Jonathan Edwards, the extraordinary evangelist of the Great Awakening, wrote the classic book A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections in 1746. This amazing manuscript instructs how the presence of “True Christian Affections” in the life of a Christian will lead him to do God’s work and live holy. This lifestyle is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who enables the believer to love the things of God. Edwards describes “Christian Affection” as the love true believers have for God. Essentially, Christian affections are necessary characteristics for effectiveness in the ministry. This can be observed in the gifts of teaching, preaching and evangelism, which are all designed to work against sinful issues in society.
Thus, Christians cannot be ashamed or fearful to address all sinful issues with the Word of God. For in Scripture is the power to influence change in a hostile world. In 2017, Christians are better equipped to present the Gospel than any time in history. The scholarly training in our seminaries and the availability of the Gospel on the information highway makes this possible.
The apostle Paul, in Romans 12:1-3, exemplifies his Christian affections by beseeching other Christians to surrender all to God. For example, he pleads for Christians who love the Lord to present their bodies as living sacrifices. He begs them to be transformed from this world by renewing their minds. He entreats them to try God’s will for their lives so they will know His good and right plan. Each of the above invitations is present in every believer’s pursuit for Christian affections. Loving God and mankind is the highest aspect of having Christian affections. In serving humanity, Christians show their love for God, and the Lord responds by strengthening His followers to live holy among sinful people. While living amid worldly chaos, Christians are called to live by the moral standards set by God as a witness to our fallen society.
When considering all the troubles and evil in this world, the Christian has his work cut out. Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a recent interview on a popular cable news station, said, “I have never seen the world so messed up.” Her statement was in response to the political climate and its residuals across this country. Followers of Christ also find it challenging to remain committed to godly principles in this world’s system. John, the beloved disciple, reminds us to love God enough that we let go of the things of this world:
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
In other words, John is saying we must renew our minds with Christian affections and live with a Christian worldview. Make Jesus the reason for all your commitments, or you will soon find yourself out on a tree limb with it being cut off behind. Why is the world impacting the church more than the church is influencing the world?
Marvin Gaye, a popular rhythm and blues and soul singer from the 1960s through the ‘80s, asked this question in a song: “What’s going on?” The answer to his question was the problematic social issues of 1971. In 2017, the world is a very confusing and evil place. This irreligious society, at times, takes us through things we will never understand. For example, officiating funerals for 15- and 16-year-old Christian boys killed by gun violence on consecutive weekends. They were so young, and now they are gone—too quickly. In tragedies like these, Christian affections are important for healing. The power of love can heal and sustain amidst every emotional trauma created by a hostile culture.
What will happen next, no one knows but God. The warning is given by our Lord to watch for an increase in worldly troubles during the last days. In each of life’s disappointments, Christians have a teacher and comforter in the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). The Spirit must give the Christian wisdom to overcome the perplexing social issues of our world, such as:
- The depraved nature of humanity in world events creating wars of terrorism.
- Our police killing people for trivial reasons, and people killing the police in fear and anger.
- Too few ministries to reach the lost for Christ behind prison doors.
- Racism hidden in the hearts of confessing “Christians” across America on Sunday mornings in segregated churches.
- The LGBTQ agenda defended by almost every industry in America, which has opened the doors for gender-neutral bathrooms.
- Mothers aborting their babies in the womb at an all-time high.
Where is the impact of Christianity amid these issues? There is something missing when the world is so far removed from living by Christian principles.
This generation is watching the church and world go in the wrong direction. In like manner, many Christian believers have put their Bibles in the top drawer and embraced the ways of the world in despair. Others have lost their love for God and the principles of His Word. Nevertheless, Christian affections in churches can change the pulpit and the pew, which has become inundated with Christians who are not living by the Word of God. A love for God to stand against sin will bring revival to Christianity, which seems to have lost its purpose and witness. The Lord Jesus would have the church function in love and as a called-out body of baptized believers with the mission of evangelizing lost sinners for Christ. The objective is for Christian conversions to deliver new converts and the Holy Spirit to keep mature believers from the sinful issues that trouble their lives. In this age, we are observing too many Christians who live as if they are not free from sin.
What is the problem? Is the difficulty in converting lives with the message or the messenger? Maybe the issue is in the unsaved hearts and ears of those listening in the pew? Perhaps the problem is in the heart of the preacher who has a fear of delivering a fire and brimstone message that convicts of sin? Is it feasible the solution can be found in both the preacher and the pew, which must be in touch with the Holy Spirit by loving God enough to do His will?
One job of the Holy Spirit is to keep God’s people from failure in sin and ministry. The Bible promises the Holy Spirit will keep believers until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); the Spirit now lives in our hearts. If God does not keep us, we cannot keep ourselves. So, let us cry:
Come, Holy Spirit. Fall afresh on us. Fill us with your power. Satisfy our need. Pour it out, Lord. Pour it out, Lord, that we might have Christian affections and we will say, “Yes, yes, yes.”