August 14, 2009

Prevalent Problem: Fear of an Outward Display of Affections

God created us with emotions. If we are not moved by Him, we will be moved by something far less worthy and ultimately meaningless. I have seen so many churches turn into a mere lifeless formality because of the Pastors/Leaders fear of "false affections". I often feel alone in my observations and I am always encouraged to read that I am not alone and that the same problems have gone on throughout many stages of the history of the Church.

I often wonder how a Pastor, who looks out upon a sea of predominately dead faces each and every week, as he is expounding the beauty and wonder of the very Word of God, must feel. Many of the same people sitting in the pews lifeless; seem to have little problem expressing a great deal of joy and excitement while watching a football game or attending a baby shower. Perhaps they have been told (or have ascertained from things said by their very own pastor from the pulpit) that such outward expressions (such as a joyful smile, a hardy "Amen" or a sorrowful tear) would not be appropriate or perhaps even considered disruptive.

Let us read what Jonathan Edwards had to say as he penned what he had observed happening in the churches after the Great Awakening:

"But now, when the ill consequences of these false affections appear, and it is become very apparent, that some of those emotions which made a glaring show, and were by many greatly admired, were in reality nothing; the devil sees it to be for his interest to go another way to work, and to endeavor to his utmost to propagate and establish a persuasion, that all affections and sensible emotions of the mind, in things of religion, are nothing at all to be regarded, but are rather to be avoided, and carefully guarded against, as things of a pernicious tendency.

This he knows is the way to bring all religion to a mere lifeless formality, and effectually shut out the power of godliness, and everything which is spiritual, and to have all true Christianity turned out of doors. For although to true religion there must indeed be something else besides affection; yet true religion consists so much in the affections, that there can be no true religion without them.

He who has no religious affection, is in a state of spiritual death, and is wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the Spirit of God upon his heart. As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection. As on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart; where there is heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so on the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things.

If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart.

The reason why men are not affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful things, as they often hear and read of, in the word of God, is undoubtedly because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things."

Jonathan Edwards

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