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Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
| Love, Affection, and Introspective Honesty
|Paul wrote his epistle to the church at Ephesus during his first imprisoned at Rome. The sufferings Paul had no choice but to endure as a prisoner (shame, deprivation, importunity, etc.) he did so without complaint, drawing strength and power from the certainty that the same God who, through His own manifold wisdom brought to fruition all that His own eternal purpose had intended for Christ, would by no means be absent in Paul's own suffering. Paul supplies this certainty in God's provision as the primary encouragement; as the very strength and power that he desires to see in their inner being, described by Paul as being rooted and grounded in the love with which Christ Himself loves them, even as Paul himself is grounded in the same. We see that in the third chapter of Paul's epistle to the church at Ephesus.
Paul tells us in Romans 5:5 that, "...God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." In 2 Corinthians 5:14, He describes this same love (Christ's love) as that which provoked him to share the gospel. The apostle John speaks of this love in 1 John 4:16a when he says that, "we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us... " - it is this love that John ascribes as the source of our own love, "we love because He first loved us." (c.f. 1 John 4:19). John goes on to announce that if we do not love our brother it is because God's love is not in us. Jude likewise exhorts us to "keep ourselves in the love of God" - meaning, I believe, that we are to continue in the certainty that God loves us.
It seems clear, even from the few verses I have used to introduce the topic at hand, that our certainty that God loves us is of critical import to our Christian walk. If we are to walk in love, whose love are we to walk in? If we are to love God and our neighbor, what is that love supposed to look like.
Love seems to be a very important part of the Christian faith, but how many of us stop to ask ourselves if our understanding of love is the same as that love which scripture describes?
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul does not describe love as an emotion or an affection; he describes love instead, and I am paraphrasing here: as the polar opposite of selfishness.
I would like to use that thought as the introduction proper to this post. In recent years I have become concerned that some in the church are understanding the love that we are to have for one another, and for God, primarily in terms of affection, rather than in terms of a selfless regard for both God.
Paul encourages us in the twelfth chapter of Romans to, "let love be genuine" while Christ instructs us in Luke 6 to "love our enemies." If the notion of affection is guiding our understanding of what the bible calls us to do, we are left to conclude that unless we have a genuine affection for our enemies, we are being disobedient Christians.
I don't mind feeling guilty about sins I am actually committing, but I don't want to feel guilty if I don't have an affection for my enemies, or again, if I don't have an affection for every person I meet, Christian or otherwise.
In the parable of the good Samaritan, a parable Christ told to illustrate what loving your neighbor looks like, the Samaritan is described as moved by compassion, not affection, it isn't that the Samaritan likes the wounded man, or that he builds up some affection for him in order to be moved by that affection into an attitude of compassion - it is that he is moved by a godly compassion to provide for this man for whom he has no affection.
To miss that point, is to miss something very important. So bear with me as I pursue another angle, that perhaps by doing so the thought I am addressing might have more of a foundation in your understanding.
The last statistic I read suggested that on average about 108 people die every minute. In the time you have been reading this, it may be that hundreds of people have died. Why aren't you weeping over them? We both know why, it is because you did not know them. Yet if you have lived long enough, it is certain that some person you did know died, but because you were not close to that person, you likewise did not feel any emotional attachment to them. Why? Because you had no investment in that person.
In my own life people I have known for years, but who have lived only in the periphery of my day to day life, have perished and I have been shocked and concerned when their death produced no great reaction in my soul - and yet to hear of some stranger on the other side of the earth, some little child somewhere who died a horrible death - my soul writhes in empathic loss, for I have little ones of my own, and my investment in them is so profound it spills over into every other helpless child on earth. How is it that I can feel no remorse at the death of an acquaintance I have talked to several times over the years, but be moved to tears at some tragic news concerning someone else's child whom I have never met?
The reason is that I feel remorse in proportion to the investment I have poured into these people. No investment, no remorse. So profound is this investment that it spills over into others whom I am not invested in, if something about them can remind me of someone I am invested in.
Do you see what is going on? I will explain it, but frankly, it is an ugly truth that some may be inclined to deny because they are unwilling or unable to shine the naked light of introspection with an honest arm into the dark recesses of their own motives and innermost being. I say, some people don't know what it means to be a sinner - they think they are just good people who do bad things, and with that mindset, what we are about to explore will be incomprehensible and even reprehensible to them.
The affection that I have for anyone, is at its very core, self serving. I truly h-a-t-e that about myself. I wish I didn't know this was true, I wish on the one hand that I were still deluded about who I truly am without Christ, but there it is - even the noblest thing about me - my genuine affection for my wife, and for my children, for all those grand things I love - even my love for Christ (!) - is self serving at its core.
