections, the religion of heaven consists in the affections, and the Lord Jesus was a tender and affectionate person.”
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