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Posts Tagged ‘Affections’

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)

Paul says this to remind us that what is truly valuable is eternal, and what is eternal is obtained by seeking Christ, His gospel, and His service. This is a truth that Christians are constantly trying to work out in their daily lives. The catch is that while we say that we seek for what is of eternal value, it can be difficult to know whether we truly are storing up treasure in heaven, or if our faith is fair-weather.

I’ve recently been enduring a bit of a trial. I hate to call it a trial: I’ve been been a candidate for a very special job opportunity that has featured extensive planning, preparation, a lot of waiting and several unexpected turns. During the process the opportunity has seemed to slipping away several times, even after apparent victory.

This has given me the chance, by God’s wisdom, to really consider what it was that I’m after. I’ve had the chance to evaluate my affections through the possibility of loss. What I’ve learned is this: Your treasures are revealed by how you react when you lose them.

Trials offer us the chance to inspect our hearts because God strips away earthly treasures in order to focus us on heavenly treasures. Our response to loss reveals what we value.

Speaking of the trials of believers  likely under persecution, Peter says this:

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ… ” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Earthquakes send us scrambling for door frames and away from windows. Hurricanes send us fleeing in our cars or find us holed up in our basements. When floods come we seek for the highest ground. Disaster and trial wipe away pretense and force us to make decisions about what will save us.

James, in his epistle echoes this thought, saying that God uses trials to perfect us (James 1:3). Every Christian would affirm this, but why? Because trials strip us of what is perishing and replaces it with what lasts forever. Paul elucidates:

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8)

Paul reminds us that all of our affections are to be centered on Christ. Personally, this trial has reminded that no earthly circumstances can alter my fundamental goal which is to obtain the surpassing treasure of knowing Him, and seeing my family obtain the same. I know that God can achieve this in my through any variety of channels and I have to remind myself of this when it looks like He might change the channel.

The great thing about this is that no matter what channel God tunes my life to, Christ is the star. Pray that God can help us to see the brilliance of His intentions at every turn, always understanding that loss for the sake of knowing Christ is our eternal gain.

My trial was certainly a light affliction, but the prospect of losing the object of my prayers was cause to ask what I was really praying for.   When all seemed lost I was at peace because God

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Q; What kind of plant grows best after it has been struck by lightning?

A: A Christian?

lightningHuh? Says who? Turns out, God did:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

And in another place:

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12;11)

I love this Hebrews passage because it harmonizes two Biblical truths about suffering and trials:

  1. Trials are good for you.
  2. Trials hurt.

Many Christians fall into an unbalanced view of trials, thinking that they are somehow supposed to be happy when they are suffering. This is to think without regard for the reality of terrible circumstances. I think of Christ in Gethsemane, anticipating the agony of the cross, sweating blood. Christ was not smiling, nor was he fearful. His affect was appropriate to the awful events that were to follow. When Christians suffer, sorrow for pain is appropriate, anger at sin is appropriate, grief over personal loss is appropriate.

I’ve always wondered why so many Christian’s seem to say at funerals that they are happy to have lost a loved one. Yes they have actually gone to be with Christ, but it is OK if you REALLY miss them A LOT!

The ironic thing here is that we don’t grow unless we hurt. Pain makes us evaluate what it is we cling to, and God wants to teach us to cling to Christ. Suffering forces the Christian to see that everything else is vanity, and that we have to look to “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus” (Php 3:8).The more we suffer, the superstock_1728-129amore we can see the foolishness of fixing our affections on things that will pass away. The more we suffer, the more we see that worldly affections can’t even make a return on investment before they pass away. Only by emptying ourselves of ourselves and filling ourselves with Christ (Romans 8:28-30) brings eternal satisfaction. Suffering helps us to see forest for the trees by burning it down, first.

We are to be like trees planted beside the invigorating, life-sustaining waters of God’s Word (Psalm 1), and yet sometime God brings a forest fire to enrich the soil and accelerate our growth. Trials serve not only as a benchmark for growth, but as the catalyst.

Now don’t go sticking your finger in an electrical socket, but don’t shy away from trials either. Harmonize the difficulty with the benefit. Praise God for His wisdom. Make the most out of what God gives you.

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I am finding A.W. Tozer to be very quotable. He has a very pastoral feel to him. That is appropriate because he was a a pastor, I guess. I just finished another one of his books so I thought I’d share some of it with you all:

“Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice…Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least bit affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace, and gain strength by its efforts. To tell the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible conference than in the tavern. our very state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and grow.” (The Pursuit of God)

Here’s another:

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted god’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels.” (The Pursuit of God)

What I really appreciate about Tozer is his concern for the actual experience of Christianity. Many of us book-readin’, doctrine-learnin’ types tend to neglect the role of Christian affections. We are often even afraid or resistant to the emotional side of our faith, but that is not Biblical. true, our Christian affections MUST be governed by what we know FIRST to be TRUE, but the Spirit filled response to Scripture is joy, and Dr. Tozer seems to have a firm handle on this.

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Yes, you read it correctly. In college I majored in psychology with a minor in applied statistics. I originally moved to Nebraska as a graduate student in counseling psychology. Shortly after I was born again, and immediately began seeing the conflicts between the humanism of psychology and the Bible’s testimony about human nature. After a short period of trying to find a way to follow my Biblical convictions and maintain working in my field of training, I decided that as a Christian I had to leave the field entirely.

The place of Christians in the field of psychology is another discussion for another time. I believe that behavioral fields of psychology, while overly complex, do a good job at organizing and describing behavior. Biological fields of psychology, though they reduce man to a sophisticated animal, does a good job of studying the brain and how it works. Really, the main problem with psychology (and a fatal problem at that) is not in describing or even predicting behavior, but in explaining it. Since psychology depends on the basic principle that man is good, all explanations of motive and thought processes must be wrong. Psychology does well with the outside, but fails with the inside because its assumptions about human nature are wrong.

My reason for bringing up my education is this: I have been gaining a much greater understanding lately of how the Bible describes the inner working of the mind. There have been several sources for my increased understanding, such as Jonathan Edwards and my exposure to Puritan thinking. I’ve always seen that while psychological models for behavior are too complex in their human foolishness, the Biblical model is simple.

But what is that model?

In a word (no…three words!): intellect, affections, and will.

Or, as we call them in the Fudge household: the knows-it, the wants-it, and the does-it.

The division of the human mind in this way is implied in Scripture. John MacArthur, in “The Gospel According to the Apostles (Faith Works)” breaks it down beautifully from Hebrews 11. I’ll get back to the subject soon to break it down in greater detail, but in short it goes as follows:

  1. The intellect is the rational mind that assesses things on the basis of truth. Intellect deals in information. Intellect identifies things we know to be right and wrong and submits its opinion to the will. The intellect can be deceived or over-ridden, but is always a participant.
  2. The affections are the emotional element of the mind. Affections respond to the information gathered by the intellect as generate desire or repulsion. Affections also place pressure on the will to seek out or to turn away.
  3. The will is that part of the mind that produces action. The bases its decision on the appeals of the intellect and the affections.

Normally, the intellect informs the affection, and the affections move the will. the intellect tells the Christian that something is sinful, and the affections drive us to avoid that thing.

However, sin short-circuits this process. For example, the intellect may inform the affections that lust is sinful, but the affections sinfully long after that object of lust and motivate the will to pursue the object, and adultery is the result.

This understanding of the mind is invaluable as we seek to mortify sin, especially the MANY ways that sin attempts to interrupt and hijack the process. I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts with you as I seek to understand myself more.

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