How I loathed myself the day that this door in my understanding was opened - I remember I was in prayer, and crying out to the Lord to open my understanding, to let me see my sin unveiled by my ignorance, open and honest, to see it as my Lord sees it, and immediately an understanding of who I truly was began to pour into my being - and where a second ago I had been crying out for this understanding, now I was begging the Lord to close this same door - I could not bear to see myself. Two seconds earlier I was a man on his knees in earnest prayer, in this second, I couldn't swallow for the tremors that had overtaken me - and the tears came like a flood - not tears of sorrow - but a flood of despair. It came and went in no more than a heart beat but trembling there in silence, I leaped back to my feet, afraid to pray another word.
I don't play that up to make myself sound special - I mention it because that's what happened, and ever since then I have had no illusions about how "good" I am. I can say without hesitation that in me, no good thing dwells. But more than this, I can say that I know for myself, that every affection regardless of who that affection is pointing at - is ultimately a self serving thing. I have an affection because somewhere within me, I am unconsciously cherishing the things that I think are of the greatest benefit to me. I am invested in people insofar as I see a benefit to being thus invested -and I remain aloof where I fail to find any personal benefit.
I am describing , of course, my "old man" (as Paul would say it). I am describing that which is in bondage to sin through death - that which is absent of the life of Christ. Do not marvel that my "old man's" affection for Jesus is self serving. My old man desires to avoid God's wrath, and so driven by self preservation, it sees great benefit in pursuing Christ. Thank God that this is not the love upon which my faith rests.
My faith rests upon Christ's love for me. It rests upon the certainty that my sovereign God is presently at work in me. I know that Christ loves the father, and that I, as a partaker of Christ's Spirit, share in that love - that unlike my love, which is self serving, His love serves others. Unlike my love which is lacking for all but those whom I think will benefit me most, Christ's love is uniform, unchanging, and independant of person.
Here is where this post comes together. The love with which I love others, is supposed to be Christ's love, and not my own affection. If I do not understand the difference, I will feel like a hypocrite and a fake every time I do something that isn't born of a deep affection for others.
Do you see the danger then? If I think that God is calling me to foster affection for others, I will wait for these affections to show up before I love others - and when I do love others, it won't be Christ living in me, it will be me trying to make Christ live in me by doing for Him what, in reality, He has already done for me.
I shake my head at those Christians who linger long at the milk when they ought already to be eating steak. Do you want to live for Christ? You cannot do so until you have no confidence in the flesh whatsoever, and are utterly convinced of God's work in yourself. Only then are you able to step in faith into whatever the Lord sets in your path, but more than this - as you embark on a walk that is by faith, and not by personal merit in any aspect of your walk - you will begin to see that Christ truly is all and in all. You will draw closer to Him, not in a touchy feely way, but in a faith that is learning to rest on truth (and reaping the peace that comes with that) sort of way.
Finally, do not judge yourself or others according to appearances. Love doesn't always look the way you think it is supposed to look. It isn't necessarily social, nor is it necessarily distant - it is expressed best as that sort of selfless service that is rendered impartially to all, wherever (in all sobriety) circumstances make it appropriate to do so. Read again 1 Corinthians 13, and see if this isn't so.
posted by Daniel @
The verse in which Isaiah cries out "Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips!" leaps to mind - a prophet so close to God aware of his own lack and sinfulness.
A similar experience to yours happened to me once when I implored God to reveal the depth of my own sin, and within a short time I got very sick. It's not pretty, but I'll not soon forget seeing the vomit and likening the wretchedness of it to the ugliness of sin. It may sound strange or gross here in the printed word, but the reality of it made an impression on me.
Recently it's come to my attention how afraid people (myself included) who are (or claim to be) Christians don't credit Jesus as the One Who changes lives and their souls, granting true life, but instead credit Christianity or faith or something other than His Name. This may sound to be tangential, but I think it's at the heart of what you're saying.
Christ alone gives this love of which you write. And only He can impart the love into us and reveal Truth that effects real change.
Another verse that leaps to mind after reading your post is "He who is forgiven little loves little."
Anon, I had actually used that verse (Luke 7:47 - the one who is forgiven little, the same loves little) in my original draft, but I found in order to apply it, I had to expound what was meant by it - which while easy to summarize, struck me as a bit over the top, and perhaps worthy of its own post.
The one who is persuaded that his own efforts are producing spiritual dividends doesn't understand his own depravity, and in the zeal of this ignorance will attempt to press himself into the mold of a Christian in his own strength; either wearing himself out in failure, or flatter himself into thinking his own efforts, however empty are nevertheless productive.
The one who understands his own depravity, doesn't set about trying to cure it, nor does he ignore it. He isn't trying to make himself acceptable to God, but rests in Christ, knowing he is forgiven. He sees therefore a real and present danger in mixing his own fallen affections with the affections of Christ, but searches his own motive in all that he does to ensure that what he does is not done to purchase God's favor, but is done because Christ within Him desires it.
