Find the things that stir your affections for Christ and saturate your life in them. Find the things that rob you of that affection and walk away from them. That’s the Christian life as easy as I can explain it for you’ | Matt Chandler
What Does It Mean to ‘Stir Our Affections’?
There is an old hymn (Be Thou My Vision) re-imagined by Ascend The Hill that goes like this:
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art
Oh, God, be my everything, be my delight
Be Jesus, my glory, my soul satisfied
Stirring our affections is this idea of thinking of Jesus, dwelling in him and turning our eyes to Him so that our souls may be greatly stirred by Him. It is the treasuring of Christ above all things and the tending to of our hearts, day by day, week by week so that we find ourselves most happy in Him. It is the cultivation of our thoughts and habits until we too can say that that the High King of Heaven is our delight, our satisfaction, and our greatest delight.
This is not an especially new idea. The Reformers and the Puritans had the idea of vivification at the heart of their theology, the idea that the Christian life did not just consist of the killing of sin (mortification) but the coming of people in Christ, hearts and souls that had been stoked in the fireplace of the gospel until the embers burnt swelteringly hot.
Jonathan Edwards writes that:
“No idea or attitude or theory or doctrine is of any value that does not inflame the heart and stir the affections in love and joy and fear of God.. if the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart‘.
That is, God has designed humanity in such a way that in the affairs of our redemption and His grace, as shown in the gospel, our hearts are to be greatly stirred for Him.
Are Your Affections Stirred?
Edwin Sangster was a British Methodist pastor in the 1950’s who was part of a selection panel for young pastors. Once, he had an encounter with a nervous young man who wished to enter the ministry. After the interview was done, Sangster asked the man a few questions about his faith and passion for Jesus. The young man responded that he ‘felt he was rather shy, and not the kind of person who would ever set the River Thames on fire, that is, to create a great stir in the city’.
Sangster replied to him, ‘My dear young brother. I am not interested in knowing if you could set the Thames on fire. What I want to know is this: if I picked you up by the scruff of your neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle around you’
Sangster wanted to know if this young man’s soul was on fire for Christ; was there a passion for Jesus that spilt out into his everyday life, a fire for Him that burnt deep in his soul. It wasn’t his character that he was interested in, nor his competencies or his assortment of knowledge about God, but the strength of his desire for Christ that was the most important trait. This is important, especially in light of the last 100 years of Christian discipleship that has aimed at renewing the mind, but has often missed the heart.
Christianity is in the deepest sense of the word, true. The truths of God’s revelation to us through the scriptures will plumb the depths of our hearts far deeper than any physician or psychologist could ever hope to, and it organises and orders our world more comprehensively than any scientist could measure with the tools at his disposal.
Yet, whilst we believe that Christianity is comprehensively, definitively true, it is also much more than simply true. If we miss this, we miss almost everything. Christ, and all that is about Him, is profoundly and deeply beautiful; Christianity is not just about hoarding facts and figures in our mind that we can know about him, but stirring our affections for the one our hearts and minds and souls were designed to be consumed by and letting that guide our every thought and desire.
That is, we were created to have our hearts swollen by the tremendousness of Christ and the sovereignty of God, by the infinite height, and depth, and length and breadth of the love of God for us in Christ and thus revel in his majesty and glory from eternity past to eternity future.
Edwards again writes:
“Is there anything which Christians can find in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of their admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ’
George Muller summarises it like this:
“According to my judgment, the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord’s work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life”.
Stirring our affections is the finding of our greatest treasure in Jesus Christ, and selling everything we have to be with him. It is the constant discovering of what stirs our affections for Him and tending to them day by day. It is the daily habit of going back to the gospel and meditating upon what our very great God has done for very great sinners. It is the finding of not only the greatest truth, but the greatest beauty in the person of Jesus and all that he has done and is doing, from now until eternity.