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Friday, April 22, 2011

Devotional Classics Unit 1: Chapter 3

Devotional Classics
Preparing for the Spiritual Life Jonathan Edwards
Engagement of the Heart

     Edwards was born in Connecticut in1703 and died in 1758.  A Congregationalist, he was key to the Great Awakening in America.  He was educated at Yale and pastor at a church for twenty three years.  He was missionary to the Indians at Stockbridge until he was named president of Princeton Universtiy in 1758.  Edwards, the Father of Liberalism, embraced egalitarianism, fair play and Divine intent.  He believed the Christian experience was a gift of God and spent his time and effort working out how we define that experience and discern the Holy Spirit.  A central them throughout his writings revealed his thought that religious "affections"  were the passions by which we are motivated to act.
     This devotion is an excerpt from his Religious Affections.  The topics herein referred are:
  1. Engagement of the Heart
  2. Holy Affection
  3. The Exercising of the Will
  4. The Spring of Action
  5. A Heart Deeply Affected
  6. True Religion
  7. Participation in the Blessings
  8. A Pleasing and Acceptable Sacrifice
  9. Missing from the Lukewarm
The Bible selection this week is Deuteronomy 10:12-22 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the lord your God with all your heart and all your soul?  Keep the Lord's commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good.  The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong o the Lord your God, as does the earth and everything in it.  Yet the Lord was devoted to your fathers and loved them.  He chose their descendants after them--He chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today.  Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don't be stiff-necked any longer.  For the Lord your God is the  God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing.  You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt  You are to fear the Lord your God and worship Him.  Remain faithful to Him and take oaths in His name.  He is your praise and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome works your eyes have seen.  Your fathers went down to Egypt, seventy people in all. and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of the sky.

     The 'spring of our actions', the source of our motivations are our affections, the basic emotions that cause us to act.  They affect us in a way that we are bodily, mentally, emotionally, or soulfully triggered to some sort of action.  These affections put us into such a state that our normal or usual and natural behaviours are affected, changed. 

     When I was just out of high school, I thought to myself, I should go and see if I do not think and feel a bit more like my other grandparents and family, those from a different denomination side of my family.  Well being things as they were I made it halfway and just quit attending church very often(and never attended the other church).  I soon learned that most people you run into out there in the secular world do  not want anything to do with a born again, Bible believing, this is who I am type of person.  Many would rather be left alone, some will even take your conversation and lifestyle as a challenge and try  to steer a person off their stated course, while most of the others have already established a personal relationship with God, and they do not figure they are in need of being spiritually coiffed, manicured and pedicured by someone whom they know very little of their spiritual background.  Those who are congenial to the Christian perspective are few and far between.  All this to say the one who trusts in God and Jesus must have as a part of his daily walk the opportunity to think and call on those he knows are of like mind, belief,  and spirit, else his walk becomes difficult and discouraging to say the least.  So the lesson, here, is that when God affects you to move, you need to go wholeheartedly with what He is leading you to do.  Today, I have set out on somewhat a similar journey, but hopefully am affected enough to go and with my wife find that church home to which we both can belong and enjoy the fellowship of each other's company in a common church where we develop relationships and friendships with people who love and respect us both for what we have to offer and the fact that God has brought us into their company.  I have some confidence in this because my wife remarked that she would like us to find a church to attend, the church I was attending was in one of its better humors, and even the preacher began a sermon about Abram and God's call to him to go to a place He would show him.  So even now we are enjoying each other's company and the followup conversations that go with the exploration of God's word in a Godly place together.

     A few years ago I had started attending once again regularly my original church and joined in some of the ministry and Bible study along with the worship and fellowship.  Suddenly circumstances were such that I felt compelled, affected to act, and I moved to the church where I now am a member.  This was not the easiest thing in the world for me, but the fear, worry, and discomfort I may have felt at the new circumstances were quickly overcome by a renewed sense of purpose, a growing number of new like minded friends and the feeling that I had reacted honestly, truthfully and correctly to God's affect on me through earlier mentioned half followed (by me) leads, emotionally difficult travels to the current church of the time, and those circumstances from completely outside the context of church which became in a sense the last straw.