The one who is "forgiven much" is the one who has learned that there is nothing in himself to commend him to God, and who therefore is less inclined to "make up the difference" through the sort of empty personal effort that characterizes immature faith. This one, having grabbed hold of the truth that Christ is in him, will rest from his own works and enter into Christ's work, which is characterized by genuine love - not the affection, but putting others before yourself. Not the obliteration of personhood as some imagine, but rather the redemption of personhood - whereby we begin to walk in love as God intended, and this in the personalities that makde up our identity apart from our fallen nature.
I think that is an important thing, but it is also a meaty thing, and desiring not to give my readers too much indigestion, I decided to save it for another time.
Thanks for the comment.
Daniel, I would love to read sometime a post from you on the Christian struggle that some of us have: continually aware of our own lack and sin - not fully resting in Christ - trusting His work and His saving grace, but not resting in it. If that makes sense.
In other words, I believe I trust Christ fully for what only He can accomplish. Likewise, trusting in His righteousness alone as imputed to me for justification and His ongoing work in me to sanctify me as I submit to His Spirit.
So why do I still experience restlessness? Sometimes I struggle with understanding Scripture - such as recently with Matthew 5:20 and 11:11, both of which have Christ speaking of righteousness and/or greatness as it applied to certain men (Pharisees on the one hand, John the Baptist on the other) and unless the audience (including us) were as righteous than the Pharisees, they would in no way enter the kingdom of heaven. Or in the case of John the Baptist, the least in the kindgom of heaven is greater than he.
These statements of Christ's sound similar in a certain regard, yet there are a few differences I can slightly discern. In the case of John, perhaps it is a statement of difference regarding eras (pre-incarnation versus post-ascention) or of men on earth vs spiritual kingdom realities. In the Pharisees case, it may be a statement regarding there is no one but Christ who is ultimately righteous enough to save. Yet both verses strike a similar chord to me.
When I read words of Christ and seek but still struggle with understanding, therein lies my restlessness.
Thinking more on this, a few thoughts crossed my mind. While I agree with the gist of your post - that is, our fleshly love and contemporary definition or understanding of same is self-driven, even non-believers who aren't parents have a sense of compassion for children in third world countries when they see images of them in advertisements or read news stories of tragedies.
I think that even while this reality is true - that of people who are neither believers nor parents, having a sense of compassion for unrelated children - it demonstrates a worldly humanity or humanism.
That said, this is still part of our fleshly earthly nature even in believers. We feel compassion with emphasis on the prefix "com-" meaning "with"; We feel a "likeness" with them.
And on that same thought, I have heard before that love is an action, not a feeling, yet I think this too is short-sighted. Love is also a feeling, not in the worldly sense portrayed in movies, but in the sense that our feelings are not necessarily out of place. They too are given to us by God, yet often misplaced or not submitted to the Spirit.
Just like the Bible says, Be angry, but do not sin. Anger iss an emotion - much as love, but an emotion that in the believer needs to be driven or submitted as like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, with always the reminder that we love because He first loved us.
It's impossible to truly love without the Spirit of God.
Anon (1) - So why do I still experience restlessness?
Matthew 5:20 tells us that the scribes and the Pharisees were, contrary to popular opinion at the time, not righteous. They had become masters at giving the appearance of righteousness (the outside of their cup looked clean), but inside they were corrupt, that is, all their (seeming) righteousnesses were as filthy rags to God. The righteousness that surpasses this is not our own, but is in us through Christ (it is His righteousness).
Matthew 11:11 hinges on what we understand the kingdom of heaven to be. John the Baptist was certainly saved (under the old covenant economy), but was not alive when the New Covenant came into effect. The New Covenant brought better promises. John the baptist was second to none under the old testament economy, but for all that, he possessed less than the least of the New Covenant saints who were indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and possessed of the full revelation of God through the words of the Apostles. John was great in every way a man could be great under the old covenant, but the least saint in the New Covenant possesses more than he did.
However personally righteous Abraham might have been, his personal righteousness could not wipe awe the stain of his sins, however minute they might seem to us today. It was his faith by which he was accounted righteous, and so we see a distinction between that which is personal and imperfect, and that which is by faith, perfect and imputed. Our fellowship with God depends on the former, while our relationship with him the latter.
I find that I am only restless when I mix those two up.
Anon (2) - "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
One can go through all the external motions that love would produce, without possessing love - and doing so gains the one who does it nothing.
In the same way, one can act entirely in the love that God supplies without drawing it from the well of their own emotions/affections.
Our emotions are as corrupt as the rest of us, which is why we must regard even our own emotions as something not to be relied upon, but rather something which must, along with the rest of us, submit to the yoke of Christ. A good and right emotion is a blessing from God - but our emotions are intended to punctuate our reality, not direct it - which is where some people mess up. They think that our affections are given to guide and direct us, to provoke us, and to motivate us. That’s all fine sounding when we are talking about compassion and feeding the poor, or giving of ourselves to others, but how it falls apart when we talk of greed, or lust, or of hate.
