Saturday, March 14, 2009

Repentance and Affections. Connected?

What do repentance and our "Religious Affections" have to do with each other? Can we repent and not have our affections changed? Can we have worldly affections and also have true repentance?

Where do our affections come from? Are our actions guided by something other than our affections? Is being passionate about something the same as having an affection for it? Can we have affections for something w/o having thought about it?

I have just started listening to "The Religious Affections" and was struck by the fact that my affections are really the evidence of whether I am a Christian or not. I know that many of you are saying, "dah", but I'm a little slow.

Jonathan Edwards gives the idea that there is no movement, no working, no motivation to do ANYTHING without affection. If you don't have affection for your work, you will not get up in the morning. The greatest business people in the world have great affections for something that causes them to work long and hard to achieve some product or skill so they can move toward achieving some end. Their thoughts and life are consumed with doing this thing; figuring it out to make it "better" Affections are what cause people to go to any number of crazy lengths to win the heart of another. The motivation for the affections may be difficult to pin point, but it is affection for something is what drive us to do anything.

What about repentance? How is repentance effected by our affections? If our affections are for things that are earthly in nature, there will be no need of repentance in our minds, the starting point of affections, because we will think that our affections are perfectly placed. If a business man thinks that making money, a large portfolio and a gigantic empire is the way to happiness for himself and providing lavishly for his family and friends, then he will go to almost any length to attain that end. But what if his affections were changed to a more eternal perspective on his position? Would/could that have an effect on his affections? Would repentance have anything to do with the new affections?

I believe, and I hope, in a Biblical way, that repentance has much, or maybe everything to do with our affections. Let me ask, "if there is no repentance, how can our affections be well placed on eternal things"? How can one who is blind see the light of the glories of Heaven and then place his affections on something he has not "seen"? If we are not to love this world, neither the things in this world, 1 John 2:15, if we are not to store up for ourselves treasure on earth, Matt. 6:19-20, then how can this happen in our hearts w/o true repentance? Jesus tells us in the next verse in Matt. 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart, or affections, will be also.

To tie this together in a shorter fashion, and combine 2 snow retreat topics together; When we repent and turn away from sin-the world and all that is in the world- and turn toward joy- treasures in Heaven- then our affections are changed. It is not until God changes our affections that they are changed. We will always be desiring what this world has to offer and going after "bigger and better" until He changes our heart which will change our affections.

So how do you know if your affections are well placed? How do you know if you have true "Religious Affections"? The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, but God can and does know it. We must be very careful in our own evaluation of our hearts. We must ask God to reveal our true character and desires, but He will do this for us when we earnestly seek Him.

Ask God to show you where your affections lie. Your affections are the things that you would never want to live without. These are the things that when the "house burns down" you go back in to get. Things you would give your very life for. Some things that could be on your list; kids, spouse, position at work, money, security, looks, clothes, vacations, and the list goes on and on. What are your most valued treasures? What are the things that consume your thoughts every day? If God and His Word are not on THE top of the list, and IN everything on the list, then our affections are not well placed. WE often compartmentalize our lives and say that we had our time with God, "check", and so we go off to do our life without Him in the rest of our day.

If our affections are well placed, God will be supreme above everything on our list and He will be IN everything on our list. So instead of having a business that puts God on top, we can have a business that puts God IN everything. With every decision made, God's wisdom is sought. Instead of having your quiet time and then spending the day with your kids, your time with the Lord extends throughout the entire day, which involves spending time with your kids. This is Christocentric living. Christ is the center and everything revolves around Him. He is in the middle of everything we do.

I hope this makes sense. When our affections are for Christ and His Word first and to the uttermost, then we, by God's grace, are on the right track.


~Kim (and family) said...

This does make sense, Chuck. I have been wanting to read that book for quite some time now. Thanks for a great post.

skh said...

Fantastic summary of Edwards' open of the Affections, and great connection between that and repentance. If we always do what we most want to do, and since we often do things that disregard God or even disobey Him, we have many affections to repent from.