     It would seem then that the affections of God are those things He requires of us.  Those things He expects of us.  Those things He would have us to do in order to be assured of His will acknowledged and accomplished in our life and usually in such a way as to affect others to the same.  This is the glorification of and submission to God our Father.  According to the scripture reference the requirements, the affections God gives us, that when we resist, ignore, or flat deny we become frustrated even embittered, are to 'fear God', 'walk in His way', 'love Him', and 'be sincere in our efforts of, for and toward Him'; which, if we will do these things then we will be in a better perspective, and mental frame, and condition of heart to receive the good things of God.

     Edwards lists nine affections which Scripture encourages us to experience to ownership.  The Godly  affections are:  holy fear, hope, love, holy desire, joy, religious sorrow, gratitude, compassion, and zeal.   I note in passing Edwards has enumerated the same number as there are Fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-26.   I myself have felt and recognized each of these affections.  Today the most noticeable ones to me in my life are hope, love and gratitude.  I have felt otherwise at other times and would love for a new bout with joy, holy desire, compassion, and zeal. 

     As I look through my days I notice that many times I seem to be motivated by meanness and selfishness such as greed or lust.  On the other hand I am sometimes affected, and joyfully so, by compassion and gratitude.

     One of the  affections of God I would have grow larger and larger in me is Holy Desire.  I say this because I have known on occasion what it means to immediately personally and personally obviously realise God's presence, love and, pleasure with me.  I am sometimes swept up in the modern, or is it post modern, thought that, "I can do absolutely nothing to effect the realization of God's presence".  Which I believe is more intended as a statement of God's hard resistance to a prideful conjurer.  On the other hand, God has always,  and does and will forever respond to the humble, compassionate and sincere request.  This is why I believe it is okay to seek to do God's will.  God's will being love, and to seek to do love cannot be any other than the thing which will reveal God in all His glory.  We will explore this further in the next lesson by Frances de Sales.

     God has done so many things for me it is hard to start a list, but looking to the fruit of the spirit I see a starting place:
When I was alone, He became my friend.
When I was sad, He filled me with joy.
When I was anguished, He gave me peace.
When I was insufferable, He showed me patience.
When I was gruff, He returned to me gentleness.
When I was bad, He was good to me.
When I was doubtful, He showed faith in me.
When I was selfish, He taught me meekness.
When I was wild, proud and rude, He stabilized my foundation.
God has been very good to me.

     I will worship God this week.  I will be in solitude with Him.  I will begin earlier and stay later at my worship of and with Him.  God's power and humility is best summed up in this:  John 18 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)  John 18:1-12
After  Jesus had said these things, He went out with His disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, and He and His disciples went into it.  Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with His disciples.  So Judas took a company of soldiers and some temple police from the chief priests and the Pharisees and came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing everything that was about to happen to Him,  went out and said to them, "Who is it you're looking for?" "Jesus the Nazarene," they answered.  "I am He,"  Jesus told them.  Judas, who betrayed Him, was also standing with them.  When He told them, "I am He," they stepped back and fell to the ground.  Then He asked them again, "Who is it you're looking for?""Jesus the Nazarene," they said. "I told you I am [He]," Jesus replied. "So if you're looking for Me, let these men go."  This was to fulfill the words He had said: "I have not lost one of those You have given Me." Then Simon  Peter,  who had a sword,  drew it, struck the high priest's  slave, and cut off his right ear. (The slave's name was Malchus.) At that, Jesus said to Peter, "Sheathe your sword! Am I not to drink the cup  the Father has given Me?" Then the company of soldiers, the commander, and the Jewish temple police arrested Jesus and tied Him up.

God is powerful and humble at the same time.  O worship the King, lift up His name with Hossannahs and Hallelujahs!

     Richard Foster's Reflection reminds us that Edwards encourages us to understand that the intellect and passion are friends not enemies.  Tough enough to be tender, delving with the mind the depth of the heart.  Brainy and visceral worship of God.  True objectivity will unveil our passion.  Our spiritual life begs our commitment, and our commitment flows from our affection.

Where are your affections? 



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