You make a fitting point in reminding us that emotion itself is not a sin, but that it can lead to sin - anger or indifference, love or empathy, all can lead us to sin. How many underage teens engage in sin because they are “in love”?
Anyway - good points, thanks.
First of all, thank you very much for entertaining my thoughts on the verses in Matthew.
I'm going to have to chew on your first response re: Matt 5:20 and 11:11 for awhile. I appreciate the clarification between the two texts. I had read elsewhere of 11:11 referring to two different eras (covenantal times).
While I understand it intellectually, I am reminded of a long-time sadness I feel for those who were under the Old Covenant. Today, we know too well the struggle of flesh and Spirit in ourselves as believers and how Paul describes the battle; It grabs my heart therefore to imagine what it must have been like for "believers" looking forward to Christ without the aid of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I don't know how they managed. When I queried a former pastor of mine about it, he remarked, "Don't feel sorry for them. They were just sinners like the rest of us." It left me unsatisfied and still saddened for those of faith at that time.
Re: Matthew 5:20 specifically, you write: "the scribes and the Pharisees were, contrary to popular opinion at the time, not righteous." True, but if it were contrary to public opinion at the time, how might that have been received by the original audience? In other words, does it make sense to the hearers of that day? Most people, I presume, would have thought "I can't do that. How can one exceed their righteousness?"
Ahhh, perhaps the lightbulb just went off. Perhaps it was a way to illustrate that, not unlike the 613 commandments (and the Ten Commandments), no one can keep them all. It was another way of illustrating their own lack and need of a Savior.
Sometimes I get stuck on words of Christ's and why He phrased things the way He did. I ponder then if these things are hidden from me, but I tend not to go too far down that path because I know the Lord never leaves me alone. He continually is changing me as I submit to His Lordship. His Spirit has illumined the Word for me over the past decade, although when I find myself scratching my head over a particular text, I can't rest until I gain understanding.
You wrote: "Our fellowship with God depends on the former, while our relationship with him the latter. I find that I am only restless when I mix those two up."
With respect to the former (and the latter), you wrote "It was his faith by which he was accounted righteous, and so we see a distinction between that which is personal and imperfect, and that which is by faith, perfect and imputed."
I don't understand. What is the "former" that our fellowship depends on? It can't be the personal and imperfect, for how do we understand fellowship?
Even with respect to the latter - a relationship with God - well, even unbelievers have a "relationship" with God, albeit one of His wrath upon them. I understand what you mean perhaps by a relationship with God - that is, a justified position that allows for interaction with Him and frees us to serve Him in a pleasing manner under His grace and mercy.
But I don't understand the first part with respect to how fellowship depends on the former (that which is personal and imperfect). What is the former exactly and how does fellowship with God depend on it?
Are you saying perhaps that the way we are uniquely created in our personalities and intangible elements that define each individual person is how our fellowship with Him is defined or structured?
It is only when a believer is walking currently acting in obedience to God, that is, only when a believer is submitted to the Holy Spirt (ie:"walking in the Spirit") that the believer is having "fellowship" with God. When a believer obeys his own desires (walks "carnally") that believer is not in "fellowship" with God. His relationship with God hasn't changed in that God is not suddenly his enemy or such, but rather he, by setting God aside to pursue some personal agenda, cannot be said to be in fellowship with God.
The word fellowship, as I am using it, describes being in the Spirit, or being actively humbled in our obedience to God. It isn't a one-time thing, we can be in the Spirit one minute, and in the flesh the next. When we are in the Spirit we are in fellowship, and when we are in the flesh we are not in fellowship.
This has nothing to do with our eternal standing, or with the grace God extends to us as sons (and daughters). God does not change His countenance towards us when we sin, but when we sin God cannot fellowship with us either.
That is the distinction.
Our personal conduct is imperfect, and our fellowship with God reflects this. If we were perfect in our obedience, our fellowship would be undisturbed, but when we walk in the flesh, that fellowship is disturbed.
Think of it as a still pool of water so still that you can see clear through to the bottom perfectly. When you disturb the pool, you can no longer see the bottom clearly, but the pool itself hasn't lost anything. So also, when you are in the Spirit, there is nothing to disturb your communion with God, but when you are in the flesh, that communion is upset. Your relationship with God is the same (just as the pool is still a pool, and hasn't lost anything for being disturbed), only your fellowship is disturbed.
Let me know if that helps.
I see. You were just using the term fellowship for walking in the Spirit - being obedient to the Spirit within us - and this keeps us in fellowship with God.
I hear the word "fellowship" so often misused to mean just getting together with other Christians that the word has, I fear, sadly become watered down from its original NT meaning.