Saturday, June 30, 2007


"And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."

I recently stumbled upon this wonderful gem of Scripture. I have always loved the OT promises of God that He will make a New Covenant with His people where we will be His people and He will be our God. Ezekiel 36:24-28, Jeremiah 24:7, 31:31-34, 32:39-41 and others. The key theme in all of these OT New Covenant promises is the fact that it is God promising to give us new hearts and new natures that will naturally love and obey Him. Many people, opposed to reformed doctrine, complain that God's sovereignty in salvation would mean that we are all just robots who are being forced to make choices we don't want to make. In these New Covenant promises we are seeing the complete opposite of this complaint; God gives us new hearts so that we will choose Him and love Him of our own free will. He does not make use robots - He simply gives us new natures. With this new nature and inclination we will most certainly choose Him and love Him...but it will be of our own free choice. This is what I was referring to in my last post when I said that God's grace to His elect is irresistible. Just like a leopard can't change his spots and an Ethiopian can't change his skin; so a new heart created by God cannot do anything but love and obey Him. In our sinful state, our heart is incapable of loving Him because it simply cannot do so (Romans 8:7-8). Of course, this does not in any way mean that there won't be struggle between the flesh and the Spirit for a Christian; but the overall direction of his/her heart will simply be of loving God.

But back to Deuteronomy 30:6. Like I said, I have known about the New Covenant promises for a long time. However, I had never seen a verse that pointed so specifically to the fact that God's desire in saving us is not to change our is in fact to create love for Himself in our hearts. Let me repeat that: God's desire in saving us is not to change our behavior but to create love for Himself in our hearts. The other places in Scripture that speak of this New Covenant have language that speaks more of obedience and choices, but this verse clinches it and shows undeniably that God's desire is that we love Him with our whole hearts. Of course, our behaviors will change, but only because we love God with all our hearts. What a wonderful truth! God wants me to love Him. He does not ask me to change myself; He does not ask me to do something I am incapable of doing...He does it for me by giving me a new heart and creating love for Himself in me. In the end, Deuteronomy 30:6 and all of the other New Covenant promises are dealing with the very thing that this blog is about - the affections.

What do I mean by the affections, you might ask? Am I trying to build some kind of crazy emotionalism-based theology where I want people to walk around allowing how they feel to dictate their reality? No, that is not my intention and that is not what I mean by the affections. There are three errant, and equally dangerous extremes that people can fall into: 1. To allow the way one feels to dictate reality - what I mean is that if I feel like God doesn't love me, then that must be true. 2. To live a life seeking an experience or an emotional high and allowing that to become our God instead of Christ Himself 3. To deny the fact that our emotions are a part of who we are and to deny that emotions and feelings are indeed commanded in Scripture everywhere. All three of these extremes are dangerous and will lead to great trouble in our Christian life. In reformed circles, extreme number 3 is the more common one and I have even heard pastors and elders whom I respect utter the age-old heresy: "what do feelings have to do with anything? Feelings are not important."

I will let Jonathan Edwards explain what the affections are because I lack vocabulary to succinctly describe or define this in writing: "The affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul." (The Religious Affections, p.24) There we have it, the affections are nothing more than the "exercises of the inclination and will of the soul." However, it is not a dull and emotionless exercise of the soul - it is vigorous and full of life. The affections include our feelings and emotions, but are not limited solely to those. This is what God is after in our salvation. God circumcises our heart so that we can love Him with all our hearts - this includes our feelings and our emotions. So why does God want our affection?
There are two reasons why God wants our affections: 1. Because He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him 2. Because when we are loving God and filled with joy - we live. I will deal with the first reason in another post. Notice that the end of Deuteronomy 30:6 is the reason why God wants us to love Him - "that you may live." Love for God is life? Yes, it is the very essence of eternal life. Let's take a look at 1 Peter and see if we can't tease this out a little more. This will be my last point for the day.

"Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:8-9

There are really three points regarding the affections to be noted in this text, but I will only deal with one here and save the other two for another post. Notice that love for Jesus and faith in Him results in a joy that is inexpressible in words and filled with glory. You would have to be pretty dull to disregard the clear reference to feeling and emotion in this passage. However, the main point I want to make is that at the end of the passage, it is pointing to the fact that this inexpressible joy is the very thing that was intended by God for you in your salvation. God tells us here that the inexpressible joy that results from believing in Jesus is intended as the very "outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." What? Joy in and love for Jesus is the very point of my faith and is directly linked to the salvation of my soul, you ask? Yes, it is!! Indeed, joy in and love for Jesus is what satisfies us and brings Him tremendous glory. That is the point of our salvation and it is life. At the end of Deuteronomy 30:6 it tells us that God wants us to love Him with all our hearts so that we may live. God is, both in Deuteronomy and in 1 Peter, telling us unequivocally that affections and emotions are an integral part of our salvation and is indeed part of the purpose in our salvation. If you have never experienced an inexpressible joy in Jesus or if you have never loved God with all your heart - the terrible conclusion must be that you have never tasted His saving grace.

I must make the disclaimer that I am not suggesting that if you don't walk around feeling elated all the time that you are not saved. I am simply saying that if you have never experienced the affections as described in these verses - then you have certainly not been saved. Our emotions go up and down in this fallen world - but we are to pursue having the correct emotional responses to the truth of God. As my affections take a down-turn, I must seek the Lord and ask Him to transform my affections so that I may love Him as Deuteronomy and 1 Peter says, so that I may live - this is repentance in a nutshell, but more about that another time.

For now, I ask that we all pursue God and pay close attention to our affection in particular. If your behavior is out of whack with the gospel - it is because your affections are not as they should be. I leave you all with a quotation from another hero of mine, John Piper: "Christ is to be cherished, not just chosen. The alternative is to be cursed." (When I Don't Desire God, pg. 19). We live in a world where everyone speaks of choosing Christ and making a decision for the Lord...very few proclaim the truth that God is not asking you to choose Him. He is asking you to love Him with everything that you are.

Until next time...blessings to you all!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Welcome to my blog on the religious affections!

I was not sure what to call the blog; "The Religious Affections," "Loving God," "Desire for God," etc. To call it "The Religious Affections" is a bit misleading because it brings to mind religion and not Jesus Christ or the life-giving relationship with Him as opposed to cold, legalistic religion. However, in honor of my homeboy, Jonathan Edwards, I decided on the title of his book in the end.

The purpose of this blog is not to argue the finer points of theology. I am making several hermeneutical and theological assumptions here and if you disagree with them, feel free to e-mail me personally, but please do not post your disagreements with these assumptions on this blog.

My assumptions are as follows:

1. The Bible is the inerrant word of God and is profitable for teaching, rebuking and training. (2 Timothy 3:16, Isaiah 55:11, Revelation 22:18-19)

2. Mankind is totally depraved on the whole and incapable, in our sinful state, of choosing, obeying, or even having affections for God. (Romans 3:10-20, 8:7-8, 14:23, John 6:44, 17:6)

3. God, before the foundations of the world, unconditionally elected some for salvation and effectually completes this on their behalf through predestination, calling, justification and glorification. (Romans 8:29-30, 9, Ephesians 1:3-14, 1 Peter 1:2, John 6:44, 17:6)

4. God, purposed in the death of Christ, not only to make a payment for sin as a whole, but also to purchase a particular people (the elect) by purchasing the New Covenant of faith on their behalf. All men are free to respond to the sufficient atonement of Jesus Christ, but only the elect will respond with the necessary faith that was purchased for them. (1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:6, Hebrews 9:15, Titus 2:14, Isaiah 53:11-12, Luke 22:20)

5. God's grace to His elect is irresistible and the Holy Spirit overcomes, perfectly, our resistance to Him. By replacing our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh and putting His Spirit in us, He makes His purposes complete in us by enabling us to choose Him of our own free will. This is only done for the elect and not on the whole for all men. (Deuteronomy 30:6, Ezekiel 36:26, Romans 9:19)

6. God's elect, the saints, will certainly persevere to the end as it is He who began this good work in them and He will see it through to completion. (Philippians 1:6, John 10:28-29)

7. Points 2-6 are true in relation to salvation only. The elect have a responsibility to keep in step with the Spirit, to pursue being filled with the Spirit, respond to God's conviction and leading, and to live a repentant life-style. Sanctification is effected through a mysterious relationship between the choices of the elect and the overarching sovereignty of God. There is a hierarchy of rewards in the Kingdom of God in relation to the faithfulness or lack thereof for every saint. (Philippians 2:12-13, Matthew 16:27, 1 Corinthians 3:14-15, Ephesians 6:8, Revelation 22:12)

Now that we have that out of the way...I will begin work on my first post dealing with the affections.